[Colonial & Postcolonial Theory]

The Performative and Processual: A Study of Hypertext/Postcolonial Aesthetic

Passive Encounter -- Active Encounter of Interstitial Spaces/Contact Zones

Part Three: Refiguring the Past: The Story of Geronimo in Almanac

Jaishree K. Odin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

The recurring story in Almanac is that of the Apache warrior Geronimo who comes to assume mythical dimensions as the narrative progresses. The story of the historical figure Geronimo is related in the beginning by Sterling, who describes himself as modestly educated through magazines and whose version of Geronimo comes from the Police Gazette. Thus, Sterling's version represents the dominant discourse that has labeled Geronimo as an outlaw and a criminal. Geronimo, a ferocious Apache warrior and a medicine man who, according to some accounts, engaged in frequent raids of white settlements of the southwest. He is captured several times and sent to prison, but he manages to escape. Eventually, Geronimo is led to surrender at the Skeleton Canyon in 1896 on the condition that his people will be allowed to live peacefully in the White Mountains, but none of the promises are kept by the U.S. Government. Instead Geronimo is sent off to a prison in Oklahoma where he spends his last days and occasionally serves as a tourist attraction.

Zeta and Lecha's grandmother Yoeme reverses the dominant discourse in that in her story Geronimo never surrenders at the Skeleton Canyon, instead he goes off into the mountains and continues to work for his people She associates him with the gull, the ocean, the sunset, the waves. Yoeme's story of Geronimo becomes the first English entry in the blank pages of the old notebook in Spanish which is the key to understanding the almanac that Yoeme has handed down to her twin granddaughters, and hence, could also be looked upon as a key to understanding Silko's Almanac. Calabazaz's version of the Geronimo legend that he hears from his aunts and uncles in the mountains continues the above thread and displaces the legend even further so that it includes other warriors and ancestral spirits. Thus, Geronimo comes to be associated with the warrior spirit that fought for his people and his lands against all odds and appeared whenever there was injustice caused by oppressive power structures. In fact Calabazaz himself is associated with Geronimo.

What is the significance of the Geronimo legend in the context of the whole text? He appears and reappears in so many guises-an historical figure, a legendary warrior, a medicine man, an ancestral spirit. The historical Geronimo was forced to engage in activities to save his homelands, activities which were deemed as criminal by the U.S. government, but as acts of justice by his own people. By repeated use of this figure as the narrative evolves, Silko subversively exposes the legal discourse as the discourse of the winners which labels the activities of the losers as crimes committed against the winners. Thus, she exposes the arbitrary foundation of the dominant legal discourse, exposing its existence in the service of the privileged of the society. Again, it is in the play of different versions against one another that the subversive meaning emerges.

Postcolonial OV PoCo Theory Themes