Questions and Answers: Distances and Imagining the Reservation
1. How does the story “Distances” seek to overturn white domination?
2. What is the structure of the post-apocalyptic society, and how is that structure problematic?
3. How does “Imagining the Reservation” offer a different answer to the same problem?
4. Why is the equation, “survival = anger x imagination” important, and which challenges does it address?
5. What is the significance of the images that conclude "Imagining the Reservation"?
1. This story seeks change by destroying white society; its action begins after an apocalypse that has resulted in the deaths of almost all whites and the destruction of much of their culture; only Native Americans survive.
2. Society after the apocalypse is divided into two groups: the survivors from cities and from the reservations. These groups are called the Urbans and Skins. Because a mysterious illness plagues the Urbans, they are prohibited from marrying and breeding with the Skins. The unequal power structure created by this system is problematic; it directly resembles that between whites and Native Americans before the apocalypse.
3. "Imagining the Reservation" seeks answers in the reorganization, rather than destruction, of contemporary culture. These answers might be found if Native American culture were to play a new, more prominent and powerful, role in dominant culture.
4. The equation is the centerpiece of the story; it provides the narrator’s answer to the denigration of his culture. The inclusion of both anger and imagination in this solution suggests that Native American must be motivated and inspired to seek new answers to old problems.
5. The images all ascribe magical powers to everyday objects; they point toward the need to see possibilities in the future that seem to be unlikely, or even impossible to achieve, in the present.