Escaping the Past
For my fifth event analysis I was able to attend Eagle Warrior’s fascinating session where he enlightened the audience to some of the many aspects of the forgotten Native American culture. During the presentation I noticed a significant undertone of anger, animosity, and out right opposition to anything and everything American. This was at first extremely startling however, as the Eagle Warrior continued I realized where his strong feelings are rooted, and more importantly why they come to define the way he lives today.
Destruction brought upon, by settlers, caused the over five hundred tribes in pre-colonial North America to virtually disappear. This shocking statistic is highly speculative, and in many cases exaggerated by whichever party would benefit from a higher or lower number. The continued devastating effects, across many generations, of Native Americans is however, not debated. Eagle Warrior stated that he continues to express his deeply rooted pain in the form of speech, dance, and lectures. For Eagle Warrior those actions act as a form of healing that helps him to continue teaching anyone about the rich Lenape Culture, and the Native American culture as a whole. Eagle Warrior gave the audience a good sense of the level of oneness that he feels towards his original ancestors. In that union I saw the root of his strong feelings towards the United States.
Eagle Warrior’s does a fantastic job of differentiating himself from the United States in attempt, to redefine people’s views towards Native Americans. Through redefinition I found Eagle Warrior to be extremely dogmatic and at time aggressive with his choice of words, and statements. Claims that the United States frequently dumps nuclear waste and chemical run off into Indian Reservations seem plausible like plausible errors, but on the scale that he stated I sensed a level of exaggeration. In addition, Eagle Warrior likens the atrocities performed by Colonists on the Natives was the greatest Holocaust in history. This audacious claim does wonders to appealing towards the audience’s emotions. It is a though provoking, and emotionally devastating claim that was unfortunately not backed by any sort of physical evidence. Upon further review, I found that such a claim is highly speculative, and very difficult to make due to lack of significant physical documentation remaining from those times. Those critiques aside, I did find myself feeling a level of sympathy and respect for Eagle Warrior and Native Americans like him. His ability to differentiate himself, weather it be by not carrying a “Native American” identification card, or by continuing to produce CD’s of traditional Native music. By the end of the presentation I noticed striking similarities to Eagle Warrior and Shane.
Shane, like Eagle Warrior, found himself caught in a situation where his dark past, and peaceful present were destined to collide. Once the reader is made aware of the eminent conflict between the Starretts and Mr. Fletcher. Simultaneously the reader becomes aware of the battle that has been waging on inside Shane’s mind. When Marian said to Joe, “ Look what you’ve done just because you got him to stay on here and get mixed up in this trouble with Fletcher” (76). Marian was referring to Shane, and the turmoil that the situation between Joe and Mr. Fletcher has caused him. By the gesture of not carrying a weapon, in a society dominated by men brandishing revolvers everywhere they go, Shane alienates himself from such a lifestyle. The symbolic gesture of caring no weapon is meant to represent Shane leaving his dark and bloody past behind for a bright and peaceful future. For the duration of his time on the Starrett’s farm Shane grapples with the need for violence. Due to the circumstances between with Mr. Fletcher, Shane is eventually forced to result to his past ways. After Bob saw Shane retrieve his gun from the barn Bob ran into the house and said, “ Father! Father! Shane’s got his gun” (129). The simple act of retrieving the gun from the barn sparked a moment of realization for the Starretts as well for the readers. The symbolic significance of Shane not wearing a gun came to represent his attempts to escape from his past. However, his retrieval of the gun is a gesture that shows he is not yet ready to leave it all behind. We see Shane unwillingness to leave the past again when he says, “ This is my business. My kind of business. I’ve had fun being a farmer” (130) Shane’s realization comes as a shock that the reader expected, but did not really desire. It marked the end of his peaceful days, and eventually the end of his time with the Starretts. As a result, Schafer makes the claim that at some point the past will always collide with the present, and at times the results are ugly.
This significant statement that Schafer makes can be juxtaposed with the statements made by Eagle Warrior. Both Eagle Warrior and Shane face situations where their pasts are brought to the forefront. For Eagle Warrior, he is reminded everyday of the continued pain and hardship that him and his tribe face in a society that wishes to forget its bloody past. While Shane is caught in an increasingly violent society that has no mentality for change, he ultimately chooses to leave it because of it causes his past to rise up. Both Eagle Warrior and Schafer make the distinction between themselves (or their character) in an attempt to enlighten their audience of the difficulty of leaving the past for good.