From Cultural Oppression to Cultural Enlightenment: Christianity and the Church in the Contempory American Indian Novels "Tracks" and "Last Standing Woman"

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Walker, Sean
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I have to say that my participation in and completion of the American Indian Literature and Law class here at K is what most sparked my interest in writing this SIP. Knowing very little about American Indian history and literature, especially the last 150 years or so, I entered the class like a babe into the woods. After reading the first few short stories and pieces through lenses of historical and racial contexts, like critical race theory, I became immediately interested, and hooked. The idea that American Indian literature is so deeply connected to their history and the oppression they have suffered under influences like the United States government and Christianity is very distressing but at the same time interesting to me. Christianity and the Church's role in the persecution of American Indians over the course of history has especially been played down or ignored all together. This is disappointing for a country that thrives so much on the images of its history and interesting when it is considered how this affects the perceptions of our own culture. Understanding this recent movement of literature as a response to historical and more recent oppression, I believe, is very important and I wanted to explore this idea further. Seeing the effects of Christianity from an American Indian perspective in literature can give us some perspective on our own actions and beliefs in relation to other cultures. This is not to say that this is all American Indian writers accomplish with their work. I rank many American Indian novels, short stories and poetry among some of the best works of literature I have ever read, but the motivation behind the writing and what it evokes is what most peaks my interest. Christianity's influence on American Indian literature in novels like "Tracks" and "Last Standing Woman" drew my attention due to the fact that it really plays a large and complicated role yet was often overlooked both in our discussions in class and literary criticism that I found. This is not because the issue of Christianity in the texts is unimportant but simply because there are so many issues in the novels that can be addressed. Seeing the lack of attention to this factor and considering my own personal interest in Christianity and how it influences cultures foreign to itself I felt compelled to direct my SIP at this challenge.
iv, 48 p.
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