Tracks By Louise Erdrich It Is Easy Essay

Length: 3 pages Subject: Native Americans Type: Essay Paper: #32341604 Related Topics: Assimilation, Cultural Assimilation, Native American, Native Americans
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Tracks by Louise Erdrich

It is easy to forget within the pride of patriotism that the United States is a post-colonial culture. Through the devaluation and near extinction of the cultures that once thrived within the confines of what some now consider the greatest country in the world is the story of so many colonized people from all over the world. Though not the only theme within Louise Erdrich's Tracks, the postcolonial reality of the U.S. can clearly be seen as an assumed reality within the limited and often challenged existence of the Native American culture of the Chippewa.

Rather early in the post-colonial phase, "Tracks chronicles the lives of Ojibwa people living in North Dakota between the winter of 1912 and the spring of 1924." (Stookey 1999) Scholarship on the issue of colonial native America has recently headed toward the interdisciplinary approach and has learned to embrace narrative fiction. "The elements of a sound Native American history would include an interdisciplinary perspective, reconstruction of the American Indian experience, and a more complete description of how Native societies adapted to changing conditions. We historians have not always written such enlightened...


"a definition of the American West is in order. Historians, environmental or otherwise, will continue to debate whether the American West is a geographical place or a cultural process."

Milner 125)

The challenges of becoming a member of a mixed society are many and within the novel Tracks can be seen the assumed realities of the changing world of the Chippewa people. The society and culture no longer belonged to them. They became members of towns that served their needs only in the way of the conquerors. "Two stores competed for the trade of the three hundred citizens..." (Erdrich 1988 13) Once the needs of the goods they needed to simply live have been met their spiritual lives were then bartered for, "...Three churches quarreled with one another for their souls. There was a frame building for the Lutherans, a heavy brick one for Episcopalians, and a long narrow shingle Catholic church." (Erdrich 1988 13) Though Catholocism may be the most frequently challenged western faith in the text, Throughout Tracks and continuing in Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich invites us to observe the generative consequences of certain sacred Chippewa practices when applied to Roman Catholicism (and vice versa)." (McCafferty 1997)

Author Rita Ferrari speaks of the kind of…

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Author Rita Ferrari speaks of the kind of amalgamation that is demanded of the native culture and how other scholars, David E. Johnson and Scott Michaelsen in Border Theory view it. "In discussing the border between Anglo and Amerindian cultures, they suggest thinking of the complexity - the profound interrelationship of the very ideas of European and indigenous cultures - as a product of colonialist thought from its inception." (Ferrari 1999 3) Allen Chavkin discusses the making of an ethnic novel as seen by Rainwater and how the role of the author is to unsettle the reader with the reality of discomfort in assimilation, "Rainwater investigates the potential reader's experience of American Indian texts. She sees ethnic signs embedded in certain texts by Indian writers, including Erdrich, that function as a continual source of disruption and undermine a comfortable interpretive position for the reader." (Chavkin 6)

Jeanne Armstrong discusses the interplay between the individual character's tragedies and the symbolism that they explain through the overlay between culture and character. "In Louise Erdrich Tracks the characters are shaped by the historical context that they inhabit...The novel's personal events are framed by the larger context, including the breakdown of community and loss of land when the Turcot Lumber Company pressures people to sell land to them, causing conflict between those who want to sell and those who resist." (Armstrong 17)

Trade and spirit were regulated to meet the needs of the white world but humor outlasts both, "I got a herd of this Indian beef corralled out in the woodpile and branded the government way," I told him. "I'm planning on holding a roundup." (Erdrich 1988) When Nanapush was so destitute that he was eating rotting gopher meat he jokes with his nephew Eli about the stark reality of how trapped they are for resources. This cultural generation of humor within Erdrich's novel Tracks does not go unnoticed by other scholars "In Louise Erdrich's novel Tracks, humor provides powerful medicine as the Chippewa tribe struggles for their physical, spiritual, and cultural survival at the beginning of the twentieth century." (Gregory 1998) When critics discuss the character of Nanapush and his role in assimilation they compare it to the ideas associated with black assimilation to the extreme what might be known as something Zora Neil Hurston refers to as "Uncle Tomming." "As with muddying the truth by story-telling, then, "Uncle Tomming" is a tool of the trickster, but this mimetic practice shows the lie behind the truth, rather than changing the truth by means of the lie. (Hughes 87) In this example assimilation becomes a tool for the colonized to see inside the world of the

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