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In Ceremony, what is referred to as the "lie"?

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In, Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko, the lie that is a persistent current throughout the novel is the institutional and internalized white supremacy that has dominated the lives of the Native American characters. Tayo fights in a devastating war where he sees the resemblance of his family in the faces of the Japanese soldiers who he is forced to kill. He must then return home to a country that is destroying his people's culture and image of themselves as indigenous people. Tayo grew up in a country where the dominant white culture declared Native Americans to be thieves and inferior to whites. After his experience in the war, Tayo begins deeply considering the treatment that he and his fiends and family receive at the hands of individual whites and white society as a whole. Tayo is spiritually and physically ill from the war and white supremacy that dominates his life. The reservation he lives on is experiencing a 6-year drought, which Tayo blames on himself due to a curse he uttered at the rainfall while he was fighting in the war. Tayo seeks healing for himself and the land, and, as such, he must confront the lies of white society.

Through his journey seeking a ceremonial healing from the effects of the war, Tayo begins to deconstruct the dominant narrative that white society has constructed about his people. This journey comes to a head when he is falsely accused of stealing cattle that, in fact, was his family's cattle stolen by white farmers. As white police attempt to arrest Tayo, he successfully evades their capture, completes his healing ceremony, and deconstructs the lie of white society. As this lie is exposed and his spiritual wounds begin to heal, the reservation where he lives is cured of the 6-year drought.

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The "lie" in this text which has everything to do with the relationships between the indigenous people of America and the whites who came and took their land and engaged in a process of trying to eradicate their culture is presented to the reader when Tayo discovers that his uncle's cattle had actually been stolen by the white rancher, Floyd Lee. Note what the narrator tells us about the lie that Tayo and all Native American people had been taught:

He knew then he had learned the lie by heart--the lie which they had wanted him to learn: only brown-skinned people were thieves....The liars had fooled everyone, white people and Indians alike... Their lies would destroy this world.

The lie then in this text refers to the way that whites, through their dominant education system and cultural supremacy, had tried to instruct and teach the Native Americans lies concerning their identity. The dominant discourse argued that it was only Native Americans who stole and robbed from hard working whites. Tayo discovers a very different reality, and the rest of the book represents his struggle to unlearn and relearn certain essential facts about the reality of life and how dominant white culture presents Native Americans, and how this compares with the reality of how they actually are. The final line of the above quote is significant because it indicates the power of lies, and how they can "destroy the world" through their ability to convince people of the so-called "truth" of issues, even when those "truths" are based on lies at their core. 

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