The problem of being “in-between” two cultures, histories, and identities is widely discussed in the world literature. Authors as David Thompson, George Copway, Thomas King, Boston King, George Elliot Clarke, Louis Riel, Duncan Campbell Scott, Pauline Johnson, Emily Carr describe, discuss and analyze the problems of co-existence of two civilizations in “one world”. Times of colonization and post-colonization were very difficult for both Indians and new-comers.
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People had to learn live together in peace, however, it was not always possible. Some of the authors criticized the process of colonization, some considered it a new step of development, and some authors just described the conditions in which people lived. George Copway and Duncan Campbell Scott focused their attention on the changes that occurred in life of Indians and how they influenced on their lives, traditions and attitude to life.
They presented and discussed the problems of cultural collision, hybridity and negotiations that occurred within Indians and new-comers. There are similarities and differences in the approaches to the problem in works of the authors. In those two works, there are themes that may seem to be related but when giving a consideration, they appear to be closely related.
So, one major theme that appears in both works is the theme of colonization and life of native Canadians. Both authors wrote their works for non-Indian audience. They describe the attitudes of native Canadian Indians to Christian people that came into their world without permission. Both works of literature describe Indians and pay a little of their attention to white people. In general, the main intention of both authors is to attract the readers’ attention to the influence of colonization on Indians and try to explain their attitude to reader.
In order to compare and contrast themes and motifs explored in both works, we should give a closer consideration to the detailed analysis of each work. The first work to be analyzed is the poem by Duncan Campbell Scott “The Onondaga Madonna”. The major focus of the poem is to show the European and Indian cultural confrontation. The author focuses his attention on the description of the Indian woman with a child.
Describing a particular case in his poem, Scott’s main intention is to describe the situation that occurred within the whole nation. The “core” of his work is to show the greatness and independence of the woman’s past and her present position. With the help of only one line of his poem, the author describes the life the Indian women had before: “Her blood is mingled with her ancient foes” (Scott 20). Actually, her past is rather presented and stated than completely described. The rest of description is devoted to her current state:
She stands full-throated and with careless pose,
This woman of a weird and waning race,
The tragic savage lurking in her face,
Where all her pagan passion burns and glows; (Scott 20)
The author emphasizes that Indian mother survived a lot of violence and cruelness, but her wild nature can stand it all and she is ready to fight for her right to live. Her entire image estimates that she does not accept new white culture and its people:
“thrills with war and wildness in her veins;
Her rebel lips are dabbled with the stains
Of feuds and forays and her father’s woes.” (Scott 20)
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She hears the voices of her ancestors and she is passionate to preserve her culture and heritage. And protect her people. Another line of the poem deals with the child: “her baby clings and lies”. The child is the image of the present of Indian nation, moreover, it is its future. The author describes this child as the last representative of the “real” nation.
Interpreting the lines devoted to the child, we can suggest that the author means that in future two nations (white people and Indians) will be united and the phenomenon of the hybridity will take place. With the words “The primal warrior gleaming from his eyes; He sulks, and burdened with his infant gloom” (Scott 20), the author states that the mission of the child, as well as his mother’s mission, is to protect the heritage on its nation.
We can suppose that the author estimates the idea that the savage of Indians will not accept the “mixture” with the Christianity, thus, the assimilation of two nations is impossible. Obviously, the child is still too young to remember the violence that its mother survived. Nevertheless, the author emphasizes that this child is the hope of the future and “He draws his heavy brows and will not rest” (Scott 20) so, his mother gave him her right and intention to be “a real representative and protector of the Indian nation”.
Thus, describing the individual case of the Indian mother, the author implies the future of the whole nation. Thus, the mother is the past and present of the Indians who survived violence and are negative towards Christian people who captured their native land. At the same time, the author puts forward the idea that Indians should protect their heritage and this is the task of the Indian baby that symbolizes the future of the nation.
The work of the second author, G. Copway, is also devoted to the problem of the post-colonial conditions. However, unlike Scott, he does not see the difficulties in co-existence of two different histories, cultures and identities. On the contrary, the author estimates that such “fusion” can be really beneficial for both nations. It is the very first idea that appears in his work.
