Printer Friendly

The Indian Cinderella

The Indian Cinderella



What a Native American retelling re·tell·ing  
n.
A new account or an adaptation of a story: a retelling of a Roman myth. 
 of the classic fairy tale fairy tale

Simple narrative typically of folk origin dealing with supernatural beings. Fairy tales may be written or told for the amusement of children or may have a more sophisticated narrative containing supernatural or obviously improbable events, scenes, and personages
 tells us about the origins of American culture.

By Noah Berlatsky,  November 24, 2008 When I first stumbled on a reference to the Indian Cinderella, I thought the phrase must be referring to a South Asian legend. When I realized the title was meant to refer to a Native American tale, I was somewhat dubious. The whole Jungian universal-mythological-archetype thing makes my teeth hurt, and it sounded to me like this was some sort of post-facto effort to mutilate mu·ti·late  
tr.v. mu·ti·lat·ed, mu·ti·lat·ing, mu·ti·lates
1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.

2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably: mutilate a statue.
 somebody else's folk-tale-foot in order to fit it into a European shoe. I mean, how exactly would the Cinderella legend have gotten to pre-Columbian America? Did Thor Heyerdahl Thor Heyerdahl (October 6, 1914 Larvik, Norway – April 18, 2002 Colla Micheri, Italy) was a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer with a scientific background in zoology and geography.  paddle over with it or what?

To those who caught the logical fallacy Noun 1. logical fallacy - a fallacy in logical argumentation
fallacy, false belief - a misconception resulting from incorrect reasoning

hysteron proteron - the logical fallacy of using as a true premise a proposition that is yet to be proved
 in the paragraph above, congratulations: you are smarter than me, and quite possibly less racist as well. The trick, of course, is in my knee-jerk assumption that an Indian legend would have to be pre-Columbian. I knew quite well that native life changed immensely in the years, decades, and centuries after the Nina, Pinta Pinta Definition

A bacterial infection of the skin which causes red to bluish-black colored spots.
Description

Pinta is a skin infection caused by the bacterium Treponema carateum
, and Santa Marie touched shore.

Some cultures, like the Taino people of Hispaniola were wiped out more or less completely by a combination of European diseases and European policies of slavery, mutilation Mutilation
See also Brutality, Cruelty.

Mutiny (See REBELLION.)

Absyrtus

hacked to death; body pieces strewn about. [Gk. Myth.: Walsh Classical, 3]

Agatha, St.

had breasts cut off. [Christian Hagiog.
, and mass-murder. Other cultures sprang up, like the Florida Seminole, composed of members of the Creek nation and escaped black slaves — or, more famously, like the Plains Indians The Plains Indians are the Indians who lived on the plains and rolling hills of the Great Plains of North America. Their greatest dominance lasted from approximately 1750 to 1890. , who based their entire way of life on that European import, the horse. I even knew that Squanto, the Patuxet Indian who famously aided the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, was not, as he is often portrayed, some kind of innocent, friendly savage. On the contrary, he had been kidnapped repeatedly by Europeans, had lived in both Spain and England, and had served as a guide and interpreter on multiple British expeditions. He was probably more well-traveled and more cosmopolitan in outlook than many of the English people Noun 1. English people - the people of England
English

nation, country, land - the people who live in a nation or country; "a statement that sums up the nation's mood"; "the news was announced to the nation"; "the whole country worshipped him"
 he assisted.

As I said, I knew all this before I saw that reference to the Indian Cinderella. And yet, still, when I think of Indian folklore, I tend to think of old, immemorial IMMEMORIAL. That which commences beyond the time of memory. Vide Memory, time of.  stories, unblemished by European contact European contact may refer to discovery:
  • European discovery of the Americas
exploration:
  • European exploration of Australia
  • European exploration of Africa
colonization:
  • Colonialism
  • Colonization of Africa
 — stories about Raven, stories about Coyote, trickster tales. Somehow, despite half a millennium of contact, and despite the fact that I'm certainly over-educated enough to know better, in my head, Indians have their stories, we have ours, and never the twain Never the Twain was a British sitcom produced by Thames Television, created by Johnnie Mortimer and starring Windsor Davies as Oliver Smallbridge and Donald Sinden as Simon Peel.  shall meet.

The fact that I tend to say or think "we" when referring to European colonizers is part of what I'm talking about. The truth is that, geneologically, I don't have anything more to do with William Bradford than I do with Squanto. While those two broke bread in Massachusetts, my Semitic ancestors were half way around the globe, being casually persecuted in Eastern Europe. It's true that my son probably has some British in him. But then, he's also got some "black Dutch" — a euphemism my wife's grandmother used to obscure the fact that she was a quarter Cherokee.

Of course, I suppose you could argue that my culture is Western European, even if my blood isn't exactly. I speak English, after all; I live in a democracy based on an essentially British model; my whole liberal/atheist/scientific belief structure comes out of a Western latitudinarian lat·i·tu·di·nar·i·an  
adj.
Holding or expressing broad or tolerant views, especially in religious matters.

n. Latitudinarian
 tradition.

And yet, if it's easy to downplay the European influence in Indian cultures, it's even easier to forget or erase the native contribution to contemporary European — and especially American — life and thought. Perhaps most obviously at this time of year, much of what we eat was first raised by Indians — potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and, of course, turkey. Thanksgiving itself, for that matter, is based on native harvest festivals. And, of course, the American English that I speak is dotted with native words, expressions, and place names — like the Susquehanna River, which flooded my house the year I was born.

