After reading the assignments for the night, I am beginning to get out of this course what I had hoped; my eyes are being opened to the truths of Native American culture, starting with their ties to land, spirituality, and balance. Native Americans use the land used and continue to use it in a way that Americans do not. “Indian thinking” is the way that Native Americans look at Mother Earth as the ultimate giver. With the land as their mother, it is what ties different tribes or cultures together. Native Americans work to preserve the beauty and well being of the earth through the interconnectedness of the natural world, animal world, spiritual world, and the human world. In the excerpt from Awiakta, the poem titled “When Earth Becomes an ‘It’” the author look talks about the earth in two different ways: when she is called “mother’ and when she is called “it.” I think that when the author refers to the people who love and call the earth “mother,” she is referring to the Indians who lived off of the land and respected the earth as their provider. This poem speaks to “Indian thinking” in the sense that earth too is a living being and thrives when she is preserved.
Along with Mother Earth comes Selu, Grandmother Corn. In accordance to the law of respecting mother earth, the Indians believed, too, that they must respect Selu for the Corn that she provides them. I like how when the author talks about the story of Selu and her grandson’s she points out how versions of the story may differ. However, regardless of the menial details the message of taking from mother earth and giving respect in turn remains the same. This holds true to the concept of Indian thinking.
In order to remain in balance, which is important to Native Americans, Selu’s counterpart, Kanti, was introduced. Kanti, the introducer of hunting (deer) to man, not only acted as her counterpart because he was male but also because he was meat and she was a vegetable, continuing the balance of the land.
Rhetorical Powwows was an interesting piece of writing written by Malea Powell. She believes that we have to move away from the direct definition of rhetoric and include “things” and their meanings. My favorite quote from her piece of writing was …”we have to learn to rely on rhetorical understanding different from that singular, inevitable origin story. We have to try harder and overcome the behaviors that sustain colonial discourse in our contemporary practices…. We need, in fact, to move our practices toward “things” toward a wider understanding of how all made things are rhetorical, and how cultures make, and are made by the rhetoricity of things (Malea Powell (2-3). I think Malea Powell’s idea that our theories and beliefs should encompass more than just texts is a great point. As human beings, we are more than just textual, we are spiritual, etc.
The Land Has Memory was a very interesting piece of writing, also. I always wondered what the Native Americans thought about the land and the animals that surround the places they live. It is very interesting to read how much respect and connection that the Natives have with nature and the animals that are in nature. I strongly believe that animals have powerful souls and are placed on this Earth for a reason. I loved reading about the connection Native Americans have with animals and how sacred they think they are to this world because I feel the same way. I recently just moved into a new house and we live in the woods. We have deer and beautiful trees surrounding our house and now more and more people are living down our wooded lane. The trees are getting cut down and the animals are moving locations. I can relate to how Native Americans view the land because I feel terrible about what is happening to the nature and animals near and around my house. Native Americans respect their land and they believe that every tree and rock and plant has a message. I think it is so cool that a group of people can have such a deep admiration for nature. I think that plants and tree all have memory and mean something to the land around it, so I understand why Native Americans treat the land they occupy with such respect.
In "Rhetorical Powwows," Powell says that her faults are her own, and all credit for her successes go to her predecessors. I've heard this before somewhere, but where exactly I can't recall. It reminds me of Christianity and filial piety; "anything bad is my own fault, I don't want it to be a blemish on my family or to reflect poorly on my Creator, but I inherited my singing voice from my mother's parents and all my talents are gifts from my God." I like this concept because is very respectful to family and community. Powell indicates the Native American sense of community which I love so much when she speaks of stories. Storytelling is and always has been a big part of most cultures; it brought communities together and kept tradition alive. People of all ages can participate in storytelling, and it can be used to teach, to entertain, to inform, and for a variety of other purposes.
Last semester I learned that I have a penchant for nonverbal rhetoric. Wampum, beadwork, ribbonwork and basketweaving are not just arts and crafts-- they have a purpose in the community. They teach discipline and learning and tradition. This is probably why I loved learning about archaeological excavations. So much can be learned about cultures by the artifacts they left behind. Each item is a piece to the puzzle of each culture, which can be pieced together with other cultures to tell the collective story of human history. I had heard before also about the quipu, the "talking knots," on a field trip about Incan culture. Communication without a phonetic or verbal language is both strange and fascinating to me, and I wonder how such a thing can be accomplished.
I like the relationship Native Americans have with the land. It is described appropriately in "The Land Has Memory." These people did not take too much from Mother Earth, and what they did take, they did not waste any of. They gave thanks for animals they killed for food, they used the bones and skins to construct their homes and ornaments. They respected the land and all its creatures, probably because some of the tribes believed all things, or all living things, had spirits. Their honor for the land is something all people should admire and strive to emulate, especially because of the wastefulness which now governs America-- wasted food scraps, materials, trash, not recycling recyclable materials, throwing out things that could be fixed and reused. In elementary schools, we all learn to "reduce, reuse, recycle," but as we age this seems to generally matter less to us. Fortunately, we are gravitating toward renewable energy and "going green." We are more aware of what we do that can hurt the environment. We build environmentally friendly buildings now and we try to cut down on what we use and what we waste, but we are nowhere near as good at it as these people were.
