How is the Indigenous and non-Indigenous contexts addressed in Green Grass, Running Water? What are some examples of this happening?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Green Grass, Running Water, the dynamic between indigenous and non- indigenous contexts is evident in the mere title.  King's title refers to the promise from the White American government that Native American land interests will preserved "as long as the grass is green and the water runs."  The dynamic is present in how the promises of non- indigenous White society towards indigenous Native Americans are not honored and how Native Americans can only try to live out an existence in the midst of broken agreements and ruptured bonds.   

The dynamic of shifting narratives in the midst of indigenous and non- indigenous contexts is also evident in the structure of the story.  King features multiple retellings of creation stories that are essential to the Judeo- Christian construction, a non- indigenous element in terms of the historical predicament of Native Americans.  King displays both indigenous and non- indigenous myths of creation to show how the history of one group is inextricably bound within the narrative of another.  Even the presence of God himself, something that is seen as absolute in the non- indigenous Judeo- Christian narrative, is inverted with Coyote's misreading of his own vision of "Dog," as an inverted form of the divine.  Both contexts treat divinity in a fundamentally different manner, but end up acknowledging the role of human beings within such a structure.  Coyote is the creator force, even if he does misread his own vision.

The parallel structure and relationship of indigenous and non- indigenous contexts is further addressed in the Old Indians, themselves.  Their names reflect how indigenous and non- indigenous contexts interact with one another.  The indigenous First Woman becomes the non- indigenous Lone Ranger, a pattern that continues with Changing Woman/ Ishmael, Thought Woman/ Robinson Crusoe, and Old Woman/ Hawkeye.  King uses this verbal inversion to show how both contexts interact and bifurcate one another to a point where it becomes fundamentally difficult to discern what is indigenous and what is non- indigenous.  In the end, truth becomes a collection of stories where one sees how both contexts depend on one another.

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