Oklahoma Book Award–Non-fiction, (Finalist), Oklahoma Center for the Book

When John Joseph Mathews (1894–1979) began his career as a writer in the 1930s, he was one of only a small number of Native American authors writing for a national audience. Today he is widely recognized as a founder and shaper of twentieth-century Native American literature. Twenty Thousand Mornings is Mathews’s intimate chronicle of his formative years. Written in 1965-67 but only recently discovered, this work captures Osage life in pre-statehood Oklahoma and recounts many remarkable events in early-twentieth-century history.

Born in Pawhuska, Osage Nation, Mathews was the only surviving son of a mixed-blood Osage father and a French-American mother. Within these pages he lovingly depicts his close relationships with family members and friends. Yet always drawn to solitude and the natural world, he wanders the Osage Hills in search of tranquil swimming holes—and new adventures.

Overturning misguided critical attempts to confine Mathews to either Indian or white identity, Twenty Thousand Mornings shows him as a young man of his time. He goes to dances and movies, attends the brand-new University of Oklahoma, and joins the Air Service as a flight instructor during World War I—spawning a lifelong fascination with aviation. His accounts of wartime experiences include unforgettable descriptions of his first solo flight and growing skill in night-flying. Eventually Mathews gives up piloting to become a student again, this time at Oxford University, where he begins to mature as an intellectual.

In her insightful introduction and explanatory notes, Susan Kalter places Mathews’s work in the context of his life and career as a novelist, historian, naturalist, and scholar. Kalter draws on his unpublished diaries, revealing aspects of his personal life that have previously been misunderstood. In addressing the significance of this posthumous work, she posits that Twenty Thousand Mornings will challenge, defy, and perhaps redefine studies of American Indian autobiography.”


About The Author
John Joseph Mathews (1895–1979), a mixed-blood Osage, was the author of Wah’Kon-Tah: The Osage and the White Man’s Road;Talking to the Moon; Sundown; Life and Death of an Oilman: The Career of E. W. Marland;and Twenty Thousand Mornings: An Autobiography.
Susan Kalter is editor of Twenty Thousand Mornings, an autobiography by John Joseph Mathews, and Professor of American Literature and Native American Studies at Illinois State University.

Charles H. Red Corn (1936–2017) was an independent writer living in Norman, Oklahoma. He is a member of the Tzi-zhu-wash-ta-ghi Clan (Peace Clan) of the Osage Tribe.


Reviews & Praise
Twenty Thousand Mornings is full of rich, witty, and poignant descriptions of daily life in the Osage Nation when Kansas was ‘exotic’ and ‘romantic’ and international travel meant going to ‘the States.’ Mathews takes us into a world where boys and girls play shinny, study ‘jography’ with the Hussar-like schoolteacher Mrs. Tucker, and flee tornados. We ascend with him into the air above Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, where he learned to fly for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War I, and wonder at his casual failure to appear on time at Oxford. Twenty Thousand Mornings, and Susan Kalter’s brilliantly researched, painstakingly detailed introduction , will reshape what we think of John Joseph Mathews, the American Indian autobiography tradition, and Native identities and politics before the American Indian literary renaissance.”—James H. Cox, author of Muting White Noise: Native American and European Novel Traditions

Book Information
10 b&w illus.
360 Pages
Hardcover 978-0-8061-4253-1
Paperback 978-0-8061-6574-5
Kindle 978-0-8061-8747-1
e-pub 978-0-8061-8748-8
Published April 2012
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