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POWERFUL MEDICINE: The new novel "The Last Pow-Wow" asks Indian Country tough questions

Louis Fowler / Red Dirt Report
"The Last Pow-Wow" by Steven Paul Judd and Thomas Yeahpau.
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NORMAN, Oklahoma — When news hit that acclaimed local artist Steven Paul Judd had a new novel out, the first question many of his fans asked was “When did he have the time?”

Between his films (most recently the award-winning short Ronnie Bo-Dean starring Wes Studi), speaking engagements, art shows and constant flow of T-shirt designs, just to name a few endeavors, Judd said that his novel was a passion project that took over four years to complete, meeting up in coffee-shops and continually comparing notes and story threads with co-writer Thomas Yeahpau.

The resulting work is The Last Pow-Wow, a mixture of dystopic futurism, hopeful satire and magical realism, with the book following nine different people as they make their way to a mysterious 200-foot tall, 3-mile wide tipi where the future of the Earth and the final battle for good and evil will ultimately take place.

“You know how in old stories, not just Native American, but as far back as Aesop’s Fables, there would be an animal like a rabbit talking, but that wouldn’t be the magical part, that’s actually kind of the given?”

Judd asked. “I wanted to see that in the modern world, a magical element that people don’t go super crazy about. I knew I wanted to have a mysterious traveling pow-wow and tell the stories of the people trying to get there and that was kind of the genesis of the whole thing. All different stories, from all different perspectives, all around the same time but not seeing the same thing.”

With both writers coming from a film and television background, one of the most accessible things about The Last Pow-Wow is how cinematic it is—episodic, even—something which Judd said was purely intentional, with his own visions of turning some of the novel’s threads into possible short films in the future.

“When we first started writing, I told Thomas, listen man, everything is probably going to be from more of a screenplay style of writing and you’re probably going to have to cover it and help me out on that, but he also writes from a screenplay place, so we decided to just write it as though we were seeing it as a movie and just continued writing it that way,” Judd said.

Since its release, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, even though both writers knew that some of the ideas and attitudes presented in the book would ruffle a few feathers, from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous readers alike.

“When you’re writing, especially when you’re writing a character’s point of view that you might not 100 percent agree with…you try to do different point of views hopefully and we were definitely cognizant that some of them might offend people,” Judd said. “Thomas and I wanted to write about the Natives that we knew growing up, the people we knew and saw and wanted them and their takes in there. I think the thing that we really wanted to touch on in the novel is the question ‘What does it mean to be indigenous? Is it where you were born, how you were raised, blood quantum?’ These are really hard questions and that are constantly being asked in Indian Country, with no easy answers.”

The Last Pow-Wow is currently available via Amazon: Wow-That-Native-Thomas/dp/1537764950

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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