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In Pollock's Walsh, in the scene between Walsh and Sitting Bull in Act Two, how does...

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pashti | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:48 PM via web

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In Pollock's Walsh, in the scene between Walsh and Sitting Bull in Act Two, how does Pollock indicate, through Walsh's language and her own stage directions, that Walsh has chosen to be "Major Walsh" rather than "White Sioux?"

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 4, 2013 at 5:56 AM (Answer #1)

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At the start of Pollock's Walsh, we learn that Walsh forms relationships based upon the character of a person, not upon race. He immediately extends his hand in friendship when first meeting Sitting Bull. After a moment of hesitation, Sitting Bull decides to trust Walsh (as noted in the stage direction) and shakes hands with Major James Walsh.

We also see that Walsh goes out of his way to help the Sioux. He has no misconceptions about the Little Big Horn. Custer attacked the unsuspecting Sioux and was killed; the Sioux were forced to defend themselves. And Sitting Bull has spoken to the Cree and the Blackfoot who say that Walsh is "the Indian's friend."

When Sitting Bull asks Walsh if he has had news regarding what is to become of them, Walsh reports that Queen Victoria will not take care of them (though George III promised they would).

As he speaks in Act One, Walsh makes the distinction between his friendship with Sitting Bull and his position with the NWMP.

WALSH:

I tell you this because I am a soldier and I must follow orders, but I am a friend also. White Forehead...

He indicates himself.

...does not say this, Major Walsh says this.

He speaks officially.

It is at this point that he reads the US President's request that the Sioux return to the US territory.

By the time Act Two begins, things have only gotten worse. Sitting Bull has met with General Terry of the US Army: a man committed to the elimination of the "savages," who shows no respect to the Sioux or their way of life.

MacLeod, Walsh's superior, chastises him for not following protocol in dealing with stolen Canadian and US ponies. The British government is ignoring Walsh's many requests for aid on behalf of the Sioux. In fact, Walsh has been told that neither he nor the settlers can offer the Sioux anything to survive. The Prime Minister (as agent of Queen Victoria) believes that hunger will motivate the Sioux to return to the United States.

Walsh is now witnessing the demise of the Sioux nation while he, under orders, can do nothing. The Sioux people are starving to death. He has had to sentence one Sioux to jail because he stole a cow from a settler to feed his family, even though the man offered the settler his horse (his prized possession) in payment. When Sitting Bull comes the last time to ask for help, Walsh doesn't want to see him—we can infer it is too painful for Walsh because he is an ethical and caring man.

When they speak, Walsh reports that the Queen has not changed her mind. Sitting Bull asks Walsh to send a message to her, asking for her pity. Then he calls Walsh "White Sioux"—a name of friendship. Walsh is silent and staring as this great man humbles himself to beg for food: "only a little."

Walsh explodes, telling Sitting Bull to buy supplies or cross the border into the US. Sitting Bull reminds Walsh:

You are speaking to the head of the Sioux nation!

Walsh swears at him and says, "Get the hell out!" When Sitting Bull draws his knife, "Major Walsh" acts. He knocks the chief to the floor, and when Sitting Bull tries to stand...

WALSH puts his foot in the middle of his back and shoves him, sending him sprawling.

When Sitting Bull gets to his feet, Walsh's final gesture is an act of White Sioux:

WALSH's hand slowly reaches out to SITTING BULL as [he] slowly turns, takes his blanket and exits.

But there is nothing more to say: the Sioux—and Walsh—have been beaten by British politics and coercion by the American government.

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