a series of critical images

Most of the images I used for these pictures came from the internet and library books, I didn't have the chance to clear the copyright on any of them. I created the Native America series for Patricia Riley's Native American literature class at the University of Idaho. Anyone who is interested in using the images for personal or educational means is welcome to them.   
Sarah Wichlacz sarah@wdog.com


Ceremony :  Web of Healers

    The image Ceremony: Web of Healing, by Leslie Marmon Silko focuses on the healing of Tayo and the healers that made his healing and ceremony possible. In Pueblo belief there are four main direction each having it's own color, corn, sprit, hunt animal, season, etc… The image uses this organization to reinforces the spiritual nature and "place" that each of the healers occupies in Tayo's world. The image is also organized in an acceative way as opposed to a more liner western way.

    In the very background of the image there is the outline of corn—the all important and binding factor/food/symbol in Pueblo culture. Over this corn are the colors dividing the directions in Pueblo thinking. The four directions and colors have corresponding mountains (in the center of the image) and seasons, reflected in the mountains. Thought Woman's web encompasses everything, she is symbolized by the weaver in the center of the image, she is weaving though into reality. In each of the directions are one of Tayo's healers or guides. The figure for the yellow south is Ku'oosh he is the first medicine man to visit Tayo, he visits during the summer in the middle of the drought (the south symbolizes summer). Night Swan is in the western section of the image, this is the most important direction and color of Tayo, he must start his ceremony in the south. Most of the helpful characters carry blue symbols but none as overtly as Night Swan. She wears a blue shawl, she marks the beginning of Tayo's ceremony, his visit with her is in damp spring like weather. Ts'eh, Night Swan's sister and Tayo's sprit guide is also very much in the western direction. Ts'eh's brother occupies the north, he is connected with the mountain lion, and winter weather. Tayo was at the mercy of a couple of ranch hands when the snow sets in allowing him to disappear without a trace and a mountain lion distracts the menacing cowboys. After Tayo escapes he finds the good natures brother. Betonie is in the eastern section, he is a medicine man who uses white corn paintings (white is the color of the east), he also finds power in Mt. Taylor the mountain for the east.



Wind From an Enemy Sky, or the Story of Progress

    The novel Wind from an Enemy Sky is one of the first "Native American" novels published. Being one of the first it has a hard time breaking away from "Western" ideas of organization as well as "Western" idea of the tragic death of a heroic Indian. But it is this Western style that makes D'Arcy McNickle so crafty. The style is unobtrusive to a Western reader, it feels normal. It the comfort that the reader has with the piece that allows the real ideas and meaning to be absorbed. The image Wind from and Enemy Sky, or the Story of Progress mimics this face level of westerness with it's page proportions and strong boarders. But within this western frame work lies the "Native" values expressed in the novel.

    The center of the conflict between the people of Little Elk and the European Immigrants is the dam on their scarred river. The dam is also the central focus for the image, it symbolizes the "progress" of the Europeans, and the colonization of the Native People. In the image above the dam is rich with colors, indicating the power, freedom, and prosperity of the river. After the dam the color is leached from the landscape—removing nature from nature. The water spilling from the dam is red, symbolizing the blood that has been shed in the guise of progress. On the dam face there are two figures on is that of a young Indian man the other is a dead man. This speaks of the events that took place of the dam. Pock Face shoots Jimmie Cooke, a worker on the dam, out of rage about the dam. The images of Jimmie and Pock Face are on the dam to symbolize that this act of violence only supports the ideas and progress that the dam stands for. Around the boarders of the image are feathers and rifles. The feathers symbolize the Indian's "old ways", Feather Boy, the feather bundle, and the people of Little Elk. The Guns symbolize violence, progress, colonization by force, and the Europeans that the people of Little Elk have to deal with. On the sides of the image the gun symbol is over, oppression, the feather symbol; but on the top and bottom the feather symbols remain free. This is a symbol for the main character of the book, Antoine, he is free from the smothering blanket of colonization; he will remain fee to practice the "old ways" because he understand the way the Europeans work



Death of Bernadette Lefthand :   Denial of Sight

    The novel Death of Bernadette Lefthand by Ron Querry is almost a murder mystery. But it becomes much more than a whodunit, the whole novel is littered with information on the Southwest Indian's belief and magic. The main character Gracie is recalling the events that lead to the death of the sister Bernadette, Gracie is a Jicarilla Apache that has been disconnected from her heritage. As the narrator Gracie informs the reader about types of belief and magic found in the New Mexican tribes. With the knowledge Gracie gives the reader it is apparent that Bernadette died due to foul play and witchcraft. But she is unable to figure it out for herself, this is because of her internal colonization—she is aware of witchcraft but has ruled it out as a real possibility. For Gracie to truly understand what is happening in her present she must look to the past, for without an understanding of what was one cannot understand what is or what will be. The image The Death of Bernadette Lefthand: Denial of Sight shows a scene in which there are more things happening then are seen on first glance. The image symbolizes Gracie's sight, she has the ability to see many things by when they are not tangible she disregards them.

    The image shows Shiprock a famous landmark for Navahos and other Southwestern tribes, a symbol of the Indian culture. In the foreground there is an abandon hogan, like the one in the novel, it symbolizes the evil precise. In the very front of the image there is a black and white figure—he symbolizes Emmett Take Horse, the malicious witch. He is black and white to indicate his lack of humanity. The figure is by an old green GMC- the Emmet's truck that Gracie sees in unexpected places but fails to recognize as a threat. There is also a black and silver pickup in the middle ground of the image, it is Tom and Anderson's truck—in the image the truck symbolizes all of the "sightless characters" (Bernadette, Gracie, Tom, Anderson, and even Gracie's father). In the background walk a sheep and a horse, these animals are very important to the Navahos, they reflect the spiritual nature of the "sightless" characters—they are there but far way. In the clouds there is a outline of a Medicine man and on the wall of the hogan there is a skull face . The medicine man symbolizes all the good medicine working for the "sightless" people. Anderson and Tom's grandfather is a medicine man, he works some magic to hold the witchery at bay. But without the full belief and support of Anderson he is unable to dispel it. The skull is the witchcraft that Emmett has cast upon Tom, Anderson, and especially Bernadette. These symbols hide just out of view it is up to the reader, like it was up to the "sightless" people to recognize and look for these things and not dispel them as myths from the past.


(C) 1998 Sarah Wichlacz