Ever towards the setting sun they push us: American Indian identity in the writings of Mary Alicia Owen
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Mary Alicia Owen (1850-1935) is best known as a folklorist who studied and wrote about the culture, legends, and folkways of Missouri's African Americans and American Indians. While she is best remembered as the author of two major works of folklore and ethnography, Olde Rabbit, the Voodoo and Other Sorcerers (1893) and Folk-lore of the Musquakie Indians of North America (1904) she was also the author of several short stories and at least one novel and one play. In her fiction Owen often portrayed American Indian people as a part of the lively ethnic melting pot that characterized her hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri in the mid nineteenth century. Yet, despite the years of contact Owen had with members of this vibrant mixed community, she ultimately resorted to many of the same stereotypical conventions that many European-Americans of the Victorian era relied on to portray native people. Many of these same stereotypes can be seen her ethnographic work as well. This thesis examines Owen's relationship with the American Indian people she studied and her use of stereotypes--most prominently the Noble Savage and the Vanishing Indian--in characterizing them.