Hill, Ruth Beebe: Hanta Yo
(researched by Gianna DeFlice)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Ruth Beebe Hill. Hanta Yo: An American Saga. New York: Doubleday and Company, INC., 1979. Copyright: Ruth Beebe Hill *no parallel first editions

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

First American Edition published in hardcover binding.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

420 leaves, pp. [9] 10-11 [2] 14 [5] 20-23 [4] 28-291 [4] 296-420 [3] 424-609 [4] 614-812 [1] 814-821 [1] 823-834 [6]

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

Introduced by Sioux Native American, Chunksa Yuha. Note to the Reader introduces the novel and is written by the author. Also written by the author is an "Acknowledgments" page thanking her Native American friends who inspired her work as well as those of non-Native American blood. Dedicated to Borroughs Reid Hill.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?


7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

Readability is excellent, large margins and clear print. Despite the book's age, it is in good condition. The novel is divided into four books; preceeding each book is a page containing the book number (ex. BOOK TWO), the title in bold print (ex. THE YOUTH), and dates between which the book was intended to have taken place (ex. 1811/12 to 1812/13). The individual chapters are numbered, not titled, and with the begining of each book, the chapter numbers restart with I. type: 82R book size: 240 mm by 160mm character page: 184mm by 117mm

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The book is published on white, smooth paper. It is deckled opposite the binding and straight on both top and bottom sides. The paper has yellowed considerably over time, but is still in excellent condition. The type remains uneffected.

11 Description of binding(s)

Material: cardboard, calico textrured cloth binding 1 1/4 inches from book end. Color: hardcover, medium yellowish brown coth, light brownish Endpapers: dark reddish brown Inside the front and back covers, on the end-papers, are two similar family trees. The first is titled "AHBLEZA'S TIYOSPAYE (Blood and Affinal Relatives)," the second is titled "TONWEYA'S TIYOSPAYE (Blood and Affinal Relatives)." The paper is burnt umber colored and the type is white and resembles hand writing. There is nothing to transcribe from the cardboard cover. Transcription from the Spine: RUTH | BEEBE | HILL | HANTA YO | DOUBLEDAY The author's name and publisher are written horizontally while the title is inverted vertically.

12 Transcription of title page

Recto: HANTA YO | RUTH BEEBE HILL | DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY INC., GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK | 1979 Verso: First Edition| ISBN: 0-385-13554-8 | Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 77-16922 | Copyright 1979 by Ruth Beebe Hill | All Rights Reserved | Printed in the United States of America

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings


15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

The dust Jacket is done by Al Nagy. The jacket typography is based on an original design by Joe Waano-Gano. A description of the novel extends from the front flap to the top of the back flap and a breif biography of the author occurs on the lower half of the back flap. The dust jacket has a photograph of the author by Borroughs Reid Hill covering the entire back of the jacket. A photograph of Chunksa Yuha by Jean Thomas appears on the back flap of the dust jacket between the description of the book and the author's biography.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

Doubleday & Co. never released another edition, but there were 5 total printings remaining true to the original. See 5 for other editions.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

Garden City; Doubleday & Co., 1979: 5 printings; 55,000 first editions 4 subsequent printings of 10,000 copies each, all followed during 1979 and remained true to the original.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

New York; Warner 1980: 1109 p. 180mm 987,000 copies printed 1983: 1109 p. 180mm New York; Warner Books 1981: 834p. 210mm

6 Last date in print?

1983 The book is not categorized as "out of print" but rather "out of stock indefinitely"

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

Refering to the information provided in sections 4 and 5, I can deduce that there were a total of 1,082,000 total copies of the book (including both hardcover and mass marketed paperback) after 1980. However, after examination of both Publisher's Weekly and the New York Times, there is no information revealing exactly how many copies were printed in years following, nor how many of the books were sold.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

