Sweetgrass Ideas for Reports and Papers
by Jan Hudson

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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1. "Sweetgrass" is more than the name of the book's central character. Research the role that the plant, sweetgrass, played, and still plays, in First Nations' cultural traditions.

2. To prevent members of her family from starving to death, Sweetgrass fed them fish, a major cultural food taboo, and, because of her actions, some of her family survived. One way of explaining what happened is to say that the "end" result, Sweetgrass saving lives, excused her "means" of achieving that result (i.e., violating a major food taboo saved lives). Conduct a debate with the following focus: Be it resolved that the end justifies the means.

3. "Grandmother undid the laces of the baby's carrying bag. The baby made a face at her own bad stink. She really needed her moss changed." The preceding passage is just one of many examples that Hudson includes in Sweetgrass that describe how the Blackfoot lived in the first half of the nineteenth century. Using the novel and other resources, research traditional Blackfoot life under such headings as food and cooking, clothing and materials, transportation, dwellings and furnishings, and social customs and structure.

4. Among the Blackfoot, individuals had at least two names, a childhood name and then an adult name. For example, when Sweetgrass's grandmother, She Fought Them Woman, speaks to her son, Shabby Bull, she sometimes refers to him by his childhood name, Sobbing in the Night. Explore how you and/or your siblings and parents received your given names and any nicknames.

5. Jan Hudson uses the literary device of the simile in her writing. The Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (online version) defines a simile as "a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses)." One of an author's intents in employing simile is to assist readers in their understanding of the text. Since Sweetgrass, the central character, lives in a natural, unspoiled area, Hudson utilizes comparisons that would be familiar to Sweetgrass and other members of the Blackfoot tribe. For example, while describing the repetitive nature of their lives, Sweetgrass says, "Our lives seemed fixed as in a beaded design or the roundness of an old tale told on winter nights." Rewrite the above simile so that their new content would reflect the environment in which you live. Find further examples of...

(The entire section is 588 words.)