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Unburying Water/What We [Un]Bury : a nonbinary settler’s search for a name and the missing

Gritzmacher, Reece (2022) Unburying Water/What We [Un]Bury : a nonbinary settler’s search for a name and the missing. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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In Unburying Water/What We [Un]Bury, I confront a confluence of erasures. My manuscript features poetry, lyric essays, and visual texts to investigate the disappearance of a creek known only by rumor in a Southeast Portland neighborhood; my two-year search for a name as a queer and nonbinary settler; and the history behind the burial of this creek and settler colonialism of Portland, Oregon. I ask what it takes to find a name and how we may recover ourselves, others, and the land. Additional questions guide this project, including the question of what forces could have disappeared a creek from earth’s surface and historical record. Seeking answers, I have examined records at Oregon Historical Society and Portland City Archives, combed through newspapers’ online repositories and Ancestry.com, and interviewed government employees and neighbors. My inquiries into my neighborhood and my own ancestry highlight the dangers of erasure and settler amnesia. This manuscript reflects some of my experimentation with form and use of archival records. In free verse and contrapuntal forms, for example, I engage with my search for a name. Through found and epistolary forms, I examine settler colonialism in Portland, noting Portland's engagement with eugenics and acknowledging that my existence was made possible by a step-ancestor who was an early settler. Using photography, I also engage with what has been buried. This particular body of work draws inspiration from writers such as Abigail Chabitnoy, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Deborah Tall, Jordan Abel, Layli Long Soldier, and Deborah Miranda. Chabitnoy, Nguyen, and Tall have offered me inspiration for how to tackle themes of familial silence and absence sometimes facilitated by the state. Like Deborah Miranda (Bad Indians), I situate archival records beside poetry and prose in my manuscript. Though I did not read Injun by Jordan Abel nor Whereas by Layli Soldier until this spring, I was moved to learn of their responses to settler colonialism through engagements with novels in the public domain and federal documents. Hearing about (then later reading) these books undoubtedly increased my desire to work with texts I had found. Unlocking maps and photographs from archives (and research from scholarly journals often inaccessible to the general public), and examining what exists in the public domain, I bring the search for a creek, ancestry, and historical reckoning to a wider population, while simultaneously asking what it means to have a name. Arguably the most important work remains to be done: additional research and writing around settler and Indigenous history, present-day realities, and the future. This is also the most sensitive work. Moving forward, I intend to engage more deeply with difficult truths about displacement of Indigenous nations from western Oregon, my step- and biological ancestors’ complicity in settler colonialism, and ongoing resistance to silencing forces. After graduation, besides focusing on poetry around settler and Indigenous history, I intend to work on connective tissue, and determine the best sequence for my pieces. My project is ambitious, and some of what I research and write may ultimately end up in a narrative nonfiction book about settler colonialism in the Pacific Northwest.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Gender; Naming; Oregon; Portland; Settler Colonialism; Sexuality
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2022 21:22
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2022 21:22
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5878

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