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Free «Native American Life Stories» Essay Sample

Native American epistemologies have greatly helped current U.S. generation to understand their native culture. Close reading, interpretation, and understanding of native oral tradition together with their translation into the written word by current generation has revealed secrets underlying native culture and impacts it brought in terms of personal identity formation. Delfina Cuero and Momaday unique native personal and cultural experiences revealed how vital the role of traditions in modeling their personal character identity was.

Indigenous Americans suffered from extreme oppression, and their cultural ideologies and practices were greatly influenced by invasion of early missionaries and settlers into their native land. These so called ‘intruders’ influenced native cultures to the extent of making them change their traditional practices as evident in autobiography literatures written on the Native Americans’ culture. For instance, in “The Autobiography of Delfina Cuero” by Cuero and “The way to Rainy Mountaind” by Momaday writings, authors try to show us how indigenous cultures in their lands impacted their overall identities after foreigners tried to dominate them in terms of treating the natives oppressively and changing their traditional practices (Cuero and Shipek).



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Cuero, in her autobiography book, tries to give us a picture of the way life was back in her days. Her life together with her native people was greatly influenced by the coming of settlers and missionaries from western countries and intruding into their indigenous lands trying to take over the control. In the U.S. indigenous Americans, also known as Kumeyaay, were known to harbor the county of San Diego. Cuero grew up in this county and her narrative stories revolve around the Kumeyaay culture and foreigners who played a major role in changing their traditional practices. Apparently for survival they had to change their practices as civilization pressure had its set up over their culture (Cuero and Shipek, 23).

The Kumeyaay people depended on traditional and natural foods like vegetables, nuts, insects, and wild animals’ meat. They termed these traditional diets as nutritious and saw it as their way of life. Foreigners have brought their western foods into their nutrition hence eroding the Kumeyaay traditional diets. This clearly shows how native individual personalities were influenced by the foreign cultural practices from the nutritional diet point of view (Cuero and Shipek, 31).

Natives’ traditional rituals also suffered from westernization as narrated by Cuero, whereby she explains how practices like initiation of girls to adulthood were abandoned as the missionaries advocated for them to be done with. She remembers how the passage of rights for girls and boys were no more applicable by the time she turned into teenage hood. Lack of this ritual practice greatly affected the community as it caused social stress and lack of adult moral decadence since adults were no more properly prepared to face adulthood in their own way. Lack of ritual transformation from teenagers into adulthood also impacted negatively on the society as this led to disintegration of traditional practices and, as a result, cultural stronghold was weakened (Cuero and Shipek, 40).

Feminization is also depicted by the narrator as women were given an upper hand in the society and were seen as the guardians and nutriment hoarders of the community. Therefore, their roles were far away from any gender limitations, and this practice gave them the overall duty of carrying all the family. Momaday narrative story creates a chronology of events as he employed several storytelling sources of information ranging from personal experiences and history-facts to family lore and tribal narratives. These viewpoints show the harshness conditions throughout the Great Plains like tornadoes, summer heat and blizzards; they show tragedies of the Kiowa tribe at times after they migrated across the Great Plains to the Rainy Mountain:

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The headwaters of the Yellowstone river eastward to the black hills and south to the Wichita mountains … a single knoll rises out of the plain… which serves as a landmark for the homeland of the Kiowas (Momaday, 1)

It is here that they settled and constructed an ancestral heritage. Momaday aspect and meaning of the way to the Rainy Mountain may catch a wide scope. Apart from showing us a real migration of his tribe and how they developed their culture, there is also another perspective of interpreting this by saying that it also represented his personal retrieval journey. He tries to show us how he develops personal idea of himself that is perceived as very innovating. Author’s main source of information about his tribal myths is oral stories told by tribal men and his relatives. These myths reveal strong motivations carried by the creators and show strong foundations of a system that had a great cultural value. These cultures were either based on sun’s reference, buffalo or horse.

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His historical point of view tries to show us myths that ancestors pass on from generation to generation to explain how the tribe came to being. One of the myths describes how the Kiowa tribe emerged into the world through a hollow log and the author supported this myth by telling us how the tribe called themselves, for instance Kwuda and Tepda, whereby both words meant ‘coming out’: “…Kiowas’ is thought to derive from the softened Comanche form of Gaigwu.” (Momaday, 17).

The author also tries to tell about his tribe’s cultural background employing his personal imaginations and visions. Most of his memories dwell around his grandparents and his own playful life. Most of his recollections are about environment and this puts up a speculative eye: “once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth…” (Momaday, 83).

Therefore, the author made a great achievement by applying many different angles in explaining the origin of Kiowa tribe and their gradual development as a culture as well as their existence in his imaginations and memory. His piece of work is widely termed as historical art, rather than scientific one, since he didn’t intent publications on his work. Kiowa tribe underwent tremendous cultural changes after the US government forced them out of their ancestral lands and relocated them to a reserve resettlement in the Rainy Mountain of Oklahoma. This was a major social injustice, and it has definitely affected the changing of Kiowa traditional culture. Momaday depended on oral tradition that holds a word of his ancestry and is documented in written form that helped greatly to describe the exact culture of the Kiowa tribe (Momaday).

