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Unit 2. Native Americans. Part 5. Preserving Culture and Traditions

Unit 2. Native Americans

Part 5. Preserving culture and traditions

Read the following texts. While reading, make a list of Native American traditions that they are nowadays striving to renew and practice. Give their brief definition/description.

Text 1. Alfonso Ortiz: Advocate of Native American Traditions

(a shortened version)

James S. Turner

"There were cultures and civilizations here fully as diverse, as complex. and as interesting as any in Europe for centuries before Columbus was even a gleam in his father's eye," says Alfonso Ortiz, a Pueblo Indian and an anthropologist who teaches at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Native American cultures have survived despite the widespread belief at the turn of the century that indigenous cultures were soon to disappear forever, he says. "Even on the East Coast, where native Americans have long since been dispossessed of their ancestral lands, numerous tribes still maintain themselves by gathering, telling the ancient stories, and reenacting the tribal ceremonies." While many Native American languages are forgotten, he says, some 200 are still spoken in the United States today, mostly west of the Mississippi.

One of the main reasons for this cultural buoyancy, Ortiz explains, is the vitality of native American religions: "Native American traditions throughout North America have in common an ancient belief in the sacredness of the natural world. Plants, animals, rivers, mountains, even the sun, the moon, and the stars — all are enmeshed in a pulsating web of interdependent relations in the natural world. The native American perspective offers a way of integrating the human imagination into nature."

After the Industrial Revolution, European Americans replaced this reverential understanding of nature with a utilitarian one, resulting in urban man's alienation from nature, he maintains. Yet he does not posit the native American sensibility as an absolute standard outside of the native American community. Much of his advocacy takes the form of combatting stereotypes such as the pejorative application of the word "primitive" to Indian cultures.

"The indiscriminate use of this term encourages a smug sense of superiority," he says. "But who's to say that one religion is more primitive than another, that alphabet-based writing is more sophisticated than petroglyphs, pictographs, bark writing, and calendar "sticks? Until recent decades, we haven't known how to interpret them. But that's not because the record-keeping systems are primitive: it's because our knowledge of them is primitive. Our failure to understand does not make other cultures 'simple,' somewhere further down on the scale of evolution; it's a reflection on us. There really are no primitive cultures or primitive religions or primitive arts in the pejorative sense in which the term is taken – as less reflective than modern ones."

Alfonso Ortiz is the author of The Tewa World (1969), about the world view of his native tribe. He also edited vols. 9 & 10 of the Handbook of North American Indians (1979. 1983) and coedited (with Richard Erdoes) American Indian Myths and Legends (1985).

James S. Turner is assistant director of Humanities.

Text 2. Walking the Red Road

David Oliver Relin

One Saturday last June, long before sunrise, 17-year-old Kendrick Spotted Eagle crawled out of his comfortable bed in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, and drove his parents' pickup north into Navajo country.

Though he told his family he was spending the weekend with his grandfather, Kendrick was really going on a vision quest – a period alone in the wilderness in which a young Indian fasts, prays, and seeks spiritual guidance. Kendrick, who was brought up as a Catholic, knew his parents wouldn't approve of his search for the religious roots of his Navajo heritage.

When Kendrick reached a remote section of the Grand Canyon, where Navajo legend teaches that the Land of the Dead is located, he left his clothes behind and climbed to a bluff high above the Colorado River. His grandfather had told him about the powerful visions that came to young Indians in the old days, and showed them the proper path to follow all their lives. As he stood naked on the canyon's rim, Kendrick asked the spirits of the Navajo people to send him a vision that would give his life direction, too.

Over the next 24 hours, Kendrick watched the rays from the rising and setting sun turn the canyon walls every imaginable color. And he listened to the sounds that the wind, water, and animals made throughout the night. But by daybreak, no vision had come, and he drove home disappointed.

A few weeks later, while visiting his grandfather on a nearby Navajo reservation, Kendrick asked an old medicine man – a spiritual leader – what went wrong: "He told me that my mind was too clogged by the ways of white society to be able to receive the spirits of the Navajo people," Kendrick told Update. "That made me angry at my parents for never teaching me the Navajo ways."

