Native American Imagery

Topics: Iroquois, Native Americans in the United States, Seneca nation Pages: 5 (1878 words) Published: October 7, 2010
Powerful Imagery

Native American storytelling is one of the many traditions that make up their great history.  Mythology and the retelling of legends bring the members of tribes together and help shape who they are and what makes up their heritage. The myths “How America Was Discovered” and “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky” are both great examples of Seneca Indian culture because they tie members of the tribe together through their re-telling. The Seneca's tradition of oratory performance, passing down stories from generation to generation through verbal re-telling, litters their legends with language, perspective, and morality that is specific to their culture. While these two stories were initially told in an attempt to explain where humanity began and how the earth was formed, they are now treasured for their historical significance. It is stories like these that bring strength and character to the Seneca culture. The Seneca tradition of storytelling and oratory performance makes the use of vivid imagery an essential tool in the spiritual connection that the audience feels through the retelling. This spiritual connection gives the myths a deeper meaning, further than the obvious. This spiritual feeling is one of closeness and connectedness to culture and tradition. When the audience can almost see the images of the story being told, the imagery being used fully connects them to the spiritual aspects of the re-telling. In “The Woman who Fell From the Sky”, the Seneca traditions of honoring nature and recognizing the power that it holds is clearly expressed. Seneca refer to “Etinoah, Mother Earth, as a being who is nurturing, inspiring of beauty and the wellhead of human prosperity and happiness” (Bahr 587).  Seneca believe humans are part of nature, as can be seen in the fall of the young woman to earth and her apparent oneness with nature. She is described as building “herself a shelter, in which she lived quite contently” (Parker). The Seneca tradition also believes that humans are also custodians of the living world about them. Traditional Seneca elders often teach that since plants support them, they must in turn acquire responsibilities toward plant life, such as living in balance with the natural world as a way of giving thanks.  This belief can be seen in the son’s attempts to better their earth and to “increase the size of their island, afterward separating to create forests and lakes and other things” (Parker). These beliefs are further enforced in the Seneca “How America was Discovered” myth. In this story, the awful fate that awaits those who do not respect the earth and its resources is shown. When the young minister adheres to those he believes to be the son of the creator, he unknowingly destroys the peaceful lives of the American Indians. The minister is encouraged to “Take these cards, this money, this fiddle, this whiskey and this blood corruption and give them all to the people across the water” (Parker). His blind faith allows him to believe that by doing these things he will be as wealthy as the son of the Creator. He unknowingly destroys the beautiful country of America as these items cause the indigenous people of this new country to destroy themselves, and in turn their peaceful existence. The cards will make them “gamble away their goods and idle away their time, the money will make them dishonest and covetous, the fiddle will make them dance with women and their lower natures will command them, the whiskey will excite their minds to evil doing and turn their minds, and the blood corruption will eat their strength and rot their bones” (Parker). By destroying the Native American's beautiful world, it is revealed that the man the young minster believed to be the son of the Creator, is in fact the devil himself. This revelation portrays the disdain that the Seneca Indians felt towards anyone who destroys the earth. Iroquois Indians, and their closeness to...

References: Bahr, Donald. “Bad News: The Predicament of Native American Mythology.” Ethonohistory. Fall2001, Vol. 48 Issue 4, p587.
Parker, Arthur C. Seneca Myths and Folktales. University of Nebraska Press. Jan.
Thompson, Justine. “Native Beginnings.” Scholastic Scope. 1/10/2003, Vol. 52 Issue
7, p12.
White, Marian E. “Ethnic Identification and Iroquois Groups in Western New York and Ontario”. Ethnohistory. Winter71, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p19, 20.
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