"The First Black Prairie Novel: Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance's Autobiography and the Repression of Prairie Blackness" in Journal of Canadian Studies 45 (2)
This essay situates Chief Buffalo Child’s Long Lance: The Autobiography of a Blackfoot Indian Chief (1928) within the cultural context of its production, the anti-Black racial climate of the Canadian Prairies in the early part of the twentieth century, in order to analyze the textual repression of its author’s Blackness. Although the Autobiography has been discredited as a fraud because, as Donald B. Smith discovered, Long Lance was not in fact Blackfoot as the Autobiography claims, but “mixed blood” from North Carolina, this essay reclaims it as the first novel penned on the Prairies by a Black author, for it tells a true— more metaphorical and allegorical than factual—story about the desire on the part of displaced “new” world Blacks for Indigenous status and belonging. This essay examines the implications of claiming the Autobiography as the first Black prairie novel and explores how reading it as fiction rather than autobiography extends our understandings of “passing,” racial identification and transformation.
Karena Vernon is Associate Professor and Associate Chair Department of English, University of Toronto. Her work focuses on Black Canadian literature, Black aesthetics, Black archives, and Black-Indigenous solidarities.
Other publications from this author include:
- The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology (2019)
- "To the End of the Hyphen-Nation: Decolonizing Multiculturalism" in English Studies in Canada, 42 (3-4), 81-98 (2016)
- "Black Civility: Grammars of Black Protest on the Canadian Prairies 1905-1950" in Special Issue CLR James Journal: Black Canadian Thought, 20 (1-2), 83-96 (2014)
- Black Geographies and the Politics of Place (2007)