Native American Voices, The book of Genesis V.S. The Cherokee creation myth.
In the book of Genesis there was a God that created the earth and heaven. On the other hand, in the Cherokee creation myth in the beginning there is only water and a beetle accidentally created earth. In the Cherokee creation myth the animals created the mountains, valleys, etc. God created light (so he created the sun) so says the book of Genesis. In the creation myth of the Cherokees the conjurers put the sun seven-hand breaths above the earth. In the book of Genesis God created the flora and fauna and men, namely humans, Adam and Eve. In the Cherokee man came after the animals. There were a man and a woman. They procreated every seven days.
The fire is the cause of what the appearances of some animals are. In the Cherokee creation myth there is a lot about the appearances of the animals. In the creation myth the animals, tree, plants and humans talked to each other and were friends. However, when the people invented all sorts of weapons and tools, the relationship was endangered. The animals created diseases to punish the man. The plants and trees, which were still friends of the humans, created cures for the diseases.
The book of Genesis is more about how God created the Earth and the humans and how this all happened in seven days.
God is the almighty. He punishes the evil and rewards the good. He is the guardian, protector of the world.
In the Cherokee creation myth everything and everybody created the world; not one Supreme Being but all little things. The creation myth is more on the gradual changes or improvements on the earth. And also the man is not the center of interest in the creation myth. Trees, plants, beasts, fishes, birds, insects and people all play an equally divided role in the creation of the earth.
The Native Americans have had great riches in human and spiritual resources. Unfortunately, these riches are ignored and forgotten by the western civilization. However, even today many Indians, even among their young people, still find strength and meaning in their religious beliefs and ceremonies. The school curriculums omitted the riches of the ceremonies and religious beliefs. Risking to create people who lacked their roots and purpose in life and almost destroyed a unique heritage. During the early contacts between the Europeans and the Native Americans, the Europeans found the Indians either a brutal uncivilized savage or as a naive child. Because the Indians did not have any written language, we found it difficult to understand their depth of wisdom.
We also found it difficult to understand the nomadic life many Indians lead. We are obsessed with material achievements and we fail to see the human and spiritual values in life. The Indian tribes in the Great Plains have great beauty and dignity in their cultural forms. One of the symbols that expresses most completely the Plains Indian concept of the relationship between human beings and the world of nature surrounding them is a cross inscribed within a circle. At the center of the circle uniting within a point the four directions of the cross and all the other quaternaries of the universe, is a human person. One of the most precise ritual expressions of this centrality is found in one of the rites of the Avapaho Sun Dance. In this dance their sacred wheel is placed against each of the four sides of a man¡¯s body. Starting from the feet and moving to the head. Then it is turned sunwise four times, until finally it is turned over the head, with the four attached eagle feathers hanging down over the man¡¯s breast. So that he is ritually at the center, a vertical axis to the horizontal wheel. This concept of the vertical axis explains the sacredness of the number seven to the Indians, and it is interesting to note that their interpretation is identical to that found in other major religions. In adding the vertical dimensicus of sky, earth linking the two, with feet on the ground and the head, or intellect at the center of the firmament. The middle disc, like the vertical axis, represents humanity, for in joining sky and earth. This is neither pure spirit nor a gross matter, but a synthesis of both. This particular symbol may be found among the crew in the three things they often paint around the sacred cottonwood tree at the center of their circular Sun Dance lodge. It was further explained to me by an old Crow priest that these circles represent the three ¡®worlds¡¯ that constitute human beings: body, soul and spirit, or again: gross, subtle and pure. In most of the great religious people built centers of worship in the form of cathedrals, churches or temples. For the Indians however the world of nature itself was their temple, and within this sanctuary they showed respect to every form, function, and power. But what is unique in the Indians attitude is that their reverence for nature and for life is central to their religion: each form in the world around them bears such a host of precise values and meaning that taken all together they constitute their doctrine.
Only in being nothing may an individual human being become everything and only then realize the essential kinship with all forms of life. Because of humankind¡¯s centrality it has the almost divine function of guardian ships over the world of nature. Once this role is ignored or misused, people are in danger of being shown by nature who in reality is the conqueror and the conquered. From another perspective in the past humans had to protect themselves from nature, today nature must be protected from humans.