Kendrick's parents, like many American Indians in this century, assimilated into mainstream American culture and religion. But today, a new generation of young American Indians is aggressively searching for its religious roots. That search often leads them off the beaten path of American culture and onto what many Native Americans refer to as the "red road" – the path Indians must tread to be true to their spiritual tradition.

Two Roads

"I always tell my children they must walk two roads that never cross," says Russell Jim, a tribal leader of the Yakima Nation in Washington State. "They must learn the Indian ways, plus they must learn mainstream society's ways in order to protect their economy and rights."

Many Native Americans didn't simply choose to turn away from the red road, they were pressured to abandon their spiritual heritage by white society. "When people talk about America as a place built on the tradition of religious tolerance, they're forgetting about us Indians," says Fred LaMere, 42, a Winnebago-Santee Sioux who teaches young Indians about native rituals in Sioux City, Iowa.

"The white men came to this country and didn't take the time to understand our spiritual life," LaMere told Update. "They just dismissed it as paganism or witchcraft, and even killed some of us for trying to keep the old ways alive."

From the moment Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492, white people worked to convert the "godless" natives to Christianity.

In the 1800s, Indians were herded off their land and onto reservations with schools run by Christian missionaries who forbade them to practice their native religions.

"They tried to take our religion away from us." LaMere says. "But it's still there. It's everywhere in the world around us. All we have to do is learn how to reach out and touch it."

Core Beliefs

LaMere means that, literally. According to Native American beliefs, everything in the natural world – from a person to a pebble – pulsates with spiritual life. There are hundreds of different Native American faiths, and no single sacred book like the Bible to unite them. But even though each native North American religion has its own unique customs and practices, they all share certain core beliefs.

At the center of each Indian faith is a body of creation myths that give each tribe its identity. Many Southwestern Indians believe, for example, that the first woman was impregnated by a sunbeam. Northwestern Indians say it was a salmon. And the Iroquois creation myth teaches that people were fathered by the west wind.

"These various legends reflect the common belief that people are part of a natural world, brother and sister to the grain and trees, the buffalo and the bear," writes mythology expert Alfonso Ortiz.

For many young Indians like Kendrick, learning the old ways can be a difficult process. They must depend largely on word of mouth to find out about their faiths. The religious traditions of many tribes have been lost forever as elderly holy people die and take their spiritual secrets to the grave.

Fortunately, the religious lore of a few tribes has been carefully documented. In 1931, the white poet John Neihardt sought out Black Elk, one of the last living Sioux medicine men, and persuaded him to tell his life story. Neihardt published the testimony in a book called Black Elk Speaks.

In his lifetime, Black Elk saw the Sioux go from a spiritually strong nomadic nation to a dispirited and shackled society forced to adopt white men's ways. When he was nine years old, Black Elk said he received a powerful vision instructing him to lead all the Indian nations back to spiritual health one day.

But in his old age, Black Elk felt he had failed his people. Shortly before his death in 1950, Black Elk climbed a mountain in the Black Hills and offered the following plea to the spirits of his people: "Hear me that [my people] may once more find the good red road. О make my people live!"

Rekindling Traditions

To the young generation of Indians, Black Elk Speaks has become a sort of Bible of all tribes, and an inspiration to rekindle sacred traditions. But practicing these religious rituals, even today, often puts Native Americans against mainstream American society.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter acknowledged that "In the past, government agencies and departments have denied Native Americans access to particular sites and interfered with religious practices and customs." That year, Carter signed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), which he promised would "protect and preserve Native Americans' right to believe and exercise their religions."

Despite the passage of the AIRFA, Indian religious practices have continued to come in conflict with American law. In several states, Native Americans have been prosecuted for using peyote, an illegal drug, and the feathers of eagles, an endangered species, in religious ceremonies. Meanwhile, in America's courtrooms, Indians are struggling to save sacred sites from commercial development.

Despite the difficulties, young Indians are reasserting their identity through a wide variety of traditional rituals. Thousands are making their way to remote sites in the wilderness on vision quests. Others are rediscovering a kind of sacred sauna known as a sweat-lodge. And growing numbers of young Indians are daring to participate in an intimidating practice known as sundancing.


