Natural Justice…Friday Fictioneers

As far as George Bates was concerned, “the only good Indian was a dead Indian”. Yet, his wife was always nagging him with the words of that blasted do-gooder, Atticus, from To Kill A Mocking Bird:”You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

That was how he found himself spending a week out in Cherokee territory, sleeping in a tee pee and mingling with their people.

However, George was a slow learner. Had to be taught a lesson instead.

….

99 Words

As an Australian who has never been to America, I found it difficult to grapple with the Native American theme in this week’s prompt. From where I sit, it seems that Native Americans are largely invisible and it’s very rare that you see Native Americans on TV or discussed as part of  the political process. This has concerned me for some time and aroused my curiosity. I had to do a fair amount of reading tonight before these ideas started peculating through. I was quite shocked to read that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian” is line from Laura inglus Wilder’s  Little House on the Prairie.

I read in Wikipaedia:

“An important moment concerning Wilder’s depiction of Native Americans occurred in 1998, when an eight year old girl read Little House on the Prairie in her elementary school class. The novel contains the line, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”; and this caused the girl great distress. Her mother, Waziyatawin Angela Cavender Wilson, a member of the Wahpetunwan Dakota nation, challenged the school on its use of the book in the classroom.[15] This prompted the American Library Association to investigate and ultimately change the name of the Wilder Award, an award named after Laura Ingalls Wilder, to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.[15] This award is given to books that have made a large impact on children’s literature in America.[16]”

I knew none of this before so feel I’ve learned quite a lot tonight.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Renee Heath.

Best wishes,

Rowena

23 thoughts on “Natural Justice…Friday Fictioneers

  1. Jelli

    Are you aware that Cherokee’s really don’t live in teepees…. in the east, we tend to live in hogans or long houses… In fact, most of us live in real houses, just like everyone else. Sorry, not trying to be too judgmental…it’s been a long couple of weeks for us what with all that’s been occurring. I did really enjoy your story. The best way to learn a culture, really learn it, is to live it. It is said “Walk a mile in my mocs”… I say, walk more than a mile…walk ten, even a hundred.

  2. 4963andypop

    Clearly George needed to learn a bit more preferably in a way that didn’t irritate his hosts.
    I have read a few of the wilder books and the phrase you quote is only one line in a series of seven books that often depict relatively friendly encounters between settlers and neighboring tribes. But there are also a lot of scenes, where the family fears for their lives or considers the neighboring tribes to be likely to attack or harm them.
    I do not know to what degree the books are based on reality vs prejudice or stereotype, but i know many of us probably grew up with them, and like with tom sawyer and huck finn and the racism depicted therein, I would urge you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, just because a book offends modern sensibilities.

  3. Rowena Post author

    Thank you very much, Lisa. I really wanted to respect the Native Indian culture in whatever I wrote.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  4. Rowena Post author

    I know what you mean. I’ve only dipped my toe into Native American History and for that matter the massacres which also took place here in Australia. Brutal stuff. A disgrace to humanity.

  5. Rowena Post author

    Thank you for mentioning that, Andy. My sister-in-law is a huge fan of the series, which is what prompted me to look it up and I was quite shocked by the quotes and my husband put it into a similar context to yourself. That phrase struck a chord with me because my father-in-law has been quotes as saying: “The only good snake, is a dead snake” He lived in Tasmania where there were only 2-3 types of snakes and both deadly. I would like to read the Little House on the Prairie series for myself to see what to make of it. It’s not fair to see history through modern eyes and it is told from a settler’s perspective.
    I might’ve read Tom Sawyer years ago and haven’t read Huckleberry Finn so that’s two more books to add to the list. Books which I feel everyone should read.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  6. 4963andypop

    Never too many books on that reading list!

    I may just be getting old, but I sometimes find it dismaying, how easily what was once called literature is dismissed, because we dont agree with some of its propositions. The idea of reading, in my mind, is to expand our minds, not to restrict them to the ideas that our place and time has deemed acceptable.

