As a young, privileged, white individual blessed to live in the thriving nation of America, I, like most Americans in the 21st century, are both hypothetically and perhaps literally blind to the events of my nation’s past and to the events that are occurring presently. This possibly is the direct result of societal and individual ignorance, lack of specific knowledge on the subject, or because we often turn our heads when the topic is set before us.
In the year 1492, a group of Europeans arrived on the “undiscovered” lands of the Americas as they sailed across the Atlantic ocean. This new discovery instantly went down in history and is remembered by many, yet these sailors were not the first individuals to step foot on the land. Long before Columbus and other European citizens, the Native Americans populated the vast and beneficial lands of North America. As history unlocks, though the Native American’s possessed seniority over this land, they were feared, persecuted, and stereotyped by the white settlers due to a limitless list of reasons like physical appearance and characteristics, traditions and culture, and their normal ways of life. This treatment towards the Native Americans failed to cease over the centuries that followed, making little progress in ending the injustice and discrimination that they endured. Despite the hundreds of years that are filled with supposed tolerance of the original inhabitants of this blessed country, prejudice is still present in our society today.
The classic novel Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan, published almost thirty years ago, reveals a significant recognition about Native American culture. The book excessively points out how the culture of the Native Americans solely relies on the survival of the natural world and how it can easily be corrupted by greed, obsession with material gains, colonization, and imperialism. Hogan portrays a community of Osage Indians living in Oklahoma, an area that has been colonized by settlers and the two cultures of white and Native American mesh together. The goal of the book was to portray the injustice that was and still is happening in our nation.
The themes displayed in Mean Spirit assist in showing readers a different perspective than what they are experiencing. This helped me see an entirely new side of our American history and our society. The theme of oppression significantly portrayed the negatives of colonization and imperialism and how they affect those whom they are aimed at. The feeling of oppression was like a lurking cloud throughout the entire novel. The characters within the book could most definitely feel it and readers as well. Characters were highly aware of the oppression that was being placed on their shoulders, yet the pressure was also suffocating them and they were unable to speak up about the inequity. Their silence became their way of survival because they “knew, from history itself, that it was a smart thing to keep silent on the affairs and regulations of Washington, to be still and as invisible as possible” (63). The unfair laws, rules, and treatments were occurring without any second thought from those who were not Native American. The Osage community had to live on, knowing that their family members, friends, and neighbors were being murdered, but to ensure their own personal safety they kept quiet. The oppression finally manifested itself into an entity of fear. It was always lurking behind their shoulders and in the backs of their minds, yet through it all, the Indians somehow handled the situation with peace and order.
Vastly linked with oppression, corruption became a large component of the colonization and imperialization processes. The Osage community became further victims of dangerous and even life threatening business practices due to local land owners, bankers and insurance agents, and city officials. Many of the examples given in Mean Spirit involved an oilman named Hale, who became the ring leader of all the murders that were occurring in the Watona area. Yet it wasn’t just the local individuals victimizing the Native Americans, the federal government itself victimized the Osage. This was produced by the unfair laws and lack of action that was taken to assist the Indians in general. They simply watched from the sidelines as news rolled in about the consecutive murders happening in the area. To put it simply, the national government was refusing to do its job by protecting all people, like expressed in the Constitution.
Lastly, the theme of distrust became the direct result of the colonization and imperialization fiasco that occurred in this nation’s history. Due to the deception and greed of those around them, the Osage and the Native Americans in general, began to lose their trust in settlers and “grew suspicious of everyone” (44). This left the Osage Indians secluded and without anyone to turn to when the murders in their community began, essentially leaving them vulnerable and helpless.
As a white individual, I cannot speak for those that colonization and imperialism directly affected and currently affects today in our society. Again, I was practically blind to the unfair practices and processes that the indigenous people experienced, only to benefit me and people like me in the future. Going through this unit and mentally experiencing what Native Americans went through makes me angry and ashamed of what our nation’s ancestors did. This unit caused immense conflict within me because I am utterly thankful to have been placed in a country as great as the United States, but at what cost and to who’s expense? This unit has forced me to face the problem that is still relevant today and see what is still occurring. The injustice, prejudice, and hate is still present in our society, though we might not see it, especially in our small, Christ-based community of Lincoln Lutheran. This has opened me up to a whole other perspective and view, so that I may be able to locate the problem and the need for help and potentially be able to contribute, to assist, to make a difference, in hopes of trying to start the process of undoing what our ancestors began.