Refering to the information provided in sections 4 and 5, I can deduce that there were a total of 95,000 copies of this book during the first year of it's publication in 1979. During the following year, 987,000 copies were printed in mass market paperback. While this information reveals some information about the supply/demand relationship, I have no record of how many of these copies were actually sold, nor the records of how many books were printed/sold in the years following.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

After Careful examination of both Publisher's Weekly and the New York Times Book Review, I have been unable to encounter any indication that the book was advertised at all.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion


12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A


13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

German: Hanta yo : eine Indianer-Saga. Hamburg; Albrecht Knaus, 1980. Italian: Hanta yo : una saga Americana. Milano; Editoriale Nuova, 1979. Spanish: Hanta Yo :las raƌces de los indios. Barcelona; Ediciones Grijalbo, 1980. French: Hanta Yo. Paris; Julliard, 1981.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Ruth Beebe Hill was born in Cleveland, OH to Hermann C. and Flora M. Beebe during April, 1913. In 1935 she graduated with a B.A. from Western Reserve University and pursued graduate studies there in 1936-37. In 1939-40 Hill studied at the University of Colorado. In 1940 she married Burroughs Reid Hill; together they had one son, Reid. Hill currently resides in San Juan Island, WA.. She was first a member of the promotion department at Books and Authors, Inc., Los Angeles, CA (1949-1955), then a news and feature writer with the Newport-Balboa Press, Newport Beach, CA (1950-52). Hill also served as Co-founder of the Women's Auxiliary California Institute for Cancer Research. Throughout her life she has and continues to lecture at Universities and seminars across the country. In addition to her best selling novel Hanta Yo, she was the author of a monthly column for Western Life Magazine, 1967-68. In1979 Hill received the Golden Plate Award from American Academy of Achievement. Hill was 66 at the time Hanta Yo was published by Doubleday (1979), although she began work on the thirty-year project beginning in 1951. From the time she was young she had a passion for Native Americans. From 1951-1954, Hill buried herself in local libraries preparing for her novel. She finally came to the conclusion that library research was not sufficient for her cause and left to travel Native American Reservations. She spoke with/interviewed over a thousand Native Americans. Her intention was to gain first hand experience in a Native American environment and she spent much of her time, not only speaking with the natives, but observing the land in order to absorb the influence on the culture. In a Smithsonian article she discussed her experiences and warned: "If you go with a camera and a notebook, you might as well not go. You can count on being turned over-like inquiring anthropologists-to the biggest liar around. You want a legend? You'll get a legend. And it's all crap!" *(ref. source #15) Chunksa Yuha, a bilingual Native American musician, entered the project during the last fourteen years. Yuha assisted Hill in the discovery of the Native American "soul." She committed herself to learn the Native American language, Dakotah (Lakotah) with Yuha as her instructor. The fact that he had been withheld from "white schooling" as a youngster made him a valuable resource in her studies. He regurgitated information, some of which had been suppressed for as many as two hundred yeas.*(ref. source #15) "Hanta Yo," meaning "clear the way" in Dakotah, tells the story of a small tribe of Teton Souix which resisted white influence during the time between 1750-1834. Hill's concern with the elimination and corruption of the Native American culture by the "white" conception of America is the dominant pretext for this story. Hanta Yo, Hill's only book, is more a life work than a novel. Her desire produce this text obviously emerged from a sincere passion rather than a desire for success and recognition. I believe she wanted to give an accurate account of a culture that has virtually no voice in American literature.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

