Tradition

Characters that are represented traditionally in Native American texts imply a sense of direction and clarity in understanding the connection to the reader, where nontradtional characters do not convey the same level of understanding to the reader, at least immediately. A character that’s chosen a traditional path is seen in Anna Lee Walters’, “The Warriors”, where Uncle Ralph claims to follow a more traditional Native American path in passing his Oral Tradition to his nieces. A character that’s chosen a nontradtional path is found in Louise Erdrich’s, “Love Medicine”, where we see Beverly Lamartine living out the life of a salesman, off the reservation, that doesn’t really do much to convey a sense of direction as is seen in his eventual return to the reservation in order to pursue his brothers widow, Lulu Nanapush, and his presumed child, Henry Junior.

The result of Beverly’s choices lead him out of the reservation as he served, “a small town world of earnest dreamers,” which is to say a lot of people that didn’t need too much convincing to part with their money (Erdrich 106). In serving these types of folks, Beverly often dreamed often of returning to the reservation and the chapter, “Lulu’s boys” seemed quite dedicated to him having worked through an internally rehearsed sales pitch to Lulu, only for it to end with him staying there a while as he became another one of “Lulu’s boys”. Beverly’s lack of engagement in traditional Native American culture throughout his life that was shared with the reader resulted in him living a life of dreams and regrets that ultimately brought him back to his “home”, where he found in Lulu and her children. This home was set to be replaced with a factory later in the story, but for a time this information didn’t come up. In this case, it was the nontraditional lifestyle that both lead him away and right back to one that was a bit more traditional as he returned.

Contrasting this, in Walters’ “The Warriors”, Uncle Ralph never really seemed to have a place for himself in a home. In fact, he died homeless as the story tells, “It never occurred to Sister and me that this would be Uncle Ralph’s end (Walters 396),” on referring to hobos. Ralph is depicted as coming to the girls’ home and telling many oral stories of a traditional Pawnee culture that both inspired and impressed upon the nieces a traditional lifestyle. This endowed them with a sense of history and identity that was not exactly in line with the events that actually happened in the story. Through the story, Uncle Ralph is shown sliding further and further into a self destructive pattern that pushes him to alcoholism, poverty and homelessness.

This happened as he more strongly embraced what was perceived by him to be a traditional lifestyle where it’s written, “I bring food, The warrior brings home food. To his family, to his people.” His face was lined and had not been cleaned for days. He smelled of cheap wine (Walters 402).” He did this because he perceived himself to be fulfilling a traditional Pawnee role per his own interpretations. This dis-associative event continues in that Uncle Ralph’s clearly displaying a detachment from reality that appeared to be fueled by a personal identity crisis that he masked with alcohol usage in order to cope with it. Later Uncle Ralph claimed, “I have thousands of warriors and they’ll ride with me. We’ll get our bows and arrows. Then we’ll come back!”, as the man sadly displays a psychosis that puts him straddling a traditional world that no longer existed which he so yearned for and the nontraditional one he was faced with the reality of living in (Walters 403).

In conclusion, characters that are represented traditionally in Native American texts imply a sense of direction and clarity in understanding the connection to the reader, where nontradtional characters do not convey the same level of understanding to the reader, at least immediately. Uncle Ralph’s oral traditions in describing the Pawnee people were very understandable, whereas Beverly Lamartine’s Indigenous traditions were not as readily discernible, and it was in his pursuit of those values after perceiving that he’d lost some grip on them that lead him to his home with Lulu. In this case, it was Beverly’s seeking out of a connection with tradition that gave him a sense of direction, whereas in the case of Uncle Ralph it was his connection to tradition that lead him to inspire the sense of direction and identity in his nieces, despite his own apparent loss in it. Much of this direction is spread through the usage of Oral Tradition in order to assist folks in understanding the tradition.

Works Cited

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine a Novel. Harper Perrenial, 2009.

Purdy, John L. Nothing But the Truth: The Warriors. Walters, Anna Lee. Prentice Hall, 2001.

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