I think it would be beneficial to today's population and the environment if people were to spend a short amount of time living as the Native Americans lived before the settlers invaded. I think it would be very humbling and educational and would serve as an inspiration to cut back and live more simply, at least for a while. Maybe an annual weekend-long excursion to a retreat area where people live as the natives did would be appropriate. I think that in this fast-paced world of advanced technology and materialism, we forget what is truly important. The people who lived before us seemed to have a better idea of what these important elements were, and while our lives now are more comfortable, they are also more lazy and we take more for granted. As Thoreau says, returning to our roots and "sucking the marrow out of life" would be a positive experience for many of us.
After reading through Selu, I feel like Marilou Awiakta explores the concept of wisdom, art, and history all at the same time. One of the most interesting parts of her piece comes after the story of the Grandmother and her two Grandsons. The story is simply told, but contains a massive amount of symbolism and commentary on the relationship between mankind and the forces of nature. Awiakta addresses the unrealistic scenario of having guns in a story that feels as if it was meant to take place in the distant past. She notes that “Revealing spiritual truth, not facts, is the purpose of Selu’s story, which the storyteller keeps alive and current by adapting details such as guns to the times” (Awiakta 16). I think this is a very intuitive notion, to stress the value of “spiritual truth” as the driving force of a story. In the particular version of the story Awiakta gives, the setting seems almost undefinable, as if the characters are living in some separate space of existence where time is not so rigid. The relationship that the Grandsons hold with the Grandmother and the lessons about life they learn from her are almost outside of time. I think it is a very quiet and intimate way to express wisdom.
It is interesting how this story and its unique qualities overlap with some of the ideas expressed by Powell, particularly in how we should always try to reexamine the criteria for which we judge something as writing or rhetoric. What struck me the most from her piece was her argument for considering things that are not necessarily text as a form of rhetoric or writing, or that these things contain similarly important details worth considering as rhetorical. She gives the example of baskets, and writes “It isn’t that we tell stories about a basket, or that the basket TELLS a story, it’s that it is MADE of story, it IS story” (Powell 10). It is interesting to see how these two pieces examine the significance of content and meaning. Both seem to urge a more flexible style of perspective that doesn't sacrifice any intellectual inquiry
Native Writing and Rhetorics
10 September 2014
Second Critical Response
The assigned readings this week were: the stories of Selu, Rhetorical Powwows, and The Land Has Memory. Following my finishing of these readings, I found that they tied together so splendidly and offered great insight into the significance and understanding of Native rhetoric.
First, the narration of Selu: Seeking the Corn Mother’s Wisdom was a powerful telling of an old Native tale that holds great meaning in its culture. In short, Selu the grandmother, placed on this earth to appease Kanati of his incessant hunting, is feeding her grandchildren a mysterious food of which they know little of. The mischievous little tikes spy on her and find that she herself is the food, and decide it is no longer appetizing. The grandmother dies, and instructs the boys to replant her back into the Earth so she can provide corn for them so long as they treat her with the utmost care and respect. The story powerfully depicts the notion that Mother Earth has to be respected in order to provide, for if you disrespect her, she will no longer provide. Other tales are narrated as well, such as Following the Deer Trail where hunters must ask permission of the Earth to kill deer to keep mutual respect between prey and predator as well as keep populations balanced. Both stories are held dear by the author, Awiakta, and influence her life greatly.
The Land Has Memory, an excerpt regarding the creation of National Museum of The American Indian, was quite powerful and very closely related to the first story. The creators attempt to make the museum under Native law, by building and abiding by the Earth’s will without disrespecting the landscape in anyway. They manage to recreate a lot of the natural and functioning habitats that used to be abundant before overpopulation and Westernization. It’s apparent that these people have such respect for Earth that they even go so far as to incorporate elders into the making and distinguishing of the land to be built on.
Lastly, Rhetorical Powwows, was an essay regarding the attempt to “textualize” the unwritten language of the Natives and its effects on delivering their meanings. Initially, I was unsure what the author was getting at when regarding the modern use of “textual fetishism” and the different categories in which language and the relaying thereof fall into. But upon mentioning the quipo, an Incan method of making record through knotting different fibers, it became much more apparent what she meant. Some things just can’t be translated into text, though that is what modern day interpreters attempt to do, rather than understand the initial language for what it is. I was especially stricken by the story of the water spider carrying the first fire to the mainland and how that translates into Indian basket-weaving methods.
