The Use of Land in Momaday’s House Made of Dawn and Silko’s Ceremony
Abstract: Both Natachee Scott Momaday and Leslie Marmon Silko ale American Indian storytellers. Their stories involve a narrative based on the people and place that exist in the archetypal consciousness of the American southwest. On the surface, these stories are concerned with spiritual, hence apolitical, atonement. The recognition and accolades from the mainstream for these two writers of ethnic origins are tinged with possibilities of patronization: Momaday is the first male and Silko is the first female American Indian authors to receive Pulitzer Prizes. Their recognition in the late sixties and early seventies can be justified in terms of the general swinging mood after the Civil Rights Movement. However, without taking any credit from these two authors, it can be argued that the strength of these two authors lie in identifying the evil in the white encroachment and the violation of the land. The spiritual healings of the protagonists of Momaday’s House Made of Dawn and Silko’s Ceremony come through their return to the traditional ways that are ultimately rooted in the land. At a deeper level, these narratives engage critically with the political treaties that reduce the first nation and the rightful owners of the land as mere ethnic minorities. Hence, the stories offered by these two authors are alternative discourses in which the ownership of land assumes new meaning, which demands a redefinition of morality. The purpose of this paper is to explore the political dimension of the treatment of land in two pioneering Native American texts, and understand as to why spiritual healing features so prominently in these two authors with their supposed apolitical and pseudo-religious overtone.
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Published in Fall 2008