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I enjoyed reading Disciplined Hearts by Theresa O'Nell because i find that many people today do not know a lot about the Native American culture and what they have been through. Their cultures history is not talked about as much the African American or Hispanic's are. Most Americans know about the hardships that the African American and Hispanics had to overcome to assimilate to the level that they are today. I think O'Nell is trying to talk about the history of the Native American culture because, she believes that the reason that their culture is not well-known because of the fact that they have chosen to keep living like their ancestors and not assimilate to the American culture.
It is not out of line to expect Native Americans to live like their ancestors, and I agree with the way that O'Nell made the government look like the wrongdoers. She talks like "indians" are just part of stories or like they have not kept up with the times. This book points out many of the problems for native americans by bringing out problems in identity, culture, and depression dealing with the Flathead Tribe in Montana. The book is divided into three parts to accomplish this. Part 1 is about the American government's policies that were put on the reservations and how it affected the culture of the Flathead Tribe attached to that reservation. This is the base for is to come in the next two parts, which talk about how lonliness an pity tie into the identity and depression.
O'Nell talks about how the indian culture is much more than the typical American may perceive. She talks about how storytelling in Flathead culture is very important and shows the reader many of these stories dealing with the "white man." One that really caught my attention that had to do with the identity of the Native American was the story about a chief that got pulled over by the cops for no reason al all. The story starts off with the Chief of the Flathead tribe driving his granddaughter around and getting pulled over. When he was pulled over he was issued a ticket, for not wearing a seat-belt. When he confronted the officer about how they are not allowed to pull people over for the sole fact of not being buckled in, the officer said that the vehicle "looked suspicious.
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Also on the subject of their culture, O'Nell brings out a good point in talking about their reservation land. The government set aside land for the Flathead tribe to call theirs. Then, not understanding their culture and how Native Americans like to live the way their ancestors did, the government opens their land to the public to build and live on. The government also starts to issue citations for illegal hunting, which is part of the Native American culture which is not the right thing to do. In order to open these lands they had to sign an agreement with the Flathead Tribe and since they could not get the signature, they just forged the signature and got their way. Because people don't understand the Native American culture, problems for the Flathead tribe arose and brought them down. It also seems as if the government is trying to destroy this culture, and after reading this book, I believe that its because they don't know exactly what being Native American is.
O'Nell also tries to put a finger on exactly what it is to be "indian." She deciphers about how the identity of a Native American involves categorization. This being the difference between bring racially, ethnically, and culturally Native American. She has a line up in the book about how when someone is married into the Native American culture and takes it in, they are considered culturally Native American, even though they are not Native American by background. The she also shows a diagram that really helps put a finger on how they in a sense, rank, their Native American level. It consists of concentric circles where the middle is 100% Native American and each level out the people get a little less Native American. Basically the way she describes it, I personally got the vibe that being a Native American is not a clear or completely consistent identity; By that I mean that the concept of being Native American is different in everyones mind. Overall it seems to end up being who seems to belong to the culture.
O'Nell also analyzes how the death of a loved one affects the Native Americans. When a loved one dies, the result in the Native American culture is grief and loneliness. When other members of the tribe see members grieving, they turn their attention to being compassionate and showing pity for them. She writes "by transforming their sadness into compassion and by converting their fear of loneliness into pity" they essentially discipline their hearts, relating back to the title. Basically, they keep each other moving in the right direction in their culture by remaining as one big family, and keeping each others spirits up.
When O'Nell points out the story of one man's life of depression and lonliness, it really makes an impact on what the American culture had done to the Native Americans. There is one point in the story that really grabbed my attention, and that was when the mans grandmother told him that he would have to live and learn the ways of the white man. This quote just shows exactly how the government was ruining the Native American culture. People were forced to have to try and be like everybody else to succeed in the world as it was. They had to try to fit in essentially because they wouldn't be accepted otherwise. This led the specific man who was telling the story to chronic depression and pain, which, in turn, caused him to contemplate suicide.
Even though this is one man's story, the culture of the Native Americans was so closely intertwined that all of them suffered, maybe not to the extent of this specific man, but to a very extreme level, because their culture was being executed in a sense. The Native American people got so depressed that this man said that he felt like the only one around. This to me is crazy because of how tightly knit the Native American culture was before all of the assimilation processes started to take place. What these people have been through and the way that they handled it is incerdible in my mine.
That is why O'Nell named this book Disciplined Hearts, The people of this specific tribe in Montana, the Flatheads, showed that even a power as strong as the United States government could not bring down how tightly their culture meshed. They stayed strong together and battled as hard as they could through the tough times, but in the end, the discipline that they received for generations and generations paid off, because they are a strong culture and did all they could to try and save it in the eyes of the American people. For whatever reason that the American people don't recognize their culture as still being present, to them it didn't matter because they still belonged in their mind, to the Flathead tribe.