Stephen Graham Jones Saga Press

Stephen Graham Jones returns with his unique brand of Indigenous horror with The Only Good Indians, a supernatural revenge tale set on the reservation, which doesn’t shy away from the realities of that life.

Four young Blackfoot men are hunting illegal- ly on the Elders’ territory, when they massacre a herd of elk. Although they are caught by the game warden, their actions offend Elk Head Woman, a spirit of the Elk herd, who takes her bloody revenge years later.

The book unravels over three distinct parts. The first, “The House That Ran Red,” puts the reader in the head of hunter Lewis. After he sees an un- born elk calf on his living room floor, he becomes suspicious of his Native co-work- er and his own partner, who he believes might be Elk Head Wom- an. His paranoia leads to tragedy. The second part, “The Sweat Lodge Massacre,” plays out in a stalker-style narrative, with Elk Head Woman – now taking the form of a young girl – catching up to two of the other hunters at a sweat lodge. In the final part, “It Came From the Rez,” The Only Good Indians shape-shifts into a

monster story with Elk Head Woman – now with the head of an Elk and a human body – relent- lessly pursing one of the hunters’ daughters to the site of the original massacre in the dead of winter.

The idea of a novel switching styles mid-story may sound odd, but in Jones’ capable hands it both energizes the plot and keeps us intrigued. The early part of the book coyly coaxes readers into believing that Lewis may be suffering from a mental break, making the revelation that Elk Head Woman is an actual being a great transition (and twist). These shifts further aid the tale’s nar- rative evolution from realism to the supernatural. Without doubt, Jones remains a fresh voice in our genre, seamlessly marrying Native beliefs with supernatural horror as if it’s the most natu- ral thing in the world.


A Family In Peril: With the undead uprising well in hand, Red Deer’s biggest threat lies in the tensions between Sheriff Traylor (Michael Greyeyes, centre) and his sons, Joseph (Forrest Goodluck, left) and Lysol (Kiowa Gordon).

“The genocide of the Native American has been franchised. I think the real question is why.” – Filmmaker Jeff Barnaby

by’s careful hand ensures his film points critical fingers in more directions than one. For instance, Traylor’s eldest son Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) brings his reckless streak into the new world order as the group’s de facto enforcer, while little brother Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) has knocked up his teen (and non-Indige- nous) girlfriend Charlie (Olivia Scriven). As Barnaby explains, the damage done to the Native population still lingers so many centuries later.

“I really meant it to be a critique on Native men in particular, if you take a look at [Lysol’s] character arc, you re- ally get the idea that he’s been institu- tionalized,” says the director. “You get direct references to him growing up in the system, growing up in foster care, so I don’t really think it’s about the insti- tution as much as it is about, as a Native man, you let yourself get corrupted by the system. I felt like there was going to be cultural contrast within the [Native] community itself, where there are peo- ple that are willing and actively helping the ‘townies’ and then people like Lysol, who are actively looking to sabotage it, because they don’t trust them. That’s what the institutionalized person would do. I don’t necessarily equate it with be- ing Native, it just happens to be that way in the sense that Native people are expo-

nentially overrepresented in the system (foster system, CPS), so I think it was a critique on that.” Blood Quantum represents a bold and critical step towards addressing a group that has been long misrepresented in culture and cinema (when it appears at all – examples are scant and crudely stereotypical), but Barnaby is quick to acknowledge that all filmmaking is part of this system and should still be consid- ered within a post-colonial context. “I think it helps to have actual Native people writing their own stories and tell- ing their own stories and representing their own people because it gives you a better idea of who we are,” he says. “But by the same token, to look at those representations as anything other than the idea that the directors and writers and artists are involved, is wrong too. I don’t think you should be looking for artistic representation anywhere, in any way, shape or form. The genocide of the Native American has been franchised, I think the real question is why. And to ask that question while you’re making films, the very medium by which a lot of that franchising took place… I think that, as an artist, there’s just too many things you could say by doing so to pass it up.”

A Tale From the Deep Woods

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