In a sundance, a ritual that shows strength, courage, and commitment to one's faith, dancers hang from cords strung through their back or chest until the flesh tears and they fall.

Wambi Flowers saw his first sundance when he was seven. Now, at 14, he chooses to be pierced with the older dancers. "We just do it," Wambi says, refusing to explain the ritual. "You wouldn't understand." Like Wambi, thousands of young Indians are quietly taking up the old ways. They feel they owe no explanations.

In Phoenix, Kendrick Spotted Eagle isn't telling his parents, but he's determined to try another, longer, vision quest this spring. But this time he plans to go only after being tutored about the old ways by his grandfather's friend, the medicine man. Had Black Elk lived this long, he would have been glad to see so many Native American rituals rising from the ashes, and so many young American Indians choosing to tread the red road.

Text 3. Living in Both Worlds

Ben Nighthorse Campbell

The following (shortened) interview with Senator Campbell was aired on WorldNet, the satellite television service of the United States Information Agency, on June 23, 1993. Questions were asked by viewers from Malaysia and Germany.

Q: How do American Indians resolve the conflict between assimilation and cultural preservation?

BNC: Well, the fact is, I don't think it's being resolved.

Unfortunately, many of the laws that were passed in the late 1800s and early 1900s that affect American Indians mandated that they stop doing certain dances and certain cultural and religious practices. Many of those laws have been tested in court, and now you find that some of the tribal groups are going back to those old traditional cultural beliefs and ways, but, unfortunately, in that interim of 50 or 60 years, some of them have simply been lost to antiquity. They haven't been recorded and they just haven't been preserved.

But I think Indians recognize now that it's almost impossible to go hack in time and to bring back the old days. What we have to do is find a way that we can make it better for our children and, at the same time, preserve the cultural beauty of the Indian lifestyle.

Q: Are Native Americans designing an educational system for themselves to pass on traditional knowledge?

BNC: They are. The traditional Indian way of leaching was done through what is commonly called the cycle system, and that means an uncle or grandfather usually taught the youngster, or a grandmother taught the granddaughter, but Indians now do both. The societies and the clans and the cultural groups within the tribe try and pass their knowledge on to youngsters who are interested in learning, trying to preserve the language and the dances and the songs and the art design and so on. At the same time, Indians throughout this country are participating much more in the formal kind of an education that other Americans go through.

We do have one really bright spot, though, and that is that about 25 years ago, or maybe a little more, Indian tribal groups that were a long way away from the metropolitan areas recognized that the youngsters who wanted to get a formal education found it very difficult to leave the reservation and go to a city and get an education. They had a very high dropout rate and sometimes they would end up in skid rows and alcoholism, things of that nature. That was the beginning of a movement that is very strong now. It's called the American Indian Colleges, and I believe there are about 23 of them. Most of them are two-year colleges, and they're located right on the reservation, so the proximity to the Indian people makes it easy to go to school nights or part time or full time. There's only one Indian college that gives a four-year degree and a graduate studies degree, and that is with the Lakota Sioux at Rosebud, South Dakota.

But these two-year colleges have really filled a gap, and many students are going to those two-year Indian colleges and then transfer to four-year colleges in the metropolitan areas. I think they've also made a very, very strong effort to try to preserve within that college structure the traditional beliefs, because almost all of them, for instance, do have classes of native language instruction.

Q: What about the formal education for high-school students'? Does formal education work against traditional education, in a sense? Is there a sort of MTV culture starting up among high-school students?

BNC: You know, really, it depends on the school board that controls the curriculum with in the high school. Some school boards on the reservations are made up of non-Indians. Some school boards are made up of Indians, and I think generally the ones that have the stronger curriculum to preserve the old traditions are the ones that have Indian school board members. But school boards in this country are open to anybody. Anyone can run for a school board, and many times in the past. Indian parents or grandparents saw the Western kind of a school as sort of threatening, because youngsters would learn a certain thing at home, and then they would go to school, and then their non-Indian teachers taught them something else.

