Wikiash Essay, Research Paper
Native American literature is, in general, not to my liking. I find that it is very often too far-fetched for even my imagination. Most Native American pieces are more like children’s fairy tales, than serious accounts of Indian history.
The tale of the first totem pole was no exception to this generalization. I found the piece very slow and quite far-fetched. However, I enjoyed the piece from a fictional literature standpoint.
“Wakiash and the First Totem Pole” is a story about a man named Wikiash, who has no dance in his tribe and so, decides to go find one. He is taken to a house where he sees animals (who have taken off their animal skin to reveal human bodies underneath) dancing around the place. Wikiash befriends a small mouse and gets her to help him sneak up on the animals in the house, so that he can learn a dance. Eventually, he bursts into the house in the middle of a dance. The animals are so ashamed that he has seen them without their animal skins that they will give him whatever he wants. He chooses to make them teach him some dances. However, he also asks for the house, a totem pole that is out front, and a mask. It was unclear to me why he asked for the latter 3 items, but ultimately he got them and was happy about it.
This story shows all the aspects of Native American religious and social beliefs. Firstly, the aspect of the “circle of life”, which is probably the most important part of Native American religion, is not directly mentioned in the story. I have come to the conclusion, after much reflection to symbolism in the that the “animals with their skin off” that look like humans, are probably dead people who were reincarnated as animals, or were somehow spiritually connected to each other through the earth and the environment. Other than that, the Circle of Life is not an important part of “Wikiash and the First Totem Pole”.
The story shows the importance of dance in Native American culture. Wikiash was practically an outcast until he learned the dances from the animals, then he was loved by all. It is the Kwakiutl way of life to dance, and its an important part of all their ceremonies, if I understand the symbolism in the story correctly.
Overall, the story of Wikiash was an enjoyable story, but, I would not like to read stories like that all the time. The story, on a good note, was lighter on the symbolism and complexly of ideas than other Native American literature that I have read. Despite relatively little symbolism in this story, the ideas and beliefs that the story was trying to portray about dance being important in Kwajiutl daily life was conveyed clearly and well. This story gives the impression of a children’s fairy-tale, rather than a serious representation of Native American mythology and the first totem pole.