Leslie Marmon Silko in the novel Ceremony, as well as Welch in the novel Fools Crow, reproduce the picture of the Native American world with its peculiarities and values. In Ceremony the main character, Tayo, is confused after the return from the World War II. He is half Native American and half Caucasian. He is divided between two cultures and two worlds, in fact, – he is between the Native American culture and the white culture. These cultures differ so much that it is practically impossible to combine them. Silko shows the real struggle between the American and Native American culture that exists in the USA through Tayo’s internal struggle. Although America declares ideas of equality and freedom, it discriminates its native inhabitants Native Americans, whose culture and values are unique.
It is one of the paradoxes of the American culture and mentality. Native Americans cannot live on their native land freely, they are to live in reservations. It is not just limitation of freedom, it is a strong psychological aspect, due to which one nation is considered to be conquerors and the other conquered. They see no life when they look they see only objects. The world is a dead thing for them (Silko 135). Approved in February, 1987, the Dawes Act fixed the reservations as the only place for the Indians and didn’t give them any chance to survive outside the reservations.
Theoretically the Dawes Act demanded to provide every Native America with the allotment of land for the personal use and his right would be protected by the state this way. It was hardly mentioned only what kind of lands were given to the Indians as instead of their fertile lands and woods where they could hunt they got bare pieces of land hardly enough to survive and meant to keep them in the reservations without the right to move out of them. The leaders of the tribes got the right to buy additional land for the tribes if they wished so but it was not mentioned why they should have bought the lands of their ancestors which belonged to them by birth. The allotments given to the Indians by the government of the U.S. denied the right of them for the all lands they used to live centuries before.
The state took consequent steps to take the Native Americans under control and to become the enjoying full rights owner of all the lands and finally became rather successful in that.
However, Native Americans take part in the war and protect the land which, in fact, does not belong to them. Silko uses a bright image of Tayo to present the true nature of relations between Americans and Native Americans. The main problem in these relations is the fact that modern Americans cannot not see their land and this world from the perspective of its native inhabitants. Nevertheless, these are Americans who choose Native Americans’ destinies. The paradox is in dual attitude of the American government towards Native Americans. The Native Americans were respected when they were required to maintain national security and when they conformed to American standards.
Such discrimination may lead one to doubt just how fair and just the land of the free is in terms of their treatment of Native Americans (Allen 132). In peaceful time they are made to live in reservations, but they are required and respected in the war time: They were America the Beautiful too, this was the land of the free just like the teachers said in school. They had the unifrom and they didn’t look different no more. They got respect (Silko 42). In the crucial moments of the American history Native Americans maintained national security of the country and were considered equal with Americans: Šan old white woman rolled down her window and said [to Rocky and Tayo] God bless you, God bless you,’ but it was the uniform, not them she blessed (Silko 41). However, this respect was unreal.
Fools Crow, a novel written by James Welch, also deals with the theme of Native Americans and their system of values. The book also tells a story of difficult relations between native people and white invaders from the perspective of Native Americans. Fools Crow, one of the main characters, and his tribe, Lone Eaters, come through all the difficulties and horrors during their fight for free existence. In Fools Crow, Welch depicts the Blackfeet in the nineteenth century before and during a period of cultural change as they lose their political autonomy and much of their population to sickness and white attacks (Saul 48). Although, the novel ends with the Marias Massacre in 1870, one of the most tragic events in the history of Native Americans, we close the book with the hope for the better future.
Fools Crow, the main character, makes a long way through fears, transformations and trials. He has a spiritual quest and he follows it. His goal and dream is to help his people. In one of his spiritual journeys he sees the future of his people. He meets Feather Woman and she predicts the death of the buffalo, deaths and suffering of people and, at last, the death of their native culture. She states: You can prepare them for the times to come. If they make peace within themselves, they will live a good life in the Sand Hills. There they will go on to live as they always have. Things will not change (Welch 359). He returns home and realizes that everything is true. However, the end of the books gives hope for future. The spring rain starts, representatives of the tribe are dancing their dance of regeneration andÂ Fools Crow is satisfied: He knew they would survive, for they were the chosen ones (Welch 390). The novel leaves this hope, however, we know from the history about further life of Native Americans. The beginning of 1860s is remarkable by the growth of aggression in fighting between the Native inhabitants and the Americans.Â Peacefully minded in the beginning, Native Americans became aggressive when Americans began to hunt buffalos the main food source for them. The wave of wars and revolts followed the advancement of the Americans to the west. Between 1869 and 1878 more than 200 big battles took place with many victims from the both sides. The Native Americans fought bravely and defended their own territories and the resistance was fierce but they were defeated finally as the quantity of the American troops increased more and more and there weapons were better developed.
To sum up, both novels Leslie Silko’s Ceremony and James Welch’s Fools Crow create a vivid image of the Native American world. We see a great gap between American system of values and culture and the Native American one. Native Americans have become foreigners on their native land, they have lost their right for freedom and peace and now are made to live in reservations.
Their life and culture has been commercialized and has become a product of American tourism.
These two cultures differ so greatly that it is just impossible to combine them.