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Indian Cultural Revival In A Eurocentric World

1037 words - 5 pages

American Indians and European Americans have had a hostile and tumultuous history for many years, and this led to the decimation of American Indian culture and existence. European exploration had brought widespread disease that made American Indians a post-apocalyptic society by the time Europeans began settling in large numbers. Settlers exacerbated the demise of American Indian life by stripping them of their cultural identity through legislated discrimination, relocation and “civilization”. In the present day, many American Indians are searching for a way to reclaim their lost cultural identity. Through Monroe’s restoration projects, Thomas King proposes in his novel Truth & Bright Water that American Indians can reclaim and restore their history, culture and livelihoods by using European materials such as cast iron, colonial buildings and landscape painting. This is important because it shows us that American Indians can reclaim their identities while remaining valuable members of the modern world.
One of Monroe’s most ambitious restoration projects is the herd of cast iron bison that he’s erecting on the prairie near the church. The metal buffalo are supposed to represent the once numerous creatures that roamed the American plains. These animals were the staple of the Plains American Indian economy, and they are of huge cultural importance to a plethora of plains tribes. Even though buffalo in North America have made a comeback from near extinction in the late 19th century, American Indians, who are now mostly confined to semi-sovereign reservations on land that’s poor in quality, have not experienced the benefits of buffalo repopulation. Therefore, this is why King has Monroe use a modern method to “bring back” the buffalo to the reserve. After seeing the sculptures, Tecumseh notes, “It’s a buffalo. Or at least, it’s the outline of a buffalo. Flat iron wire bent into the shape of a buffalo” (130). By using cast iron, a material that has long been used in Europe by blacksmiths, and also serving as an example of the technological and cultural imposition of European settlers, Monroe is making the buffalo reappear on the plains. The cast iron buffalo show us that American Indians can use technology obtained from Europeans to reclaim their history and restore their unique native identity.
Another attempt Monroe makes at American Indian historical and cultural restoration is painting the church. The church stands as a symbol of European Christian missionaries that aimed to convert and civilize American Indians by proselytizing and imposing their religion on them. These churches did not preach in the languages of the people they were converting, and therefore they also are a symbol of a loss of the basic facets of American Indian culture like native languages. However, when Monroe purchases the church, he paints the exterior to match its surroundings. King writes “The entire east side of the church is gone. Or at least it looks gone. I don’t know...

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