That led to a very high dropout rate and, in fact, it led to a high suicide rate, too, among young teenagers. I think that local Indian school boards are working better with parents now to try to preserve those old cultures.

Q: With this restructuring of the education system to suit Native Americans, do you see there's a surge of Native American pride among the youth?

BNC: Yes, I do. I notice that on our own reservation, which is the Northern Cheyenne reservation. I was raised off the reservation. My dad left there, and, in fact, my mother was not Indian. She was an immigrant from the little island called Pico off the coast of Portugal. So I'm Indian on my dad's side. I wasn't raised on the reservation, but I go home regularly, two or three times a year, and I'm in what is called the council of chiefs, which is the traditional group. And in the last, say 15 or 20 years, I've noticed a resurge of interest among young people to come to those society meetings and try and learn from the older people. So I think we're seeing across the country a new awakening of pride, but I'm not sure it's just Indians. I think that there's a reawakening of pride among all minorities in America – Blacks, Hispanics, American Asians – it just seems to me that many more people in America are simply not buying into that old melting-pot theory, as it's called.

There's been sort of a rebellion against that in the last couple of decades by many ethnic Americans, and they're simply saying: "We come from a very, very strong, old culture, much older than the American culture, and we have certain ways of doing things and certain cultural values that shouldn't be lost." And I think that's very healthy. Americans are increasingly recognizing each other's ethnic diversity, and the Indians are just part of that movement in America.

Q: As a Democratic senator of mixed-blood origin, how do you personally resolve the conflicts of ancient ways with 20th-century American culture?

BNC: Well, I don't resolve the conflicts, because I don't have any conflicts. I do what I think is right. I participate in the Indian culture with a drum group and I go to the sweats and the sun dances and the society meetings – usually just three or four times a year, because I don't live at home. But many of my relatives come and see me and stay with me in Washington. I have never felt that conflict. I know that that does exist with many young people who are kind of pulled back and forth between two cultures and two societies. It's simply never bothered me, because I've always believed that you can live in both structures.

Most Indian people, I think, recognize now you can't survive the way you could 150 or 200 years ago. The buffalo are gone. You can't move anywhere you want and hunt anywhere you want or fish anywhere you want. We have to learn how to make a living in 20th-century America and, at the same time, to preserve the cultures, too.

I try to move freely within both worlds, and that's what I've tried to teach other youngsters – that you can do that. You don't have to choose one and then disregard or abandon the other. You can try and accept the best parts of both.

You know, American traditional beliefs, even though we have many problems now, constituted a very nice kind of a culture. Indians had no crime and they had no disease and they had no prisons and they had no prostitution. They had no drug abuse, they had no alcoholism. They had, really, a kind of a wonderful lifestyle centuries ago.

Looking at our social structure in America today, we see many things we don't like. We don't like all of that social decaying we have now. Maybe if Indians that still know the old ways could teach it and the new Americans could learn it, maybe we'd make a better culture for both of us.

Senator Campbell, the first American Indian in more than 60 years to serve in the United States Senate, was raised off the Northern Cheyene reservation his father had left. His mother was an immigrant from Portugal. After serving in the Colorado state legislature for two terms, Campbell was considering returning to his family, his small ranch and to his work as a designer of Southwest jewelry. Instead, he was persuaded to serve three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then run for a U.S. Senate seat from Colorado. Even though Campbell is accountable primarily to his constituency in Colorado, he finds he has "inherited a national constituency" of native Americans by virtue of being the only native American currently serving on the U.S. Senate.

Text 4. “I Want to Make Changes”

An Interview with Sylvia Flute (a shortened version)

Seventeen-year-old Sylvia Flute belongs to the Lower Brule tribe of the Sioux nation. She lives on a scenic reservation near the sparkling blue Missouri River in central South Dakota with her parents and six siblings. Native American culture plays a big role in her life, but she wants people to know Indians don't live in tipis or travel by horse-drawn wagons anymore. Sylvia lives in a small comfortable ranch house and attends school on the reservation. The reservation is still predominantly agricultural, with its own herds of buffalo and elk. But it is also predominantly poor, and many residents have alcohol problems. The tribal council of the reservation recently tried to improve its standard of living by opening a gambling casino. For now, Sylvia hopes to be first in her family to attend college, after which she wants to find ways to improve the quality of life on the reservation and to preserve her Native American Lakota culture.

