“If you must read a book on Columbus,” declared the Los Angeles Times in its review of The Heirs of Columbus, “this is the one.” Gerald Vizenor's novel reclaims the story of Chrisopher Columbus on behalf of Native Americans by declaring the explorer himself to be a descendent of early Mayans and follows the adventures of his modern-day, mixedblood heirs as they create a fantastic tribal nation.
The genetic heirs of Christopher Columbus meet annually at the Stone Tavern at the headwaters of the Mississippi to remember their “stories in the blood” and plan their tribal nation. They are inspired by the late-night talk radio discourses of Stone Columbus, a trickster healer who became rich as the captain of the sovereign bingo barge Santa Maria Casino, anchored in the international waters of the Lake of the Woods. The heirs' plan to reclaim their heritage enrages the government and inspires the tribal nations in a comic tale of mythic proportions.
Vizenor is a mixedblood Chippewa who writes fiction in the trickster mode of Native American tradition, using humor to challenge received ideas and subvert the status quo. In The Heirs of Columbus he “reveals not only how Indians have staved off the tidal wave of assimilation,” noted the San Francisco Chronicle, “but also how, through humor and persistence, they sometimes reverse the direction of cultural appropriation and, in the process, transform the alien values imposed on them.”
“Vizenor understands the wilder, irrational, half-mad parts of the Discoverer's soul as few people ever have,” noted Kirkpatrick Sale in the Nation; “Columbus is appropriated here in an entirely new way, made to be an Indian in service to his Indian descendents.” And the Voice Literary Supplement said “Even more rousing than Vizenor's deconstruction of Columbus, though, is his alternative vision of an American identity.”