John Hughes, “Vacation,” and Indian Country

In the most recent issue of Zoetrope: All-Story, John Hughes, the screenwriter for the Chevy Chase movie “Vacation,” publishes the short story “Vacation ’58,” from which the movie eventually derived. It is one of the funnier short stories I’ve ever read, and it includes a set piece in Indian Country that was radically altered in the film. The entire text can be read here.

The set piece in the film is the scene that takes place in St. Louis, where the Griswold family gets lost in an inner-city area, and where the urban inhabitants (primarily Black) strip the Griswold’s car of valuable parts right under their noses. It’s not the most racially enlightened parts of the movie, nor one of the funnier.

But the version in the short story takes place at the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation. It’s even less racially sensitive, with repeated notes that the Indians there are drunk or drinking. But with a little amendment to exclude the racist descriptions, it could be pretty funny.

Consider this one-liner:

As we passed a driveway, a truck pulled out and followed us. Every driveway had a pick-up truck and every pickup truck pulled out and followed us. The lead truck pulled out and passed us. He slowed to a crawl as the other trucks came alongside.

“Lock your doors!” Mom ordered.

Dad honked the horn and waved for the Indians to let us pass. They responded with a shower of beer cans and liquor bottles.

“Indian attack!” I shouted.

“But they’re Yuma Indians. The guidebook says that they are primarily agrarian people with no tradition of warfare!” Mom said.

It devolves from there, but it has potential.

Law Stories Series: “Truck Stop”

My contribution to the UMKC Law Review‘s “Law Stories” series — “Truck Stop” — is available for download on SSRN. Here is the description:

Every American Indian person – repeat, every American Indian person – is related to or knows someone or is someone who has been adopted out of or removed from their reservation family. A significant percentage of each recent generation of American Indian people has grown up among strangers, either adopted by non-reservation families or force-fed through a state foster care system. This is, of course, one of the fundamental issues Congress hoped to address when it enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978. This fictional narrative is my take on what it means for an Indian person to lose their family – and to regain it much, much later.

Yellow Medicine Review #3

Just in our mailbox, the third issue of the Yellow Medicine Review. This issue features art, poetry, and prose from Pat LeBeau (MSU), Ray Young Bear, Meg Noori (U-M), Heid Erdrich (guest editor), Lise Erdrich, and one of our favorite people, Denise Lajimodiere.

Here are a couple samples:

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