Overall, these stories all seemed to relay one idea: that Native rhetoric has to be respected and understood before it can be manipulated and interpreted into our modern ideas. Also, the big picture is that if one doesn’t respect Mother Earth, than Mother Earth certainly won’t provide as heartily as it potentially could.
While reading Powell’s “Rhetorical Powwows” and The Land Has Memory I begin to realize what Native Americans are really all about. Those things that first came to my head last class when I heard the word “Native American” are already being proven to be impracticalities. The Land Has Memory opened my eyes to the fact that their culture is not all about fringe, face paint, and teepees but instead their profound relation to the land and all Mother Nature has to offer.
“Every plant, every animal, every rock and flowing spring carries a message. Native peoples of the Americas learned over thousands of years to listen to the messages, and we know every habitat. We know the earth; we know the sky; we know the wind; we know the rain; we know the smells.” This quote really stood out to me in JohnPaul Jones’ essay within The Land Has Memory because of the way it describes the Natives’ intimate relationship with the earth.
“When Earth Becomes an ‘It’” in Powell’s “Rhetorical Powwows” further displays the importance of nature to the Native American culture. This poem’s declaration of calling the earth “Mother” rather than “it” is important to the poem’s overall point. If people (ex: Native Americans) call Earth “Mother,” then it shows that those people treat the land with love and care, as compared to other people (perhaps Americans) who call Earth “it” use the land and leave it to die. Native Americans have been known to treat the earth’s land with love and carefulness – an important aspect of their native culture.
In “Rhetorical pow wows” by Powell, a problem I wasn’t even aware of was addressed. That is, wampum was a work of art shared amongst the Native Americans to symbolize partnerships, treaties marriages and all sorts of other agreements and social contracts. However it wasn’t a materialistic object, it wasn’t something that could be converted into another currency for trade. It meant more than that but as a euro-centric culture it is hard to wrap our heads around this. This gap in translation and understanding can lead to some obvious difficulties. Powell suggests we step back from what we’ve learned of phonetic language and rhetoric to come to a better understanding of what objects like wampum and other works of art truly mean to the Native Americans. Another work, Selu: Seeking the Corn Mother’s Wisdom, was a tale very close to the Native Americans. It speaks of mutual respect between the earth and Natives. The earth is seen as a guardian and a mother that keeps everything in the natural world in balance. It wasn’t exactly praising a pantheon for the Native Americans, it was more familial and much more personal to them. Awiakta, the author, shares these stories about a dying grandmother and hunters in search of deer because it holds valuable lessons that the Native Americans took very seriously. Lastly, The Land Has Memory talks about the unique scenario the builders of the National Museum of The American Indian were in. They consulted with important members of the Native American community. Together they were able to follow the Native Laws of the tribes and recreate many aspects of the museum naturally. There was hardly any waste that the western civilization is so well known for after the museum was finally created. In the end all three writings share a common theme of understanding and respect. The most important thing is to be able to really step back and get out of our euro-centric way of thinking to see the Native American culture for what it really is. If we don’t our current perspective will distort our understanding and could lead to more needless quarrels. Such was the case with the English and the Natives when they first arrived and we should take care not to let history repeat itself.
I found the first few pages of Malea Powell’s “Rhetorical Powwows” to be absolutely incredible. As an English major I will hunt down any spelling and grammatical errors in every literary piece I come across (With the annoying exception of my own). But Powell managed to take the idol of this discipline and bring it down to nothing more than etchings on paper; I speak of course of letters. To someone educated in reading letters create words, then sentences, then stories, but in reality they are simply symbols that we have assigned minute meanings to. This made me respect Native American culture substantially more; it also made me come to the realization that any language conveyed through anything but letters is really cool! Cave paintings, smoke signals, woven looms, even paintings, the list goes on.
This also made me come to the realization that the Native American’s lack of a ‘written’ language was a large reason that they were treated differently. To be honest if I saw somebody writing an essay in hieroglyphics I’d judge them too, or something of the sort.
But in the end Powell’s thoughts and philosophies on this were really fascinating and it didn’t take very long for her to make an impact on me. I feel like her want to understand the Native American’s cultures was something that was clearly lacking in older times and I’d even go so far as to say that it was lacking twenty years ago.
Native American Rhetoric
September 10, 2014
After finishing this week’s readings of, “This Land Has Memory” and “Rhetorical Powwows: What American Indian Making Can Teach Us About Histories of Rhetorics” I had very different responses to both works. I found, “This Land Has Memory” to be a very visual read about preserving the land in a manner similar to that of the American Indians. The descriptions of the museum itself were very beautiful, and after reading the essay I felt not only compelled to care more about nature, but also wanted to go visit the museum myself. One particular scene that I enjoyed reading about was when the Native elders chose the center for the museum (2). It was very fascinating to me that they were able to successfully choose an area, purely out of instinct, that wound up being an exact perfect location for the museum. I also enjoyed learning about how the Natives were able to grow different crops in areas that these crops might not have grown naturally. It was an interesting concept that the Natives presented in displaying that you can survive anywhere as long as you are willing to give back to the earth (xiii). It also seems incredible to me that the museum was constructed in such a way that many animals now inhabit the space (xv). The museum itself seems to back up the idea of giving back to the earth, as it provides a natural environment for all forms of life.
