In Invisible Reality: Storytellers, Storytakers, and the Supernatural World of the Blackfeet
(University of Nebraska Press, 2017), author Rosalyn LaPier
, an associate professor in environmental studies at the University of Montana, complicates several narratives about Native people and the nonhuman world. Rather than “living in harmony with nature,” as stereotyped by the ecological Indian mythos, the Blackfeet people of the northern plains believed they could marshal supernatural forces to bend the nonhuman world to their will. Stories and narratives about these powerful supernatural forces from Native voices filtered through white anthropologists notes and recordings via a robust storytelling economy that existed on the Blackfeet Reservation during the early decades of the twentieth century. Rather than “exploiting Grandma,” Blackfeet storytellers used their leverage as keepers of Indigenous knowledge to extract cash payments from whites seeking Blackfeet narratives and knowledge. LaPier’s book is part personal narrative, part environmental history, and part religious studies analysis of the Blackfeet and their worldview during the tumultuous transition between independence and reservation life and emphasizes the resilience of Blackfeet religion and spiritual practices up to today. Invisible Reality
won multiple prizes from the Western History Association in 2018, including the inaugural Donald L. Fixico Prize in American Indian and Canadian First Nations History.
Stephen Hausmann is an Assistant Professor of US History at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He teaches courses on modern US history, environmental history, and Indigenous history and is currently working on his book manuscript, an environmental history of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.