An Indian Among Los Indígenas: A Reading and Conversation at UC Berkeley
When and where
About this event
When she was twenty-five, Ursula Pike boarded a plane to Bolivia and began her term of service in the Peace Corps. A member of the Karuk Tribe, Pike expected to make meaningful connections with Indigenous people halfway around the world. After all, she was not just another privileged volunteer. She was “one of the good ones”—a fellow Native who wanted to help lift a community out of poverty through economic development.
But her hopefulness quickly turned to something different. She was there to help Bolivians, but instead they helped her: cooking her food, washing her clothes, teaching her to navigate the geography and language. Even her plans for “economic development” seemed questionable, as if they meant expecting a community to choose between its culture and its future.
Over the next two years, as a series of dramatic episodes brought these tensions to boiling point, she began to ask: What does it mean to have experienced the effects of colonialism firsthand, and yet to risk becoming a colonizing force in turn?
An Indian among los Indígenas, Pike’s memoir of this experience, upends a canon of travel memoirs that has historically been dominated by white writers. It is a sharp, honest, and unnerving examination of the shadows that colonial history casts over even the most well-intentioned attempts at cross-cultural solidarity. It is also the debut of an exceptionally astute writer with a mastery of deadpan wit.
Join Estelle Tarica, Professor of Latin American Literatures and Cultures in the Department of Spanish at UC Berkeley, in conversation with Ursula Pike about the many issues the book grapples with: colonialism, indigenous identity, global aid efforts, and so much more.
About the organizer
Ursula Pike lives in Austin, Texas, and writes about identity, Native American issues, economics, travel, and powwows. She has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a master’s degree in Economics from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. She is a member of the Karuk Tribe. In April 2021, her debut memoir An Indian among los Indígenas: A Native Travel Memoir will be published by Heyday Books. Her work has appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, Ligeia Magazine, World Literature Today, O’Dark 30, and the Rio Review.
Estelle Tarica is Professor of Latin American Literatures and Cultures in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and a former Chair of the Latin American Studies Program at UC Berkeley. She is the author of The Inner Life of Mestizo Nationalism (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), concerning the discourse of indigenismo and mestizaje in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia and focusing on the work of José María Arguedas, Rosario Castellanos and Jesús Lara.