Native American Literature Essay

1801 words - 7 pages

Visualize yourself as a young Native American boy, hunting for the first time. You strap on a pair of leather moccasins and fasten buttons on your jacket. You put on face paint and grab a bow. You take three of your father's arrows and head out into the forest. You see rabbits, squirrels, and many birds, but that type of game isn't a big enough prize for you. You want to prove to your family that you are a man and bring home the big elk. You cross a stream and smell the fresh breeze. You sing as you are walking, praying to Mother Earth that you will catch a big game. As you come to a small opening, you see a female elk grazing in the grass. There are a few trees, but there is a great line of sight from you to the elk. You load an arrow and draw back the bow, doing this as carefully as possible so as not to make a sound. You let the arrow fly and hear a big crack, as the elk runs through the woods the opposite way. You pull out the arrow from the oak tree and hang your head as you walk back into the village. Even though you did not kill an elk, you still feel proud and are very grateful for the food Mother Earth provides you, for she gives you what you need to survive and prosper. Native Americans, like the young boy, respect nature, have a strong sense of spirituality, and also value their tribal relationships, which is expressed through oral literature.

        To begin with, in American Indian literature, storytellers always refer to their respect for nature. The poem "I Have Killed the Deer", speaks of the never-ending circle of life. This never-ending circle of life is explained in the poem: " When I die I must give life/ To what has nourished me./ The earth receives my body/ And gives it to the plants And to the caterpillars/ To the birds/ And to the coyotes/ Each in its own turn so that/ The circle of life is never broken" As the hunter kills animals or plants, essential elements to life, he also gives back to them when they die. When a hunter kills a deer, for instance, he gives thanks to it and to Mother Earth, for giving him the nourishment he needs to stay alive. Lame Deer, a Miniconjou Sioux, speaks of killing the buffalo: "When we killed a buffalo, we knew what we were doing. We apologized to his spirit, tried to make him understand why we did it, honoring with a prayer the bones of those who gave their flesh to keep us alive, praying for their return, praying for the life of our brothers, the buffalo nation, as well as for our own people"(Seeker of Visions, 191). Here, we also see the importance of animals to the Native Americans. The essay All Are My Relations: Native People and Animals, relates to the animals, saying that they are no more important than we are: "Most Native people of North America perceive the natural state of the world as a state of balance. We are part of a great circle and are not more important than the plants or the animals or the rocks. Animals and plants are beings equal...

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