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Assignment 2:4

  1. We began this unit by discussing assumptions and differences that we carry into our class. In “First Contact as Spiritual Performance,” Lutz makes an assumption about his readers (Lutz, “First Contact” 32). He asks us to begin with the assumption that comprehending the performances of the Indigenous participants is “one of the most obvious difficulties.” He explains that this is so because “one must of necessity enter a world that is distant in time and alien in culture, attempting to perceive indigenous performance through their eyes as well as those of the Europeans.” Here, Lutz is assuming either that his readers belong to the European tradition, or he is assuming that it is more difficult for a European to understand Indigenous performances – than the other way around. What do you make of this reading? Am I being fair when I point to this assumption? If so, is Lutz being fair when he makes this assumption?


I believe that this reading of Lutz (it is more difficult for a European to understand Indigenous performances – than the other way around) is both accurate and fair for many reasons. If we dissect this interpretation, we can argue for it’s validity.

  1. It is more difficult for a European to understand an Indigenous performance, than the other way around. – According to information from both of Lutz’s articles assigned for reading, as well as Thomas King’s powerful creation narratives, it seems fair to say that people from the European tradition would find it more difficult to understand an Indigenous performance. The reasons for this are highlighted in the many differences between European and Indigenous people, present at first contact, and still around today. The first if the European tradition of religion. Highlighted excellently in Thomas King’s comparison of creation stories, the European tradition values a singular, all powerful presence of God, and believes they were made in his image. This attribution of power leaves no room for any other alternative interpretations, and therefore makes it difficult for them to see Indigenous performances as anything other than heresy. The Indigenous tradition, however, attributes spiritual power to all things and believes that every aspect of their life is steeped in spirituality. Lutz states, ” Native people lived in a world where there was no firm divide between the natural and the spirit world” (Lutz 35). This point of view, shown through Thomas King’s cooperative creation story, would enable the Indigenous person to more easily consider the validity of the European performance, as their religion makes it possible to fit the European story into it, rather than excluding it immediately. Second, European “Enlightenment” thinking (An opinion piece that highlights the problems with Enlightenment thinking is here) and focus on scientific discovery skewed has skewed their  perception of truth and fiction. The European tradition demands empirical evidence and proof of all assertions, and believes that this dedication to logic is the basis of their moral and intellectual superiority over other people. This tradition would not allow Europeans to consider Aboriginal performances in any serious light, and would relegate them to the realm of fairy tales, thereby missing out on the informative and educational value of these performances. Though it is necessary to point out that they were still ruled by their faith, and as Lutz states “a closer look at the Europeans shows that their rational behavior was determined in part, by their non-rational spiritual beliefs” (Lutz 32). Furthermore, the European tradition asserts that only what is written or recorded is valid. Aboriginals, however, use performance and storytelling for a wide variety of important and political negotiations including territory and resource disputes that often take place during potlach’s. (I’m not sure how accurate the information in this video is, but I thought the “performance” quality of the potlach depicted was beautiful and helped me to imagine the performances that might have taken place during first contact) Therefore, Aboriginals value the importance of story telling as more than just fun and performance. Story telling is their way and their law, which would make them more open to honouring the validity of the European performances.

Works Cited

Lutz, John. “First Contact as a Spiritual Performance: Aboriginal — Non-Aboriginal           Encounters on the North American West Coast.” Myth and Memory: Rethinking Stories of Indigenous-European Contact. Ed. Lutz. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 2007. 30-45. Print.


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