In response to Malea Powell’s, “Rhetorical Powwows: What American Indian Making Can Teach Us About Histories of Rhetorics” I found this to be a somewhat confusing read. Powell spends a majority of her lecture describing how there is meaning in “things” but that this does not necessarily make these “things” forms of writing (Powell 3-4). As I was reading I felt that I understood a portion of what Powell was stating, but at the same time felt a sense of confusion. Powell spoke continuously about how Native objects themselves are not forms of writing. That argument seems valid at first, but then Powell later goes on a rant about wampum that, to me, seemed to refute her own argument (6). In this particular rant, Powell gives the entire back-story to the wampum and how it represents the five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (6). I could not help but feel as if Powell put the strand of wampum into a narrative context, which to me, made the wampum seem as if it were an expression of writing. Although I did experience confusion at times throughout Powell’s lecture, I do think I could somewhat grasp what she was attempting to say. I think that what Powell meant was that although there is a lot of history in Native American artifacts, that these histories do not necessarily display the type of writing or story telling that the Natives actually wrote or took part in.
I found both essays to be insightful yet in very different ways. While the article about the Native Museum was a quick read with interesting details about Native knowledge of nature, I found Powell’s essay discussing the importance of Native American rhetoric. I felt that it was useful reading both of these texts together. As I read about the Native museum, I could not help but visualize a native way of life. Powell’s lecture helped to remind me that although there is nothing wrong with learning about a Native American past, that I should not forget to distinguish between Native artifacts and actual Native stories, and writings. I found both essays to be useful in teaching me about Native Americans, but also in pushing me more toward learning Native rhetoric rather than just native history.
After reading Rhetorical Powwows by Malea Powell, I’m starting to obtain a better and more intriguing view on Native American culture. As a student in the English program, I am always fascinated by different writing styles as well as language. However, this article made me view a language, that I thought I knew implicitly, in a completely different way. The statement that sparked my different line of thought was “…to move our conversations and practices towards ‘things,’ to a wider understandings of how all made things are rhetorical, and of how cultures make, and are made by the rhetoricity of things.” (Powell 4) This statement made me realize that English, or any language in general, does not consist of an alphabet; it does not consist of words and letters. All languages and the alphabet used in those languages are just symbols. In other words, they are just “things” we give meaning to.
In Rhetorical Powwows, Powell explains a rhetorical way of communicating that has been lost throughout time, except in an empire known as the Inca Empire as well as its predecessor societies in the Andean region (Powell 4). It is a form of communication called Quipu or khipu that involves the use of different colored strings as well as a specific, numerical pattern in a base of 10. Even though it is misunderstood by groups outside those of the Inca Empire, as well as societies in the Andean region, this can be perceived as a language; this is the alphabet of select people in selective cultures! Personally, I find this very intriguing due to the fact that this could have as easily happened within our culture or any other. In a different universe, this is our alphabet; the letter “A” still exists, but looks like a combination of colored string and numerical patterns. By viewing language as a rhetorical method, a method of associating a sound or meaning with an object, it is very easy to comprehend Native American language. Powell describes it as “glottographic” and “semasiographic” communication; “Glottographic” meaning that which represents speech and “semasiographic” being where marks convey meanings within a culture. (4)
Understanding this alternative perception of communication, language and writing can be adaptive towards other misconceptions about Native American cultures and practices. Native Americans still practice religion, but they have different interpretations and meanings for their god(s). Same goes for their clothing, history, social customs, etc. Native Americans are just like any other people, that practice a culture like every other culture, but their customs and practices are common to them when they are vague or strange to us. It’s the same concept as going to a different continent for the first time; the people may have different customs and even different languages, but we developed methods to communicate with such people in order to understand them. The same concept must be applied towards Native American culture and practices.
10 September 2014
Critical Response - 9/9
Kevin Gover’s “The Land Has Memory” offers an exciting glimpse of how Native Americans both use and give back to the land, and in doing so, foster a relationship with it. He begins the piece by offering perspective on what he calls “Indian thinking.” He describes how native people lived in the Americas for so long and not only survived, but thrived here.
At the core of his writing is the idea that land ownership is a concept that is inherently foreign to Native American thinking. Gover believes that for Native Americans, the land is not simply some commodity that can be traded back and forth. It is a precious resource for all, and most importantly, must be respected for the sustenance it provides. Like claiming ownership over something like the air, early inhabitants of the Americas would be confused to learn of our present day relationship with the land. Although he admits that this relationship has been oversimplified, and even romanticized, he argues that countless generations of American Indians poured their blood, sweat, and tears into the land to nurture it.