The Inipi, sweat lodge, are a preparation to other major rites. During the four periods of sweating prayers are recited, sacred songs are sung and a pipe is ceremonially smoked four times by the circle of people. At the end of the last period ¡®the door is opened¡¯ and the light enters the darkness. And the people are renewed beings that entered the world of light and wisdom.
The pipe represents the human being in his totality, or the universe of which humankind is a reflection. The bowl is the heart, or sacred center, and each section of the pipe is usually identified with some part of other human being. The pipe was smoked to establish a relationship or peace between friends or enemies. For in smoking the pipe together each person is helped in remembering his own center, which is now understood to be the same center of every person and of the Universe itself.
All true spiritual progress involves three stages, each stage should be realized and integrated into the next, so that ultimately they become one in the individual who attains the ultimate goal.
The three stages are purification, perfection/expansion and union. If we understand the Indian relationship with nature and the values of their symbols and rites, then we may become enriched and our understanding will deepen. The American Indian heritage will claim its rightful place among the great spiritual traditions of humankind.
Through the vision quest, participated in with physical sacrifice and the utmost humility the individual is opened in the most direct manner to contact with the spiritual essences underlying the forms of the manifested world. The greatest power in the retreat is contact with silence.
In several cultures the retreat is initiatory in character for young men or occasionally for young women, who seek spiritual sanction for a new and sacred name; in the arctic or among some south-western peoples this retreat is participated in city by those who seek the necessary spiritual power for becoming special religious practitioners, a shaman, a medicine man or a singer. Among many groups the retreat was specifically associated with the quest for a guardian spirit, although this is not as general a phenomenon as the vision itself among the plains people the vision quest was most intensely developed; it was an activity that was expected of every young man and woman. It was believed that no one in these societies could have success in any of the activities of the culture without the unique spiritual power received through the quest.
The minimal formal elements of the retreat involved the guidance of a spiritual mentor, preliminary rites of purification, the seeking cut of an isolated place and the observance of a total fast.
Essentially, the person was to be exposed, normally four days and four nights, to the elements to the forms and forms and forces of nature, the person should be attentive to whatever might appear no matter how insignificant the being or phenomenon might seem to be.
Not all that sought for a vision received the experience. When the experience did come it was in the form of some being, a bird or an animal or of the powers and phonema of the natural world.
Frequently the animal or bird might become the individual¡¯s guardian spirit, which would protect him or her in the events of life.
In the American Indian cultures the vision experience served in an especially forceful manner to render transparent to the individual some facet of the phenomenal world, revealing aspects of a spiritual world of greater reality underlying this world of appearances. The beings, or whatever might be involved in the vision, serve as intermediaries revealing aspects of reality through which the ultimate reality of the great Mysterious (Wahan-Tanha) may be contemplated, if not comprehended.
For the first time in eighty years the Indians got the attention from the government. Ronald Reagan¡¯s ¡®Indian policy¡¯ was not a very good one, he tried assimilate the Indians.
Ross O. Summer said that retaining the culture and language might be desirable, but not at the cost of keeping the Indians poor dependent or unproductive. Some Indians tried something new and they surprised everybody by taking over the ¡°modern western capitalistic get rich scheme¡±. They started Indian gambling. In 1979 the Seminole of south Florida opened the first bingo hall. When state officials padlocked the building, the courts ordered it legal and open. Buildings as big as airplane hangers and jammed parking lots began appearing on Indian reservation. By 1987 almost fifty tribes were running bingo parlors, bringing in more then 250 million dollars annually. Even the Republicans had to admire such financial spirit.
The courts smiled upon Indian capitalism, but not on Indian spirituality. The American Indian Freedom of religion act of 1978 vowed to protect Indian use of protected wild animals whose feathers or skins were featured in rituals, for ceremonial use of peyote, and for Indian sacred lands that were used for religious pilgrimages, burials, or vision questing. Supreme Court Justice Sarah O¡¯conner said in 1988: ¡¯Even if we assume the road will virtually destroy the Indians ¡®ability to practice their religion, the constitution simply does not provide a principle that could justify upholding the Indians legal claims.’ Dissenting Justice William J. Brennan finds this reduces the Indian freedom to nothing more than the right to believe that their religion will be destroyed. After having been forced to do other people¡¯s will, the Indians finally thought to become their own boss.
Yet somehow while issues seemed to pop up all over the reservation. The senate who had given them this so-called privilege wound up hearing slogans like ¡°these hearings are making all of us look corrupt¡±.
Facing the year 2000, the native Americans fear they will eventually have to choose between cultural and physical survival or put differently tribal loyalty and the need to assimilate. An Indian spiritual leader states: ¡±If the United States continues on its present course, it will destroy both Indian and non-Indian people¡±.
The selections in this last chapter, ask whether the future of the first American will be a matter of personal choice, political agreements or a destiny guided by their own native spirits.
Richard S. Cardinal is torn away from his family and placed in a foster home. There, his stay is a terrible experience and he also does not experience very pleasant things neither with that family he lives with nor at school. He tries to commit suicide a couple of times before he succeeds.
The writer¡¯s life on the reservation was all very pleasant until the government found that modernization was needed. The Indians agreed however they regretted this afterwards.
Tayo¡¯s mother is a navajo-Indian and his father is a Mexican. His mother left with his aunt, Thelma, and his uncle, Robert.
When he was four years old his mother left him and never came back. His aunt was ashamed of him because he is a half-blood, but she understands Tayo. Rocky, Thelma¡¯s son accepts him as a brother and treats him like a brother. Josiah also accepted him as part of the family so does his grandmother. Later on he learns his mother had passed away. Ever since he was young he had an enemy, namely Emo, who hates Tayo because he is a half-blood.
When Rocky and Tayo joined the army, Rocky called Tayo brother for the first time. Thelma had always opposed them being brothers, because she was ashamed of Tayo. She excluded him from every family occasion.
¡×Rocky >> is important because Tayo returned home after the war, Rocky did not, he promised he would bring him back. Rocky was his best friends and Thelma¡¯s favorite. He blamed himself for Rocky¡¯s death.
¡×Josiah >> treated Tayo like a son. Does the ranch work with him. Tayo also blamed himself for Josiah¡¯s death.
¡×Thelma >> made Tayo feel different and guilty because he is a half-blood. She excluded him from every activity. She does not like him, but tried to get along with him.
Tayo¡¯s sickness began when Rocky died. He blames himself for his death. He has nightmares in which he sees Rocky and Josiah die. Tayo cried a lot and had to vomit occasionally.
The white doctors think it has to do with post-war trauma and it will pass eventually. The medicine men thinks that Tayo must accept himself, then the disease will be cured. Tayo should not blame himself for everything like the white men. The white doctors and the medicine men do not agree with each other.
The white men do not understand why the Indians want to stay in a dirty town that belongs to them. But the Indians were driven away from the location where the town is built, because it is their ground that of the white men. White men are the witches that were sent for by the Indians.
There is a draught that showed up when Tayo did something he was not supposed to, as in the poem. It could only be driven away if a certain goal was achieved. Tayo as well as the figure in the poem achieved their goal and the rain returns.
Ts’eh Montana makes him cry out for love for her. Out misery from the war she teaches him Indian ways of life and their medicine.
The evil is that we cannot accept and/or tolerate each other for who or what we really are. And that is why we will do everything to humiliate the person we despise. The be-littling gets worse, because the evil one gets followers.
Emo is gone, he cannot remind Tayo that he is a half-blood, Emo killed someone and is on the run. Harley and Leroy cannot get him drunk, Ts’eh Montana cured him.
Thelma finally accepts him. Ts’eh Montana also cured him from the nightmares and vomiting.
The novel is quite interesting, however it is sometimes very difficult to understand parts of the story line. The flashbacks were confusing and sometimes it is difficult to know which of the characters are the focalisators, because he does not use the characters’ name. The different stories in the novel were unclear to me at times. But as I said, it was an interesting novel but not really enjoyable.
Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas king.
1.I believe the ¡°I-figure¡± is doing this to explain the novel especially the creation myth (the old Indians). It is difficult for the readers to understand the creation myth, the ¡°I-figure¡± tells the creation myths to Coyote, but in fact he is explaining it to the readers.
2.The four old Indians escaped from a psychiatric clinic during their escape they are telling the creation myth to each other.
The four Indians are:1) First Woman = Lone Ranger
Object ¡æ marry Alberta, find a goal in life
End ¡æ he does not have a relationship with Alberta. But found a purpose, rebuild the cabin.
