Comparing Tecumseh’s warlike uplifting speech with the poems of contemporary poet Sherman Alexie, one can find seemingly archetypal elements of the representation of the peoples of the Native Americans. Analysis and consistent comparison of these texts allows us to observe the deconstruction of the epic image of the Native American. While Tecumseh’s historical speech is filled with pride and even cruelty, Alexie’s poems are perceived more difficult and less obvious.
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Tecumseh’s speech, its message and emotional charge, vocabulary, is conditioned by the speaker’s belonging to a specific national and historical context. In this speech, people are clearly divided into friends and foes, and accordingly the invaders of the land must be exterminated. This speech uses unity of speech – a call to brotherhood, emphasizing the necessary unity in the struggle. By saying that “the Great Spirit is angry with the enemies,” divine justice is brought to the side of the Native Americans. Tecumseh feels his people displaced and deprived of basic rights and calls for the return of the original order in society by bloodshed.
Alexie’s poems were written at the end of the 20th century and express rather a ghostly feeling of history that once happened on American soil. The poem “At Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School” describes a game of football in which elements of the ancient, eternal struggle of the Indians among themselves and with the white invaders suddenly begin to appear. In another poem, “Pawn Shop”, the culture of the Indians turns out to be repressed and insignificant, and their artifacts lose their sacred symbolic meaning and become just objects. “One heart beating under glass” is a symbol of continuing life and struggle for existence despite the devaluation of ancient culture. Thus, throughout the evolution of American literature, poets still exhibit a capacity for historical reflection. Alexie shows how in a world overloaded with new and disposable values, real and living traces of the presence of native culture still exist.
Alexie, S. (1992). At Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School. Native American Oral Literature: Vol. 2, pp. 1678-1679.
Alexie, S. (2003). Pawn shop. Native American Oral Literature: Vol. 2, p. 1679.
Tecumseh. (1810). Speech to the Osages. Native American Oral Literature: Vol. 1, pp. 484-486.