In her phenomenal and piercing book, Anti-Indianism in Modern America, Lakota author Elizabeth Cook-Lynn revealed to us: “The failure to contextualize honestly the facts of history, then, must be identified as one of the main kinds of Anti-Indianisms in literary expression.” What does it mean to contextualize honestly? In the course of writing Hidden Disgrace, to quote the brilliant writer of The White Man’s Indian, Robert Berkhofer, it meant not to be: “..oblivious to research germaine to topics in other disciplines…(and becoming)…aware of similar patterns holding for another era.” One application of Cook-Lynn’s charge to place events in context and Berkhofer’s instruction to watch for patterns from another era was employing Seth Rosenfeld’s Subversives as a critical source. In Subversives, Rosenfeld wrote in great detail about FBI tactics used during student protests at the University of California at Berkeley during the ’60s. In Hidden Disgrace, one of the central questions is whether those same or similar tactics were used during the Wounded Knee “Occupation” of 1973.
From a personal perspective, it was important for me not to suggest I had any special knowledge of Indian people due to heritage. All the knowledge I gained for writing Hidden Disgrace came through a friendship with an Ojibwa lady from Michigan, visits to Pine Ridge, and research. I do not have “Indian blood” as I was occasionally asked. Nevertheless, since I made the utmost effort to portray Indians, both past and present, as neither savages nor “Noble Savages,” and simply human, I considered my lack of Indian heritage monumentally irrelevant.