Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief – 3.3

In looking at the passage from Green Grass Running Water from 258-270 (263-274 in my edition), many historical references can be derived from the two stories. In particular, I would like to look at the symbolism in Lionel, his sister Latisha and George Morningstar. To begin, the story of Lionel offers an interesting revelation of Lionel as a forty year old man, following intentional word selection that leads the viewer into believing he is perhaps  child. Words such as; insect, “click click click”, colour, black, sound, and a display of hopelessness  lead to an evocation of childhood. The final evocation of this is a  “happy birthday” which is met  is immediately met with the revelation that Lionel is, in fact, forty on this day. The name Lionel itself seems to be in reference  to the toy train company, which is based in George Morningstar’s “home” Michigan. As he discusses what he wished to be as a child, he discusses career possibilities while referencing a hart topping single in the 1940’s from Betty Hutton, ‘Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief’.  Hutton’s birthplace is, you guessed it, Michigan.

In revealing a childhood wish to be John Wayne, Jane Flick describes this as signalling a self hatred of “indianness”. As Native Americans picketed his shows for being a “Injun-hating” character, no other explanation could be offered.

Taking this further unto the next portion of the chapter, King introduces John Wayne’s outfit as a allusion to George Morningstar’s (George Custer’s) wartime attire (Flick).


Here Flick offers this passage as a direct link between George Morningstar and General Custer. Custer himself was also given the nickname “son of the morning star” by plains Indians.

The character of Latisha is presented as a contradiction to the stereotype, of a “stock image of a Native woman on Welfare” (Knopf 264). She is portrayed as a successful businesswoman, and loving mother to her three children in stark contrast to that idea. The name of Latisha’s business, Dead Dog Cafe, is too alluding to a stereotype of “dog meat” being a part of Native cuisine. “It’s a treaty right, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s one of our traditional foods.” While the food is merely beef, it serves as a refrain of King’s attempt to dispel inaccuracies and inequities in Native perceptions in the general public. Ironically (or intentionally by King), Custer wrote a novel in 1872, My Life on the Plains, which featured American’s eating dog meat at a Native ceremony, and after spitting it out (Mardsden 262).  The character of Latisha, the cafe, and the family all serve to further King’s attempt at quashing the stereotypes which pervade modern Canadian society and Literature.  In fact, King found this so profound that he launched a CBC radio show by the same name a the cafe, which ran for four seasons in the late 90’s.

For those class members who may have asked why it is we are reading this, here is an example of the general scholarly consensus who mimic Professor Patterson as to the importance of this work:

The fiction of Thomas King has been instrumental in breakin up dominant stereotypes of the “Indian” in mainstream Canadian literary history. There is no doubt that King has managed to modernize the image of the Native. (Knopf)


Flick, Jane. “Reading Notes for Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Wate.”Canadian Literature 161-162 (1999): 140-172. Print.

Kendall, Mary Claire. “Betty Hutton’s Miraculous Recovery.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 July 2014.

Knopf, K. Aboriginal Canada Revisited. 2008. University of Ottawa Press

Marsden, P.H. Towards a Transcultural Future: Literature and Human Rights in a ‘post’-colonial World. Rodopi, 2004

Paterson, Erika. “Student Blogs.”  English 470A Canadian Studies Canadian Literary Genre 98A May 2014. UBC Blogs, 2014. Web. 17 Jul 2014.


Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.<>

“Betty Hutton in “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” Number.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 21 July 2014.


  1. Find three examples of names that need to be spoken aloud in order to catch the allusion. Discuss the examples as well as the reading technique that requires you to read aloud in order to make connections. Why does King want us to read aloud?

In King’s Novel the topic of Orality is intended as a takeaway from the stories that are written–to later be shared through the art of storytelling. Things take on a different meaning upon being told aloud; physicality, place, emotion, direction, and authenticity of the speaker can each be derived and/or portrayed as the speaker retells a story. King uses metaphorical names to directly connect characters with a predisposition that is imposed by the name of the character at hand.

