Assignment 3:7 – Mirror Reflections between George Morningstar & George Custer

Please select a section of the book approximately 10 to 15 pages – depending on the section with characters that you would like to research further.


George Morningstar: An Allusion to General George Armstrong Custer

For this assignment, I’ve chosen the pages 242-259 and write about George Morningstar, his actions and the effects of his actions on his wife Latisha, and how their story alludes to General George Armstrong Custer in the Civil War.

George Morningstar is first mentioned on pages 56-57, and readers immediately learn from Lionel that George “used to beat the hell out of [Latisha]” (57). A character who embodies extreme American patriotism and one who doesn’t hesitate to enact his values and beliefs in real life, his continual abuse toward Latisha (initially through physical, then emotionally with his absence after her pregnancy with Elizabeth) is King’s way of tying his story with the torture and mass genocide upon the Native Americans at the hands of General George Armstrong Custer.

There are uncanny (and obviously intentional) similarities made between George Morningstar and General George Armstrong Custer. For starters, both are tall with shoulder-length hair. Secondly, they both originated from Ohio and were raised in Michigan (Bio 2015). An interesting fact that makes George Morningstar resemble even more to George Custer is that they both wrote long, descriptive letters to their wives/girlfriends that detailed their “journeys” through America. The most uncanny of them all, however, is the physical, emotional, and psychological damage both have done to the Native Americans: George Morningstar’s disrespect, abuse and lack of responsibility to Latisha along with his utter apathy for the Indigenous culture closely parallels General George Custer’s hostility and indifference toward the Native Americans he killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn (Bio 2015).

George Morningstar’s downfall is his simple thinking and plain irrationality. Between the pages 242-259, readers watch him turn his wishful daydreams of playing “housewife” into a reality by going on a rampage with buying unnecessary recipe books, kitchen tools and subsequently failing to produce anything edible. Eventually on pages 386-387, he suffers the consequences of underestimating, belittling and disobeying the rules at the Sun Dance by attempting to photograph the event and consequently has his camera film stripped from the canister. Similarly, General George Armstrong Custer underestimated the Native American warriors, overestimated his ability, relied too much on his foolish bravery, attacked Lakota Sioux and Southern Cheyenne without waiting for additional troops to aid and was killed as a result (Bio 2015). Exactly like the man King alludes to, Morningstar holds a kind of radicalized American patriotism that borderlines insanity, ultimately disabling him from seeing the true beauty and value in Native culture and traditions. His distorted beliefs prevent him from being open to perspectives that challenge America’s supremacy, thus parallels to General Custer’s attempted genocide and colonization of Native Americans.

Reasoning for my focus on George Morningstar

Morningstar’s character caught my attention because he really reminded me of my dad, named George as well. For the majority of my parents’ marriage, he was unemployed and only knew how to complain and lounge around at home. Providing for his family was never his priority, nor did he ever feel the need to be a good role model to his child. He was a kid himself, trapped in his own fantasies, blinded by his own selfish needs and never wanted to take responsibility in the real world. It was a relief when they finalized the divorced and see my mom move on with her life, just like how Latisha does: “And finally they became boring. Just like George. Even the poetry dulled. After Elizabeth was born, Latisha stopped reading them altogether, stuffed them into a brown grocery bag in her closet instead, leaving them to collect like dust in a corner” (259).


Works Cited

Flick, Jane. “Reading Notes for Thomas King’s “Green Grass, Running Water.”” Canadian Literature (1999): 140-72. Web. 26 July 2016.

“George Armstrong Custer.” History, 1991. Web. 26 July 2016.

“George Custer.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 26 July 2016.

“General George Custer, U.S.A.” Old Pictures. 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.

King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water. Toronto: Harper Perennial Canada, 1999. Print.

Assignment 3:5 – Coyote for Cultural Transcendence

Coyote Pedagogy is a term sometimes used to describe King’s writing strategies (Margery Fee and Jane Flick). Discuss your understanding of the role of Coyote in the novel.

coyote dreaming

I remember when I was seven or eight, I had seen a coyote in Queen Elizabeth Park while playing with my childhood friend. We weren’t far from our parents, but still far enough to feel fear when the animal looked straight at us. It was hidden among the bushes that were 50 meters or so away from us, and all we could feel was sheer panic. Our feet were rooted to the ground, our jaws were hanging agape, and before either of us could muster a sound, our moms yelled for us to come back. Whether they had also seen the coyote too or just simply timing by coincidence, my friend and I were silently relieved to scurry away back into the arms of our parents. Before reading Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water, I had no idea the animal could also be regarded as a humorous helper to the First Nations people.

Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water is a book that requires the reader to interpret signs from both reality and the mythological world, there is no denying that. The trickster Coyote takes on the role of a creator who challenges European cultural influence, and is one who remains outside of the narrative yet bridges the two opposing realities. Coyote’s identity can therefore be seen as juxtaposition to the Christian equivalent of God. However, due to the coexistence and clear predicament between the First Nations and European societies, his foremost role is a healer to the indigenous population. Despite Coyote’s mischievous, mystic, and some might even say controversial nature, his intentions are in the right place for wanting to fix the world. Even when this is so, Coyote’s poor reading of the vastly dissimilar culture and political model provoke the contemporary heros to search for their own home in a world that condemns diversion in civilization, like how Lionel and members of his tribe settle outside of Blackfoot territory.

Interestingly, Coyote assumes the role of both a teacher as well as a student. Yes, there are missteps to his calculations, but we can’t deny his eager attempts to be a disruptive element that combats colonial representations as well as stories of containment. His permanent conversations with the writer, heros, and even himself ultimately encourages the reader to take on a more invested conscience into the story. By turning the central story of Christianity into a Coyote story, King strategically reproduces the entire novel’s plan, which incorporates European history and culture, into the context of First Nations framework.

Coyote is pivotal not only in creation stories, but also vital when facilitating the cultural transcendence that King wishes his audience to gain. Not only is Coyote the embodiment of old and new Aboriginal practices, his figure is represented in both historical/mystical as well as in contemporary events of the novel. In Fee and Fick’s Coyote Pedagogy: Knowing Where the Borders Are in Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water they write, “This is Native pedagogy. We are not only being taught Native history, but we are also being taught it in the Native way – we are not just acquiring information, but learning how to process it differently” (138). Readers must throw away all past assumptions, stereotypes, misinformed beliefs on the Indigenous culture, and be willing to take in the novel’s material through cross-border thinking in order to get the complete joke.


Works Cited

Fee, Margery and Flick, Jane. “Coyote Pedagogy: Knowing Where the Borders Are in Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water. Canadian Literature 131 – 139. (1999). Web. 17 July 2016.

Hughes, Heather. “Where My Girls At? Searching For Coyote Woman.” Tangle and Spiral – A Daily Pattern, 10 June 2013. Web. 17 July 2016. Image.

King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water. Toronto: Harper Collins, 1993. Print.

“Meet Coyote, an Aboriginal “Legend.”” Aboriginal Tourism BC, 28 July 2015. Web. 17 July 2016.

Native American Indian Animals of Myth and Legend. Web. 17 July 2016.

Assignment 3:2 – Playing Hide & Seek With Multiculturalism

2] In this lesson I say that it should be clear that the discourse on nationalism is also about ethnicity and ideologies of “race.” If you trace the historical overview of nationalism in Canada in the CanLit guide, you will find many examples of state legislation and policies that excluded and discriminated against certain peoples based on ideas about racial inferiority and capacities to assimilate. – and in turn, state legislation and policies that worked to try to rectify early policies of exclusion and racial discrimination. As the guide points out, the nation is an imagined community, whereas the state is a “governed group of people.” For this blog assignment, I would like you to research and summarize one of the state or governing activities, such as The Royal Proclamation 1763, the Indian Act 1876, Immigration Act 1910, or the Multiculturalism Act 1989 – you choose the legislation or policy or commission you find most interesting. Write a blog about your findings and in your conclusion comment on whether or not your findings support Coleman’s argument about the project of white civility.



Some of the most popular adjectives associated with Canada when our country is mentioned are “multicultural,” “accepting,” “peaceful, “respectful,” and “supportive.” But what happens when history is dug out and proves that things were (and are) anything but? Yes, we may have officialized a multicultural policy into an actual law; yes, the act is made to ensure that citizens are allowed to freely practice their religions and preserve their identities and beliefs; and ultimately, yes, the act guarantees equality for all mankind before the law. But what does all of this really mean when the concept of multiculturalism still has controversies tied to its name?

When Pierre Trudeau first introduced the notion through federal government policies in 1971 and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney executed the Multiculturalism Act in 1988, their goal was to turn the young nation from a melting pot into a diverse cultural mosaic. Although the noble objective of re-building a society that encompasses a variety of different cultural and ethnic groups into one that co-exists in harmony through mutual respect and equality received much support, many also caught on that the Multiculturalism Act perpetuated the designation and isolation of particular groups as outside the governing society. In his book Selling Illusions (1994), Neil Bissoondath argues that “multiculturalism leads to ethnic and cultural segregation and the ghettoization of cultural groups rather than to an integrated community” (CanLit Guides). This confirms Coleman’s feelings of white civility in that a Caucasian Anglo-Canadian “still occupies the position of normalcy and privilege in Canada” (Coleman 37). There is an inherent sense of supremacy that they hold in every action and conduct: for example, when visible minority members first immigrate to Canada, they are often welcomed only by white Anglo-Canadians and are expected to be gracious for such an opportunity to reside, therefore consequently developing a toxic host/guest hierarchy.