He asks his audience to consider the state of Arizona and its harsh, unforgiving environment. Despite the land’s predilection for dry soil and cacti, the Native Americans who worked the land tirelessly were able to coax life out of these deserts. He credits this to Native American ingenuity and farming practices, an attribute that is largely ignored by the general public’s study of native peoples, but is unquestionably true given the communities that grew and prospered in this parched earth. Information like this serves to remind readers that the stereotypes that they might hold of simple, carefree people who simply just took from the land could not be further from the truth. These were hardworking men and women who took what little Mother Earth gave them and turned it into more than enough.
Gover ends his piece by discussing the National Museum of the American Indian and its own relationship to the land. The building exists as both a manmade edifice and a natural extension of the world around it. The museum is surrounded by all manner of wildlife that holds special meaning to those who know what to look for and its gardens are kept neat and tidy with the love of people who see that the land is alive.
In a related piece, Johnpaul Jones describes how the museum was painstakingly designed from the beginning. Each and every decision made about where to place things and how best to use the land was treated with the utmost importance. After finishing the excerpts, it is obvious to the reader that nothing was to go to waste. The National Museum of the American Indian is not simply a place to collect and show history. In its design, it is fundamentally part of the world around it. To all Americans, it should be a sign that our society’s relationship with the land need not always be a parasitic one. The museum reminds us that it is possible to forge a symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth, and in doing so, give back to the planet that we have taken so much from.
The readings for today’s class each demonstrate the need for humans to have balance present in their lives in order to be truly at peace with the world around them. In unique ways, all three readings make it clear that the only way people can thrive and find balance within their selves is be able to take from the land thoughtfully and only as needed, and to give back to the land generously. All of the authors write about the dangers of abusing the Earth, but also understand the blessings that can be bestowed upon them if they use the Earth’s gifts properly.
In Selu, author Marilou Awiakta re-tells her ancestors’ story of the Corn mother of Us All. The Corn Mother, also known as Selu, is a direct descendant of Mother Earth, and therefore is highly representative of the Earth’s offerings to the world. Through the story of Selu’s life and death, it becomes apparent that the original storytellers stressed the importance of respecting, trusting, and utilizing Mother Earth to fullest, along with all of her gifts. In the story, Selu is a human being who dies as a result of human deception (similar to how human’s are taking advantage of the Earth nowadays – leading to its slow decline in health), but her burial results in the growth of corn which can be planted again and again, and can provide a large number people with food, corn meal, and even silk. The message of the tale is that out of the Earth can emerge harvests which, if cared for properly and allowed time to grow to their full potential, can help humans find balance with the world and its offerings.
Rhetorical Powwows by Malea Powell discusses the rivercane baskets and mats, and wampum jewelry pieces created by American indigenous peoples, and argues that these valuable works of art can be used to help people learn about a culture in the same way spoken stories and written texts can. Because the rivercane and the shells and stones used to create wampum are products of the Earth, Rhetorical Powwows is another example of how nature’s gifts can provide not only beauty and tools to create artifacts, but can speak to an entire culture’s lifestyle and history. Just as the Native Americans used corn for as many uses as they possibly could in the story of Selu, we need to learn to decipher the hidden language written in the objects that were created by indigenous peoples of the Americas, and help ourselves to get the most out of these blessings from the land.
The article The Land Has Memory discusses the various ways Native Americans worked with architects and engineers to help construct the National Museum of the American Indian while taking into consideration the need for balance between the natural, animal, spirit, and human worlds. By incorporating different features into the museums structure, such as a wetlands area in the east, a symbolic skylight, and a prismatic window that captures the sun’s light in a convenient way, visitors to the museum, native people, and the Earth itself can all benefit from the museum itself in various ways. Much like in Selu and Rhetorical Powwows, The Land Has Memory certainly speaks to the importance of maintaining reciprocity between humans and Earth in the way it depicts the creation of the National Museum of the American Indian.
After completing the readings "Rhetorical Powwows" and "The Land has Memory" I have begun to understand better the significance of both land and the earth to Natives. In "The Land has Memory" the writer speaks to the significance of treating the earth and its lands well. She pointed out that we are finally realizing that the Earth is impacted by our bad treatment of it, and that things like global warming need to be addressed. One point she makes in this piece that I liked in particular was when she stated that not only do we leave an imprint on the land, but inevitably it leaves a mark on us. I like how this pointed out that while we may leave a physical impact on the land where we reside, the land leaves a greater impact on us- often defining who we are as individuals. In "Rhetorical Powwows" the writer speaks about how it is not solely the rhetorics that define us but rather the 'things' that make us up define us. These two reading connect by pointing out that we are not just individuals residing on this Earth, but that the Earth has impacted and created us into the individuals we are today.
