In Pollock's Walsh, how is Louis' unique Metis perspective expressed in the play?
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In Pollock's Walsh, Louis is a Metis scout. The Metis are one of the "Aboriginal" tribes of Canada, no longer referred to as "Indian" or "Eskimo." Louis was a French Metis—his father was a French-speaking fur trader (Voyageur). Louis tells Clarence:
Fort Walsh scout...Mother red, father white...Louis' father, French.
At the time, while Louis was a part of the Indian and white cultures, he would never have been fully welcomed into either. He has found a place for himself helping Walsh with affairs that involve the Indians.
Louis has the knowledge of the two worlds of which he is a part. When Clarence says that an officer must need to know a lot, Louis reflects his vision of the world from an "Indian" perspective:
Take all da books, da news dat da white man prints, take all dat Bible book, take all dose things you learn from...lay dem on the prairie...and da sun...da rain...da snow...pouf! You wanna learn, you study inside [your head] and [your heart] ...and how it is wit' you and me (he indicates the two of them) ...and how it is wit you and all...
He indicates the surroundings.
Travel 'round da Medicine Wheel. Den you know somethin'.
Louis has a great respect for the old ways: of learning about yourself and then the world around you. Books, to Louis, don't count for much because they can be destroyed; but one's knowledge of the world and of self cannot be lost to rain or snow.
Louis jokes about the government sending farming supplies for the Indians. He realizes, as does Walsh, that they are sometimes foolish. And he sometimes finds that the way of the whites a puzzle. When Crow Eagle takes one of two tubs Mrs. Anderson has (for a drum), Louis asks:
Da white lady has 'nother tub...why does she not use that?
He is a man of common sense, as are the people of other tribes—both those indigenous to Canada and those who travel across the border. He sees the need only for what is necessary: why must one have more than he needs?
Louis knows that the rules of the British government must be followed. He knows how to play the game. He tells Crow Eagle:
You must obey the Great White Mother's law. She will look after your people if you do. Otherwise, she will forget you.
But he also understands the natives' inability to do anything different than what they have always known. Of Crow Eagle, Louis explains to Walsh:
Ever since he was born, he has eaten wild meat...He cannot give up quickly the customs of his fathers.
When the Nez Perces Indians sneak into the territory, Louis understands how they might react to the white Mounties:
Wait here. We speak to dem first. Dey will be frightened. We will bring dem back.
It is Louis who prays over the dead Nez Perces:
My father has given me this nation.
In protecting it,
A hard time I have...
Louis has saved Walsh's life; he has lost the support of some of his family in working for the whites, but he trusts Walsh "to do da right thing." Louis asks Walsh to help the Sioux. He notes that he chooses to trust Walsh, but...
...da Indian can do nothin' else but trust...Trust...or die...Sometime, trust and die...
Louis' unique Metis perspective allows him to see the world with the eyes of the Indians and also the whites—though Walsh and General Terry are very different—something not lost on Louis. He recognizes the distinctions between the two cultures, and acts with wisdom gained from living in both worlds.
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