lit #5

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“Whose rights will we acknowledge? Whose human dignity will we respect? For whose well-being will we, as a people, assume responsibility?” - Robert Casey Mankind has struggled, since the beginning of civilization, to see beyond race and cultural differences when defining human value and dignity. The ideas of slavery, oppression, and genocide have all been cultivated by ignorance and the degradation of misunderstood people by a powerful majority that claim to be assimilating the minority. Both Charles Eastman and Gertrude Bonnin give a powerful depiction of Native Americans as they come to understand their place in the new world and desperately cling to traditions and a culture that give them their dignity. Both autobiographies attempt to educate white readers about misconceptions and prejudices that they have been exposed to about Native Americans. These prejudices have caused a majority of white America to fear and dehumanize the Indian populace to the point of oppression. Through their storytelling, Eastman and Bonnin give a perspective of Native American culture that is relatable and real. These writings bring a sense of human dignity to Native Americans and dispel the idea that “Indians” are a savage people who are unintelligent, heathenistic, and in need of guidance by the white man. The notion of the Native Americans being a savage race who are inherently dangerous is a prevalent misconception in both storylines. In Zitkala Ša’s story the missionaries arrive at the camp in order to offer a new life and education to the children of the tribe. Yet, Bonnin alludes to the prospect that the invitation goes beyond the good, Christian nature of those offering schooling to the young Indian children. There is an underlying ... ... middle of paper ... ...ite man says. Instead, acceptance is never going to be afforded to the Native Americans no matter their culture’s differences or similarities. The white man purely refuses to want to understand the beliefs of Native Americans. While the natives are happy in their simplicity, the white man could not fathom a life that was harmonious to all that surrounded them. They desire to conquer and conquer they did. These examples are merely a few in the attempts of Bonnin and Eastman to bring understanding and empathy to the Native Americans at the turn of the 20th century. The idea of a savage people that needed the help of the white man to have intelligence, religion, and identity were far from the heart of Native American culture. Eastman and Bonnin give us a rich text to bring the Native American struggles to light and help the reader to eliminate their prejudices.
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