In Malea D. Powell’s excerpt titled “River” I really enjoyed how she looked at the technical definition of rhetoric and found multiple meanings in regards to the word. However, Powell still believes that rhetoric is a type of art, which I found intriguing. Powell also states that if we are all supposed to “eat from the same bowl” then we must accept all forms of rhetoric that appears in different texts or in different forms. The excerpt states how in the 19th century that whites spoke on behalf of Native Americans, and when Native Americans did speak on their own behalf they had to write in English to appease their white audience, they could not write in their own language. This led to other Native Americans not being able to read these books, that excerpt states that these days are now over. Native Americans have the right to write in their own language or their own rhetoric, which I believe Powell is trying to address in “River”.
The excerpt ‘Rhetorical Sovereignty’ by Scott Richard Lyons I believe discusses how the Native Americans want the sovereignty or control over writing and their meanings. Lyons discusses how the brutality and violence during the nineteenth century contributed to the distrust among Native Americans. This distrust led to the Native Americans becoming skeptical of the English written word. There wasn’t a correlation between the writings of the nineteenth century and the actual brutality and violence that occurred during that time. Lyons says that Native Americans would like rhetorical sovereignty due to the fact that they would like to survive and flourish as people. They would like to regain their losses that they endured during the 19th century, and regain their personal self respect. They also discuss how rhetorical sovereignty is the right or ability to determine their communication and desires. This makes sense within the excerpt because earlier on Lyons discusses how Luther Standing and his other Native American classmates had to choose “white” names at Castle Indian School. This was mind boggling to me due to the fact these young children were losing their identity and being forced to assimilate to the white culture, the Native Americans had no control or sovereignty over their own identity. This excerpt was saying in a sense that Native Americans in the United States were being limited in regards to their sovereignty simply due to the fact that it was the United States. Reading ‘Rhetorical Sovereignty definitely helped me understand the unfairness that is still continued presently in regards to Native Americans and their sovereignty.
After reading Down By the River, an essay by Malea Powell regarding the education and philosophy of respected Native scholar Susan La Flesche Picotte, I was struck by a lot of the motives within her work.
Powell references a lack of American Indian rhetoric and composition in modern day teachings. She uses the term “primacy,” where literature and composition that is taught is selected based on the privileged opinion and deemed correct. Though this might not be entirely true, one must acknowledge the fact that throughout history, whether philosophy, arithmetic, or any of the sciences, the forefathers are typically white males. Even in spite of this, the common goal for most Indian scholars is to reach a shared understanding of history, rather than defying the teachings of the privileged Europeans that wrote the history books.
Later on in the essay, the problem begins to broaden. Powell references the “Ponca” incident, where the Poncan tribe was cast out of reservation into the essentially barren Oklahoma. Upon return and in spite of their being wrong, members of the tribe were imprisoned. This sparked a literary revolution, bringing authors like Helen Jackson to the table who wrote on behalf of those Natives who were wronged. WNIA (Womens National Indian Association) formed in an effort to publicize the injustices brought upon such tribes and fought for the rights of Indians everywhere. The leaders of this Indian rights movement inspired Susan La Flesche Picotte’s plight and education, where she was able to move people with her words by addressing the problems of her people in a manner that was respected by whites (due to being educated by such whites).
In Rhetorical Sovereignty, an essay written by Scott Lyons on behalf of the Indian peoples, he addresses the concept of rhetorical sovereignty and the lack thereof in India history up until now.
Rhetorical Sovereignty is defined as the inherent right and ability of people to determine their own communicative needs and desires. Throughout the essay, Lyons illustrates how this was attempted but very much not delivered in the transition of Western expansion. Though schooling was offered to some Indians, it was essentially done so with the intent to eradicate all sense of being an Indian and transitioning into a white-bred machine of productivity.
Lyons also makes reference to how this sovereignty was taken advantage of during colonization. Essentially, Europeans made treaties with the Natives, allowing them “rights” to their land while also allowing for Europeans to settle it. However, with the growing political and military prowess of the United States, much of these treaties were overturned and land was taken from the Natives “legally.” The treaties were all deemed bogus under laws of the United States and the Indians had no say in the matter. If anything was learned, it was that “he who sets the terms sets the limits” (452).
Similar to Down by the River, it appears as though both stories are arguing for rhetorical sovereignty. In the words of Scott Lyons, “rhetorical sovereignty requires above all the presence of an Indian voice, speaking or witing in an ongoing context of colonization and setting at least some terms of the debate” (462).
In “Rhetorical Sovereignty” by Lyons the writing basically points out how the Native Americans were stripped of their culture as the Europeans came onto their land. They did things very different ways. Writing changed ways for Native Americans. The violence that occurred during the time period of the nineteenth century was leading to the Native Americans distrust. For example, boarding schools were the clearest way that Europeans took over with their forcing of white names among Native Americans. Native Americans treaties were broken; they lost control of land and material possessions. The most interesting part of the reading I found to be was when Lyons points out the importance of schools needing to become aware and present what had happened in the Native American culture. Native Americans want to regain their self-respect and culture while being able to choose their traditions and means of communication that they may have lost during this violent time. This reading was saying Native Americans were being deprived of their sovereignty just because of the location they were living in.