All of the criticism I encountered mentioned the extensive research done on Hanta Yo, approximately 30 years of tedious culture immersion, involving interviews with over 1,000 Native Americans. This anecdote makes the author, Ruth Beebe Hill, an interesting subject to interview because she must have been highly motivated on the subject. She won the attention of Smithsonian magazine, which explained the story of the book's creation. This article quotes Hill as saying: "'The day I began my book was the day I gave up car, keys, license? After three years of living at the UCLA library?my typed notes covered 1,000 square feet of living room space.'" The Washington Post Book World said of the book, "Hanta Yo- which means ?clear the way'- is a novel set in that vague distance, and it is about a people whose history is essentially invisible." This article praises the extensive research done on the text as well as the intentions motivating its creation, but at the same time the Post questions the legitimacy of the process. Most of the articles, including this one, were careful to include the specific fact of the book's translation/re-translation relationship: "It is said to have been translated from present day English into an old Dakotah/Lakotah dialect and then retranslated into an English based on the 1806 edition of Webster's Dictionary. These maneuvers, surely very complicated, are supposed to result in a faithful reflection of the Indian idom...it is hard to take this statement literally." The Chicago Tribune wrote: " For all the many years that Ruth Hill devoted to her novel, and in spite of its notable accomplishments, Hanta Yo is a troublesome book? I am not convinced of the success of such elaborate attempts to recapture Dakotah idioms or of the necessity for using that 1806 dictionary. The style throughout is regrettably lackluster? At least 50 per cent of Hanta Yo should have been cut. In its present bloated form, I cannot imagine anyone reading this book in its entirety." After calling the book "infuriatingly portentous," the New York Times Book Review goes on to say, "Still, Hanta Yo works. Ruth Beebe Hill sets down layer upon layer of detail, seeking a facsimile of total experience, reaching form portrait of an entire people." The material written on both the author and the book, spend a great deal of time discussing Hill's relationship with her Native American Dakotah translator, Chunksa Yuha, and her inability to have created the text without him. Overall, the critical opinion of the book was that Hanta Yo is a wonderful attempt at incorporating Native America into the literary tradition, but that Hill is attempting to fill extremely large shoes in doing this. She receives much praise and respect, but critics were hesitant to hail the book as the Native American artifact it attempts to be.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

The book became extremely controvercial, especially within the Native American community, following its publication. Native Americans were angered by the fact that Ruth Beebe Hill claimed to write from a native perspective, not only because she is an anglo woman, but because she misrepresented several aspects of the Sioux/Dakotah culture. As a result of this, the merit of Hill's "exteensive research" came into question and since this aspect of the text had been the focus of it's praise, and I found nothing significant written about Hanta Yo after 1981.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

