Monthly Archives: July 2016

Behind the Characters: Green Grass, Running Water

I wanted to focus on those characters within the interrogation scenes starting near the beginning of Green Grass Running Water (GGRW). I found these characters are not often talked about but I found them to be quite interesting and intriguing, particularly with their connection to Melville’s story “Benito Cereno.”  There are many similarities between GGRW and this story and I was interested in exploring them through three characters: Babo Jones, Sergeant Ben Cereno, and Jimmy Delano.

Babo Jones is an African-American who works at the mental hospital where four Indians escaped from. The Babo in GGRW is akin to the Babo in Melville’s story “Benito Cereño” in Piazza Tales. In this story, Babo is a black slave who is on board the ship the San Dominick as a leader of the slave revolt and deceives Captain Amasa Delano, their master, into thinking nothing is going on, when really the ship is heading for freedom in Africa. This is similar to what happens in GGRW, as Babo is revealed to have helped the four Indians escape. We also think that the Captain Delano is in charge in Melville’s story, like we think the sergeants are in GGRW. There are little jokes made by King within GGRW as well, such as when she carries around Life Saver candies, in reference to Babo and the ship.

Sergeant Ben Cereno is the sergeant initially interrogating Babo about the whereabouts of the Indians who escaped. Like Babo, this character is reference another in “Benito Cereño.”  Babo asks Sergeant Cereño is his name is Italian or Spanish, then guessing that his first name is Ben and that it is Babo’s boy’s name. This is similar to what occurs in GGRW as well. We find out Babo’s race when he refers to her as “Aunt Jemima,” a  racial slur that references the fictional character used to market breakfast foods like maple syrup.  Sergeant Cereno appears to be in charge during the interrogation; however; Babo had all the knowledge and power during the questioning, even if she seemed all over the place with frequent topic changes. Like the Captain’s mistreatment of the slaves, he treated Babo poorly, and had trouble getting information he could have otherwise obtained.

Jimmy Delano is Sergeant Cereno’s assistant and also is involved with the interrogation process with Babo. Again, there seems to be a strong connection between this character and the one in “Benito Cereño,” either Captain Delano or, more likely, Columbus Delano. Columbus Delano was the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a career politician. He defended the BIA against charges of mistreating Indians despite evidence. Eventually this lead to his resignation.  Because Jimmy was more patient than Sergeant Cereno, he was able to obtain more information from Babo. In this sense he is more similar to the captain of “Benito Cereno,” as he was able to discover the slaves overtook the ship in a similar manner.

Works Cited

Flick, Jane. “Reading Notes for Thomas King’s “Green Grass Running Water”” Canadian Literature (1999): 140-72. UBC Blogs. Web. 22 July 2016.

King, Thomas (June 1, 1994). Green Grass, Running Water. New York: Bantam Books.

The Ethos behind Tales of Creation


The spirit of the creation story told by King depicts a world that is cooperative and where everyone is treated as equals. A world that is kind and where everyone belongs and is willing to work with one another. King clearly demonstrates that the culture behind this tale is a cooperative one that believes everyone should work together in order to create a working society and a sustainable world to live in. It characterizes the society in a more peaceful way.

The creation stories that I know of have both similarities and differences between them. The one I am more familiar with and remember believing is the story where the Earth was created in 6 days. Where the first days were for the light and the dark, and the land and the sea, before any creatures came along. I also learned of the story of Adam and Eve, a tale with more of a negative connotation. Neither of these stories tell much of cooperation. In both cases, God is said to have created everything. There was no mutual building of the world. In both these stories, creatures like animals and humans were also later brought in.

In a sense, the building of the world in 6 days story of creation did appear as if everything was equal. Everything made equally to enjoy the wonders of the world. In the story of Adam and Eve, God is clearly superior.   As well, it seems some things were made specifically for the human Adam, although some variations may differ in this respect.  As well, the 6 days of creation story had a more positive feel, or at least neutral – similar to the one King told. The story of Adam and Eve, on the other hand, had a more negative message to it, which God was all powerful and banished Adam and Eve from the garden for a sin they were not wholly aware they were committing. As well, which King’s story goes from disorganization to harmony, the story of Adam and Eve does the opposite.

I can also see King’s story being received as beautiful. Not only the way it is written but the content within itself. The stories in genesis, as one blogger pointed out, cannot really be seen as such. King story also has a more fictitious feel, while the stories in Genesis feel more assertive and historical.  I found this the case with many Native American creation stories. I loved how these tales are told and how they give a more storytelling feel, even if they feel more like myths than truth. It is defiently interesting to see what different stories different cultures create.

Works Cited

“Is the Genesis Creation Story Beautiful?” EvolutionBlog. N.p., 2012. Web. 20 July 2016.

King, Thomas. (2003). The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Peterbough: Anansi Press.

“Native American Myths of Creation.” Native American Myths of Creation. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

The Royal Proclamation: Some Notes

The Royal Proclamation was an important document that lead the way towards recognizing existing Aboriginal rights and title. In 1763, the Royal Proclamation was issued initially by King George III, and was used to claim British territory officially within North America after the Seven Years War was won by Britain. King George was issued ownership over North America, but the Royal Proclamation acknowledges that Aboriginal title has existed and continues to exist. Until ceded by treaty, all land was to be considered Aboriginal land, and settlers were forbidden to claim land that belonged to Aboriginals, unless certain conditions were met. Only the Crown could buy land from the Aboriginals, and they were to be compensated for land or resources taken from them. While both parties were involved in the establishment of treaties, and that some form of consent was required from the First Nations, the British Crown still had a clear monopoly over Aboriginal lands. In current times, some consider the Royal Proclamation to still be valid in Canada, since there has been no law overruling it.

I decided to look into the Royal Proclamation, since it was something I was not very familiar with. I was actually surprised it acknowledged First Nation land as belonging to Aboriginals, and that some sort of consent and compensation was required to change ownership. While it’s clear the British Crown still had an advantage over the First Nations, it feels more reassuring that this acknowledgement was made, even if it did not mean much. We can see that someone from Britain did not simply take land and claim it was theirs. Even if the land was taken unfairly, it shows that there was still understanding about who the land belonged to originally. But then, this is also where the problem lies. These people made it appear like they were doing things fairly — how they traded or claimed land — when in reality there was a clear dominance of one side over the other.

I believe the Royal Proclamation satisfies Coleman’s argument regarding white civility. Overall, the document works to recognize Aboriginals and their land, even though it’s clear who holds more power. The Royal Proclamation makes it appear as if the are being civil, and are building their ‘project’ correctly by showing that they are consensually obtaining land from the First Nations. This makes the country appear multicultural, even though there is a clear dominance of Anglo-Canadians. The Royal Proclamation makes it seem like things are fair and romanticizes the view that the two nations are working together as one.

In the end, the Royal Proclamation does still acknowledge that some land rightfully belongs to the First Nations, and did acknowledge that the Aboriginals were treated unfairly. (And, interestingly, that Quebec was distinct from the rest of Canada).

Works Cited

\”Royal Proclamation, 1763.” Royal Proclamation, 1763. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2016.

“The Royal Proclamation of 1763 Is 250 Years Old on October 7.” Land Claims Coalition. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2016.