Object ¡æwants a baby, however no husband
Stimulus ¡æ she wants to be an independent woman, she is a feminist
End ¡æshe is pregnant without a husband
Object ¡æ to please the Indian and the ¡°white world¡±
Stimulus ¡æ he has connections (roots) in both ¡°worlds¡±
End ¡æ He decides to be more related, involved in the Indian world and to leave the ¡°white world¡±
Stimulus ¡æ explain the Indian culture to the tourists
Adversary ¡æ the tourists who do not agree with the dog meat
Object ¡æ she wants to preserve the Indian culture and she wants her children to be Indian
Stimulus ¡æ he does not understand it fully yet.
Helpers ¡æ ¡±I-figure¡±, Old Indians
Roles and responsibilities of the extended family
Norma feels responsible for her family, she wants them to remain Indians.
The ¡°I-figure¡± and the Old Indians try to tell the creation myth to Coyote (and to the readers)
Attitudes towards the surrounding white world.
There are some people who live in the Indian reservation and some live in the white world. The Indians preserve their own culture and try to keep it alive. The white world thinks their western modem civilization is supreme.
In the last part of the novel, they ridicule the Christian story of the Holy Virgin Maria. Her story is similar to Alberta¡¯s one in the end Coyote made Alberta pregnant.
Excerpt from “Green Grass, Running Water” page 456
¡°But I was helpful, too,¡± says Coyote. ¡°That woman who wanted a baby. Now, that was helpful.¡±
¡°Helpful!¡± said Robinson Crusoe. ¡°You remember the last time you did that?¡±
“GOD throws Eve and Ahdamn out of the Garden of Eden.”
This piece ridicules the strict and sometimes-unlogical Christian rules.
The book was really funny to read. It is a satire on the Christian belief.
Sometimes it was a bit confusing with the many characters in the novel. But later on, these characters were fully introduced and it became clear. The book also tells us a lot about the Indian culture and the creation myths, the way it was told was very clear, sometimes these myths are very complex to difficult grasp for the lay man. The author uses humor and modern aspects to clarify the myths. The mockery of the Christian belief did not strike me as disrespectfulness, because western world (especially Hollywood) created an unrealistic and hostile image of the Indian culture now the roles have changed. I think this novel is very appropriate for this course, it is much more readable and enjoyable than Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. It reveals many aspects of the Indian culture.
1.A) Ray Levoi: he is almost ashamed because he is a half Indian later on he accepts his heritage. He becomes more related and involved with the Indian culture. He wants to find out the truth.
B) Frank Coutelle: everything must be done his way, he does not respect the Indians and their culture. He represents the American government that wants to swindle the Indians.
C) Jimmy looks Twice: ARM-activist, murder suspect of Leo Fast Elk. Enemy of the United States.
D) Jack Milton: a corrupt tribal council leader, he is an enemy of ARM. He is in cahoots with Frank Coutelle.
E) Richard Yellow Hawk: a supposedly invalid, he is being used by the FBI (Frank Coutelle). He is the real killer of Leo Fast Elk.
F) Maggie Eagle Bear: is a schoolteacher in the reservation also ARM-activist, she dislikes the FBI except Ray Levoi. She wants to find out who killed Leo Fast Elk, unfortunately she is murdered in the process.
2.Traditionalists ¡æ the conservative Indians who cling on their language culture and want to live in peace without while involvement; Federal government.
Progressives ¡æ the ‘lackeys’ of the U.S. government, they do their bidding and Betray their own people. Mainly they think of themselves and the amount money they can make.
3.He has sympathy for Ray Levoi, because with the help of Crow Horse Ray realizes his roots. Crow helps him to develop his identity.
4.Crow Horse envies Ray, because he has a vision. Ray is a half-blood and has a vision. Crow Horse a full-blood does not have a vision. One has to be proud of his/her Indian heritage and who you are and of your culture and background.
5.Yes, the medicine man is a curer, a wise man. He is a respected member in the Indian community. He has great knowledge about herbal medicine and the Indian history.
The medicine man is also a spiritual lead, guide of the Indians. So the image the film projected was more or less similar to mine.
6.No, nothing was unclear in the film to me. I understood the plot the setting etc. there were no complications. It was a nice, exciting film.