(Note: This is a transcribed interview and some language use is colloquial and/or non-standard.)

How would you describe South Dakota?

It's all plateaus, few trees, a lot of flat land all over. You don't see smog anywhere, not even in Rapid City. It's really beautiful. When I was in New Jersey, I couldn't see nothing; there were trees everywhere! Here I can see houses, hills, just the open air and the river. I can't stand to be in other places.

The people I met in New Jersey would say, "You really an Indian?" They asked my mom a bunch of questions about the reservation and South Dakota. When they found out we don't live in tipis or anything anymore, they were surprised! They thought the stuff was interesting.

At times it's kind of hard being Native American because of some of the prejudice around. People just don't accept you for who you are, and they always judge you and stuff. If they were in our shoes, then they'd know how we felt whenever they say stuff to us. But I like being Native American. It's fun. There are a lot of different things for us to do, like go to powwows and different gatherings. We have big families, so somebody will always be there for us. I think Native Americans are special, because Caucasians don't have no heritage or nothing to fall back on, while we have all different kinds. We have the Lakota and Sioux language and culture. I want to learn my language. I feel weird because most of my friends don't speak Lakota. I don't know if they want to or not, but I'm one of the ones that wants to. I think it will help out, and then I can teach my kids. I think it's better being a Native American.

What are your favorite cultural traditions?

The food. I like the food. The fry bread and the wojapi [fruit pudding]. We have other kinds of food, but just smelling them turns me off. I've tried tripe; it's like liver. My grandma makes it every summer and you walk into her house and then have to go back out. The smell!

I would probably also say the powwows are my favorite. There are different powwows all over South Dakota, and in Montana and North Dakota. A powwow is a gathering of different tribes. We have a powwow every year here on our reservation in August. A lot of tourists come. It's usually three days long.

One of the big activities at a powwow is dancing. We have different categories of dancing. There is the women's traditional, women's fancy, and women's jingle. Then there is men's traditional, men's grass, and men's fancy. My brother is a fancy dancer. We usually have dancing contests in those six categories.

And we have a bunch of different concession stands where we have different kinds of food. Everybody comes to either dance or watch. It's like our local fair. We have baseball and soft ball tournaments going on and a rodeo during that time.

If you had to choose between being a citizen of the Sioux nation and being a U.S. citizen, which would you choose?

My Sioux nation. I have a lot of ancestors that I look up to who fought in wars and stuff. I want to try and accomplish as much as they did. I would also choose my Sioux nation because we have such big families and our cultures will always be there. I can always fall back on that stuff. If I chose the other one, what can I fall back on?

My grandpa is a medicine man. I don't know how old he is, but he lived here all his life. My uncle is going to sweats [sweat lodges] right now with him. The sweats are when you go in a hut with fire going inside and it's really hot. You just sit there and pray. You talk with whoever is in there. It's usually medicine men, but a lot of people go for different reasons. I think they have them every weekend. It’s a form of church. We just sweat and sweat and sweat. My grandpa built one himself.

We are enrolled in the Episcopal Church, but most of my family goes to the sweat. Only once in a while do we go down to church, for Christmas or Easter or something like that.

I've never been in a sweat before. I don't think any of us kids have except my brother. He had to go through sweat before he got his Indian name. He would go every weekend. You just go as much as you can before you get your name, and then during a name-giving ceremony, they have one of the older relatives come and give you an Indian name. You can be any age when you get your name.

Do you have one?

No, I don't. I want one! I don't know if my mom is planning on it or not. There is a lot of planning that goes into it. You have to have a feed and a give-away. A feed is when you feed everybody that's there, make a big old dinner. In the giveaways, you have to buy gifts, like a pair of socks or something, and pass them out to everybody. On the days we have giveaways during the powwow, whoever is in the arena gets something. We also had star quilts made and they were given to my grandparents for my brother's giveaway. That's the way to say thank you to your family.