"Native people living in the contemporary world are usually the last to know and to have something to say about what is being published concerning us. This is true whether the work is in history, anthropology, psychology, education or fiction? This unawareness appears to be true in the advent of the book, Hanta Yo, by Ruth Beebe Hill. Hill had the linguistic aid of a Mdewaktonwan Dakota who calls himself Chunksa Yuha. In my view, the two combine to make a "dreaming pair" and the book is evidence of this." - Bea Medicine, "Hanta Yo: A New Phenomenon" Hanta Yo: An American Saga embodies the very controversy it created. The author, Ruth Beebe Hill, is an Anglo-American who claims to have worked on the text for roughly 30 years interviewing one thousand Native Americans, traveling reservations, and studying intensively in libraries across the country. With the help of Chunksa Yuha, a Dakotah Sioux Native American, Hill claims to have translated the text from English to Dakota and then back into English using the 1806 version of Webster's Dictionary. An article written for Smithsonian Magazine in 1978 states, "Author Hill considers Hanta Yo not really a novel and not a documentary either. The names and the deeds of the four heroes are fictitious, but their tribe existed and ?everything really happened.' She calls it documented fiction (114)." The problem with this claim is that it is too bold, to broad, and attempts a task much larger than it was capable of filling. One book review reads, "Part of the difficulty arises with the claim that the book is a ?linguistic tour de force.' It is said to have been translated from present day English into an old Dakotah/Lakotah dialect and then retranslated into an English based upon the 1806 Webster's Dictionary. These maneuvers, surly very complicated, are supposed to result in a faithful reflection of the Indian idiom. Such a claim seems gratuitous, and it implies that the book is a kind of artifact, a museum piece, a curiosity. I suspect that one does not reproduce the language of the Indians by reverting to the English of 1806 (Washington Post Book World: January, 1979)." I will begin by examining the political climate that created a market for Hanta Yo. In American history, there have been no greater atrocities committed than those against the Native Americans. After seizing land, killing tribes, and allotting them only a small portion of what was originally theirs, a majority of Native Americans dwell below the poverty line and the government does little to aid the situation. The Radical Historian explains, "The Indian represents human nature in a state of anarchy; wild and untamed, it is something to be conquered. More recently it dominated the Western dime novel, and appeared in cowboy-and-Indian movies. On the other hand, the Indian, when portrayed as a primitive child living in harmony with nature, also represents for us humanity in a state of primordial innocence. These are the Natives celebrated in the sixties counterculture literature (149)." In 1979, the publication year of Hanta Yo, the country was settling into the effects of the Civil Rights Movement, the war against Vietnam, as well as the Cold War. The Carter Administration maintained a campaign with strong commitments toward human rights, and this acted accordance with the influence of the "sixties counterculture literature," generating a growing interest in issues such as "Native America." In popular culture, "the western" (in the form of novels, television shows, and movies) was a thriving genre throughout the 1970's. Hanta Yo's audience would have been raised with figures such as James Dean, John Wayne, "Squanto," and "Geronimo." The "baby boomers" descending from a climax of radicalism and rebelliousness, would no doubt have been eager to read something that replaced these generic figures and gave a realistic identity to Native American characters. The political environment as well as the influence of "the Western" on popular culture created the perfect climate for a novel that attempted to come from a Native Dakotah Sioux perspective. A Literary History of the American West, a text written by The Western Literature Association describes the marketability of this type of novel, "Long before eloquent Indian writers developed, white writers found potent material, usually tragic, in the destruction of native cultures; as a result, no other western ethnic group has been so much written about. From Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona, through Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge, to the more recent and controversial Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill, the list is long and in places distinguished (1028)." Considering that Hanta Yo was Hill's first novel, it received positive attention upon its publication due to the intensive research that was said to have gone into it. The Smithsonian Magazine article in which Hanta Yo was featured focuses on this aspect of the text, "The author, Ruth Beebe Hill, is not Indian but white. She tells a story that is true as an understanding of the ancient language and history can make it, for it is nowhere recorded. Ruth Hill put 30 years into the undertaking, the last 14 of them with the help of a bilingual Indian. She was so intent on making her book not only accurate but a reflection of what she calls the Indian ?altitude of the mind' that she translated her words into archaic Dakotah and then back into the English of the 1806 Webster's dictionary (111)." Reviews done by the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, and Washington Post Book Review, and Publishers Weekly all focused the research that the book required as the focus for the articles, namely Hill's relationship with Chunksa Yuha. The credibility of the novel turned upside down when questions arose about the truthfulness of Hill's research. As Hanta Yo gained readership, especially within the Native American community, controversy began to brew. As an article in the Radical History Review written in 1981 reads, "The Sioux and other Native Americans oppose Hanta Yo and its entire philosophical premise? One effort is aimed at destroying the credibility of the author and her collaborator by demonstrating