    Just because we abhor some of the ideas spawned by Nietsche’s philosophy doesn’t mean we should strike him from our list. And while Wilder is reviled, for voicing a common attitude of the day, as reprehensible as it may be to us, Shakespeare is rarely blackballed for his sexism or racism or lack of concern for human rights (not his, exactly–his time’s.). He is understood in the context of his time, with an explanatory glossary so we can understand the perplexing beliefs and superstitions that were prevalent then. In my opinion people–even children!– should be free to read what interests them, and if we have concerns, there are ways other than censorship to prevent these books from being mis-read.

    Sorry for the diatribe.

  7. granonine

    Not defending the hatred expressed in the “good Indian” comment, but if we put ourselves back in time and lived with the fear that many of the pioneers knew, it would perhaps make the saying more understandable. It was a whole different life back then, for sure. And kudos to you for taking on something that was new to you 🙂

  8. Rowena Post author

    Thanks, Linda. It is very difficult with returning to these historic texts with our modern sensibilities. Values and living conditions were diffierent then and because I haven’t read the books and they’re not part of my cultural heritage, it’s much easier for me to leap onto a quote which may well not be representative of the book as a whole.
    I had another experience recently where I was writing about Sydney’s Capitol Theatre and I was really excited to find out that Wirth’s Circus used to be there and I had a great great something or other who used to play the violin for Wirth’s. They even had a pool built into the stage with live seala nd polar bears. It sounded fantastiic until I translated that into the present day and not believing in cruelty to animals and polar bears being endangered.
    However, it’s good to get our thinking shaken up and to discuss how we should approach these matters from the past. Try to be discerning, which isn’t always easy.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  9. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much, Keith. I was wondering whether to skip this week but decided to rise to the challenge.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  10. New Journey

    Great story, I lived on Indian reservation as a child, my father worked for the Olympic National Park on the west coast of Washington. It was part of my life having Indian friends and learning about there ways of life when I got old enough to totally understand. I love learning about there ancestors and different ways of thinking. I have always been around different tribes, In Alaska it was amazing at how similar some of there symbols were to those in California. Here is the desert southwest there are lots of tribes. The one in town is called Tohono O’odham, People of the Desert. There are many more tribes right around us. In fact our council man for our county is a Pima Indian. I never once gave it a thought that one might not be familiar with the different tribes, but then again I know nothing of or anyone with aboriginal back grounds. I love learning about the different cultures and habits of all the different people from all over the world. We have visited some pretty wonderful museums on our travels and I am always amazed at the workmanship and quality of there handmade clothing, weapons and jewelry from the past. Beautiful for sure. xxxxx

  11. Rowena Post author

    That’s amazing, Kat. You were very privileged to have those experiences growing up as so few of us ever have the chance to experience another culture in that way and it would be so good to have a better understanding of the indigenous culture of where you live. I think I’ve mentioned to you that my aunt wrote the national history of Australia’s Aboriginal Stolen Generation and her partner is an Aboriginal elder and he was the NAIDOC Person of the Year a few years ago. I visited family with them years ago and was shown emu prints on the ground and we have food cooked in the ground, probably kangaroo. Need to get my kids over there so they can experience this before it’s too late. It would be an amazing experience for them.

  12. michael1148humphris

    I would find it very very hard to attempt to write anything about the Australian Aboriginal people, I would be at a total loss if I had to write about Tasmania. I applaud you for tackling this subject Rowena

  13. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much, Michael. I find that you just need to know enough and pick a few key details and you can get away with it for the 100 word pieces. Most of the prompts are literally quite foreign to me and it can feel a bit like making things up at times but so far so good.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  14. New Journey

    I vaguely remember that about your aunt. I agree you need to get the little ones over there, what a great opportunity to be so close to the culture of your county. xx

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