Topics for Further Study

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Silko refers to some of the environmental problems facing the Laguna Reservation after World War II. How do these problems affect the people's culture? How do they affect Tayo's ceremony? How does Silko illuminate these problems without documenting them and, then, how are they resolved, if at all?

Write an essay about the Pueblo theory of witchery. What types of behavior both in the story and in reality could be considered witchery? How does this theory help to spread responsibility while suggesting a solution to problems of greed, pollution, and hunger?

Silko suggests that the neglected Pueblo ceremonial traditions are not only useful but also essential to future survival. Think of some other religious traditions that are either out of use or corrupted. What value might they have, if any, once rejuvenated?

Without exception, the Native-American people prophesied that the white man was coming. Those same prophecies also say that all things European will disappear. What do you think that means? Is it coming to pass?

Some cultures have definite patterns of recognition and 'rites of passage.' For example, the Plains Indians have a Vision Quest wherein a young person is 'put out' on a hilltop, or laid in a shallow grave, with 4 days of water. This allows the adolescent to have a vision or receive a message about his future role in the community. Jews, on the other hand, acknowledge their adolescents with a Bar Mitzvah celebration. Modern secular culture has no such thing. In Ceremony, the young men saw enlistment in the Army as a rite of passage into white society. Research the cultural function of 'rites of passage.' Are they needed? If so, what sort of ceremony could you envisage for celebrating the attainment of maturity in America?

While the rest of the nation has seen a drop in violent crime (by 22%), Native-American reservations are experiencing a crime wave (up by 87%). The baby boom on the reservation of the 1980s has translated into a large number of youths, and these kids and young adults are just beginning to imitate urban gangs in terms of culture, violence, and drugs. The United States Congress and President Clinton are proposing to spend additional millions on new prisons and law enforcement on the Native-American land. Thinking about Ceremony, argue for an alternative solution to the infant gang problem. Then, do some research into alternative programs for Native-American offenders: why are they under funded and ignored?

Gather a number of brief accounts (cultural, historical, and archaeological) of the Pueblo Indians. Placing them next to each other, compare the ways in which the Native Americans of the Southwest are presented. Oftentimes these descriptions will include suggestions on when to visit reservations to see them dance. Given what you now know about Gallup, consider the ethics of this tourism. Is it ethical to encourage recreational gawking at Native Americans? What does this say about our culture in the 1990s?

The Mayans were one of three civilizations to invent the mathematical concept of zero. The Pueblo People developed several strains of corn. What other knowledge and resources did the Native Americans possess that were either stolen or buried (hint: research calendars, the material used for tires, and medical procedures).

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