After reading The Rhetorical Powwows, I thought to myself, these are the types of stories by Indigenous People that make me so intrigued and excited to learn more about them. There are so many things in the Powwows that I could relate to society and my life. I enjoy reading stories that have a hidden meaning between the words and life itself. In “Compass for our Journey: SELU, A Rare Portrait”, corn represents a story. Just like corn a story is planted in a child’s mind and matures along with the child, nourishing them to grow in wisdom and stature. When the children’s grandmother tells them about this yummy meal she is going to cook that will have something new in it, corn, the grandsons are all excited and cannot keep this new word off their mind all day while hunting. After a couple of days of having this amazing meal the grandsons get suspicious and want to spy on their grandmother to find out where she is getting it. By them spying on her they are not following the rules and when you don’t follow the rules there are always consequences. Just like in reality when you break the law you have to pay for it, but you can learn from the experience and not make the same mistake again. Although, consequences are no fun redeeming oneself is always an option. Even though the grandsons spied on their grandmother and because of it she died, when she asks her grandsons to bury her and follow specific steps they do everything single thing she asked of them. Learning from ones mistakes is the key and doing the right thing eventually will redeem themselves.
As a child we learn that corn is a gift from the Indians and without the corn, settlers would have starved without it. The Indians are good people and help the settlers even though they did not have to, they made the conscious decision to share their corn so that the settlers would live. With all the corn we have today, we do not think of it as a gift but as food that will always be available for us to eat. It is used for our use, but what happened to giving back to the people who found it for us. A simple gift for Native Americans would be to just simply respect them and stop judging them from what white settlers had said so long ago. Who cares what their religion is or what they do on their spare time, they gave to all of us and we need to start giving back to them. That’s how the Cycle of Life works, it goes around in a circle if you give to someone they give back to you and it’s a constant cycle but once someone does not give back the cycle is broken and people start to turn on one another. Just like with the Earth, if we want to continue to live here and be safe we need to give back to the Earth. By hunting animals, polluting the air and water, littering, etc. we are not helping we are hurting the thing that’s giving us life and soon Earth will turn on us because it will have no choice. Balance is the most important key in life. We need a balance between us and Mother Nature and like in the story of Selu and Kanati we need balance in gender. Native Americans balance male and female why can’t we? In order for life to continue it is up to both male and female. They both play a huge role and one cannot work without the other. We are all equal men and female, white people and Native Americans and if we cannot learn to get along this world is going to get messy.
I always say to myself, “I don’t know what I would do without my phone or my computer.” Technology has taken over so much in our daily life that sometimes we don’t even realize it. Children are becoming more and more obese every generation because some of them like to sit in front of the television or behind a computer screen instead of going out and exercising. I can go on the internet and find out about a person and judge them before I actually get to meet them and finding out the real side of them. Technology is not always a bad thing, like we are able to find cures for diseases and research them a lot more due to the technology we have today but, like the Powwow said “it creates a feeling of being whirled faster and faster until we fear we will be flung off into space.” Like when is enough, enough? Technology has led to a lot of people laid off because the machines are taking the spot of the “working man”. What if technology becomes so big that it takes over and we cannot to control it? I believe we need to slow down a little and remember the important things like be grateful for the sun for giving us sunlight and animals for providing us with food.
Rhetorical Powwows by Melanie Powell was an intriguing read. In my opinion I feel as if Melanie is trying to convey the message that we have to try harder to think abstractly in regards to the things around us. By thinking abstractly we can view things in a different light or find a new meaning, rather than heavily relying on what a textbook states. This is what I think Powell is trying to state when she says "We need to theorize, and that theory can't change in textual fetishism, neither by relying on alphabetic print texts nor by textualizing non-alphabetical objects. We need, in fact, to move our conversations and our practices towards "things"...". That quote captured my attention due to the fact that I believe Powell is stating that as a society we have become too attached to the words in a textbook, rather than focusing and taking in the physical things that surround us. By doing so I believe that we could come away with a deeper understanding of everything around us.
The Land Has Memory deals moreso with the relationship that is held between The Native Americans and the surrounding land, and how they interact with one another. I also thought the reasoning behind the creation of The National Museum of the American Indian was quite touching. Johnpaul Jones states that the overall message and reason for building the museum was to preserve the rich native history located in Washington D.C. despite the government attempting to silence and suppress them. The Native Americans wanted to show the that they are still here; continuously practicing the beliefs and traditions that their ancestors have passed unto them. I thought the idea of creating The National Museum of the American Indian was a subtle yet an effective message to those who tried eliminate The Native Americans, reminding them that they are still here despite the relentless efforts to have them eradicated.