One point which CanLit Guides makes that really hit home for me is that our multiculturalism policy “can be easily reduced to token displays of diversity (food, song, and dance) instead of dealing with actual social injustices.” This is particularly true when it comes to the geographical layout of where minorities are populated: Chinatown on East Hastings and Richmond, Indiatown in Southeast Vancouver and Surrey, Little Italy on Commercial Drive and North Burnaby and so on. This phenomenon, otherwise known as the growing of ethnoburbs, are suburban ethnic bands of commercial and residential developments within metropolitan areas. In my opinion, if Canada believes it is multicultural simply by allowing those of different ethnicities and cultures to live in this country, then it is wrong. What concerns me is the lack of actual genuine amount of cultural-sharing amongst each other. Instead, our cultural mosaic has created new communities of its own that are only dominant in one ethnicity. We have failed to deliver multiculturalism in its truest essence: the kind of diversity that permits different cultures to unconditionally accept and respect each other as well as exist side-by-side in the same space without the need to isolate one from another. I am sorry for having people to feel like the only way to reach for support and achieve a sense of community is through their own enthnoburb; a multicultural society is only multicultural when social networks are not segregated, and when we see people from all over the world walking, living, and enjoying themselves on the same street.



Works Cited

Bissoondath, Neil. Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada. Toronto: Penguin, 1994. Print.

Chan, Arlene. “From Chinatown to Ethnoburb: The Chinese in Toronto.” The 5th WCILCOS International Conference of Institutes and Libraries for Chinese Overseas Studies. 16 May 2012. Web. 7 July 2016.

Coleman, Daniel. “Writing Dislocation: Transculturalism, Gender, Immigrant Families: Conversation with Ven Begamudre.” Canadian Literature 149 (1996): 36-51. Web. 7 July 2016.

“Nationalism, 1980s Onwards: Contesting Multiculturalism.” CanLit Guides. UBC, n.d. Web. 7 July 2016.

“Punjabi Market Guide.” Tourism Vancouver. Web. 7 July 2016.

Washington, A.J. “Demographic Replacement: Vancouver, Babel Columbia.” Heresy. 2 February 2015. Web. 7 July 2016. Image.

Assignment 2:6 – Participatory Role in Literature

1) 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.




King nails it in his article “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial” when he highlights the strategic usage of oral syntax prevalent in Robinson’s story “Coyote Makes A Deal with the King of England.” With his repetition of words and phrases, along with abrupt deviations in plots and thoughts, one can hardly keep up with the flow of the story … Unless it is verbally read aloud. This is Robinson’s weapon that swiftly combats silence, and instead, naturally encourages the reader to share the story with another person. You see, the goal is to bring the story alive, to shorten the distance between the storyteller and the listener, and Robinson successfully does so by writing in a way that has the reader pause in the appropriate places, emphasize tones at certain endings, and even act out storylines with gestures, like when the black and white law book is “about this long and about this wide” (Robinson 84).

Repetition is an undeniably obvious factor in Robinson’s piece, and he certainly plays it to his advantage when creating a rhythmic tune to the sentences and overall structure. For example:

            God sent the Angel to Coyote.
            Sent the Angel.
            Do you know what the Angel was?

            Do you know?

            The Angel, God’s Angel, you know.

            They sent that to Coyote.

            And Angel flew and get to Coyote (Robinson 66).

The words “God,” “Angel,” “Coyote” and “sent” are particularly emphasized through constant reinforcement, and thus become instilled in the reader’s mind. This oral syntax technique allows us to pick up the specific details and themes that the author wishes us to note.

I admit, when I first read the story in silence, I found myself disconnected to the characters. Why? Because I was so fixated on (subconsciously) correcting the sentences and flow of words just so the story would grammatically make more sense. I was changing fragmented sentences into complete sentences that followed the western “approved” linguistics and syntax, and completely missed the whole point of the story. I grabbed my 6-year-old niece, and read to her from the beginning. I immediately felt the story change: sentences that began with “and” and “but” felt natural off the tip of my tongue, academic “errors” became less of the focus, and as I was wailing my hands in the air and altering my tone here and there with the words, my center of attention was on the meaning behind the words. Later that night when I had my mother read the story to me, I found that the story was specifically written to give a sense of warmth, intimacy, comfort even. It is written in a way that allows the listener to feel fully immersed and embraced into the story, like a participant, rather than a bystander.

Through this experience, I realized we have all been conditioned to believe that a certain framework of thinking is forever the sole measure of accuracy, excellence, and superiority. I appreciate what Robinson has done here: his usage of oral syntax can be seen as a way of rebelling and challenging the status quo of modern academia as well as colonial narratives. The structure he has created wholly deconstructs the typical narrative voice we are constantly exposed to in western academic writing, and instead, we learn to search deeper beyond what is seen to the naked eye.

Works Cited

Buvala, K. Sean. “The Three Essential Skills of the Storyteller.”, 1999. Web. 3 July 2016.

Coyotes. Desert USA. Web. 3 July 2016. Digital Image.

Frost, Shelley. “The Importance of Repetition When Reading.” Our Everyday Life, 2016. Web. 3 July 2016.

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. EdWendy Wickwire. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005. 64-85.

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