How do the main characters attempt to deal with the mistrust in Wind from an Enemy Sky by D'Arcy McNickle?  

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Virtually every interaction in this novel, Wind from an Enemy Sky by D'Arcy McNickle, is based on mistrust. The Little Elk Tribe does not trust the white government because it has a long history of breaking its promises to the Indians. The American government does not trust the Native Americans because the Indians have consistently acted violently against whites. This is a deep-seated mistrust, so there are not very many things that will help ameliorate that distrust.

One of the most significant things which demonstrates this effort to rebuild trust concerns the medicine bundle. It is a sacred artifact of the Little Elk Tribe, and it was stolen from them by Stephen Welles, the clergyman on the reservation. He sells it to Adam Pell's museum. Welles would claim he did not sell it, but of course he donated it with the understanding that the museum would, in turn, make a donation to his church.

To make matters worse, Welles indicates to Pell that this sacred medicine bundle is being given with the knowledge and permission of the tribe; however, that is a blatant lie. When Pell is asked to return the medicine bundle, he tries to do so, demonstrating his willingness to build trust with the tribe. Unfortunately, the artifact had deteriorated so badly that it is unable to be returned. Again in an effort to show good faith and make amends to the tribe, Pell brings them a sacred artifact he values; however, this valuable (and hard to obtain) Incan statue is insulting to the tribe.

Rafferty tries to dissuade Pell from giving a full explanation about what happened to the medicine bundle, but again in an attempt to build trust, Pell tells them the truth. His explanation confirms to the tribe members that their heritage has been lost, something which has been happening to them incrementally for years. His offer of a substitute item devalues their sacred artifact because it suggests that any old relic can replace it.

This is a perfect example of an attempt to right a wrong, an attempt to "deal with the mistrust" between these two cultures. It does not work simply because the two worlds are just too disparate. The resultant mistrust is 

the greater tragedy of two cultures trying to accommodate each other.

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