Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Native American culture is something we cannot forget about our history. We cannot separate the economic and political systems of today from those that caused the slaughter and destruction of an opposing system. Our ideas of human rights may be more advanced, but the materialism and greed that defines us as a capitalist society is the root cause of acts of injustice against Native Americans. Our best chance at reconciling our current culture with the one it nearly destroyed is to attempt to understand and immerse ourselves in the rituals, experiences, and way of life of the American Indians. Perhaps by doing this, we will identify aspects of their culture that better serve a society committed to "liberty and justice for all," as well as behavior that promotes a sustainable world.

Native American drumming and chanting rituals serve to unite the community in the act of worship. But even greater than that, the music created mirrors the harmony and rhythm of the culture itself, drawing from primal beats and a trance inducing tapestry of sound. I think maybe during this class, instead of trying to imitate recordings of Native American drummers, we should try to create our own sense of unity through a sound that represents us as a group.

drum circle commence!
source: http://www.drstandley.com/images/nativeamerican/Drums.bmp

Now let's analyze the different reactions to this kind of experiential immersion into the culture versus reading a translated account of the culture by one of its members.

What did you gain from Black Elk's story?

One of my problems with Black Elk Speaks is my inability to discern reality from the narrator’s “visions.”

I know that this account of a Native American ritual is supposed to give me a greater appreciation for a culture different from my own, but how can I appreciate something that to me sounds like empty words?


Because of the history of Native American subjugation, Black Elk's testimony is therefore that more fascinating and important. It is not often that we hear about the Native's viewpoint about incidents like Wounded Knee


What did you think the story was about?

when I read this story, I didn't feel like it was about failure.
What I felt, instead, was this deep, aching sense of loss.

I felt that Black Elk, with the death of his peoples dream, was losing his place in the world, and he was going to have to relocate, to find a new place, and the only way he was going to be able to do this was if he confronted what he felt was his failure and transformed it into something that would bring good things to the world, whether they were the good things he was originally aiming for or not

- lauren

This was a powerful message to me that there are important lessons to learn in suffering and that regardless of our circumstances we always have the potential to laugh or cry.


How was Black Elk as a leader?

He is chosen to be the leader, to accomplish the destiny for his people. Spirits call to him with a“sacred voice,” emphasizing his important role in this greater plan for his people (xxi).


To be honest I felt a little betrayed by Black Elk. He had set himself up as a redeeming, heroic figure.

I felt that his final sentences, his lifelong reaction to the events that he had witnessed, were complete and total contradictions to all that he had said before.


how far can spiritual confidence and affirmation through hallucinations really get you? I feel like Black Elk overhyped his initial gift of power and used it too frivolously.

- alice

When it seems as though the power of the cosmos is driving you forward, then nothing is impossible, no bar is too high, and greatness transforms into a trivial trait.

- sharad

How does this relate to your leadership vision?

Unlike Black Elk, I do not perceive my vision as fulfilling a destiny, but rather accomplishing my passions


As we prepare ourselves to be leaders, I think that we should keep in mind the trials leadership brings and develop an indomitable mindset, ready to tackle any task


While Black Elk’s story relates to my leadership vision, his experiences also remind me of my totem animal quest.

- helen

What is your general reaction to the story?

I cannot for a second believe that the white men responsible for these killings viewed Native Americans as equal, or maybe not even as true people.


The Native Americans did not have the technological innovation to stand up to the United State’s armies which ultimately led to their defeat, but the Sioux people understood an important concept that we so often talk about in class: unity.

They understood that land can’t truly be owned by any one person. They understood that all living and natural forces are in some manner sacred.

- chris

I realize they faced extreme hardship, but this is generally when a culture reaffirms their faith in the power of their spirituality and rituals

- alice

Power, in these situations, just means the failure to understand each other and the constant desire to hold the upper card.

They have a beautiful connection with nature and live in harmony, but they lose this sense of innocence because of what is brought to them.

- emily

Obviously, stories aren't the only things that make life circular. But I feel like they're a big part of the circle. And I also feel like they help point out to us the other parts of life that are circular.


How does the story, and Native American culture, relate to our topic of diversity?

when we attempted to recreate Native American music by listening and mimicking its sounds, I feel that we just glossed over another important aspect of the culture. We never learned what the music we made meant, or what purpose it served in the culture, only to imitate it in sound and hope that it made us more cultured.

I think context, drawing comparisons, and finding common ground are important aspects of learning about other cultures. If the true goal of diversity is not only acceptance, but understanding, simply reading about rituals and mimicking practices isn’t enough.

- molly

What aspects of Native American culture do you think we should incorporate into our current culture?

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