loopholes and falsifications in their claims of honest research. In Ruth Beebe Hill's case, this has been difficult. Most of the Sioux from whom she supposedly received information are dead. The manuscript which she claims to have translated into "archaic" Souix and then back into English of Webster's 1806 Dictionary is unavailable for inspection. Under pressure to reveal her sources, Hill now admits that she has taken information from the standard ethnographies. In most instances, however, she has misrepresented ethnographic data (155-6)." Another article written in the Indian Historian journal even goes so far as to debunk any positive criticism that the Smithsonian article (cited earlier) offered: "There appeared an article entitled, ?Ruth Hill Became Indian to Write Epic of the Sioux,' by Peggy Thomspon, in this Smithsonian (December, 1978). This article is ample evidence that Native Americans are still at the mercy of journalists, free-lance writers, scriptwriters, and other establishment media forces. The article, however, has given the book a certain authenticity lodged in the bosom of Smithsonian Magazine as an authority in the field of ethic studies, a reputation it does not deserve (3)." While the controversy surrounding Hanta Yo could not have had a positive effect on its sales, these questions make it an interesting specimen to examine as a bestseller. The book was, as I have said, marketed primarily because it intended to function as a true reflection of Native American "historical fiction." Ruth Beebe Hill portrayed herself as an anthropologist and historian instead of an author; she claims to have gone out of her way to make her fiction less fictional. But according to the Sioux Native American who reviewed the book in The Radical Historian, "Not only does Hill misrepresent the Souix as individuals, she distorts their social relations as well. During the period covered by the novel, the Teton Sioux a foraging people who lived in nomadic settlements ordered around the idiom of kinship. Every Sioux was enmeshed in a far-ranging web of kinship relations. The idea that Peta and his nephew Plepi (main characters in the book) had no family is inconceivable. Without some sort of a kin connection in a Sioux community, a person became a social nonentity, a stranger, and a potential enemy (151)." Had she remained true to the western genre and created fictional and stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans, chances are that there would have been fewer objections, but she probably would not have made the bestseller list either. Hanta Yo attempted to transcend the boundaries of the Western genre and become a non-fictional fiction, but it ultimately did not fill these shoes. Because Hill claimed to be true to the Native Sioux's true form, she dug Hanta Yo a hole from which it has never emerged. Hanta Yo will never function as a "historical fiction" because it lacks historical truth essential to an accurate perspective of the Dakotah people. All of these anecdotes make an interesting case for the public persona of the author. Hill's intentions, which initially were portrayed as well placed, were eventually criticized as just another capitalistic venture: "We have tried to show how, in the case of Hanta Yo, various aspects of corporate capitalism combine to package and sell what amounts to an expression of their own world view. The fantasy world portrayed by this type of cultural commodity is accurately reflected in the double-talk that masquerades as historical fiction (Albers, 160)." I must admit that I agree, except for the fact that a few months on the bestseller list could not prompt me to spend 30 years writing 834 pages of something intended to be corruptive. I think Ruth Beebe Hill's intentions were pure; she believed in her cause and she believed in her book. Her downfall was that she did not account for how seriously her claims would be taken. I'm not sure that she considered the fact that an informed Native American reader was ready to be critical of her simply based on the fact that she was a white woman attempting to "become" a Native Dakota Sioux American. Combine this with the fact that she did not do create an accurate account, while claiming to have done so, and it is understandable why she was such an easy target for ridicule. I presume that, as she realized her life's work was destined for fame, she became slightly star struck and exaggerated certain aspects of her research as well as her intentions. It is interesting that, had Hanta Yo not been reviewed with the intensive research as the focus, Hill would have received less ridicule. In other words, the same aspect of the text that made it popular was also the ultimate cause for its downfall. Focusing attention away from the criticism and towards the actual plot, Hanta Yo manages to provide a remarkable story. Though long-winded and intimidating to plow through, it cannot be denied that the book is fairly well written and provides the reader with a tale as removed from the mainstream as it promises to be. As an article in the Washington Post Book World reads, "Hanta Yo is substantial novel, impressive I both conception and execution. In the course of the long, many faceted narrative, there is revealed a fascinating world. In one sense it is a small, nearly private world, a world so exclusive as to be available only in the pages of a book. But it is a whole world too, full of good things and bad (4)." In conclusion, Hanta Yo was an incredible attempt at an unbiased account of Native American life. While it does not fulfill the claims that were the focus of the book's reviews, it obviously cannot be considered a failure as a fiction considering that it remained on the bestseller list for several months. It seems that Ruth Beebe Hill was treading on thin ice when, as a white woman, she attempted to create an historical fiction of Dakotah Sioux Native Americans. This culture is so distinct that such a task should be reserved for first hand experience and knowledge, especially since this ethnic group has faced so many detrimental stereotypes and so many of their historical accounts have been filtered through people other than Native Americans.

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