Monthly Archives: February 2015

2.3 My Oral and Literary Experiences With “Coyote Makes a Deal with the King of England”

In his article, “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial,” King discusses Robinson’s collection of stories. King explains that while the stories are written in English, “the patterns, metaphors, structures as well as the themes and characters come primarily from oral literature.” More than this, Robinson, he says “develops what we might want to call an oral syntax that defeats reader’s efforts to read the stories silently to themselves, a syntax that encourages readers to read aloud” and in so doing, “recreating at once the storyteller and the performance” (186). Read “Coyote Makes a Deal with King of England”, in Living by Stories. Read it silently, read it out loud, read it to a friend, and have a friend read it to you. See if you can discover how this oral syntax works to shape meaning for the story by shaping your reading and listening of the story.Write a blog about this reading/listening experience that provides references to the story.

This assignment certainly opened my eyes regarding how stories can be interpreted in different ways. I framed my approach to the story around the fundamental ideas that are associated with the oral and literature cultures. I engaged with the story in three different ways: I read it silently, I read it to my neighbor, and my neighbor read it to me. Each experience was valuable because it brought different meanings to the story for me. I had different emotions about the meaning of the story, as well as the words and characters that are used. The oral syntax used by Robinson had a much more resounding impact when I heard that story as opposed to when I read it.

I began this literary adventure by reading the story silently. I was lost throughout the duration of the story and I did not understand what Robinson was trying to do. I had trouble understanding the story right after I read the first sentence: “For a long time, Coyote was there on the water, sitting on that boat” (Robinson 64). I could not wrap my head around this visualization and from that point on I approached the story as a fictional fairy tale. The coyote and the king just did not seem real to me. I realize that I am guilty of what Carlson points out in his article “Orality about Literacy: ‘The Black and White’ of Salish History”, where he states that, “Among literate westerners, historical accuracy is measured in relation to verifiable evidence” (57). I definitely took this too literally as I pictured the Coyote on the boat and realized that there is no evidence of that ever happening. When i read to myself, I approach the text as a historical artifact. I only read non-fiction silently. Any other piece of reading material (anything that is non-fiction) I read aloud to myself.

In “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial”, Thomas King introduces the idea of Associational Literature. He brings up an interesting point regarding Western readers that i kept in my mind while I read the story aloud to my neighbor: “Non-Natives may, as readers, come to an association with these communities, but they remain, always, outsiders” (189). I began to make sense of the story as I read it aloud and I understood the mistakes I made in interpreting it the first time around. I am an outsider and I should not be able to completely understand the idea of the Coyote and the First Nations culture. However, reading this story aloud had a much more different impact for me. I used it as a performance for my audience. There was one particular passage which I emotionally connected with that was absent when I read it silently: “They just don’t care for them. They just go and claim the land and they just do as they like” (Robinson 70). These words were directed towards the King from Coyote, as he explains the torture that his people go through when the King’s children come to Coyote’s land. I took Coyotes position and spoke these words as I imagined he would have spoken. I truly spoke to my audience from the heart and for that brief moment, I could feel the Coyote’s pain. The words became physical as sound permeated through the air (I highly recommend for you to read this article by Walter Ong, in which he explains the true value behind words) I was able to appreciate the oral syntax used by Harry Robinson.

The meaning of the story had the most influence on me when I listened to it. I did not have any biases or reservations when it came to the story, I just sat on my chair and listened to my neighbor. I looked at everything with a fresh perspective and really used my listening tools. I listened intently to every word that was being said. I did not feel lost anymore like I did when I first read the story to myself. Everything began to slowly make sense. I think being a listener instead of the story teller allowed me dissociate myself and understand the motivations behind both cultures in the story. I understood the value of detribalization in the sense that I took myself out of the story and viewed it from an outsiders perspective. The words finally began to make sense. I began to understand the meaning behind Robinson’s use of the plural. For example, when the Coyote instructs the cook to tell the King that he wants to meet with him, the Coyote refers to himself as “They” rather than “I”: “You tell him, There’s another king that was standing there at the door. They want to see you” (Robinson 69). When I read these sentences, I had no idea what to think, but when I listened to it, I think I understand what Robinson means. The Coyote is not speaking only for himself, but rather his entire nation and culture. He symbolizes the voice for the First Nations people. The Coyote is not an animal, not a single person. The Coyote is the entire community. Every first nations person is the King. Thomas King puts it best when he states that the Assocational Literature that is written by Harry Robinson points “towards the group rather than the single, isolated character” (187). I was able to appreciate the cultural and familial aspect of the listening aspect as opposed to the isolated action of reading the story by myself.

Works Cited

Carlson, Keith Thor. “Orality and Literacy: The ‘Black and White’ of Salish History.” Orality & Literacy: Reflectins Across Disciplines. Ed. Carlson, Kristina Fagna, & Natalia Khamemko-Frieson. Toronto: University of Toronto P, 2011. 43-72.

King, Thomas. “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial.” Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism. Mississauga, ON: Broadview, 2004. 183- 190.

Robinson, Harry. “Coyote Makes a Deal with the King Of England.” Living by Stories: a Journey of Landscape and Memory. Ed. Wendy Wickwire. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005. 64-85.

