Decolonization And Native American Culture In Authors James Welch, Leslie Marmon Silko, And Louise Erdrich

The three authors I wanted to focus on are James Welch, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Louise Erdrich when deciding to support or refuse observations by Miller and Riding In about decolonization. The article by Miller and Riding In states that: “Decolonizing activities are sometimes misunderstood as a futile effort to return to the past. Today tribal people are devoting tremendous creative energy to recovering important elements of that lost heritage. Communities are “bringing back” discontinued ceremonies (such as the Sun Dance), institutions, and technologies, and they are reclaiming the knowledge that goes with those practices.

” (pg 15 Miller and Riding In) In this essay I want to try to support their statements that native americans are trying to bring back important elements of their lost heritage.

In Winter in the Blood by James Welch, he tries to have the narrator reconnect with his lost heritage that he knew he never had. Breaking through the prevailing mood of distance, alienation and separation, the narrator gains at least one moment when he feels more integrated with himself and his world.

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It comes when Yellow Calf, in telling the story of himself and the narrator’s grandmother, obliquely hints that he, Yellow Calf, is the narrator’s true grandfather. This is a moment of revelation for the narrator because up to that point, he has believed that a half-breed drifter named Doagie was his grandfather. Discovering an important fact about his true origins re-connects him to his family and perhaps also to his Indian cultural heritage, represented by the wise old Yellow Calf.

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When the narrator realizes the truth, he instinctively knows the importance of what has transpired, and he starts to laugh: It was the laughter of one who understands a moment in his life, of one who has been let in on the secret through luck and circumstance.

Welch does not suggest that the narrator’s life will now suddenly change for the better. But the ending of the novel does show the narrator in a positive frame of mind, ready to take more decisive action than he has in the past. He seems to be more in touch with his emotions also. When Ferdinand Horn’s wife tells him that she has seen Agnes in Havre, it is a stab in the heart for the narrator. He realizes that he does feel something for her after all. Then in the final scene, as he stands at the graveside of his grandmother, he is still thinking of Agnes. He decides that Next time I’d do it right. Buy her a couple of crèmes de menthe, maybe offer to marry her on the spot. Although the tone, in keeping with the rest of the epilogue, may not be entirely serious, the narrator seems now to be a changed man from the disaffected individual presented in the first chapter, who had no feelings for his girlfriend and was as distant from himself as a hawk from the moon.

In Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko she uses the character of Tayo as someone who is torn between accepting the white culture or trying to avoid abandoning his Native American cultures. The connections between Native American and white cultures in Ceremony is very negative. While ceremony does present certain aspects of the devastating events that have occured, it never really talks about the fact that the whites took over their land and implemented systems that prove deadly to the Native American people. Instead Silko shows us how the Native American people try to keep their traditions when the culture around them is constantly changing. Tayo himself tries to connect between his Native American and white side throughout the whole novel. He uses his green eyes as way to connect toward his mixed racial heritage. Tayo must find a way to use his white side to his benefits, without losing his old traditions from the Native American side of the family.

The central theme of Silko’s novel is the relationship of the individual to the story of the community. For Tayo to be cured of the war witchery, he must remember his people’s story and renew his connection with the land and its governing deities. In one specific instance, he is shown a cliff face painting of A’moo’ooh. T’seh explains, ‘Nobody has come to paint it since the war. But as long as you remember what you have seen, then nothing is gone. As long as you remember, it is part of this story we have together.’

For many in the novel, the first contact between the cultures takes place in the white schools that the Native Americans attend. There, white teachers tell them that their stories are not true and that their understanding of the world is not valid. Most significant, the white teachers present a completely different view of science and nature, and, as a result, the younger generations of Native Americans want to abandon traditional farming practices. This creates an agricultural crisis that is exacerbated by the pollution of reservation lands by white mines and military industry. In addition, white towns attract Native Americans with the prospect of white-collar jobs and good pay, but racism denies Native Americans access to those positions, while the cash they are able to make allows them greater access to the bars and the alcoholism whites have also introduced. All of these serve as strong indictments of the effect of whites on Native American culture. However, the relationship between white and Native American cultures is completely shifted in Ceremony when Betonie reveals that whites are an invention of Native American witchcraft. In the revelation, although they are still a primarily destructive force, whites are shown to be a part of Native American culture and traditions.

In The Round House by Louise Erdrich, she doesn’t necessary make any character really debate about leaving their white culture to follow Native Americans, because everyone truly believes in their traditions. The only one you could argue is Linda Wishkob, because she was born into a white family until the Larks didn’t want her cause of birth defect. This allows Mrs. Wishkob to adopt Linda as her daughter and raise her as a Native American with their traditions. The aspects Louise Erdrich keeps in the novel is drunkenness and violence are stereotypes of Native Americans. She chooses not to ignore this reality. Some of the characters are heavy drinkers, though they still manage to work a full day every day. Some of the characters are violent as well, as illustrated by Whitey hitting Sonja in front of Joe. However, in this novel, the worst violence is not perpetrated by an Indian.

Geraldine returns home one Sunday afternoon in late May beaten and bloody. Her husband immediately takes her to the hospital where he discovers that she has been raped. For weeks Geraldine either cannot remember or refuses to tell all that happened to her. Instead, she falls into a dark depression while those around her, especially her husband, struggle to find the man who hurt her. Every man with a grudge against the family is considered, white and Indian alike. In the end, however, it turns out that a white man is the source of the violence that tore Joe’s family apart.Violence is not an uncommon thing in Native American and modern society. Linden Lark’s actions, however, are beyond cruel in the fact that his attack on both Geraldine and Mayla were so unnecessary. Linden Lark could have gotten what he wanted without committing rape. Linden Lark more than likely could have gotten what he wanted without killing Mayla. However, he did so. Linden Lark was an unstable man. In the end, Joe learned a lesson that a boy his age should not have had to learn. Joe’s response to that lesson is morally questionable. In the end, the reader must make their own choice as to whether violence should beget more violence. Violence among Indians, violence in white society, violence by whites against Indians, it does not matter.

If someone wanted to argue against Miller and Riding In, they would say that throughout all of these novels that we have read during the semester is that the characters were already part of the Native American culture. They could argue that even though they lived among the whites it truly never affected what happened in the end of the novels. To me the only novel that I could see someone make this argument is The Round House, because instead of worrying about traditions they were worried about finding whoever committed the crime against Geraldine.

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Decolonization And Native American Culture In Authors James Welch, Leslie Marmon Silko, And Louise Erdrich. (2022, May 24). Retrieved from

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