“Shh, wasicun anigni kte – be quiet or the white man will take you way.” Chapter two, That Gun in the New York Museum Belongs to Me, is the first time we see Lame Deer’s conflict to coexist in the two worlds. As a child all he knew was that his nagi, spirit, was telling him to be a wicasa wakan, a medicine man, and he was quite ecstatic to the point of tears about this, but although he was already a man after his vision, he still needed to learn a little more about his visions and wait to become a little more experienced as we see in chapter one, Alone at the Hilltop. Once we get to chapter two we see that to the children of the tribe, being taken away to the white man’s world was the scariest thing. Scary enough to make them stop misbehaving and go right to bed when told. One day, someone from the Bureau of Indian Affairs came, and his worst nightmare had become a reality. They were sending all the children to a white man’s school which, to the Indians, was equivalent to a jail. In this “jail”, the Indian children were forbidden from speaking their own language and practicing their culture. Doing so would result in punishment that ranged from time out at the wall or being hit by a ruler. During this time, although it was hard to keep holding onto his own culture because of the wasicun, he did so and rejected the ideas of this new society.
Money is a big thing to all Americans as you can see in the story, but the way we were raised and what we had growing up can easily sway our perception of things. In chapter three, the green frog skin, referring to money, a guard states about Lame Deer’s grandfather, “Only a crazy Indian would think of that, using good money for buttons, a man who hasn’t a pot to piss in.” This is said after the guard has seen Lame Deer’s vest, it was made of black velvet and had ten dollar coins for buttons. The guard thought this was foolish because in his eyes, money is meant to be used to buy things, but those things you buy are to make you happy. The way I see it though is that Lame Deer’s grandfather, Good Fox, was quite smart in that he had money and he was able to save it for a rainy day and still have it making him happy being able to wear it on his vest. During this time Lame Deer was young so he thought it was right to do whatever made you happy like his family and culture taught him but the guards were throwing otherwise into his mind.
Being white at that time meant hoarding your own money and not helping others if you were in any need of help, but this was not so for the Indians. “They were wagging their fingers at usâ€¦ they are telling us poor people can’t be generous. But we hold onto our Otuhan, our give away, because they are what help us remain Indian.” Indians believed that life was not about getting gifts but about helping others even when you are also in a time of need. One example given was when an old woman that Lame Deer knew had a grandson who died. It is not customary for the family members to cry or be saddened by their lost loved one for more than four days because it was believed that if you are depressed for longer than that, their Gods would give them something to be sad about. It was about making the best of everything that’s happened. Being remembered was a big part of this so during the funeral ceremony, most everything would be given away in loving memory of the deceased to those who needed the items. This along with the man who used all his lottery winnings to feed the other Indians whom he did not even know is part of their culture. The Native American way was to never say no to another in need when you are capable of helping which was the complete opposite for the white man.
In Chapter three, Lame Deer states, “â€¦I have to be two persons living in two different worlds. I don’t like it but I can’t help it.” Lame Deer had to try to live his life through the conflict but it was hard as “Indians chase the vision while the white man chases the dollar.” The conflict of these two lives runs throughout his life. As he is getting older, he gets pushed back and forth in form the secular white society and his Indian culture. He was drawn to the white man’s side as he gets into his cars, making lots of money, and women, but can you chase your vision when your mind is clouded with all these things? So in the end when he was a little over 39 he realized that he had seen enough of this white man’s world and decided to become a full time Indian again.
From this we can come to a conclusion that the American religious experience is that of being able to try to live in both your own religion and culture or the white man’s society. There is a huge difference in both their ways of thinking which makes this a conflict of interest between the whole US government and the leaders of one’s own tribe.
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