In “Rhetorical Powwows” and “The Land has Memory” the importance of the land and nature to their people is very important. One portion of the Rhetorical Powwows I found interesting was how they described creating jewelry and baskets as an art and how it can be as important as passing on stories verbally and written in keeping the traditions and realities of the natives alive. In “The Land has Memory” the relationship between nature and the people of the land was given a strong bond because they saw from a perspective that the land provides for them and they give back to the land by taking care of it. The land was almost like something they worshipped. The ideas I had in my head for all of my life of what the Native American actually is, is proving to be entirely wrong one reading after another and I am sure by the time this class is complete I will have a completely different perspective on the Native American ways. Reading these texts together was perfect because it showed me the difference between the Native American tradition like jewelry making and written stories versus the actual Native American past. These readings solidified the idea that the Native American culture and life must be fully understood accurately before it can be transformed into ideas or thoughts to teach the future.
The new readings for today with Powell and The Land Has Memory made me think of the culture from the stereotyped images given to us by the media but to see it from the perspectives of the actual natives was better. The opening of the presentation by Powell talks about the culture of who the Native people are and their story while also showing the basket weaving techniques involved with their traditional weaving. I never expected there to be so much information on basket weaving and it truly surprised me to read up on the different techniques. The main discussion that interested me was on the subject of the fire story, how fire came to be for the Cherokee people. The story is very nature centered and filled with a love of animals which is one of the reasons why I love the culture, because of their desire to for conservation. The article of The Land Has Memory discussed this more in detail about the idea of conservation and protecting the land. There is a lot of respect for the land by this group of people and a lot of community bonding through the things that they do whether it be functions, rituals, or the conservations.
The reading assignments expanded my mind as new and old concepts were investigated. The connection between all beings appeared throughout the readings. These readings explored far into commonly held beliefs about the world around us, exposing histories and beliefs among Indians. Although I found Rhetoric Powwows confusing, the Land Has Memory and Selu gracefully illustrated the connection between Mother Earth and all beings. A sense of spirituality and perceptiveness among Indians shined throughout these pieces. Mother Earth encompasses a “living, sentient being” in these readings, as Indians respect and love for her shines through. I admired the manner in which the National Museum was constructed, as a living being itself. The museum embodies common beliefs in a beautiful, graceful manner. I found Selu’s creation story to be intriguing and satisfying, as it teaches to be kind and gentle with our Earth.
In “The Land Has Memory”, the author conveys the deep connectivity between the land and Native American beliefs. The most disheartening aspect of this piece was the comparison between the manner in which settlers treated the land and the respect that the native people paid to it. The author states that the settlers viewed the land as “primarily the object of Manifest Destiny and a mere backdrop for American civilization.” When contemplating the disturbing manner in which the Europeans disrupted the lifestyle of the Indigenous, it had never occurred to me that the destroying of the land insulted their spiritual beliefs in a catastrophic manner. By mistreating the land, settlers were shaking the core values of the native citizens.
Equipped with the knowledge that industry has taken a toll on our environment, it is ironic that the Native Americans were privy to respecting the earth long before science advised us that our ways were toxic. The author states, “These progressive ideas are in response to cutting-edge scientific research, but they reflect the ancient and deeply held Indian concept that the Earth herself is a living being, sentient and self-aware.”(xii) This notion that the Earth is “living” makes a considerable amount of sense. It is harrowing to dwell on the fact that if more of humanity had only focused on connecting with nature and treating the earth with respect, our world would be much healthier.
Additionally, I found the description of the four worlds(spiritual, animal , human, and natural) very intriguing. By placing a sacred value on elements from each world, the native people find meaning and sanctuary in all aspects of life. This practice strikes me as very beautiful and peaceful.
“The Land Has Memory” and “Rhetorical Powwows,” offer a glimpse into the Native American beliefs and traditions and shows the reader how there is no separation in life to Native Americans—everything is connected in all ways. Rhetorical Powwows explains the process of basket weaving and the complexity of everything being intertwined. Although she was relating the majority of her essay about basket weaving to writing in rhetoric, it was clear to see the importance of something so simple. “The basket becomes an intersection of history and creation, a constellation of epistemology and existence.” (13) The process of making a basket clearly showed the discipline and knowledge needed to make as well as the passion for harvesting the products again for the following year. The writing also talks about the authors research on alphabetic letters and writing which I found confusing and challenging to read.
The Land Has Memory was a great read that I could really visualize. Having gone to the Native American Museum in Washington D.C it was fun to imagine them building the museum and going through the proper steps. I enjoyed the fact this reading started off with the basic information that the Earth or “Mother Earth” is all connected as one even through the different elements- natural world, animal world, spirit world, and human world. It then continued the making of the Native American museum and them bringing in Native people to show them where to build, and pointing out important elements that should be showcased (i.e the rainbow.)
September 11, 2014
Response to the readings "Rhetorical Powwows" and "The Land has Memory."