In relation Malea D. Powell’s “Down by the River” points out that the U.S. government is testing the faith of the Native Americans. She points out that Native Americans ways must change in order to survive. Some positive movements in the right direction would be the various organizations being built to flourish and represent their rights. This will help limit the common problems of the Natives like land, stereotypes, creation stories, health, treaties, etc. This reading gave good examples of steps to take in order for the culture of the Natives to survive.
In the reading Rhetorical Sovereignty, I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic and sad for the Native Americans. The Native Americans had to go to a new school and pencils were the first Europeans technology that was introduced to them and they couldn’t believe what it was able to do. What saddened me was when they had to choose new Europeans names that were written on a board. Not only did they have to compromise some of their culture, but also they had to pick random names to be called for the rest of their lives. Our names are our identity and who we are, and they were forced to change theirs.
“Our strength was, and is, in alliance and in the ability to adapt to rapidly changing worlds. We borrowed European goods and ideas, and these became part of our cultural traditions. After all, all cultures must change if they are to survive.” This quote from the Down By The River story was one that stood out to me the most. It is sad that different cultures cannot get along unless they change some of their ideas and beliefs. Native American culture had to change to survive and this was the story of their lives.
Malea D. Powell's Down by the River spoke to me out of both of the reading assignments for this week. The Native people learned how to write or were rather forced to write and become a part of the European race. Changing their old names to become essentially more "American". What down by the river talks about though is relearning the traditions of the Native people. In the first story Powell talks about her attempts to learn about traditional beadwork. She struggled with it for a very long time until her teacher helped her with it. The teacher tells her to not work so hard at it and to let everything come naturally. I feel that this lesson is a good lesson for not just the author but for everyone. We live in a day and age where we want everything to be perfect and fast. We work hard to get at that perfection when in reality nothing is perfect. Sometimes we even give up if its not as perfect as we want it. If we were to take this lesson as advice and guidance I think there would be less people unhappy with their lives because then instead of worrying about working for perfection they would instead be happy with what they have.
In the reading “Down by the River” by Malea Powell she talks briefly about how she aims to present information that will get people to take Native Americans seriously. She claims whether we are speaking about contemporary scholars, or historical figures we need to learn to take them seriously even though most writing about them up to this point had “done a pretty good job of not doing a very good job”(41). Not only does she want American Indians to be taken seriously, but she wants all stories to be considered important. She speaks about considering stories from all different cultures and viewing all of them as significant. That statement really got me thinking about how true that was, anytime I learned about another ethnicity’s stories whether it is African American, Native American, Latino, etc. it was always considered an extra. It was not included in our base history classes, and rather viewed as additional stories, because their authenticity was unclear or they had no significance in our lesson. I agree with Powell that these stories do need to be taken into account, and more importantly viewed as equal. As a future educator I want to be sure that I give my students a well-rounded and complete education, not leaving out major parts of peoples’ history because they ‘don’t fit into the plan’.
After reading “Down by the River” by Powell I realized how important it is that all human beings need to come together and learn the different ways of life each person uses so we can keep up with the changing world. Native Americans were the ones that came up with “the middle ground” which is a political, economic, and social system based on equal sharing and borrowing between allies. They knew that to help themselves they need to borrow European ideas and goods. During the 19th century whites spoke on behalf of Indians and when Indians did write their own books they had to address it to white people, since they were writing in English and their people couldn’t read them. The Native people knew that things had to change if they wanted to their communities to survive and that was to learn from the white people. If they wanted their people to be able to read the books they wrote or even understand the English language, they needed to learn from the best, the white people. Native people wanted to put an end to the way the United States Government was treating them and get the attention of people by telling them the harsh and cruel things the government was putting them through. Helen Hunt Jackson decided to write a record of our broken treaties and call it “A Century of Dishonor”. She wanted to tell the people of America what we have been guilty of this whole time in dealing with Indian Nations and the wrongs that had been perpetrated upon the Indians. The U.S. government is all about if someone breaks the law then they have to face the consequences for their actions, but when it comes to them being the ones breaking the law there are no punishments for them because they have a sense of entitlement since it’s their laws. The U.S. robbed them of their land, homes, and basically their life. Jackson thought that Indians should be given citizenship, education, and property to make up for so much pain and suffering they went through.
The story of Susan La Flesche gave me so much inspiration because even after everything she went through she never gave up on herself or the Omaha tribe. She fought hard to get an education and learn the ways of white people because she knew that with these ways her tribe would be able to survive. Although the past and present was important to the Omaha tribe the first priority was the future because with the future of the Omaha means that Omaha styles, beliefs, values, and life will still live on. The La Flesche family believed that European-American education played a significant role in their future, but that doesn’t mean that they trade in everything they know of for the white man’s way, but to use what they know from their own Ohama lifestyle and also use the white man’s education to their advantage. Susan is a perfect example of someone who is able to find a “middle ground” between whites and Indians. She will always have everything she learned from the Ohama tribe and also everything she has learned from European-American education and thus she has best of both worlds. Even though she was taught by white people she will always be Ohama no matter what and that will never change. Because of people like Susan, tribes like Ohama are able to redeem themselves and adapt to the ever changing world by updating their knowledge. She knew that in order for her tribe to survive she had to stop with the hatred of white people and learn their ways so she could teach her people. Every race, culture, tribe etc. has specific ways of life they live by and if we taught each other one’s way we could help teach easier or more sufficient ways of living that could benefit the world at large. It all comes down to the balance of life and to keep this balance it can’t be one way or another it has to be a middle ground where everyone is heard, seen, and benefits from it.