Researchers have stated that King’s stories ‘denaturalise the colonial perspective’, providing “an important opportunity for readers of the dominant culture to look in the mirror of stereotypical caricature” (Wyile).

Furthermore, the ridiculous nature of the names in the stories can be seen as a caricature of the westernized myths which are attached the cultural significance of the characters themselves. As cultural signifiers go, names are perhaps the most succinct and informative of any that I know of.

For an example of this, Sally-Jo Weyha is introduced as a character which as names go, brings with it the attached inequity whivh is placed on the Western portrayal of “Pocahontas” in popular media. The true story of Sacagawea is far removed from that idealized version of Settler/Native relations, and thus King references it as an humorous recall of the inaccuracy of western intrepretations of historic events/stories.

Disney’s Pocahontas represents a popularized Western tale that is idealized to fit a historical narrative that the culture wishes itself as.

I think further that with this example of Sally Jo-Wehya showshow stories are also powerful tools to fit a narrative of propaganda–thus being the story of “Pocahontas” which romanticizes a relationship that was anything but.

Dr. Joe Hovaugh is another example in Green Grass, wherein the name resonates with the religious connections that are implied with its use. In it, he describes stories of creation which give credence to the name usage of King.

A further example are the names, Nissan, Piulo, und Karmaiin Ghia which refer to the ships of Christopher Columbus’ maiden voyage to North America with the ships the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

“Thus, a storyteller’s observations and speculations are often inferred and carry with them an element of presupposition. The storyteller does not tell all he or she knows, or explain the meanings of names, places, and things. There is an assumption of a common matrix of cultural knowledge, and invoking words—names and places—suggests that shared epistemology. In King’s novel, that sharing covers a broad spectrum of cultural knowledge.” (Chester 55)

King assumes with us the reader, and with those with whom the stories are being shared in the oral tradition that a baseline cultural understanding id achieved within the context of the name usage, As stories are made to be read aloud, as they are so done the stories punch the reader in the face with meaning, rather than letting it perhaps be determined. King’s intentions can be derived from the above as well, with the evoked intent being as previously stated, to let the dominant culture view

Chester, Blanca. _Green Grass, Running Water: Theorizing the World of the Novel_. _canlit.ca_. Canadian Literature, 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 11 July 2014.

Flick, Jane.Reading Notes for Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water.Canadian Literature 161-162 (Summer/Autumn 1999): 140-172. Aug. 9 2012. Web. 17 Jul 2014.

King, Thomas.Green Grass, Running Water. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 1999. Print.

Wyile, Herb. “Trust Tonto: Thomas King’s Subversive Fictions and the Politics of Cultural Literacy.” Canadian Literature 161-62 (1999): 105-24.


Once in the winter
Out on a lake
In the heart of the north-land,
Far from the Fort
And far from the hunters,
A Chippewa woman
With her sick baby,
Crouched in the last hours
Of a great storm.

