Alexander Lawrence Posey (Creek) (1873-1908)

    Contributing Editor:
    Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.

    Classroom Issues and Strategies

    Students should have no problems with the "Ode" but may have difficulties with the dialect in the Hotgun poem and the Fus Fixico letter.

    Present these matters in the same way one would present them in relation to other dialect writers of the period: e.g., Clemens, Cable, Harris, Chesnutt, Dunbar, Chopin. Present the "Ode" as one would the lesser lyrics of a Bryant or a Longfellow, for instance.

    Students are interested in the question of Indian-U.S. relations, not only in Posey's time but before and after. They are also curious about the "Americanization" of Indians like Posey (e.g., his romantic lyrics, his classical education, etc.). This issue leads ultimately to questions of assimilation and cultural discontinuity.

    Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues

    1. Passing of the Indian (that foolish concept of the "vanishing American"). The interesting point is that Posey, and many other Indian writers, bought the idea to some extent.

    2. Romanticizing the "great" man, whether he is Sequoyah or Yadeka Harjo. (Why would an Indian choose these as great men?)

    3. "Progress" as it translated into materialism; the learned "need" for material things versus the desire for a "simpler," culture-centered society; uncertainty in time of culture change.

    Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions

    Discuss with the students the same questions that apply to any lyrical poetry, to any dialect poetry, and to any dialect prose, especially Joel Chandler Harris and the professional dialect humorists, the "Phunny Phellows" of the late nineteenth century. Posey's dialect fits squarely into the local color movement. If we can have Harte in the West, Cable and Chopin in Louisiana, Garland in the Midwest, Harris in Georgia, why not Posey in the Indian Territory?

    Original Audience

    Posey published most of his poems in Indian Territory newspapers and magazines. He wrote for a western audience. Posey, like many Indians at the turn of the century, witnessed a great attrition in Indian culture as the U.S. pushed a policy of assimilation. He attempted to document the passing of Indian folk heroes, great and small. Recent American Indian writing deals in large measure with attempts at rediscovering what has been lost. Writers like Posey anticipate the themes of many contemporary American Indian or Chinese or Japanese or Chicano writers.


    The most complete treatment of Posey's life is Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.'s Alex Posey: Creek Poet, Journalist, and Humorist. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1992. Also very helpful are the historical introduction and annotations in Alexander Posey, The Fus Fixico Letters, ed. Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. and Carol Petty Hunter. Lincoln University of Nebraska, 1994.