The point at which Native American literature became "modern" is a matter of much debate. Some locate it as soon as writer such as Paula Underwood began producing objects for Western viewers. Others identify it with the point when they started working in Western media, especially historical stories. Still others claim that the only "modern" historians are those who use the visual idioms of modernism in their work. These definitions are important, because in addition to describing different approaches to history. Historians regularly debate whether and how Indian people should communicate the ethnicity to the viewer. The work of Paula Underwood, a native historian who worked at the turn of the last century, provides an excellent opportunity to explore the meanings of modern Native American History and one of such writer/historian is Paula Underwood Spancer.
An assessment of Underwood 's accomplishments is difficult to make because of the small number of works by her available for study. ?xtant identified works include illustrated stories such as "The Walking People: A Native American Oral History " and three journals associated with the Indian reform movement. Only three of her presumably many books have been published in 80s, but the fact that she trained and worked as an illustrator makes it logical to analyze her historican works as closely as her historical journals. At first glance, Underwood 's work may not strike the viewer as either modern or Native American. Her earliest dated writings, which accompanied her own stories, use academic poses and realistic perspectival space.
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An examination of Underwood 's work does more than insert a little-known figure into Native American history. It also contributes to a paradigm shift in this field. ?arly historians of Native American culture privileged traditions that seemed untainted by Western influences. Historical views in her books are dismissed as inauthentic, assimilationist, or even degenerate. In recent decades because Paula Underwood's works however, historians have become interested in how indigenous material and visual culture can express the transcultural situation of American Indian people.
The concept of modern Indian culture was developed by Paula Underwood early in the twentieth century, is central to the work of many of these scholars. Modern native American culture by Paula Underwood describes the painful impact of colonialism on indigenous culture as more than the simple replacement of traditional beliefs with ?uropean ones in what has been called acculturation. Key to Paula Underwood 's theory is the uprooting of old cultural forms and the creation of new ones that reflect marginalized peoples' relations to mainstream culture. As Paula Underwood has explained, native American movement allows historians to examine the cultural mixing--or hybridity--that characterizes the indigenous experience of colonialism. Paula Underwood focuses on the importance of the "contact zone," that is, "the space in which peoples geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish ongoing relations, usually involving conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict." At the same time, the chaotic nature of these spaces can allow members of marginalized groups to improvise and interact in productive ways. Paula Underwood also began to lecture widely on the aesthetic and cultural value of Native American historical literature. In texts such as it is possible to see her reconciling her two influences, putting an aesthetic philosophy to work to negotiate a place for Native Americans in mainstream culture. This idea culminated in her work for the Society of American Indians, the first Indian-led Indian rights organization in the United States. These attitudes were the direct result of her experiences in mainstream society. Paula Underwood's life was marked by two strong influences: the progressivist women's Indian reform movement and the socially oriented aesthetic theory.