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Defining the “White Mind” Analytical Essay

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Updated: Jun 20th, 2019

The nature of the ‘white mind’ as presented in ‘The Land of The Spotted Eagle’ by Luther Standing Bear is a depiction of a personal conviction devoid of factual knowledge.

Bear presents the white mind as a destructive force; a force that has no respect for nature. Instead of adopting and enriching the American features of nature, the European white man white man introduced European things, thus destroying what was naturally American. Bear’s definition of the’ white mind’ is in complete contrast of Walt Whitman’s definition, which see the white man in positive light.

Even though the Whitman’s definition in his 1855 poem ‘Leaves of Grass’ has been criticised for being too romantic, it works against Bears expression of the white mind, by highlighting major forms including and not limited to wildlife , vegetation and life. The three characteristics represents Luther Standing Bear negative view of the white mind which is in great contrasts to Walt Whitman fact based positive outlook of the white mind.

Luther Standing Bear sees the white man as uncaring and unprotective of wildlife. Luther Standing Bear explains that the Lakota, unlike the white man, had a brotherly relationship with animals such that ‘so close did some of the Lakota came to their feathered and furred friends that in true spirit spoke the same tongue’ (Bear ****). What Bear meant was that the white man saw no value and respect for animals.

This is in contrast to Whitman appreciation of animals. Whitman appreciates animals to the extent that he thought that he ‘could turn and live awhile with the animals’ and that animals are part of human existences as they (animal) ‘show their relations to me and I accept them’ (Whitman 34). Thus, Bear’s negative presentation definition of the white mind in terms of treatment of animals is sufficiently countered by Whitman’s respectful attitude towards animals.

Bear describes the real essence of life from eyes of the Lakota. The Lakota see life as ‘pulsating and vivid’ and that the Lakota appreciated life as ‘more than mere human manifestation as it was expressed in a multitude of forms’ (Bear ****). Bear uses this description of life to contrast the white man view of life. The white man is unappreciative of life and does not recognise the fullness and variety of life that surround him.

Bear’s representation of the white man view of life is contrasted by Whitman, who argues that the white man appreciates nature as the source of life. Life is embodied in ‘geography … and rivers and lakes’ (Whitman iv). This portrays Whitman as having as much appreciation of life as the Lakota.

The two authors also differ deeply in their definition of the white mind’s view of nature. While Bear presents the Lakota as ‘a true naturalist’ (Bear *****) and that there was a true balance between nature and man. The Lakota shares a natural attachment with nature, signifying man connection to nature.

In portraying the Lakota as a naturalist, Bear portrays the white man as unattached to nature. So dissociated is the white man with nature that ‘the white boys jostle and push each other in a foolish manner while spending too much time in aimless fashion neither seeing, not hearing the varied life that surrounds them’ (Bear ****).

This means that the white men are unaware of the fullness of nature around them. This view however, had been contrasted way years before in Whitman ‘Leaves of Grass’. Whitman disagrees and argues that nature is part of human existence as man sees his reflection, completeness and beauty in nature (Whitman 80). Whitman therefore shares in the Lakota’s belief that nature and man are inseparable.

Whitman through his positive definition the white mind proves that Luther Standing Bear’s portrayal of the white mind as predominantly destructive is just a fallacy that conceals the true identity of the white man. The true identify of the white man is reflected in Walt Whitman works, which portrays the white man as caring loving and conscious of nature surrounding him.

Whitman attains this by showing how the white mind view wildlife as part of human existence, women as appreciated in the society and nature as a refection of human completeness. Whitman positive outlook stands out over Bear negativism as it is more appealing to and appreciative of reality.

Works Cited

Bear, Luther. Land of the spotted eagle. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska1978. Print

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of grass. Whitman Archive. n.d. July 11, 2011

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IvyPanda. "Defining the “White Mind”." June 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-the-white-mind/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Defining the “White Mind”." June 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-the-white-mind/.


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