After reading both of these, I gained an understanding that learning about indigenous people is all about try to grasp their different values and understanding their way of communicating, art work (which was mentioned as basket weaving, ribbon-work and bead making) all of which are still around today. "Rhetorical Powwow" by Melanie Powell broke down their communication through art which was interesting. I liked the part where they take an Incan past time word and explain to the reader what it was and its controversy. As they mention a quipo, "which was sometimes called talking knots, were recording devices used in the Inca empires. It was a piece from either a llama or alpaca thread and the knots on this thread were used for numerical communication. The argument is over whether or not this is writing. My thought behind it is, who is to say it isn't writing and who is to say it is? Writing is a form of communication and so was the quipo to the Incan people in the Andean region.
This article interested me in more ways than one because later in the article, the word "story" is talked about more. Baskets are mentioned as stories and I think that is a great point to bring up because the baskets these people used everyday carry a meaning and a story behind them. They were not just "things" to the Native Americans, they carried more of a story, they carried the peoples stories.
The Land Has Memory struck me in a way that after reading, I knew that the Native American people, past and present wanted their presence to be known. Both articles tie together because they both mention that you cannot have anything, or learn anything without a story. The National Native American Museum is a great way for us to continue to story and share with others what we see and connect with in the many items that are there. The Native Americans needed and wanted people to see their stories and for them to be remembered through these stories. I like the part where he says that the Native peoples have a strong connection to the land and “the natural world, the animal word, the spirit world and the human world” connects the indigenous people but also allows them to have their own distinctions.
Critical Response 2
The story of Selu and Kanati reminds first reminds me of previous lessons in different cultures such as Native American or even Roman where tales are told orally. This oral tradition is a staple of the culture and even allows the story to change with the times depending on who is telling it. As I read this story, my immediate reaction was that this is almost parallel to the story of Adam and Eve. There is no serpent that I know of, but it tells the story of the first man and woman. Like most stories passed down through tradition, there is a message or theme to it, this one being the equality between genders. This is a common theme in many Native American tribes, such as “the balance of forces,” “the balance of food,” “the balance of relationships.” This story teaches that when there is an unbalance or lack of respect for the other gender, there is a disturbance in the balance of the environment. This is just one story of “your” compass story, the story that you think of to keep you on the right path.
The author also talks about the story “Little Dear,” and how it has stuck with him or her for life. This story has helped the author stay on the right path and remember that the “journey must be made with respect.” I’m sure this touches upon almost everyone, whether it is a childhood story that was told or a lesson that his or her parents instilled. These oral stories were and are passed on through tradition, just like today.
After reading this and furthering my knowledge of Native Americans, it is disheartening and hard to believe that the first Europeans who landed in North America painted the natives as savages, as told in “White Man’s Indian.” Not only did the natives not fight right away when they landed, but they also gave the Europeans gifts. These oral stories and traditions such as the story of Selu and Kanati and “Little Deer” teach such respect for others, and it is even talked about in the diaries of several of the sailors. The author phrases it perfectly when summing up the essence of “Little Deer” by saying,” You must take and give back with respect.” While the natives on the east coast may have not had the same exact story with the same title, I have no doubt that they had a similar story. The fact that this theme is evidenced in the European diaries is amazing.
Despite the tragic and brutal history concerning the Native Americans and the developing nation, stories like these have continued to survive. It is truly my opinion that they have survived because of their message or theme. Living through they tough times and living with respect are enough to make any story worth passing on from generation to generation.
I think it's interesting that in “The Land has Memories” they explain how Native Americans viewed the world, not only where they lived but everywhere. The land and nature was sacred, and took care of each of them. This made them take care of the land. The gift Mother Nature gave the Native Americans each day was not something they took for granted. As settlers came over and colonized the land Natives watched as they built and destroyed Mother Nature. Not until recently are we regretting those mistakes and realizing that the Native Americans were possibly right. "These progressive ideas are in response to cutting-edge scientific research, but they reflect the ancient and deeply held Indian concept that the Earth herself is a living being, sentient and self-aware."
We think that the earth just simply gives us certain crops as mentioned in the reading. This isn't true, we are able to grow certain crops because of the experiments that Native American have done to learn best how to treat Mother Nature, and receive the most from her. I never thought of it that way before. I had thought just like many people that you put the seed in the ground and it grows because that's what the land does with it. Not that Native Americans have worked hard on what exactly should be done to receive the best outcome.
It is interesting to think that the mistakes we have made have gotten us to this point, such as global warming. We dismissed and believed the Native Americans to be wrong. There thoughts and culture have been ridiculed and changed because it wasn't what we wanted. To this day we still have so many stereotypes about them, but it's interesting to see how the table has somewhat turned. They were right about having to take care of the Earth. We dismissed their culture because it was different, and now have to live with the consequences of global warming.
I wonder how different things would be today if we did listen to the Native American culture and felt that Earth was something sacred, and taking care of us. Would we have cut down its trees, dug and built cities in it still? Or would we be living a much simpler life? I am curious to know if life would be different or would the Earth still be just as it is.
Space to comment on the readings for each class...