Native American Literature Term Paper

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Native American Literature

The themes in Power by Linda Hogan are centered around nature and the unity of nature and human beings. These are also themes that are touched upon in Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen. For the Native American, all creatures are united in a "sacred hoop," and all events are cyclic. Thus the symbolism used by Hogan focuses on images from nature. Most prominent among these is the panther, the snake, the tree called Methuselah, and the storm.

The Panther

The panther is seen not only as a symbol of the Taiga tribe, but also as the tribe's ancestor. But the Florida Panther that plays a part in the lives of Omishto and her aunt Ama, is ill and dying. The first appearance of this panther is in Omishto's dream, where she sees the panther in its illness. She relates this dream to Ama. Eventually the women go after the animal to kill it in order to save spare it the misery of dying from illness and hunger.

Ironically, this act of compassion is against the laws imposed by the colonizing Westerners. The Florida Panther is an endangered animal, and killing it for whatever reasons is not allowed. This shows the essential separation of the Western world from nature and from other human beings. The animal world is separated from the world of the West by ideals and laws that have little to do with the reality outside of the human concern. There is no sense of wholeness or connectedness with all living things.

For Ama and Omishto the killing of the Panther is essential, and indeed, the Panther communicates its desire for them to follow it on its last journey. There is not such communication between the animal and the police officers as representatives of the white colonizers, as they are not open to any communication of a nonverbal kind.

Eventually, after killing the panther, Ama is arrested and Omishto is scolded for helping to perform the illegal act. A kind of justice occurs when there is not enough evidence to convict Ama. Omishto then sees a healthy panther, which she tells to run. Omishto instinctively knows that although the laws of the white man are in place to protect endangered animals, it is an unhealthy and oppressive kind of protection.

Both the healthy and the sick panther are connected with Omishto's Taiga tribe of the "Panther Clan." Omishto and Ama are representative of a people who is dying, like the panther. She attempts to explain this in an essay for a class assignment, but gives up, knowing they will not understand. This shows that she is experiencing the unfamiliar sensation of being disconnected from other living beings. She cannot identify with the white people, their religion or their traditions. She is unable to adapt to the invasion, and experiences a kind of sickness imposed upon her and her people.

The healthy panther on the other hand is representative of what is still healthy about the tribe, and what must be preserved. The only way in which Omishto can imagine preserving what is left of her culture is to run and hide, which is the advice she gives the healthy panther. The reason for this is the disconnection imposed by the white colonizers. From their schools to their religion, they are unable or unwilling to accept a connection between themselves and others, or to tolerate the beauty in traditions that are not their own.

The Snake

Again, like the Panther, the snake presents a dichotomous image. On the one hand, it represents danger. When Omishto is in her boat, a snake tries to enter, but she pushes it away with a pole. This represents the girl's ability to distinguish between the beneficial and the harmful forces at work in her life; an ability that her family and most of her tribe have apparently lost. The snake attempting to enter the safe haven of Omishto's boat also represents those around her attempting to assimilate her into the white way of life. School and church have little meaning for Omishto. Instead she prefers to remain true to her roots and withstand all influences from the invading and oppressive force.

On the other hand,…

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