Native Writing and Rhetoric
One of the most interesting aspects of the “Down the River” piece by Powell was the concept of a “nomos—‘a normative universe of shared meanings.’”(42) Examples of this are the symbolic images of “linking arms together” or “eating from the same bowl.” This was important clarification for me. When we read about the common bowl in the beginning of the course, I understood the symbolic meaning of universality, but I did not fully understand the larger significance.
Additionally, I found the story regarding the beadwork significant in my path towards understanding native culture. Powell’s teacher states, “So, when I’m having a hard time I just get up and take a big breath and go outside and remember that it’s respect for other living things I celebrate with my art—not my ego.” I think this is extremely relevant because it solidifies the basis of what we have learned in this course; this basis has taught me that the underlying themes to most native traditions deal with respect towards all living things in nature and humanity. Although respect for one’s self is pivotal, Native Americans teach that the purpose of human existence does not trend towards an egotistical paradigm.
I also found the definitions of the author’s view of “rhetoric” very helpful. I feel as though people often use the word “rhetoric” in various contexts. While taking this course, I have done internet searches on the word to try to find a meaning which is definitive and correlated to this course in a meaningful manner. I really appreciated the definition, “an art that links theory.” As we study this material, Native American way of life is directly associated with art, just as the teacher in the author’s story described how decorating their things was a form of respect to nature. Art is deeply connected to Native traditions; therefore, continuing to employ that art as a direct way to connect theory works beautifully.
Critical Response 5
September 23, 2014
The article “Down By the River” brings up many points that make a reader stop and think about present day life. The first time this occurred for me in the reading is on page forty when the author says, “cultures that do not change cannot survive.” This is true in so many forms, and is even still true today. Thinking back to the colonial era, the original settlers only had their knowledge of living in England to support them. That limited amount of knowledge significantly hindered their survival until the Natives showed them how to live off that particular land. The colonists were forced to adapt and change, something that was key to their survival. The next part that caught my eye was when the author says to imagine a “usable past” where Native American writings aren’t just included, but are critically important, and this goes for other minorities’ writings as well. The author goes on to say that a new language is needed when talking about critical writing between cultures and in general. The “language” we use now pits one another against each other rather than call for collaboration. The author says that we as society of rhetoric need a language that demands respect and an alliance. I think this can be tied loosely to either “White Man’s Indian” or “Firstings and Lastings.” The before mentioned uses language that slanders and gives no respect to the Natives’ culture, which includes their oral stories. Then there is “Firstings and Lastings,” which uses language that omits the Native American culture. These are both examples of writing that does not respect nor call for an alliance in any sort of way. Even acknowledging the existence of the other culture’s would be a step in the right direction.
The next article, “Rhetorical Sovereignty,” is about making the Native American children go to colonial schooling. The beginning talks about how they are given a pencil and blank slate without even knowing what to do with them at first. It goes on to say that the children were forced to pick a white person’s name, therefore starting the process of replacing their identity. This article reminds me of “Firstings and Lastings.” That article was about naming the first and last things in that town, giving no heed to anything Native that came before it. The colonists were essentially replacing the identity of the land, just as they were doing in schools. This is a tragedy to read about, and something that in some ways has been hard to overturn.
Having read “Down by the River” by Powell it was refreshing to hear of a victory shared amongst the Native Americans thanks to alliances made between the tribes. Despite the Europeans military dominance the Native Americans were able to come together to defeat them in a large scale battle. It’s not a surprise as to why these alliances were made since they helped ensure survivability of the people. Though it goes against the Native American’s thinking, I wonder what a fully united tribe of Native Americans would have been like. I also find myself agreeing with the statement made in the article that a culture must adapt to its surroundings to survive. Perhaps that is the reason why that Native Americans were having such a hard time warding off European intrusions was because they weren’t adapting well enough. Many think that by keeping a culture static and unchanging they are keeping it pure however no culture in the world could survive like that. Native Americans did take in many European resources and even some of the customs as well. Even the large scale alliances were uncommon until the settlers arrived and it became vital to do so for them to survive. I also wonder at what the Native American history was like before Europeans arrived and how much life differed once the Europeans did show up. Most accounts of American history is from only after the Europeans arrived and much of what life was like before their arrival is a mystery to me. Powell raises a good point that the minority ethnicities deserve a much larger role in rhetoric and academics especially in history rather than giving one central viewpoint of the more dominant powers. Though I believe that problem is hard to avoid since history has always been written by the victors, it’s nearly impossible to have an unbiased account. The article “What Do American Indians want from Writing?” by Scott Lyons touches upon the distrust Natives have when reading English accounts of history or rhetoric due to this bias. Again this is why giving the minorities, such as the natives, a larger role in academics is important however daunting that task may be. As a student with an education minor I already believe that the education system is in dire need of reform and this is just one of many examples as to why.
