Tewahia:ton tipaacimowin -- : two stories seen intertribally, the first novels of Ruby Slipperjack and Thomas King
Rice, Daniel Grantland
Master of Arts
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Ruby Slipperjack's Honour The Sun (1987) and Thomas King's Medicine River (1989) are the two novels I discuss. Slipperjack's novel investigates the adolescence of a female protagonist known as the Owl, who passes through the vicissitudes of many family changes and yet sustains her will to grow into adulthood. Her mother is also a key character who shows the reader her view of a Northern Ontario land and her love for her children. The second story examined has a male principal character. King's work employs humour, the situating of traditional people in modern times and a Trickster-like character, Harlen Bigbear, as the reader views relationships that are common to people of any colour. Will, the central character, explores both his ancestry and his love for Louise as the reader follows his life in the past and present. One significant aspect that is used to examine both works is the Gavanashagowa--The Great Law of Peace and Power and its respect for and interplay between the community and the individual. Rooted in the formation of the Six Nations, this law has grown to be a part of the constitutions of the United States, Canada and the United Nations. It is my view, therefore, that this way of life has also influenced Native people in general and more specifically Native literature in some instances. Supported by my traditional Indian perspective that is intertribal, the reader of both works is introduced to Canadian Native Literature. Enduring images of the land and community life that all Canadians and readers of any nation can relate to carry the novels through their unique landscapes. The Medicine Wheel, an aboriginal way of viewing the world, is examined by me as an interpretive entry point to a wholistic understanding of the actions of the characters and their families. I discuss the metaphor of the circle, with its journey through the Four Directions, as a effective way to look at the writing of these two authors and Native literature generally. As an outgrowth of the Native practice of storytelling, these books are part of the growing body of aboriginal literature. The experiences of King's and Slipperjack's characters are set in Canadian contemporary times so that we may learn more of Native people; yet the stories are timeless in their vision of a world all may appreciate.