Destiny and Tragedy Jeremiah Okimasis experiences a physical journey, touching both his psychological and spiritual side. At age six, Jeremiah is thrust into the unfriendly and sometimes painful world of a Catholic residential school. His journey is filled with hardships, as he faces the school's desire for conformity. Consequently, he undergoes an inner battle, resulting in the denial of his own Cree heritage. Through music, only does Jeremiah find a retreat from the realization of his identity.
Tomson Highway's, "Kiss of the Fur Queen"ÃÂ attacks both Western religion and its abuses. Father Lafleur is depicted as a snake-like person, whose abuse upon young Jeremiah at Birch Lake Indian Residential School, is more psychological than anything else.
"Now Jeremiah. You know you're not to speak Cree once you're off the plane."ÃÂ Jeremiah felt a choke breaking against his throat. (70) The priest enforces a strict rule to speak only English as a method to strip away individuality and impose conformity.
This form of mental control is matched with the physical confinement of the boarding school, thus resembling a prison camp to control native subjects. For example, there is a prize awarded to those who rat out the most number of students for speaking Cree. This serves as a way of breaking down the community by turning the Cree against each other.
Jeremiah experiences a struggle within himself about the culture he is "born"ÃÂ into "ÃÂ this being the Cree culture, which he attempts to abandon through most of his natural life. Furthermore, he believes that there is no such thing as a modern native culture, but rather thinks of it as primitive way of life. In turn, he uses this way of thinking to justify his strong disapproval of his roots.
I don't even know if I enjoy being Cree, he knew he shouldn't say. That his embarrassment had descended to a simmering dislike dismayed him. But why shouldn't he hate this place, these cheap goings-on, this conquered race of people? (174) Jeremiah's perception of his culture is that of a carnival, "a Buffalo Bill Wild West Extravaganza"ÃÂ (171), "ÃÂ uncivilized and embarrassing. Take for instance the scuffle between him and Amanda Clear Sky at the Pow Wow hosted by The Winnipeg Indian Friendship Centre. Jeremiah is disgusted by Amanda's choice of regalia, her dancing outfit, and scoffs that only Hollywood Disney Indians dress like that.
Despite all the difficulties he faces, it is only through the spiritual virtue of classical music does Jeremiah reach salvation from reality. He perceives the art of music as if a little child perceives his warm puppy "ÃÂ with feelings of companionship, understanding, and comfort. These emotions that Jeremiah now need in his adult life, were first established during his childhood, fiddling around with his folk instrument, the accordion, alongside his family. Though initially unaware of this, Jeremiah gradually developed a passion for making music, consequently maturing into an outstanding concert pianist. Similarly, he finds a sense of gratification in the form of music, and uses the grand piano to keep in touch with reality, yet dismissing the negative aspects that accompany it; for instance the struggle to find his identity.
[Jeremiah] was on his way to drown himself in the bittersweet melodies of Chopin's mazurkas when avoiding North Main Street became an absolute necessity. (170) Not only does Chopin's mazurkas, for instance, serve as a form of classical music in which Jeremiah can find a retreat from the City of Winnipeg's crooked lifestyle, but also from his Cree culture.
The physical journey experienced by Jeremiah in "Kiss of the Fur Queen"ÃÂ is the reflection of the psychological and spiritual state of his own self. He begins his early childhood in a Catholic boarding school, and consequently perceives his heritage as being uncivilized, somewhat based on the school's ideology. He does not want to acknowledge any connection with the Cree culture, but rather abandons his identity by seeking salvation through music.