The Man Made of Words

by N. Scott Momaday

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What did you learn about Native American literature, culture, or history from Momaday's text?

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1. The Man Made of Words, of course, is a collection of essays of Native American origin by Momaday.  It is divided into two parts:  "Part 1:  The Man Made of Words" and "Part 2:  Essays in Place."  In regards to what I learned about Native American culture, it was really interesting to me to consider the killing of the buffalo to be a "moral" question.  I can't say that, as a very typical "white" American, I ever considered it "immoral" to throw away part of an animal that I didn't want to eat; although, I have thought a lot about wasting food (and consider that a true issue).  It is fascinating to me to bring up the topic of "sin" in regards to this.  I suppose "the Great Spirit" would not be pleased with any waste.  Perhaps we are all guilty.

2.  One of the essays in The Man Made of Words is called "A First American Views His Land."  Their worldview is that their race, more than any other on the planet absolutely LOVED the land and, as a result, lived more in harmony with the land than any other people.  It is the introduction of peoples not Native American in origin that destroyed the environment. 

3.  The "moral living" you mention in your third question is exemplified in "A First American Views His Land" by the reasoning behind why the Native American kills the buffalo.  They not only need it to eat, but they need the bones and organs for tools and fertilizer.  They use every part of the buffalo:  the "moral" thing to do.  This is different than just how much modern people waste and greedily try to "own" the land.

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