The Trees Stand Shining Essay - Critical Essays

Hettie Jones, editor


This collection of poetry provides more than a glimpse of the mores and folkways of sixteen native groups: Tewa, Nookta, Mescalero Apache, Zuni, Acoma, Nez Perce, Iroquois, Cochiti, Teton Sioux, Crow, Chippewa, Papago, Kwakutl, Cheyenne-Arapaho, Pima, and Arapaho-Comanche. The native groups, although disparate in several identifiable ways, sing about similar topics. One major theme of these songs recognizes the elements of nature and offers praise to those aspects that bear directly on well-being and survival: Good weather derives from the sun and sky; animals provide food, clothing, and transportation; trees provide shade and shelter; day and night make beginnings and endings; the owl closes the day and the mockingbird announces it; and, when it grows light, the trees stand shining. Inherent in these songs, presented as poems, is the steady rhythm of birth, growth, love, and death.

The mystical quality of these native songs inspires contemplation about what the singers felt as well as curiosity about the content of the poems. Most of the topics of the songs are universal. Peoples throughout the world share the same sky, sun, and moon and experience birth, growth, love, and death. A higher power is a central theme of countless cultures. Moreover, many cultures throughout the world have known invading armies, conquest, hunger, thirst, rape, pillaging, and loss of territory.

The illustrations add significantly to the understanding of the native people from these sixteen groups. The sparseness of the text belies the eloquence of the...

(The entire section is 635 words.)