The novel ‘Reservation Blues’ does not describe or deal with real Indians. The real Native Americans were forever destroyed by the government the second that they set foot upon the makeshift reservation. That very second saw the perish of all the age-long values and traditions that, before that moment, defined, raised, and watched over every Indian boy and girl, every Indian husband and wife, and every Indian father and mother. The U. S. government easily and nonviolently accomplished what the army has been struggling to do for many years, it wiped out a whole race of people, turning them into a mindless horde that was of concern to no one.
The result were people who were hardly more Indian than you or me, people without culture, morals, or traditions; these people were lost. The only thing they had in common was the color of their skin and nothing else. This paper takes a look at ancient Native American traditions such as: unity, storytelling, communication with nature, and pride in their culture and shows how they were all but absent from this particular reservation and the mindsets of its inhabitants. The greatest thing that Indians shared is unity. Their culture viewed the tribe as a living and breathing thing, needing every member’s cooperation and participation in order to survive. Throughout the years, Indians have always relied on each other for help and support, whether hunting, raising children, or defending their territory.
Differences in Tradition and Culture The word Tradition is a very vast one. Every country, city, and land has its own tradition and culture that is entirely different from each other. People, generally after they have picked up a certain tradition, find it very difficult to adapt to another tradition or culture. This reluctance to easily adapt a new tradition is the main reason as to why there are ...
In addition, possessions were shared equally between the members, and everything was done for the benefit of the tribe. On the Spokane reservation there is no such concept as unity. People live for their own good, barely tolerating their own kind. Defying their ancestor’s traditions, characters such as Victor and Joseph bully others into submission in order to get what they want or just for fun. Michael White Hawk attacks the band members out of jealousy.
After the band starts their public performances, the whole town splits into two groups, one supporting the musicians, the other detesting them. There is no unity to be found anywhere. Same thing goes for support. Not many souls believed in them. ‘Tribal Chairman David Walks Along was even more pessimistic about the future of Coyote Springs.
‘Listen, those Skins ain’t got a chance in New York City… Coyote Springs is done for. I’m happy about that.’ ‘ (227) Even when the band was at their worst moment after the failure in the city and Joseph’s suicide, and was planning on leaving the reservation, nobody cared. Members of the tribe were perfectly happy to finally be rid of their own kind, of the same people who they grew up with, and listened to in awe during the first few practices in the abandoned grocery store. The whole concept of unity on the Spokane reservation can be summed up in the following quote.
‘Now, I know some of you aren’t happy with how all this turned out,’ Big Mom said, ‘but think of poor Joseph Pol atkin. Think of how hard these kids worked. Think of your tribal responsibilities.’ ‘Think of getting them off the goddamn reservation,’ shouted a voice in the back.’ (304) Native Americans always had pride. They knew about the ways of the world and about the ways of other cultures, and yet they chose to follow their own rules and customs since the very beginning no matter the interference from others, intentional or unintentional.
A real Indian looked upon his tribe with admiration, having pride in belonging to it. The Spokane reservation was the complete opposite. ‘Welcome to Wellpinit, Population: Variable’. (3) People left that reservation regularly for the promise of a better life, the life of white people. They no longer were content with their Indian existence, and wanted everything the white man had. Possessions were no longer for the benefit of the tribe, but trophies of the person’s prosperity.
When stories are told about the American Indian it is usually the Indians that are looked upon as the heathens. They are portrayed as savages who spent most of their time raiding wagon trains and scalping the white settlers just for fun. The media has lead us to believe that the American government was forced to take the land from these savage Indians. We should put the blame where it belongs, on ...
Dreams of money had taken hold of the whole tribe. ‘The tribe had installed a few new slot machines earlier that day, and the Spokanes lined up to play. Dreams of the jackpot.’ (12) The greatest trophies were the white women. Nothing gave a male more bragging rights than being intimate with one. The Indian women were no longer good enough. ‘Most of the Spokane Indian women wanted to kick Betty and Veronica off the reservation, but the Indian men lined up every night to listen to the white women’s songs.’ (42) The Indian way of life was just not appealing to Indians anymore.
They wanted to be anywhere but there. Storytelling was the backbone of any Native American culture. It educated and inspired the young and brought pride to the elders. Since the Indians did not believe in written guides, stories served as a medium of transition of culture and traditions from generation to generation. They were funny, sad, emotional, educational, and everything in between. Often the storyteller was one of the oldest and most respected members of the tribe, sharing his experiences with the rest of his people around a campfire.
However, on the Spokane reservation, there were no tales at all. There we no community campfires, no eager youths begging the elders for one more story about the coyote or the raven. Only one man, Thomas Builds Fire, still remembered the ancient ritual, but he and his stories were avoided like the plague by the rest. “”Edit,” Victor said. “It’s better than hearing another one of his goddamn stories.” Thomas repeated stories constantly.
All the other Indians on the reservation heard them so often that the words crept into dreams. An Indian telling his friends about a dream he had was halfway through the telling before everyone realized it was actually one of Thomas’s stealth stories. Even the white people on the reservation grew tired of Thomas’s stories, but they were more polite when they ran away.” (15) There was no transmission of culture to the youth on the reservation. The ancient Native American dreams, values, and beliefs were all but forgotten, and were never to return. The last Native American belief is the necessary harmony of nature and people peacefully coexisting in the same world. The plant life and the animal life were here long before any human, and would be here long after.
In American Indian Stories, University of Nebraska Press Lincoln and London edition, the author, Zitkala-Sa, tries to tell stories that depicted life growing up on a reservation. Her stories showed how Native Americans reacted to the white man's ways of running the land and changing the life of Indians. "Zitkala-Sa was one of the early Indian writers to record tribal legends and tales from oral ...
Nature had spirituality, a disturbance of which would mean severe consequences for the entire tribe. “Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.” (ref. ) Animals were hunted only for food, and even then the hunter had to first prey for the animal’s spirit and forgiveness. In addition, the heroes of most stories were usually animals, such as the trickster coyote, or the powerful buffalo.
The Indians believed them to be on equal terms with people, and also members of their tribe. “Reservation Blues” shows us another world, a place where there was no respect for nature or the animals, as shown by Victor and Junior’s pastime activity of electrocuting snakes on an electric fence. In ancient Native American stories the snake might have been glorified as a strong and courageous animal, looked up to by the children, but in the real world it was simply a mean of amusement. The Spokane tribe had hastily forgot one of the most important concepts of Indian heritage, the concept that should have defined them.
Sherman Alexie’s “The Toughest Indian in the World” tells a mysterious story about a Spokane Indian journalist on a quest to find his identity where he encounters his first homosexual experience with a hitch-hiking Lummi Indian male fighter. Through this story, Alexie is able to express the attitudes of sexuality in America’s society. Today, there is a sense of acceptance of overt sexuality, where ...
The only thing on the Spokane reservation that still contained Indian culture and heritage was Big Mom, or the nature. However, no Indian ever remembered, or wished to remember his or her own roots. They knew about Big Mom’s existence, yet they refused to believe in her. It was simpler to live life as they did, without any real purpose or direction.
“There were a million stories about Big Mom. But no matter how many stories were told, Indians still refused to believe in her. Even though she lived on the reservation, some Spokanes still doubted her.” (199) She watched the Indians deny and defy everything that was in their culture, all the traditions and all of the morals, powerless to stop it. The-man-who-was-probably-Lakota saw and understood what was happening, and repeated the same line over and over again, “The end of the world is near, the end of the world is near.” However, for these Indians the end had already came and gone.