So starts Frye’s piece ‘Bush Garden’, which offers a general background on both the barriers and magnetic attraction to cultural diffusion and creation in Canadian literary history. His work throughout the 1950’s and 60’s on myth’s and archetype’s were highly influential and he became known as the “center of critical activity as one of the major critics of our age, whose work represents one of the most impressive achievements in the recent history of criticism.”
When discussing Duncan Campbell Scott, Frye is quick to allude to the vast polarization between his works among the literary spectrum. Yet, it was his writings of Native stories that raises the question of Agency on the part of Scott in writing these stories. As occupier of perhaps the most important seat in the Department of Indian Affairs, Scott himself wrote:
The policy of the Dominion has always been to protect Indians, to guard their identity as a race and at the same time to apply methods, which will destroy that identity and lead eventually to their disappearance as a separate division of the population (In Chater, 23 cited in Instructor Blog).
In ‘The Bush Garden’ Frye offers reasons as to why it is irrelevant for Scott to be credited with both the interpreter of native stories and the harbinger of cultural destruction on the communities themselves—or why he can outright ignore it. Frye proposed throughout his work that literature and myths should both be studied as a whole to observe the individual stories/myths. The first of Frye’s reasons is the historical bias created in Canadian literature.
Frye believes that To Brown et al. the Indian Act seems as if the just response, caused by a lack of understanding of cultures and/or the acceptance of. Just as writers have tried (yet failed in the individual production) of identity creation, so too did the governments. The Indian Act served to strip any and all cultural heritage from Aboriginal groups; traditions or artifacts, kinship, in hopes of stripping away one further layer of the Canadian identity.
As Frye states, Canadians desire for works that encapsulate its many faceted identity, but often fail in their delivery. What he proposes is in a way a message that coincides with Canadian media theorist Marshall Mcluhan’s idea that the ‘Medium (itself) is the message’—it is not the end result that matters much, it was the purpose of the literature itself. This comparison between the two celebrated Canadian theorists can be taken further, as Frye’s concept of the social imagination of Canada is a product of the medium of collective literature. For both McCluhan and Frye, the very act of the work being disseminated alters the underlying cultural current that creates a place we have come to know as Canada. As noted by Frye, “Canada’s identity is to be found in some via media or via mediocris”.
Canada’s cultural identity traits are not uniquely derived, they are culminations of the broader contextual existences of North America, France, Great Britain–and its geographic isolation. Furthermore, Canada’s identity itself was self-fulfilled by endless manifest destiny unto the west. The obstacles–whether human (Aboriginal, French) or natural—exist merely as encroaching upon the expected seizure of opportunity. Researchers such as Tina Loo at UBC have also discussed how the Canadian identity of ‘oneness of nature and man’ is lost in the exploitation of both.
Yet, what Frye also proposes is a closed system of literature writing based upon recall of values, subjects, and locations that are known to him/her. Frye refers to nearly all of 19th century Canadian literature as this ‘formula writing’. There is both the literature of conquest and the literature of propaganda both at play with Scott’s work. Either way, system of mythology at play with Scott’s ‘The Forsaken’ seems to offer a one sided perspective from the point of view of a man with an agenda.  While Frye might easily dismiss the writings due to the inadequacy of studying a single myth, or literature in the context of the exposed historical bias, the true bias that was exposed was that of Scott’s

2.2.2 – Modulating Memetics

Stories may not actually breathe, but they can animate. The breath imputed by this book’s title (Letting Stories Breathe) is the breath of a god in creation stories, as that god gives life to the lump that will become human. Stories animate human life; that is their work. Stories work with people, for people, and always stories work on people, affecting what people are able to see as real, as possible, and as worth doing or best avoided. What is it about stories—what are their particularities—that enables them to work as they do? More than mere curiosity is at stake in this question, because human life depends on the stories we tell: the sense of self that those stories impart, the relationships constructed around shared stories, and the sense of purpose that stories both propose and foreclose

— Arthur Frank, Letting Stories Breathe (2010, as cited in Zipes 2012)

In this lesson and throughout our readings, many explanations (or disclaimers) are offered regarding our contemporary inability to discern true meaning from stories of old–many if which hold true for stories of all origins, beyond our studies of first nations literature. One of these challenges is first presented as a paradox whereby possession is made of the story by the storyteller them-self, thereby modulating the meaning to fit their own circumstance and world view. Thereby, there story changes each time the story is told to fit the advances and alterations concerned with each subsequent generation. This idea closely links to the theory of cultural information transfer known as “memetics”, first developed by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in the 1970’s. Dawkins contended that a “meme” is a unit of evolutionary memory that is passed down through generations. Modern use of the word has taken reference to referring to technologically aided cultural transmission of symbols, jokes, and various other artifacts–yet the contemporary research being memetics spreads far beyond this use. Researcher Susan Blackmore, in her article “Consciousness in meme machines” states,

When people copy actions or words, those actions or words are copied with variation and then selectively retained and copied again. In other words the actions and words (the memes) fulfil the conditions for being a replicator in a Darwinian evolutionary process (Dawkins, 1976; Dennett, 1995)

This idea very well repurposes this theory into a context of the cultural transmission of morality and information contained within the art of storytelling.

