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8. Regional Realism   

8. Regional

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Charles W.
- Kate Chopin
- Charles
- Mary E. Wilkins
- Joel Chandler
- Bret Harte
- Sarah Orne
- Alexander Posey
- Mark Twain
- Zitkala-Sa
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Authors: Alexander Posey (1873-1908)

Street Scene
[5168] Russell Lee, Street scene, Muskogee, Oklahoma (1939), courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USF33-012332-M3 DLC].

Alexander Posey Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Alexander Posey recorded his insights into Creek Indian tribal politics and Native American customs in his poetry, journalism, and political satire. He lived through a crucial period in the history of the Creek Nation, when the tribe's land base and political autonomy were threatened by "progressive" reforms intended to force Indians to assimilate to Euro-American culture. The creation of the state of Oklahoma in the early twentieth century also significantly impacted the Creeks: fierce debates raged about whether to admit Oklahoma as a single state or whether to organize part of its territory into a separate Indian state. Posey registered these conflicts in his sharp and often satirical writing, in the process creating a unique record of both Native American politics and Native American literary developments. His interest in accurately representing the dialect and speech patterns of his Creek characters has made his work an important chronicle of his own time and a source of inspiration for subsequent Native American writers.

Posey was born into a bicultural and bilingual family: his mother was a Creek Indian and his father was a white man who had been raised in the Creek community. He grew up learning to appreciate both Native American and Euro-American traditions and benefited from a traditional western education at the Bacone Indian University in Muskogee. It was at Bacone that Posey began composing poetry, most of which is heavily influenced by the British and American Romantic tradition. While some scholars see Posey's poetry as derivative and constrained by European traditions, others point out that the Romantic worldview that pervades his work in some ways coincides with traditional Indian beliefs. Like the Romantics, many Native American cultures are committed to a respect for nature, a belief in the interrelation of all things, and a refusal to impose a sharp division between the material and the spiritual.

After leaving Bacone in 1895, Posey was elected to the lower chamber of the Creek National Council and embarked on a long career of public service as an administrator to tribal schools. In 1902, he also began serving his community as a journalist, establishing the Eufaula Indian Journal, the first daily newspaper published by an Indian. As editor of the paper, Posey composed the works for which he is best known today: the Fus Fixico letters. Narrated by a Creek character named Fus Fixico (which translates as either "Warrior Bird" or "Heartless Bird"), the letters offer humorous political and cultural commentary written from the perspective and in the dialect of Indian speakers. Revolving around the conversations of four men--and usually centering on the monologues of Hotgun Harjo, a medicine man--the letters narrate Indian responses to political issues and lampoon the corruption that was rampant in Indian Territory. Posey's tendency to parody the names of Euro-American political figures with clever puns--"Rooster Feather" for President Roosevelt, "Itscocked" for Secretary of the Interior Ethan Allen Hitchcock--deflates the power of these public figures and critiques their pretensions to authority. The Fus Fixico letters do not always correspond to Posey's own convictions or political positions; instead, they offer a variety of perspectives on the difficult issues that faced the Creeks in his time. Tragically, Posey died before he was able to completely fulfill the promise of his innovative writing. He drowned at the age of thirty-five when his boat capsized on the North Canadian River.

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