In “Down by the River”, Malea Powell begins by telling a story of a tribe. I found the beginning of this story to be interesting because it talks about an alliance that was between many Native American tribes. This was the greatest defeat Americans suffered by Native Americans. Though it appears that this was savage, we have to realize that the tribes were protecting their land and family. After this the Native Americans decided to change their culture because this was a way of survival. “We borrowed European goods and ideas, and these became part of our cultural traditions. After all, all cultures must change if they are to survive,” (Powell, 39). I think this is where the stereotype that Native Americans no longer exist. Many people thought they didn’t exist because they changed and adapted their culture. It appeared to everyone they were gone because they made the decision to adapt like the Europeans. Like everything you have to adapt to survive, I don’t know if Native Americans wanted to change their culture or did it only for survival. Though I know, and we all know that his or her culture did survive, not everyone conformed to the European culture. I think many people were forced to change. Knowing that their culture did and has survived this long, I think the alliance mention where understanding and respect of each culture occurred. Many people must have been clueless to the world around them. Considering there were probably Native Americans around them.
In “Rhetorical Sovereignty”, Scott Lyons discusses how the Native Americans lost their culture. Children were forced into school and their culture was stripped from them. Their parents were the only ones keeping their culture alive. Children were forced to wear different clothing, also given a “white mans” name. It appears that they were almost tricked into this new culture. They were shown slate with a pencil and told to draw. They drew what they knew, to me it seems like they would enjoy that and be memorized by it. The next day they tell them they cannot do this and educated them on how to be a “white man”. Over time their culture would fade and change.
Mentioned in the other text that they were adapting, I feel that they were forced to. Though it was said that it was for survival, I think this is exactly what they were doing. They were protecting their family by having their kids adapt and fit in. This would ensure in future generations they would be part of an accepted culture, safe from ridicule and torture.
African American Lit.
September 21, 2014
After reading “Down by the River, or How Susan La Flesche Picotte Can Teach Us about Alliance as a Practice of Survivance” by Malea D. Powell and “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What Do American Indians Want from Writing?” by Scott Richard Lyons I had a lot of thoughts. Looking first at Lyons’ essay, I found it to be extremely sad that young Native Americans were forced to do things such as learn to write in English or even take white names as their own. It seems so clear that these people have no only been stripped of their lands but also literally robbed of their own culture. It is truly disappointing to think about how much culture may have been lost due to this process of sending the Native American children to European-based boarding schools. Without even realizing it, many children probably forgot a lot about their native culture once that had been submerged into a new one.
Powell’s essay ties into Lyons’ essay very effectively. While Lyons’ displays to his audience just how Natives lost a lot of their culture due to being essentially taught how to be white, Powell’s essay calls attention to the idea that many Native American writings are somewhat not Native American at all. For example, if a native story or legend had been told throughout native culture, but then that same story was translated into English, then the story may be drastically different, even if changing the story was unintentional. Powell even makes note of the fact that many Native American writings were done in English, and therefore were meant for English-speaking audiences. It is strange to think about the fact that a story being told by an Indian, to other Indians in a native language, might appear to be completely different then the same story being written about by an Indian for an English speaking audience.
Overall I found these essays to be very insightful in helping us to come closer to understanding exactly what qualifies as Native American literature and rhetoric. I feel as if I will always stop to analyze any future Native American texts that I read in the future. I can see myself trying to imagine the way a story might have been told by a native of the past, rather than just simply looking at the words written on the page for me. I also look forward to reading new works of Native American writing in our modern time as written by modern Native Americans. It is disappointing to think about all of the great Indian works that were lost due to the Europeans’ decision to assimilate all native people into being more European. It is clear that many native writers seem to struggle with identity issues, and a major cause of these issues are a loss of connection to their past through their own unique literature. Both essays make great points about what it means to be a Native American work, and also what these works represent to the Native American population of today.
While reading Vine Deloria and Thomas King’s pieces, it is intriguing to see if there are any parallel notions to discuss. They are entirely different, however, and both texts offer very engaging experiences. Deloria makes a unique argument against the pompous nature of scientific academia. I immediately noticed his semi hostile tone in “Read Earth, White Lies”, and I think it is well placed. Deloria is directly commentating on the scientific community’s often irrational commitment to a theory or concept. He uses the Bering Strait theory of immigration, which is widely regarded as historical fact. It is so widely accepted, actually, that it is a major part of history lessons in public high school curricula. Deloria’s position is based in common sense, too, as he argues that it might just be worth reconsidering all the basic characteristics of what we believed to have happen. He does a worthy job of summarizing the main points against the theory, such as the lack of inhabitants in ancient Siberia, or the issue of flood water from the Ice Age covering the path to North America. But it is his central argument with the scientific community, however, that I find the most compelling. In his consideration of the journey that the travelers would have made, he writes “Almost every articulation of the Bering Strait theory is woefully deficient in providing a motive for the movement” (Deloria 76). This rational approach to examining the issue is very provocative. I’m a staunch supporter of research and scientific inquiry, but I can understand Deloria’s initial commentary on the scientific community, especially when there are ideas spread around as facts simply because they were the easiest to accept at the time.