The next reason that is proposed very well reinforces the importance the act of knowledge and morality sharing contained in the first. By outlining the tragedy of residential school systems and the other requirements contained within the Indian Act in Canada–the disconnect from understanding, especially amongst youth removed from their homes and culture–is profound. Between 1880-1951 this practice was banned across the country, thereby limiting most opportunities for the dissemination of stories amongst Indigenous cultures.


This idea is very important as the residential schools by design directly removed children from the peak time when children are most affected by acculturation and/or develop their sense of place in the world.

This research comes from a interesting article on the phenomenon of cross cultural instances of similar fairy tales–stories which offer meaning to children in moral and social matters. As these children were removed from their communities during these formative times, and instead filled with Western ideology, these values and information were modulated by Western thought. Without placing judgement on that particular aspect, what this obviously presents is a compounding modulation of the stories upon reintegration to fit their altered world view

He meticulously describes why and how memes function for children within a civilizing process, or what he calls acculturation.
Memes, or cultural units of Information such as stories, form meme or culture pools over time. Children’s acculturation depends on
memes, which do not always function smoothly. They undergo change through innovation, the influence of chance events,
the social transmission between populations, the movement of carriers between populations,
the natural selection of cultural variants, preservation through free decisions, and coerced preservation.
Konner points out that “cultural constraints include the limits imposed by technology, mental habit, and other inertial
factors that correspond to stabilizing cultural selection, the default condition of cultural transmission.
Values, imposition, and cultural constraints, among other factors, affect the flow of memes,
so that different ones have different degrees of likelihood of being transmitted to the next generation’s culture pool.

Furthermore,  this gives significance to Harry’s alternation of stories to fit current reframed realities, such as the moon landing, in Wickwire’s introduction.  Wickwire presents two other reasons for the level of skepticism which needs to be applied to stories.  The first is presented by quoting Michael Harkin, “As Harkin explained, the collectors’ goal was to document “some overarching, static, ideal type of culture, detached from its pragmatic and socially positioned moorings among real people. Thus they, “systematically suppressed … all evidence of history and change”” An example of this is offered as removing the symbol of a gun from a published story to better fit the narrative of precontact Aboriginal culture. The anthropologist seeks to capture the wisdom of a “mythteller”, when the stories are told by individual storytellers who inflect their own wisdom unto the stories. You can see how each of these potential problems are all intertwined in a problematic feedback loop of sorts.

While a commonality amongst first nations storytelling can be offered as the interconnected nature of the natural, supernatural, and human worlds–the introduction of outside influences of the latter has modulated our collective recall of the stories themselves. As “Indigenous people had no gods”, the introduction of these foreign settlers emerged merely as varied “spirits” which took the form of human beings.  However, we also see the in Living in Stories how the separation of whites into the realm of a spiritual “Other” is bypassed, in lieu of a direct comparison of wisdom and morality amongst two distinctly similar human beings. Harry Robinson told this story of two twin brothers,

 …A pair of twins (were) charged to undertake a series of important tasks related to the creation of the earth and its first inhabitants. The elder twin performed his duties exactly as instructed, but the younger twin stole a written document— a “paper”—he had been warned not to touch. When confronted about his actions, he denied having done this. Because of this, he was immediately banished to a distant land across a large body of water. The elder twin was left in his place of origin.

This is certainly not to say that the Canadian treatment of Canadian culture makes whites deserving of humanized caricaturization in storytelling–however, what this shows is the retelling of a story to fit modern land disputes as a form of memetic expression and continuity.


Blackmore, Susan. Consciousness in Meme Machines.

Robinson, Harry. Living by Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory.  Talonbooks, 2005.

Zipes, Jack. The Cultural Evolution of Storytelling and Fairy Tales: Human Communication and Memetics. Princeton University Press, 2012\

Memetics. Wikipedia.


Assignment 2.1b

After reflecting upon the many blogs I have read on the topic of home I have, a) developed an interesting new perspective of the concept of home itself, and b) become self conscious of my writing after seeing the quality of insights of many of your posts over the past few weeks. I came back to university to gain a new perspective and to learn new things about the world-at-large. This assignment in particular has touched on both of these ideals, and I was humbled and honored to read many of your discussions.