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Interaction of different cultures is majorly attributed as the main reason in regards to why cultural erosion occurred and brought about degradation of traditional practices, of which current generation may not be aware. But through learning orally or by reading documented narratives many people would learn about other cultures, and extensive oral story telling would enlighten people of their own cultures.

Strangers In A Stolen Land (Carrico) is a literature book that explains how foreigners in native America brought degradation to local traditional practices. He narrates the story of San Diego County that was invaded by Euro-Americans and about many of its communities that tried to maintain their identities despite losing their land and social marginalization. For instance, Carrico shows how communities like the Luisenos, Cahuillas, Cupenos, and Kumeyaay managed to pull through revolts and onslaughts by Mexican, American and Spanish nations that wanted to take their land.

Indian villages were dislocated and native economics disrupted greatly, but all of these disasters kept communities strong while defending their land and culture. Invasion of foreigners into this county defiantly had negative effects on erosion of tradition culture as westernization has impacted the modeling of new individual personalities (Carrico).

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Strangers in a Stolen Land tries to expound and shed light on the Native Americans who were inhabitants of the San Diego County. The author uses a wider chronological span from 1880 to 1935 to present a reader with a complete history that takes him back to rising of native societies in the beginning of 20th century. The author uses archeological records to obtain data on pre-historic events and reconstruct the county’s social organization together with native economies. The natives of San Diego confronted and revolted against the invasion of Euro-Americans into their ancestral lands as those foreigners wanted to own their homeland (Gonzales, 85).

Some communities like the Cahuillas, Luisenos, Kumeyaay, and Cupenos experienced major historical injustices like the loss of their ancestral land and extensive social marginalization by foreigners and settlers, but they managed to keep distinct communities and identities. American natives survived and negotiated fierce attacks by Mexicans, Americans, and even Spanish warriors through appeasement, cooperation and even staging out revolts (Gonzales, 85).

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Another foreign system, which influenced American natives’ cultures, was the missionaries. Here, Carrico shows how missionaries “sowed the seed of destruction” (Gonzales) by disrupting native cultures and dislocating Indian villages. This autobiographic literature tries to give us a clear picture of what transpired on San Diego’s Native Americans cultures, and even if the author majorly relied on archeological data to give us illustrated history, he still implies tribal stories into his descriptions. Interpretation of native history is, basically, straightforward, and reader can easily pick out the negative effects caused by foreigners’ invasion to San Diego and erosion of traditional cultures (Gonzales, 85).

Indian native leaders, San Diego revolt of 1775, and labor patterns staged long struggles to get back their ancestral land titles and secure reservations assisted in proving of maintaining native agency. The author brings out the importance and uniqueness of San Diego natives together with their culture, which was impacted negatively by the invasion of foreigners. Indians were strong, therefore, they adapted to all of the external destructive forces they experienced and this brings out a clear perspective of the whole historic nature of the native people of San Diego (Gonzales, 86).

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The author goes into length to expound on the several historical strategies the native people put in place to maintain and secure their land rights. He gives an example of leader Panto who put many efforts to protect Indians land: a story of how the natives used to survive the forced brutal removals by the oppressors. Author went forth to explain us how the natives were strongly connected to their traditional cultures. For instance, he shows how the Cupenos who still visit their ancestral land by carrying out pilgrimages annually to sacred places in ranches, even though they were forcefully removed out of Warner’s Ranch in 1903 (Gonzales, 86).

The above illustrations by the author show the importance of native ethnic identity and luckily enough no major discussions concerning any changes in native culture were put forth. This piece of work doesn’t expound much on the cultural analysis of the natives as the author dwells much about invading native lands by Euro-Americans. Archeological records were constructed by early historians who went to depths of collecting the information from first hand or else orally in the native lands, and writing it down as literature books. Therefore, assumption to be made is that the data used by the author were correct and the interpretation of the historical chronological activities enlighten us on what really happened on the natives of San Diego (Gonzales, 86).

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During the start of this semester I had poor writing skills which hindered greatly the way I could communicate to my lecturer through written forms like reports or literature essays. Due to this my lecturer was troubled and he called me up to his office and gave me a thorough lecture on the way to go through, so that I could ensure that my writing skills improved. One of the advices I took seriously, and I am certain it is the one that helped me to improve my literature skills, was to widen my scope of reading literature materials and create a positive attitude towards the subject.

I strengthened my thesis by carrying out a research on how to go about thesis writing and mostly how to come about a thesis statement. I took up the structure of coming out with the important points which revealed correctly the emergence of specific cultures and how foreign intrusion affected them. I also added several examples majorly from Strangers in a Stolen Land to emphisize how far the natives went in order to protect their ancestral land.


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