Flights of Faith

Monday, January 22, 2007

God As Liberatator (Part 2): Finding Truth in Experience

Native American artists in who stole the teepee? use their tragic history and Christian beliefs to attack colonists while affirming their statuses as survivors. By adopting a Christian discourse that creates space for multiple accounts of experience, these artists question the way dominant society views Christianity and inject a new ideology into this framework. For example, Dorothy Grandbois links the oppression of Indian school attendees with the suffering of Jesus Christ by laying transposing the images onto one another. She does not question Jesus’ narrative in this piece; instead, she finds fault “with the human aspect of Catholicism and how they abuse their power” (43). Similarly, Jim Logan’s piece A Rethinking of the Western Front uses this notion of religious revision to transition the audience into thinking about other alterations, in this case, art being defined by the Classical era and the white body. Making Michaelangeo’s Creation of Adam feature Native American bodies, he not only questions the status of God and Adam as white men, but he also questions why normative equals white. His child-like scrawls around the piece emphasize this belief is imposed on the audience at a young age (44). Just as Logan’s piece presents a dual revelation, this theory is also useful in debates void of Christianity. For example, Hopi Indian photographers essentialize their skills and claim their viewpoint is directly tied to their status as Hopi. One photographer says that:

Non-Indians have never been able to correctly capture the picture of the Hopi people. There have been many attempts, sometimes by good people. But they can’t find the real truth. Only Hopis can do that (Younger 85).

While this notion of truth tied to an ethnic identity is problematic, it clearly exists and empowers these once oppressed populations, so that, in at least one regard, they have the power of truth and can shape their environment in that way. Certain entities like the governmental structure of America are clearly inspired by faith and secular knowledge giving populations of color easy ways insert their voice.

The Chilocco school also exists as a semi-religious foundation that claims to civilize as it Christianizes. Although that tactic can be denied, scholars cannot deny the moment of contact that happened when Native Americans experienced this school. As it became a lived experience, they were empowered with the agency to either resist or accept its teachings giving them ownership. As Lomawaima states in her conclusion after denying a passive Native American experience, “Indian people made Chilocco their own. Chilocco was an Indian school.” Despite any white presence in the school, Native American existence made it possible for them to claim that space.


Post a Comment

<< Home