In contrast to Deloria, King’s piece offers a text to consider much more human and personal concerns. King can be very simple, yet eloquent in his writing. I found his initial chapter very engaging, and, similar to Deloria, King’s tone is noticeable. His recollection of his Mother’s hardships and his Father’s failures are particularly compelling. They are soaked in a sense of sadness, and they support the overall idea regarding storytelling. King interestingly writes “…there is a part of me that has never been able to move past these stories, a part of me that will be chained to these stories as long as I live” (King 9). It is a very human understanding of storytelling. He has made this concept deeply personal, and, while celebrating it, he also notes that it can be painful as well.
This is my OLD post from Tuesday on Powell and Lyons, but I wanted to share it here because I put in on the other thread since this one hadn't been posted yet.
Powell and Lyons
The essays by Scott Richard Lyons and Malea D. Powell assigned for today’s readings both discuss the importance of Native American peoples maintaining a sense of rhetorical sovereignty. Both essays highlight the desperate need for Native Americans to have a hand in defining their own culture and history, not just allowing European colonizers to make up their own version of indigenous peoples’ pasts. It is fascinating to see how both Lyons and Powell share common ideologies in their writing, despite the very different content of their texts. All differences aside, Lyons and Powell both found that Native American rhetorical sovereignty is not just something necessary for political equality and peace across cultural boundaries, but is something necessary for the survival of American Indians and their valuable ideologies and teachings.
In Lyons’s essay, he contrasts the European idea of political sovereignty with the Native American notion of sovereignty as a device used to preserve and represent an entire group of people. Rather than seeing sovereignty as a tool to aid in conquering and ruling as the European settlers did (and do?), American Indians see how sovereignty can be used to help a culture protect and define itself. In short, Lyons uses his essay to portray the American Indian desire to maintain balance and order by having a certain degree of respect for differences and boundaries. Lyons discusses the way white conquerors refuse to share the desires for peace and balance between cultures that many Native Americans have, and therefore shows us how a lack of sovereignty for Native American people can result in the eradication or disappearance of their culture as they know it.
Powell writes of the survival of Native American culture in her essay as well, but offers a fresh perspective on the topic. Powell believes that the survival of the traditional American Indian is something that can only be achieved through acceptance of change. Powell understands, although she does not necessarily agree with, the way times are changing, and she believes the key to rhetorical sovereignty is cooperation between American Indian and non-Indian scholars and thinkers. In her essay, Powell urges non-Indians to find a desire to understand indigenous peoples, just as indigenous peoples find ways to understand the ever-evolving world around them, dominated by white thought and law. As Americans in general, Powell sees one surefire way we can guarantee the survival of Native American culture – by working together.
Here is today's submission on Thomas King's work.
The excerpts from Thomas King’s work The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative helped me to realize just how big of an impact stories have on our thoughts about life and the world around us as human beings. King provides a comparison between the Native American creation story and the Christian creation story in order to make his point about how influential stories can be on entire cultures after they are passed down from generation to generation. I thoroughly enjoyed watching King’s writing develop throughout the excerpt and seeing how stories influenced his life in a number of ways. The excerpt from King’s book caused me to reflect on myself and the stories I have been exposed to in my own life (as well as the ones I have exposed other people to) and made me reevaluate my outlook on a number of things including native peoples.
King makes a bold statement about the striking differences between Native American tales of how the world was created, and biblical versions of the creation of Earth and humankind. King notes that in the Native American version, the deity is flawed and needs to rely on the animals and elements existing on Earth in order to successfully build land and people. In Christian tellings of the story of Adam and Eve, God is not flawed but rather is a pure, all-powerful, all-knowing figure who has a relationship with Adam, Eve, and the other organisms of the Earth that relies on a hierarchy. The Native American creation story stresses cooperation, inclusion, growth, and balance, while the Christian story stresses solitary power and the threat of punishment. King draws clear connections between the fundamental messages in different cultures’ creation stories and how those messages are portrayed in the cultures themselves. In general, as we’ve been learning in our ENGL 326 assignments, Native Americans strongly valued balance and it shows in their treatment of the Earth, while European settlers in North America were more interested in conquering and claiming ownership (even at the risk of throwing out balance altogether).
While King uses creation stories to exemplify historical influences on peoples, he switches gears in his writing to show another story that influences cultural perspectives even to this day - the story of “the Indian.” I was horrified and also very surprised to learn in King’s text how heavily the stereotypical “Indian” created by modern Americans influenced white perspectives of Indian culture and established one singular image of what a Native American person looks like and how they should behave. It was disgusting to learn about how desperate Americans were to take a story they created in their minds about Indian life and impress that story upon an entire group of people with no regards for their actual history, language, customs, or traditions. Essentially it looks as though white Americans were uncomfortable with native peoples they were sharing the United States with, so they constructed a story (an image) they were comfortable with and promoted that story, pressuring Indians to comply with it regardless of their agreement with it. Personally, I think as a nation it is time we begin writing a new Native American story. A true one.
