When the legends die

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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When the Legends Die is an insightful look into the Native American culture and .how it has been greatly influenced by other cultures. Native American society has always appeared in a mysterious way to most. Their ideals and culture seem ridiculous to us when we view them. Personally, I think we could greatly benefit from Native American culture. Their lifestyle was skillfully developed with true morals and respect for all things. Their culture is now portrayed as a broken-down society. These people have been both hopelessly demoralized and wrongly persecuted; because of this, their culture as a whole is suffering greatly. It is a shame to see such a once prosperous culture become insignificant in today's world. To understand what this once great culture consisted of, first one has to obtain a basic grasp of some of the ideals that were practiced by Native Americans. Philosophy of life, importance of nature, and the ways in which they can receive their names are just some of the most important aspects to basic Native American culture. Native American life philosophy was very unique. It stated that life was ongoing. Birth, life, death, and rebirth are the main principles of the idea, almost like an everlasting circle. This is where we developed the term cyclical. When the Legends Die is full of references to this key term. In fact, the whole book is cyclical. In the beginning, Tom lives in the traditional ways of his people, and is enjoying it. As he matures, he finds himself faced with new challenges and opportunities. In the end though, Tom finds himself coming back around to become a clout Indian to complete himself fully in a circle. Beside these examples of cyclical life in the book, there are many quotes also. When Bessie states "I want a lodge that is round"(18), this is direct evidence of cyclical life philosophy in the book and in Native American culture. The importance of nature was everything to Native American culture. They learned that by respecting nature and not overburdening it, it would actually be much more productive than trying to force it. The Native Americans have always followed this sort-of guideline to life. I believe this is the area where the World as a whole could benefit so much by just taking into account some of the many perspectives Native Americans took on nature. In the novel, this is clearly seen in the end when Tom once more becomes a clout Indian. When he kills the first deer only for the meat and does not pray for it's soul. He realizes in a part hidden deep inside of him, he has committed wrong and must fast to cleanse himself of the wrongdoing he has committed. The next deer he takes in the old way, singing the deer song, praying for it's soul and then using every usable part available on the deer. He now realizes he has found the right way and must follow it. The Native American naming process would not seem like such an important event to most, but once you realize the importance and pride that is associated with a Native American and his name, you will understand why this is such a big deal. There are many ways in which a Native American can receive his name, either intentionally or unintentionally. The first way is through experiences in life. This would include anything abnormal, or just a large event. The other way they can receive their names is through a spirit guide. Native Americans believe that all Indians have their own personal spirit guide. This is why you see almost all Native American names interacting with some part of nature. In the book, Tom Black Bull is his Christian name while Bear's Brother is his Indian name. The difference in this case would be almost impossible to tell but the reasons why are uniquely different. Both names sound like they could possibly have Native American origins, the Christian influences are unnoticeable in this instance. All of the prior subjects have helped provide you with a much greater understanding of some of Native American culture. It has provided you with an inside look into the ideals and life-styles of this once magnificent culture. You can now better understand this culture of many influences. Novels like When the Legends Die are prime examples of trying to improve our understanding of these people while also amusing us. The main message these books portray is that the Native American cultures of today are much less eloquent than the majestic and great society of the past, but they will always be known as a respectful and caring society forever.