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Indian Culture in Past and Present

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What does it mean to be a modern Native American? How does their historical culture influence today’s society? Sherman Alexie does an outstanding job of influencing his characters with culture and traditions. He also outlines the societal problems experienced on the Spokane Indian Reservation and the struggle between the individual Native American modern lifestyle and the Native American historic culture. In the story “This Is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,” Alexie writes about two men who travel to Phoenix, Arizona to retrieve the remains and belongings the one of the character’s deceased father.

They end up learning more about themselves and their culture on the journey. Alexie specifically chose the two characters, Thomas Builds-the Fire and Victor to depict the differences that they had toward the Native Indian traditions and their modern way of thinking. Thomas Builds-the-Fire represents the traditional aspect and is recognized for his storytelling. Victor represents the modern aspect. Culture plays an integral role on who we are. It will influence how we behave, think and believe. Our cultural history defines the next generation and their beliefs.

“This Is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” is a story that outlines the culture, traditions, and societal problems experienced by the American Indians on the Spokane Indian Reservation. seems to fight against a sense of community and tradition while living on his. reservation. This story represents the relationship between the individual Native American modern lifestyle and the American Indians historic oppression. Victor is trying to locate his identity while Thomas is content with his. Thomas represents the storytelling tradition while Victor is torn between the outside world and the reservation he grew up on.

Victor’s father abandoned him and the reservation when he was young, leaving Victor with a disconnect to the Native American Indian culture. Quote. Victor is plagued with money problems and unemployment concerns. Example from story Thomas is seen as an outcast while Victor is more confident is his demeanor. Example from story Oppression plagues most Indian Reservations with underemployment, widespread alcoholism and desperation which have caused many to flee the reservations. Alexie himself left the reservation for the hope of a better life.

Alexie is known for the accurate depiction and semi-autobiographical work which has an underlying feel good story of transformation. “Tribal identity, the centrality of storytelling, and the cyclical structure of Alexie’s narrative originate within traditions of ceremonies, where communities engage in remaking themselves. ” Explain how relates to story “Each of these modern reservation characters is stuck in no man’s land, where their past has nearly been eradicated by American colonialism, their present is characterized by oppression and racism, and the future is envisioned as a continuation of the present.

” Explain how relates to story Alexie uses his own experiences and the influence of the society to outline the societal issue of alcoholism and abuse. “As Alexie’s poetry and prose uncompromisingly demonstrate, communities are far from uncomplicated and are frequently themselves destructive, as with communities of substance abusers. ” (_______) Alexie doesn’t shy away from addressing the problem of alcoholism within reservation life, and the problems with the stereotypes that follow. In one of Victor and Thomas’ childhood stories, a 15-year-old Victor gets drunk and “beats Thomas up for no reason at all” (Alexie, 65).

Victor is a representation of those who assume all Native American drink, and in doing so they fail to explore the reasons behind it. For Victor, there are many: his father leaving, his lack of education and future, the cycle of violence and poverty he and his community are trapped in Conclusion Alexie how they are forced to walk the line between assimilation and isolation, something Victor is ultimately able to overcome by the end of the story, through rediscovering his own native identity and reconnecting with those in his community, such as Thomas, by returning to the reservation he symbolically left many years earlier.

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