It isn't just food and names, though. Native cultures and traditions have worked their way pervasively into American history and thought. The first American pulp hero, James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo, was an Indianized white man. In Cooper's five Leatherstocking novels, published through the early 19th century, Bumppo was portrayed as a half-savage, comfortable in the wilderness, and ambivalent towards the white culture he saves. Certainly, this view of Indians is romanticized to the point of insult. But its power shows the extent to which the Indians have shaped American identity. Bumpo's distinctively native manliness has bequeathed a furtive fur·tive  
adj.
1. Characterized by stealth; surreptitious.

2. Expressive of hidden motives or purposes; shifty. See Synonyms at secret.
 Indian heritage to practically every iconic American loner loner Psychiatry A single young man estranged from society and family, who suffers from psychogenic pain, and tends to live 'on the edge', vacillating between aggression and depression; loners often have unrealistic goals, but are unable to work towards those goals  hero you can think of, from Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, to Han Solo, to Marvel Comics' Wolverine wolverine or glutton, largest member of the weasel family, Gulo gulo, found in the northern parts of North America and Eurasia, usually in high mountains near the timberline or in tundra. .


As this suggests, many of our most distinctively American ideas and ideals are distinctive precisely because they have Native American aspects. In North America, for the most part, native political structures were much more egalitarian, much more individually free, and generally had smaller, less intrusive governments than anything in the monarchies of the Old World. Benjamin Franklin noted admiringly of the Iroquois government, "There is no force, there are no prisons, no officers to compel obedience or inflict punishment."

Centuries later, Lucretia Mott and other feminists were shocked and inspired by the equal status of Iroquois women. Whether Indian government had a direct influence on the U.S. Constitution is still the subject of contentious scholarly debate (not to mention intense whining about multiculturalism by D'nesh D'souza). But I think it strains credulity cre·du·li·ty  
n.
A disposition to believe too readily.



[Middle English credulite, from Old French, from Latin cr
 to suggest that our Founding Fathers built a nation on the principles of freedom and equality and failed to notice how these virtues functioned in the societies of their closest neighbors.

So what about the Indian Cinderella? The story was apparently originally told in the mid-1800s by a member of the Catholicized Mik'maq tribe in Nova Scotia. It was written down by Silas T. Rand, a Baptist missionary, and published in 1884 by a scholar named Charles Leland. It is clearly influenced by Charles Perrault's Cinderella, which the Mik'maq teller had certainly heard. But it is ominous and melancholy in a way Perrault never was.

The tale is called "The Invisible One." The title refers to a being of great power who no one can see. He lives in a lodge by a lake with his sister, and it is said that if any girl can see him, she will marry him. Many try, but they all fail. Finally, a girl named Oochigeaska decides to make the attempt. She lives with her sisters, who treat her horribly — they even pushed her into a fire at one point, so that her face is covered with scars. Nonetheless, she gathers together some rags and goes off to try to see the Invisible One . . . and as she goes, all the people of the village laugh and mock at her.

Finally she reaches the lodge, and she does indeed see the Invisible One — who rides through the air on a sled tied with the rainbow, a symbol of death. Having seen him, Oochigeaska's burns are washed away, and she prepares to marry the being — though no one ever seems exactly happy at the upcoming nuptials. Indeed, it seems possible that we are to take the Invisible One as death; Oochigeaska may have escaped her tormentors simply by going to the grave.

Paula Giese, a native author, argues that this tale is a bleak satire. Certainly many of Perrault's assumptions are systematically and bitterly upended: that blood-kin do not perpetrate per·pe·trate  
tr.v. per·pe·trat·ed, per·pe·trat·ing, per·pe·trates
To be responsible for; commit: perpetrate a crime; perpetrate a practical joke.
 injustice; his appeal to fine apparel as salvation; his reliance on the ultimate goodness of the nobility. Family cannot be trusted, money and its trappings are useless, and hierarchies mean nothing. What matters instead are vision and faith, which lead to awe, to knowledge, to death — and perhaps to joy, or renewal.

This tale, made out of European materials, but decidedly un-European, is — obviously — a Mik'maq tale. But it is also an American one — or at least, set as it is in Canada, a North American North American

named after North America.


North American blastomycosis
see North American blastomycosis.

North American cattle tick
see boophilusannulatus.
 one. The story is about a promise; a turning away from a decrepit de·crep·it  
adj.
Weakened, worn out, impaired, or broken down by old age, illness, or hard use. See Synonyms at weak.



[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin d
 civilization and looking, in hope and dread, for a new and unseen truth. That's always been the promise of the New World. It's what the Indians gave, not to the Europeans, or to the whites, or to "us," but to the America of which they are a part. And it's why, when America is most itself, it is — not alone, but in part — Indian.
Copyright 2008 www.Culture11.com
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright (c) Mochila, Inc.

 Reader Opinion

Title:

Comment:



 

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Noah Berlatsky
Publication:www.Culture11.com
Date:Nov 24, 2008
Words:1417
Previous Article:Let Me Love ? 'Til Death Do Us Part
Next Article:Driven


Related Articles
Cendrillon: a Caribbean Cinderella. (children's bookshelf).
Garrick-Aug Worldwide named exclusive agent for 74 Seventh Avenue. (Retail New York).
GOVERNOR NEGOTIATING WITH TRIBAL LEADERS.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters