Gunn Allen (1990). Special Problems in Teaching Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony.”

Gunn Allen, P. (1990). Special Problems in Teaching Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony.” American Indian Quarterly, 14(4), 379–386.

“… teaching a native text without recourse to ethnographic as well as historical glossing is an exercise in obscurity, because texts, either derived from or directly connected to tradition, are firmly embedded within the matrix of their cultural base. But to use the oral tradition directly is to run afoul of native ethics, which is itself a considerable part of the tradition.” (p 379)

“Among the Pueblos, a person is expected to know no more than is necessary, sufficient and congruent with their spiritual and social place. One does not tell or inquire about matters that do not directly concern one. I was raised to understand that ‘street smart’ around Laguna meant respecting privacy and modesty … [page break] … One did not inquire about or tell about were not hers or his to know or discuss” (p 379-380)

“‘… people who were making profits out of Indian culture’ (p. 348)” (p 380)

“Preserving tradition in print is not worth the price.” (p 380)

“If people die as a result of [page break] preserving tradition in the white way of preservation, for whom tradition be preserved?” (p 380-381)

“‘The Navajos believe that language does not merely describe it creates it’ (p. 390).” (p 381) (from Toelken)

“In accordance with her academic training, she objectified, explained, detailed and analyzed their lives as though they were simply curios, artifacts, fetishes, and discussed the supernaturals as though they were objects of interest and patronization.” (p 383)

“I have gone so far as to learn as little ritual or myth as possible in any particular detail to further buttress my defense against ethical violations.” (p 385)

Selected References

  • Toelken, B. (1987). Life and Death in the Navajo Coyote Tales. In B. Swann & A. Krupat (Eds.), Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature (pp. 388–401). University of California Press.
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