It's very interesting to go to a powwow and see what's really there. If I was a different race, I would be like, "What are you talking about?" I would be so confused. But since I'm Native American, I know how it is. It's kind of hard to explain to people until they go and see for themselves.

What do you think would help stop prejudice and misunderstanding?

If we go around and talk, then other races will know what we're going through. We need to let them know how we feel when this stuff happens to us. It's not that complicated, just to come in and listen. At a seminar we had on Wounded Knee, all I seen there was Indians, just all Native Americans. This one girl commented that, "If the whites want to know how we live and how we grew up, how come I don't see none in here?" I think there is enough interest: I just don't think there is enough effort.

How is the Sioux Nation different from others?

Well, I don't think the Sioux Nation is very much different from anything. We're just one of many different tribes from all over and we all have our own language and our own cultures, but I don't think we are different from anyone else.

As for Lower Brule, I don't think we're very different, except this is supposed to be a dry reservation [no alcohol]. What really got everyone mad here is because they put a bar in there [at the new casino]. I don't think Brule is any different from anywhere else except for the casino.

I don't like the casino at all. They said it would bring more job opportunities for everybody because unemployment was so high. The people working here are from the reservation, except the managers. They say it will bring in money to our reservation, but I don't think it has.

At school, we're doing a project where we have to come up with ideas for bringing in money to the reservation and report it to our tribal council. A lot of students thought up different, exciting things that would help the reservation a lot. Me and a friend of mine came up with a movie theatre, and some more of my friends came up with a restaurant. Someone said a swimming pool and a drug rehabilitation center. One wants to work on a riverboat that gives riverboat rides. I also think we could have a gas station, like an all-night 7-11 [store], because people go for days without gas for their cars because we only have one gas station here and they don't supply very much gas. That could bring jobs and help out the reservation a lot. I'm happy with my reservation right now the way it is, but there are some things that need to be done. I hope they take some of our ideas seriously and try and do something with them.

On the reservation you have a tribal council. What does that do?

The tribal council makes up our government, our laws, what we should do and shouldn't do. It is made up of the chairman, vice chairman, secretary, treasurer, and three council members. They vote on proposals, like whether to have a powwow on a certain day. I try to get into our tribal government as much as I can. I think they are pretty effective. They are okay right now, but I just hope they'll help me in what I'm trying to do for my people in the future.

As for the federal government, it should, if we make up rules, let us go by them. But if it's something they don't approve of, then they usually jump in. The Bureau of Indian Affairs provides us with money for our schools and funding for most of the projects we do. HUD [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] built most of the houses here.

Where have you learned about the federal government and the tribal government?

Most of it I've learned in school, though I do learn about the federal government by watching the news. I also have learned a lot about the tribal government at home. Sometimes my mom and dad get into an argument because they both have relatives on the tribal council. My dad is our chairman's cousin, and my mom has an uncle and a cousin on the council.

How would you describe an ideal citizen?

Very supportive of anything that goes on in the community. They should be more concerned about kids and try to keep them from drinking and drugs and stuff like that. And taking care of our elders – everyone I know respects their elders. Making sure everything is okay.

Do you think many people on the reservation fit your description of a good citizen?

About 65 percent, I think. They are glad to be free. A lot of them fought in wars [for the United States], and I don't know why. They weren't even citizens until June 1924! The others probably couldn't care less. There are some that don't like to do nothing, that wish they could just get out of Lower Brule, that it's nothing but a hole in the ground. They aren't supportive of anything. They don't do much.

Which of the rights of being an American citizen do you value most?

Freedom of speech. Because I think I should have a right to say what I feel and for somebody else to listen if they want to. I'd say also freedom of religion because that's our culture, that's what we'll always have and what should always he there for us. And we really value that freedom because the Native American religion was only recognized in 1978.

Would you ever run for public office?

Yeah, in my hometown. For the tribal council or something. After I get out of college. I could run for chairman – no, chairwoman! I just want to see some changes around here that would help a lot of the people. I'd probably want to come back and help the teenage kids, so they won't have to go through what I did. I would help them stay sober, have places to hang out and stuff. And I want to do things to keep the tribe going. People say this tribe is going to die out. That's what I'm scared of. I don't believe that's going to happen, but I am getting frightened now because I'm almost out of high school and I'll be going to college. But I probably won't want to leave here for college because I'm scared there will be nothing left when I come back.

