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“Which was the braver, the one who left, or the one who stayed?” A statement of this nature truly describes all cultures and beliefs. Are those who go off on their own to discover new ground, education, and acceptance the brave or the weak? Through each dimension of life we encounter this statement, whether consciously or subconsciously. Craven?s novel, I Heard the Owl Call My Name aids one in finding out why our elders lose their faith in the youth, why our youth are so driven by diversity, and finally the reasons our rituals fade.
Pain can be heard in the voices of the elders as one reads this passage: ” we are losing our sons, our young no longer understand the meaning of the totems.” The way of life is slowly deteriorating as the young tribal members become attracted to the enemies of the Indian, the white man. Peter the old carver describes the young returning from their new adventure:
“My people are proud of them, and resent them. They come from a far country. They speak English all the time and forget the words of Kwak?wala. They are ashamed to dip their food in the oil of the oolachon which we call gleena. They say to their parents , ?Don?t do it that way. The white man does it this way. ?They do not remember the myths, and the meanings of the totems. They want to choose their own wives and husbands.” Peter goes on to say, “Here in the village my people are at home as the fish in the sea, as the eagle in the sky. When the young leave, the world takes them, and damages them. They no longer listen when the elders speak. They go and soon the village will go also.”
Curiosity has flooded the minds of the young and left the elders feeling abandoned. Simply thinking of the young departing and not carrying on the traditional ways of life, leaves the elders in disappointment. The world and ways of life are evolving before the eyes of the elders, disbelief has come upon them. The mere thought
of living a separate life disturbs the elders. As in all cultures, the different lives other generations follow sadden the elders, and force them to believe their way is not good enough.
As the young tribal members learn of the white man?s world, an attraction to this unfamiliar, ground intrigues them. Much like all young people, these Indians are on the search for independence and a “modern” way of life. Young people, no matter what culture they come from, have, “regretted going and wanted to go, and the elders wanted to keep them and were relieved when they went.” Moving towards new phases in life makes this statement so true. College is a step towards a young persons future. The separation the youngsters feel, and the loneliness the elders feel, makes the previous statement true for the Indians as well as any growing culture.
Searching for the perfect place in life and maintaining a status in that life are a few of the many thoughts on the minds of the youth of yesterday, today, and even tomorrow. “Gordon was not interested in the past. His mind reached only ahead with that urgent intensity which makes youth seem selfish, and is so necessary to difficult accomplishment.” Youth strive for their independence; yet look back and understand when they leave they are losing their childhood. For some, age plays a part in over all acceptance; the obstacles they leave behind may never be forgotten. Gordon?s story illustrates this idea, he may never forget Marta yet he is still drawn to the new world life. On the contrary, one may feel a need to return and end up losing to the new world in the end; we witness this with Keetah?s sister who was betrayed and died just trying to survive. A youths mind is interested in succeeding higher than the elders, young minds believe in the obvious power in front of them, the power which comes across with ease. For many generations, we have noticed a greater acceptance of the fast paced life, one which looks powerful, rewarding, and new. Cultures experience this situation in many fashions, yet the concept and results remains the same.
When a person moves on, do they really block out the past or is the future so bright they must move away from the rituals? “They are all alike, the old, tied by a common bond. “We are the only ones left who remember the old ways and if we do not speak now, they will be forgotten.” Thinking of “losing” traditional ways hurts the elders?, they are narrow-minded towards change. Keetah?s sister may have ventured to the new world to follow her “love,” but when betrayed, she felt as though she would be shunned and disgraced by her people. Abandonment is felt by all when change occurs; we feel like failures when we disappoint ourselves and the ones we love. How we approach our changing lives makes these feelings subside. A persons strength in their culture helps to remind them of the place they came from, the trials their elders have gone through to get the culture were it is at that time, and finally the security in oneself helps to ease the new transition.
“What have you done to us? What has the white man done to our young?” No matter what culture a person came from, when separation and growth occur, the elders always feel betrayed by their youth, the youth will always look for the “other” way, and the rituals that were once strong will slowly fade away. As cultures mature, so does society, and as we enter new phases, we also enter conflict and pain.
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