While reading your posts one overarching theme emerged in my eyes: the shifting and objective reality of home.On Paniz Pasha’s blog, she discussed first hearing this concept from her Grade 10 teacher who remarked,

” My grade 10 teacher once told me “Home is located in the place you are best at adapting in”.

This was a very interesting idea to me, because it suggests (correctly) that home is a the reality that we accept, and that it changes with us. In particular, in Pacha’s story she offered how without ever consciously declaring that she had a new home here in Canada, it became one.

Krystle interestingly showed how even a virtual reality an manifest itself as a feeling of home.  Perhaps we place our emotional sense of home into a non physical space such as GTA V. Rabia’s post discusses a simiar idea with her discussion on David Seamon’s article, Physical and Virtual Environments: Meaning of Place and Space.

I am glad that we are able to share in reading each others blogs, precisely because I am able to be introduced to articles such as this. In this article they state pretty succinctly the creation of a physical and extra-physical sense of home.

Home is not only a physical place, but a locus of activities,an anchor of identity, a repository of memories bonding past and present, and a center of stability and continuity

Rabia also stated that the physical reality matters very little in the creation of a personal, fundamental idea of home. This is true, however I believe we can take that further and state that opposingly, the physical reality can offer, in three dimensions, a constant reminder of what makes a place significant. Lara Deglan’s story offered a reminder that the visible aging of a place can serve as a representation of how much we have changed while comparing it to the spaces themselves. Whether it is the comparison of how things have weathered–as in the case of the ’77 & ’91 Fords, or how things have stayed exactly the same–as with the elder cedar tree, the physical place can be significant in the development of a sense of home, but its significance can only be created through the passage of time.

Home is in constant motion. Yet, as the saying goes:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,”


Seamon, David. Willard & Spackman’s Occupational Therapy, 12th Edition, B.Schell & M. Scaffa, editors. Philadelphia: Wippincott, Williams & Wilkens, 2012.

2.1 – Home

Home is everything that I’ve left. An ever-shifting reality.  The only one I know, really.

I’ve never defined it so much as the physical spaces, but the memories that each portrayed.

I don’t think I think of a single place when I think of home. When I feel lost, home are the places that I run to. Home is not where the heart is, it’s more of an internal compass–a suburban lighthouse, signaling and welcoming my retreat

Home feels like being lost on coast to coast adventures somewhere in the heartland. Like burning twilight for the last inning of neighbourhood baseball. It’s being the last pick of that team captain and just being happy that we’re gonna play some ball.

Home is made of flashing billboards of fading memories–sheet music to the harmony of youth.

I think that when we talk about home we all feel this way to some extent. Home is not a collection of things and crafted building materials, but a collection of memories. Here, I think, comes the oft cited juxtaposition between a house and a home.


A picture of the backyard of my childhood home is nothing I’d share on Instagram today. It’s green and overgrown in the summer, full of life—and more likely a murky brown, when not covered in snow, in the winter months.

Yet, this is where I would often find myself escaping.  Escaping even from the house that adorned the property. I spent summer evenings in the spaces in between my backdoor and the treeline chasing fireflies into soup containers. I’d marvel at their glow, and share with them that I’ve really been wanting a night-lite.

Our property really only contained a half-acre, meager by suburban Midwest standards. But the treeline, which began in our backyard, was but the open door to childhood adventure. I know today that the relative size was no larger than a shopping center parking lot. But as I child it contained limitless possibilities and the entirety of nature.

Maybe escaping from the sounds of familial bickering, or needing sometime away from my brothers and sisters, made me enjoy more the days we spent hiding in the never-ending shade of the massive oak-filled forest.

Mother Nature never made old growth forests for climbing; the branches are far too high on the trunk to grab onto. This just made me wonder more what the world might look like, sitting atop the canopy.

The smaller ones proved far better for climbing. The funny thing is, on afternoons I spent conquering altitude, I’d look down for the first time and remember that I’m afraid of such heights. It was at those moments that I’d stop, sit, and listen to the sounds of nothingness.