Response to Thomas King’s Work
In Thomas Kings first story, I could not help but think of the number of stories that are told each day. Every family, group of friends, community and country all have stories of their past and of their present. It is crazy to think that what is taught in school systems is all a bunch of stories that are from one person or group of people and made into what our culture and society consists of. It also got me thinking that when we all leave the earth, we are nothing but a story. Whatever we did during our time is just a memory that other people have to share and remember to tell the next generations to come. Everyone has a story and we keep passing these stories down from people to people. I thought it was interesting that he says we have to be careful to who we tell stories to. The title alone got me to want to read this section because of how it zeros in on a specific way to tell a story.
The second story once again just put reality right back on the table. Stereotypes that the Native people faced are always going to be there because of people who cannot let that history go. There were sections that talk about the Indian “paraphernalia” and how it is always the same no matter where they come across those individual peoples. Racism is brought up in this section and it reads, “Racism is a funny thing, you know. Dead quiet on occasion. Often dangerous. But sometimes it has a peculiar sense of humor.” It was interesting because here he mentions how he was looking at the Mexicans, because they were of different race than he, but then he looks around and people are staring at him because he is a Native American. One group of people may think that they are considered with the norm, but then when they are in a completely different area, they become the outcasts. Another major part of the second story is when race is brought up within a family picture. He says, “we believe we can see it” which is so beyond true. When looking around you, you may think you can guess someone’s race, but that is just based on his or her look. You cannot look at a picture and guess what someone’s race is; it goes beyond their looks and features.
“You’ll never believe what happened” is always a great way to start and “You’re not the Indian I had in mind” sparked a lot of thoughts for me and that is important within a story. It is sad to see that no matter what we read, there always seems to be that underlying stereotype that does not want to disappear about the Native Americans.
After reading “The Nations Within” by Deloria I began to think of how hard it must be for Native people to believe that the United States government is actually trying to help and protect them because it seems like the only reason they do this is to keep taking from the Natives. We seem so greedy and after everything we have and the power we have, it is never enough we always want more. Even though when we think of Indians we think of people with feathers, costumes on, dancing to Indian music, living in tee-pees, etc. in the end they are no different than any other American. Most Indians live in poor, isolated places and there are many American people that live in these conditions as well. American Indians represent the only aboriginal people still practicing self-government after a new and modern civilization has been brought into their lands. One thing that is important to them is keeping their culture and history alive and keep it going forever. Just because a new updated government has been created does not mean they have to jump right at it and leave everything they once knew behind, they are not going to follow the U.S. just because they have power and tell them this is the way to live. The way they are living has worked for them in the past and is working for them now in the present and will continue to work for them in the future and when the world does change they will have to adapt better but on their own terms. There are some things they could learn that would benefit them and help make them stronger but that does not mean that they have to give up and have the U.S. government take over all it means is that they need to change up some things and figure ways out that would benefit them.
Indians do not agree with the way that white leaders stand in the back of their men while at war and allow their men to die first to protect authority. When thinking of the term leader, the first thing that comes to mind is the first person in a line not the last so when a leader brings their men to war they need to lead them into war from beginning to end. I totally agree with the Native people on this one and until now I never thought how wrong it was for the leader to stand in the back of his men. To me that is not a leader it is a coward and that person does not deserve the title leader at all. To become a chief or leader depeneds on personal prestige, honestly, charisma, and integrity not popularity like white people. I agree with the Native people on this, too because if everyone votes for one person just because they are rich or come from a powerful family how do you know if that person is even a good candidate for the job? This person could and probably would be a selfish and have a large ego which will not help win a war at all but would most likely help become defeated. You need someone who is strong-willed, selfless, and willing to do whatever means necessary to help his people.
25 September 2014
Critical Response - 9/23
King’s reading intrigues me on many levels for what it has to say about story and its function in our society. Stories are used to pass down knowledge and learning from one generation to the next, in in doing so, pass on lessons learned from the past, whatever these lessons might be. Whether they are personal, family stories, or far reaching stories of mythology, they shape who we are as a person, often in subtle ways, and connect us to the culture we live in.
In a point that our class touched on recently, the idea of religion as story spring up in this reading, as well. King talks about the inherent difference in the creation stories of the Native Americans and of the European settlers who came and colonized the land. He speaks of how the Native American creation story is one of cooperation and sacrifice. There is an overarching theme of equality and sacrifice that permeates this particular Native American story, and it shapes the way native people saw the world around them. Like their creation story, they were chiefly concerned with maintaining balance in all things. The world was not a place that was inherently good or evil. It was a place where harmony was the only way to live, and relationships between people, animals, and nature should be kept neutral.
