Native Identity in Welch´s Winter in the Blood, The Heartsonh of Charging Elf, and Alexie´s Flight

Native Identity in Welch´s Winter in the Blood, The Heartsonh of Charging Elf, and Alexie´s Flight

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The construction of identity in Native American literature tends to be contingent on the trope of alienation. Protagonists then must come to terms with their exile/alienated condition, and disengage from the world in order to regain a sense of their pre-colonial life. In utilizing the plight of the American Indian, authors expose the effects decolonization and how individuals must undergo a process of recovery. Under these circumstances, characters are able reclaim knowledge of a tribal self that had been distorted by years of oppression. Through Welch’s Winter in the Blood and The Heartsong of Charging Elk, and Alexie’s Flight, we can see how the protagonists suffer from the tensions of living on the margins of conflicting societies, and that they must overcome their alienations in order to reconnect with a native identity.
Within Winter in the Blood, Welch’s unnamed narrator continuously struggles for self-knowledge, but is thwarted by a highly disconnected past, present and future. In his many destabilizing events, the narrator is unable to connect himself to a cultural or spiritual center, which inevitably denies him of a coherent identity. Throughout the novel he is denied the explanation of his true grandfather, why “First Raise stayed away so much,” and other recollections within his own mind because “memory fails” him (Winter 21, 19). However, the one event the narrator manages to recall is of “when the old lady had related this story, many years ago, her eyes were not flat and filmy; they were black like a spider’s belly and the small black hands drew triumphant pictures in the air” (Winter 36). His remembrance is based upon the premise of storytelling, which takes on the traditional aspect of Native American culture. Whi...


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... “loved...hated…betrayed….[and] the people who have betrayed [him],” he understands that “we’re all the same people” (Flight 130). The novel thus comes full circle in Zit’s awareness, and eventually, urges his new foster mother to “please call me Michael” (Flight 181).
Nevertheless, both Welch and Alexie challenge the dominating constructions of Native identity in their attempts to dismantle all forms of identity (both inside and outside indigenous cultures). By deconstructing the stereotypical tribal experience, Zits, Charging Elk and the Narrator offer a more freely defined model of Native American identity. Each character is thus liberated from colonial ascribed identities, and is able to take on a more ahistorical one. In taking on this model, the protagonists subvert the artificial distinction of society, and reveal a true identity of the contemporary Indian.

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