I realized just recently that I am always earphones whenever I’m walking to/from class or my home, and in doing so, I’m never truly alone with myself like I’d have been on those branches.

Heavy machinery tore down the grove one morning for a new development.


I spend the predawn on the weathered porch of my East Vancouver tenement wondering if you’re already tired of the Ohio suns. Half a world away; I’m just happy it isn’t raining.  It has been since the Olympics.

I often am asked what this place means to me.  I haven’t an answer for them, sometimes it just means that home is 2000 miles away.

Yet, I often ask myself when waking up to the mountains on the north shore how I could live ever anywhere else.

I don’t think you realize that a place is “home” until you leave it. When the sense of longing is tied to more than people. To a warm bed, a familiar scent, the sound that the chimney makes right before a storm.



What I Learned In Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom.Dir. Karrmen Crey and Amy Perreault. First Nations Studies Program, U. of British Columbia, 2007. Web.

About Today

The truth about stories is that that’s all that we are

The truth about friendships is that that’s all that we are, too. There will come a day when the only living left is to the imagination–whether we’re reminiscing another, or being remembered ourselves. I remember playing this tunefor the first time, on a weekend, comfortably lost somewhere in middle Ohio.

“Today you were far away
and I didn’t ask you why”

As the last ride-cymbal faded out, you came up to me from across the room and asked me the name of this song. “(This song) played at the end of my favourite movie,” you told me, “I started crying my eyes out.” I’ll never forget that moment, because it has changed everything that this song means to me.

Sometimes music offers itself as medium of a storyteller. Whether it is new media, oral history, or the baritone sounds of ‘The National’–the medium truly is the message. Vocal expression, emotional recall, and aurally conveyed happiness or destruction can be conveyed in a manner that is altogether unique to this specific form of narrative. We hear the words and can offer no backstory–no narrative–except that of our own. This is what makes music objectively the most relatable artform . As Emma Kafalenos describes in the 2004 text, Narratives Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling, musicians “perform the story, in the present tense. They cannot disarm the story, or comfort us, by insisting on its pastness”. There is no past to music. Music exhibits itself as a vehicle for recollection of past memories–in a manner that is often joyful, sometimes mournful. I just listened to this song for the first time in at least a year. It previously had always brought me back to memories of my youth; to family and friends I loved entirely, and lost just the same. In reality, the song perhaps isn’t meant to be offered that way. The lyrics could more accurately be interpreted as the trying cries of a lover, questioning the inevitability of a shared dissolution. But to each of us–with music uniquely–we become the narrator to a singer’s story that only offers itself in the present. Never do we expect to wake up without the other to be comforted by. Yet, I listen to this song today and all I can I think about is how it’s you that I’ve now lost. As human beings, we’re biologically programmed to ignore the possibility of death. Yet, maybe quelling the knowledge of the frailty of life prohibits us from the appreciation of every moment shared. That’s what I make this song remind me of today.

How close am I to losing you
Tonight you just close your eyes
and I just watch you
slip away
How close am I to losing you

I can’t now say that I’d live life differently had I realized that, because I do realize it, now I’ve heard the end of your story.

Reflection: I heard this song for the first time in quite a long time the other day that reminded me of a friend that I found out passed away while I was away at University this past spring. I intended to share this on his facebook profile when I finished, but I decided against it. Anyhow, by relating narrative theory pertaining to music in particular, I hoped to convey the particularities of the medium of music. Each time you hear a song, the story changes in the same way as King described. The story is our emotional connection to the rhythm, meter, and tonal qualities of the sound produced (which itself never changes). Benjamin Boretz states that the listener, as opposed to the music maker, forms the “ultimate act of musical creation”. To him, “listening is do-it-yourself composing”. The music never changes, only we do.

About Today

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: Chapter 1. House of Anasi, 2003. PDF. 31 May 2014.

Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media: The Extensions of ManMcGraw-HillNew York, NY1964

Ryan, Marie-Laure. Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.


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