Compare this directly with Christian mythology and the story told in the book of Genesis. Here, we have an all-powerful deity who has created a world for humanity, one in which perfection is the status quo and evil is kept at bay by God himself. Hinging on man’s propensity to evil and one mistake that would damn all of us, it is a story of broken rules, and as King himself related, a story which seeks to establish that there is most assuredly a hierarchy to the world, and God himself is firmly seated at the top.
Seeing these stories laid out in such a way brings to light issues that we overlook every day. King makes a point of this when he briefly mentions the power of religion to shape our thoughts. He speaks about the fact that if one is to hold a certain story as gospel, the other must inherently be a secular tale. It is a fascinating point, one that I believe to be true, but it is astonishing to think how little we think about its implications.
As adults, we largely take for granted the fact that we are insightful enough to pick and choose our own values. We are far better and much more capable than children to listen to or read a story and extract meaning from it, applying the lessons learned to our lives as we see fit. Children, however, function differently. They are much more likely to take a story at face value, and when exposed to a particular story in childhood, that story becomes “the” story of their life. That story will shape their worldview and everything else will have to be filtered through that lens. It is remarkable how appropriate King’s dialogue is about the power of these stories.
This idea does not just apply to religious narratives, either. Think about the implication of story in our own lives. Most of us have very little experience, or have ever met a Native American person in the flesh. We have nothing but stories to base our idea of an entire people, a group that is just as diverse as any other group on this planet. And because all we do have it stories, the people of Native ancestry that we do meet come to unfairly embody all native people and represent not just themselves, but the entire community. If we are to ever hope to move past petty stereotypes and what we “know,” we must train ourselves to think far less on the importance of story, and pay more attention to the role of experience in our lives.
Stories are unique and different. Something that is told from one person to another in the Okanagan understood this. They knew that each time they heard a story it would be changed somehow. It would be changed by the accent, and dialect. Or it could be changed by the order, or possibly something added to the story. This is an interesting perspective on storytelling, whereas I always thought a story would be the same. I suppose it is like the game of telephone, which I never realized before. This doesn’t bother the Okanagan people, they embrace the changes in the story, they believe they are merely retelling the same story in a different pattern.
I thought it was interesting when the narrator spoke of a story that was told about the witches, and how they wanted the story that was told aloud to be taken back. I couldn’t though, “For once a story is told, it cannot be called back. Once told, it is loose in the work, (King, 10). So you have to be careful of the stories that are told. I think this is not only a clever story but a good life story. Many people are careless of the stories they tell. Once they have been told there's not way of undoing that. Lies or hurtful words can be spread by word of mouth, this is why you must be careful of the stories you tell. Once it is told it is out in the world.
I liked that part that explained that the entire world is made up of stories, “You can’t understand the world without telling a story,” (King, 32). It appears that Native Americans used stories to explain the world around them, but so do we. It seems to be scientific, but when you go to tell someone how something happens you are just telling a story. When I thought about it I thought that we have become so advanced from Native Americans, but in reality we haven’t. We use stories just as they did, the difference I have noticed is that they were careful with what came from their mouths. As nowadays we blurt out untrue statements, that we can not retract. We aim to hurt people with our stories. We are less careful with our stories, it is like we take them for granted.
In Thomas King's The Truth About Stories he tells about an early life with his mother. Growing up fatherless his mother had support them. In a male centered society women were often forced to be seen and not heard, in the kitchen. Whatever job a woman did have was as an assistant and even then they did not get as much income as a man would have. The sad thing about these stories is that they become reality more often then they should. A couple get married and have children and then the husband leaves after realizing he can't deal with the commitment or stress involved with raising a family. Raising a family takes self-sacrifice and many people do not understand this. The author and his brother become the children that were left behind. The whole story becomes a part of the normal tale. This happens in America more and more because people marry and have kids without understanding the responsibility. Stories are what give lessons such as this to fellow readers. If readers can get the advice out of what is being told then there is hope that the lesson will sit in the minds of the reader.
Native Writing and Rhetoric
There are several aspects of Thomas King’s “The Truth About Stories” that has resonated with me. First of all, I really appreciate the story regarding his mother. There is still a great need to project the feminist outlook. I understand that the author is describing a different time period and that in our modern society we have progressed significantly on the issue of the equality of the sexes. However, I still believe that there is a certain silence among many male authors to vocalize these issues.
But most importantly, I found the comparison between the native creation story and the Biblical one to be mentally stimulating. King suggests that the strict, authoritative nature of the Biblical story generates a negative cultural dynamic. He continues to convey that building this world out of spite and self-importance creates an arrogant and self-motivated society. He suggests that the outlook that we are “God’s Chosen People…Masters of the Universe” employs us with the notion that we are invincible and privileged. When I read this I correlated it to another piece of literature I read a couple of times for two other classes. This piece is called “Of Plymouth Plantation” ,and it was written by the Puritan man William Bradford. In his piece, he describes an exploration of the land led by the settlers; in this exploration, the men discover buried corn that was grown and harvested by the Indigenous people. Instead of burying the corn and leaving empty handed, the settlers took some with them. After describing this action, he made a Biblical allusion to when the Israelites found the grapes right outside Canaan, also referred to as “the promised land.” Therefore, I feel as though the author , though not directly referencing this work, may be writing on this topic with this history in mind. The “white man”, or any ethnicity generating from Christianity based religion, seems to always employ that religion as a tool against the oppressed. Because these native people did not share the same religious background, the Puritans and other settler groups determined that they must be of a superior nature. This detrimental outlook greatly affected the way which humanity has dealt with war and land issues. I think that this is an important outlook because it explores the “why” behind what occurred throughout history as Christian groups, who deemed themselves fervent in the goodness of their faith, lacked the humanity to view their actions as horrific.
