Haunted Family Histories: Internalized Gender Roles and the Gothic in Native American Literature

This thesis explores the novels Winter in the Blood by James Welch (Blackfeet/ Gros Ventre), Ghost Singer by Anna Lee Walters (Pawnee/ Otoe-Missouria), and Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling (Salish). My analyses of these novels focus on representations of gender and the negative effects of Western patriarchy on Indigenous communities. In addition, I look closely at the ways in which Welch, Walters, and Earling invert traditional American Gothic conventions in order to erode colonialist ideologies that devalue American Indians and their past by representing them as vanished figures and ghostly presences in canonical works of American literature. I specifically analyze the literary representation of how non-Native gender roles have been internalized by Native characters and examine how Welch, Walters, and Earling use literature as a form of social critique. All three novelists write against the “literary genocide” of Native Americans, deconstruct American Indian stereotypes, and reclaim Native identities that are empowering today.