Thus, two works are different in the message. Scott says that Indians should protect their national heritage and Copwell emphasizes that living and working together people can benefit. He call himself a “noble-but-literate and Christianized” Indian (Copwell 64). He provides the idea that his people (Indians) can learn a lot from whites and whites, in their turn, must educate Indian people, rather than conflict with them.
If Scott says that Indians should protect their land (however, considering the conditions of colonization, it was hardly possible to make new-comers leave the land), Copway provides the idea of creating a separate state for native Indians. As a matter of fact, this idea was more reliable for that time. Scott does not focus attention on the nature and cultural traditions of native Canadians. Copwell gives a detailed description of his life with the “tribe”, its customs and way of life, its history and traditions.
He presents the achievements of his family after they were Christianized. “I was a part of our father’s duty to teach us how to handle the gun as well as the bow and arrow” (Copway 24).” Gun was another instrument put into my hands, which I was taught to use both carefully and skillfully” (29). The most important message of the book is to convince the reader that people of Ojibwas were also people and they deserved good life. In order to do it, Copwell uses a poetic language while describing nature and nobility of his ancestors.
Comparing works of two authors, we can notice that Scoot does not have an intention to describe Indians from a “good side”, the notes of hostility are noticeable in the poem. As opposed to Scott, Copwell writing is “kind” and non-hostile. In the Copwell’s autobiography, we can notice a demonstration of respect and readiness of Indians to adopt Christian beliefs: “The Ojebwas, as well as many others, acknowledged that there was but one Great Spirit, who made the world…they also said he could hear all his children” (Copwell 30).
The author also shows the moral qualities of Indians describing how his parents treated their children and loved them. He expected that white people will accept Indians and “if ever I see the day when my people shall become happy and prosperous, I shall then feel great and lasting pleasure, which will more than reply me for the pain, which I have endured for the last twelve years” (Copway 7).
He hopes that “unfortunate race called the Indians” will live together with other people in peace and friendship as it is the only way to develop both nations. So, if Scott’s poem attracts the reader’s attention with the force of words used and appeal for fight, Copwell’s writing is full of poetic descriptions and metaphors: “I was born in nature’s wide domain” (Copway 17).
These are the most frequently used literary devices that influence on the reader’s attitude to what is written in the book. Each portraying of the Indian’s customs is accompanied with epithets and bright descriptions. Thus, he wants to appeal to human soul and compassion: “I am Indian and, and I am well aware of the difficulties I have to encounter to win the favorable notice of the white man.” (Copway 7).
Thus, both authors describe post-colonial times and discuss influence of Christianization on Indians. However, their approaches to the problems of history, identity and culture are different. Scott describes the Indian mother as an embodiment of the Indian nation and her baby is the future of this nation.
He uses descriptions and poetical language in order to describe a negative influence of Christianization and hybridity on native Canadians. He states that Indians should preserve their cultural heritage and fight for their land. Scott makes an Indian baby responsible for it. As opposed to Scott, Copwell tries to convince the reader that two cultures can live together and white people should accept that Indian culture has right for existence. In their turn, Indians must learn from whites, thus, both cultures can benefit from living together.
There are many authors who wrote about Indians and their culture. Duncan Campbell Scott and George Copway are two of them. These two authors discuss the same themes in their works: themes of co-existence of two different cultures, histories and identities. However, they have different approaches to the problems.
Scott provides the idea that European Christians and native Indians should not live together and that Indian culture suffers from this intrusion. Copwell are more positive about the issue and he uses descriptions of Indian culture in order to convince the non-Indian readers that there is a possibility to live in peace.
Copway, George. The Life, Letters and Speeches of Kah-GE-Ga-Gah-Bowh, Or, G. Copway, Chief Ojibway Nation. Read Books, 2008.
Scott, Duncan Campbell. “The Onondaga Madonna”. Labor and the Angel. Hayes Barton Press (n. d).