Sovereignty and other such governmental and national aspects of cultures never really peaked my interest. This reading was no different, but again, it got me thinking about Native Americans in a way that I never have before. When I think of Native Americans back in the older times never once did I consider that they had an organized ‘government’ of any kind, or as it is referred to for the entirety of this reading, their sovereignty. I’ll admit I did always think of Native Americans as the barbarians they were believed to be for quite some time, with the scalping and massacring they were remembered for. However, this reading was actually an eyebrow raiser, the Native American people actually fighting for their independence. I knew that they would fight to protect their respected tribes, but not in unison as a culture rather than tribes.
I guess I just assumed that the Native Americans just gave up and kept moving west until there was nowhere else to flee to, hence the trail of tears. But again, I took this class with the intention of not only reading fascinating literature, but also learning more about the Native American people that once lived on the land that I live on now.
Everyone has the right to their own independence and freedoms, their sovereignties, it is a little sickening to me that our white ancestors didn’t seem to think the same way and took everything away from the Native American people.
I find myself incredibly sympathetic for the Native American people and find myself more outrage by the selfish and evil explorers from the eastern side of the ocean in Europe. Nowadays it is impossible for someone to claim something that isn’t his or hers, apparently it was very easy for someone to do that back when the Native Americans lived where we stand now. How violating, how insulting towards basic human rights.
Critical Response 6
September 25, 2014
In “The Truth About Stories,” King mentions, “You can’t understand the world without telling a story,” and that stories make up whom we are. This reminds me of the stories about Selu that we read earlier, and she shed her corn in order for the rest of us to survive. That was a story that in part explained how we came to be, and therefore gives substance to who are as humans. This is what King is explaining, that stories are used for more than just to pass the time, but to explain who we are. In the same chapter, King also talks about how the Indian of present day is different that the past and the stereotypes that we hold in our mind now. During his journey to collect photographs across the country, he came across one of a group of Indians, in full headdresses, golfing. Even to me this is a peculiar image to read about. I admit I am not used to hearing about Native Americans golfing or playing any sports such as that. What is curious about the photograph is that none of the names are listed, but just that it is a group of Indians. This is glancing over the fact that these men have identities, and is just playing into a cliché that they are merely something to look at it. However, on this same picture the white caddies had names. This makes no sense at all. King gives his explanation, “Though to give them identities, to reveal them to be actual people, would be, I suppose, a violation of the physical laws governing matter and antimatter, that the Indian and Indians cannot exist in the same imagination.” He is sarcastically saying that if you pointed out that these Native Americans have identities, then people will begin to possibly be feel ashamed, or even question what they have thought in the past.
King had an acquaintance, Curtis, who reveled in the same project of gathering photographs and postcards of Native Americans. However, King says that if Curtis were asked why he believed this project was important, he would say it is because the Indian is dying. This is not in the literal sense, but in the literal sense, that the stories and traditions of the Native American are dying. Taking the photographs contained a responsibility he said to the implication that the lives of the Natives needed to be improved. This relates loosely to “Rhetorical Sovereignty,” and how room must be allowed for Native American culture to be embraced. If this is denied, then we will gradually see the disappearance of their literature, overshadowed by those who do not care and do not see the worth, when in fact, there is everything to be gained.
9 – 25 – 2014
After reading “Red earth, white lies” I started think of scientific theories that had no real scientific basis similar to the Bering Strait theory. I remember learning in history that southerners believed blacks had smaller brains and that Hitler created his own pseudo-science to judge who was purebred or a Jew. So in essence the settlers were no better than the racists history has taught me about before. Even the song by Woody Guthrie holds some discriminatory remarks “This land is your land, this land is my land.” And I never saw it that way as a child and have long forgotten what the song even represented. The article goes on to talk about how far back Native American history goes in that land and how insignificant it was to settlers. The article’s casual tone made it feel more like a conversation rather than a dense academic novel which in my opinion made the text flow very smoothly. There were numerous scientific theories thrown around in the courtroom and I believe people were losing sight of the true problem. It didn’t matter where the Natives came from what mattered was how they were being treated. It’s undeniable that Native Americans were in America first and had been treated poorly since their discovery by settlers yet it took so long for them to be officially recognized and given reparations for the crimes against them. Even to this day there are things they deserve and yet are still ignored. It was peculiar to hear about so much scientific theory being discussed over a legality issue but ultimately it ignored Native American tradition which was why it was so heavily opposed by the Natives. Sadly, even now the debate is still going and a definitive resolution hasn’t been found. This may become an obstacle for future quarrels between the United States government and Native American tribes.
Space to comment on the readings for each class...