Free «Writing a Brief Ethnographic Commentary» Essay Sample


‘Waterlily’ is a novel written by Ella Cara Deloria about native Indian lifestyle. The book was written with an aim of portraying the indigenous culture and tradition of the Sioux who are part of the Indian tribes. It is written in a native set up before the arrival of the white settlers. She elaborates the Dakota primitive life style where relationship was highly regarded. Kinship rules were observed in Dakota culture while good manners were the signs of being human in this society. Having been raised in this culture Ella proves to be in a better opportunity to express the primitive culture of the Dakotas. This paper strives to show different codes of communication and cultural beliefs which promoted communication codes.

Communication Codes in the Society

Waterlily, the main character in this book and her mother, Blue Bird are deserted by her father. Being left with no option they seek refuge from their relatives where they are expected to show communication conduct according to the set rules in the Dakotas traditional culture. Waterlily discovers her community social kinship regulations which determined their relationship with other relatives as they were expected to maintain mannerisms in their relationship with their relatives.

Communication in the Indian culture was based on their beliefs as depicted in the book “Waterlily” by the author. Children in Dakotan culture were believed to put hard materials in their mouths to promote their teeth development hence such materials were called ‘teeth-maker’ by the natives. Influence of culture on their communication modes is also evident in the life of Blue Bird who struggles to deliver in silence due to her grandmother’s counsel which forbade her to cry. She hangs on the words of her grandmother despite the excruciating pain that she encountered.

The Dakotas had respect for self and their address of correction was polite and well mannered. Members of this community had respect for each other and were very kind towards the elderly in the society. This could be seen when Blue Bird harshly corrected her brother while calling him ‘silly’ a term which her mother advocated against. Her mother interjected, “Daughter, one does not call one’s brother ‘silly’.” This was also demonstrated in the way they disciplined their children in their society. They lovingly and gently corrected their children; a practice which was contrary to the white settlers who yelled and even striped their children. Such kind of practices were never witnessed in the camps of the whites.

The Dakotas highly valued social relationship in their culture. They were friendly and sympathized with one another while treating every member of the society humanly. Their hospitality nature is seen as they readily welcome Blue Bird and her grandmother when the two were attacked by their enemies. Upon reaching the new strange camp, Blue Bird and her grandmother were warmly welcomed and showered with gifts. Moreover, other women in the camp joined them in their mourning over their dead children despite having not known them before.

The Dakota believed in the existence of a divine and supreme being who had the final say for every crisis in life. They regarded supreme being to be of high honor and respect and to whom sacrifices were offered as they seek answers to their prayers. Having tried all possible means with no results forthcoming, Blue Bird decided to seek the intervention from a divine being whom she addressed as her grandfather. According to her expectation her child who was at the point of death was spared by her prayers. She lets us know how strongly they believed on divine beings.


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