From Who Cares What 1 Think? American Teens Talk About Their Lives and Their Country, edited by Marcia Thompson. Copyright© 1994 Close Up Foundation. For more information on Close Up Publishing's timely classroom resources or a free catalog, write Close Up Publishing, Dept. A55, 44 Canal Center Plaza, Alexandria, VA 22314, U.S.A., or fax to 01-703-706-0002.


American Indians Today // The American Studies Newsletter


Task 1.  Form the corresponding derivative:

N   Adj





Task 2. Define the following notions:

a) the ‘red road’;  b) a medicine man;  c) the cycle system;

d) MTV culture;  e) Caucasians;  f) a tepee

Task 3. Discriminate the following notions:

a) religion; b) paganism; c) witchcraft

Task 4. Translate into English:

1) разрешить конфликт;  2) восстать из пепла ; 3) передавать знания;

4) подъем интереса; 5) пробуждение гордости у коренного населения.

Task 5. Insert the correct preposition where necessary.

1. Nowadays many Native American rituals are literally rising … the ashes.   

2. Though American Indians understand that it is impossible to go back … time and to bring back … the old days, still they do their best to reenact … many tribal ceremonies and to rekindle … their traditions.   

3. Utilitarian understanding of nature resulted … urban man’s alienation … nature.   

4. Many Native American youngsters, though being brought up … Catholics, are trying to search … their religious roots despite the fact that their parents may not approve … that search.    

5. Indigenous cultures are not placed further down … the scale of evolution and ‘primitive’ does not really mean ‘simple’ or ‘pejorative’ … application … Indian cultures.  

6. Thousands of young Native Americans are making their way … remote places … the wilderness … vision quests.   

7. Due to some prejudice … Native Americans, people just don’t accept you … who you are.   

8. Some indigenous religious practices have continued to come … conflict … American law.   

9. According … many indigenous beliefs, everything … the natural world, … a person … a pebble, pulsates … spiritual life.   

10. Native Americans are designing an educational system to pass … their indigenous culture and traditions.   

11. Though Senator B.N. Campbell was raised … the reservation – actually, he’s Indian … his father’s side – he is … the council of chiefs.   

12. Unlike Native Americans, Caucasians in the USA do not have any heritage to fall … … and they do not look … … their ancestors that much.   

13. Native Americans conduct a lot of activities … a powwow.   

14. Sometimes Native Americans get … an argument … the tribal government and its role.

Questions for Discussion

1. What is the most popular of all Native American religions? What maintains their ‘vitality’?

2. What factors, according to A. Ortiz, explain the survival of indigenous cultures? Do you share his views?

3. What’s the role of education in preserving Indian culture? What has been done so far?

4. Reverential vs. utilitarian attitude towards nature: which one dominates nowadays?

5. What are typical stereotypes and prejudices that many Native Americans have to combat? What are the effective ways of doing so? Extract the opinions mentioned in the text and think of some other ways.

6. According to D.O. Relin, today ‘a new generation of young American Indians is aggressively searching for its religious roots’, ‘they are quietly taking up the old ways. They feel they owe no explanation.’ Still try to explain their motives: why are they doing this?

7. Interpret R. Jim’s statement “They must walk two roads that never cross”. Also consider Senator Campbell’s opinion: admitting that many young people are ‘kind of pulled back and forth between two cultures and two societies’, still he ‘has always believed that you can live in both structures.’ Do you think it is possible ‘to walk two roads’ and ‘to live in both worlds’ or you ‘have to choose one and then disregard or abandon the other’?


alienation from

to combat (a stereotype/prejudice etc.)

to convert to

core (beliefs)

to exercise religions

to fall back on

to look up to

medicine man

to practice a ritual

(religious) practices

to pulsate with

to (re)assert one’s identity

to reenact (tribal ceremonies)

to rekindle a tradition




Elena P. Betenya

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