2.2 The Meanings (or Lack Thereof) Behind First Stories

In this lesson I say that our capacity for understanding or making meaningfulness from the first stories is seriously limited for numerous reasons and I briefly offer two reasons why this is so: 1) the social process of the telling is disconnected from the story and this creates obvious problems for ascribing meaningfulness, and 2) the extended time of criminal prohibitions against Indigenous peoples telling stories combined with the act of taking all the children between 5 – 15 away from their families and communities. In Wickwire’s introduction to Living Stories, find a third reason why, according to Robinson, our abilities to make meaning from first stories and encounters is so seriously limited. To be complete, your answer should begin with a brief discussion on the two reasons I present and then proceed to introduce and explain your third reason from Wickwire’s introduction.

First stories tell the reader/listener about the very beginning and how something came to be. In regards to our situation this ‘something’ refers to the land we call home. These first stories illustrate the first relations between the Indigenous people and the European settlers. There is a propriety issue involved with first stories as ownership is attributed to those who tell them. With this sense of ownership, comes obstacles of interpretation. There is not just a single type of story. Since it is being told by a person in a certain way, the individual may have a personal agenda in terms of the way they are performing their story. It is told from their own viewpoint, and particular facts or viewpoints may be hidden in order to shed a positive light on their story. In this sense first stories are manipulative because the listener may not have all the facts to decipher true from false. I view first stories as a type of performance. It is a script which the author/orator tells a story and creates a world with his own words and performance. As Dr.Paterson explains, there are a couple of major issues in understanding the meaning of first stories.

“In the acts of collecting, translating and publishing these stories, the social process of the telling is disconnected from the story and this creates obvious problems for ascribing meaninfulness” – Dr. Erika Paterson.

First stories are a property of the owner. The original story teller is the one who created that specific version of the story and told in a specific time and place, in a manner that is personal to the storyteller. The performance of the story and meaning is only known to him. Once the story becomes translated and published in different ways it loses its meaning. The second version of the story is not performed the same way it was by the original author. It becomes a copyright because it loses all of its meaning behind the performance. In Living By Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory, this becomes apparent as well in Harry Robinson’s interactions with Wickwire. Robinson continually tells Wickwire during his later years that he is “going to disappear and there will be no more telling stories” (29). What I take this to mean is that Robinson is not concerned with the idea that he may soon pass away, but that his stories will no longer have meaning because he is no longer telling them. Even after Robinson records his later stories for Wickwire through an audio recorder, and she compiles his stories into a book, Robinson still understands that only he can have the ability to tell those stories. The performance aspect and meaning of the story disappears if it does not come straight from him.

“There exists a serious time gap of almost 75 years…when the telling and retelling of stories…across the country, were outlawed by the Indian act…and the authority of the Department of Indian affairs to remove school-age children…from their families” – Dr. Erika Paterson.

First stories have a mythology and retelling aspect associated with them. They are told to younger generations so these children can learn where they come from and how their land was created. These stories are a fabric of their identity.When Robinson was telling his stories to Wickwire, he felt at ease with the situation because I had the feeling that he felt as it was as if he was telling stories to his own family. He shared his home with her and when he his health was deteriorating and he was forced to visit the hospitals, it was Wickwire that went to his bedside to keep him company (Robinson 19). When Robinson told these stories to Wickwire, he was confident that they would be kept alive for younger generations to learn from. Unfortunately, this was not the case when the retelling of stories were banned in the early 19th century. This posed serious problems for the nature of the true stories because they could no longer be passed down to younger generations. The horrible brutality demonstrated against the Native Indians also did not help the issue as their children were forced out of the families. The link to younger generations was completely cut down. This article further examines the genocide committed against younger children and how the extremely negative impact it had on their families and communities.

According to Robinson, another reason as to why our abilities to make meaning from first stories and encounters is so seriously limited is due to the type of stories that are being published in our collections. When Robinson tells about the stories of historical narratives, Wickwire makes a startling revelation concerning the process selection of certain stories: “the collectors’ goal was to document some overarching, static, ideal type of culture, detached from its pragmatic and socially positioned moorings among real people” (Robinson 22). The meaning of the story gets lost in translation when it is published and edited to fit a certain collection. Wickwire alludes to this fact once more in her discussion of Boas when she wonders if Boas selected a story “as Harry did in my case, to convey a political message – that whites were, and would always be, vistors on Indian land?” (Robinson 23). Wickwire is concerned that the meaning of the stories she has heard have been manipulated in order to convey the message of the publisher. Unfortunately, this is the true nature of first stories and it is extremely difficult to understand the true meaning behind each one.

Works Cited

Paterson, Erika. “Lesson 2.2”. English 470A Canadian Studies. University of British Columbia Blogs, 2013. Web. Feb 06, 2015.

Robinson, Harry. Living by Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory. Ed. Wendy Wickwire. Vancouver: Talon Books. 2005. Print. 1-30.

N/A. “Hidden From History: The Canadian Holocaust. The Untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal People by Church and State in Canada”. The Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada, 2001. Web. Feb 06, 2015.

2.1 Common Values About Home

I would like to thank my fellow classmates for opening up their hearts and sharing their deeply personal stories about their values of home. I read all of your stories and each one was heart warming in their own special way. I have learned the importance about home and how it shapes us to become the people we are at this moment. After reading all of your stories, I have compiled a list of the the common assumptions and values that we share in regards to our homes:

– Family

– Community

– Support

– Memories

– Multiple locations

– Comfort

– Friends

– Support

– Love

– Laughter

– Foundation for growth