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The Oppression of Indigenous People in Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas, Research Paper Example

Pages: 7

Words: 2029

Research Paper

Introduction

Colonization perpetrated the oppression of indigenous communities. Also, the struggle against cultural imperialism lay at the heart of oppression as the culture of native communities was perceived as backward and undesirable. The hallmark of the oppression against indigenous people involved the use of force by the US government to ensure natives subscribed to its beliefs, values, and cultural practices; it resulted in the treatment of indigenous groups and sects in a dehumanizing manner. Layli Long Soldier is a poet and feminist from the Oglala Lakota tribe, an indigenous community. Her indigeneity is central to her poems, where she describes the injustice that her community and other native tribes were exposed to at the height of American society. Her poem collection, Whereas, is rooted in her indigenous perspectives and the Lakota language, which she utilized to advocate against the oppression of native tribes in the US. The following will be a persuasive essay to convince the reader about the deep entrenchment of non-observance of civil rights in the form of freedom from oppression against the indigenous communities. The first paragraph will examine the use of ‘whereas’ statements by Long Soldier to voice her views on oppression, the second paragraph will describe an anti-creative piece: 38, and the third paragraph will dive into the intricacies of the 2009 Apology to the Native People by the US government. Meanwhile, the fourth paragraph will showcase oppression in the form of the separation of natives from other US communities, while the fifth paragraph will describe the oppression of the natives in the form of inferiority to the rest of the US society. The law on freedom from oppression is a major issue within the primary literary text, Whereas,and is depicted by numerous accounts of indigenous communities’ struggles.

Discussion

Long Soldier uses ‘whereas’ statements to showcase her disgruntlement at the oppression native communities were exposed to. ‘Whereas’ is critical in the poem since it can be used to shift blame from one person to another, making it an excellent tool for Long Soldier. She uses ‘whereas’ to shift the blame to the US government for the sustained oppression directed at natives. This is in line with the statement from Griffis (2020), “Long Soldier indeed holds the language of colonization accountable for its vast damage to Native communities through the use of whereas.” The ‘whereas’ statements are used initially to indicate the role played by Long Soldier as a mother, poet, and daughter. Long Soldier then used the statements to represent the things and issues she thought about, experienced, and felt. At the heart of this was the apology to the natives by the US government. It is clear that Long Soldier is opposed to the honesty of the apology directed at her people. As a result, she uses ‘whereas’ statements carefully such that her forgiveness for the oppression is separate from the apology. Long Soldier uses a microcosm of an extracted tooth to depict the relationship between the US government and the native people; this is depicted in the text “Whereas I don’t share this to belabor suffering…Yet at the root of reparation is repair. My tooth will not grow back ever. The root, gone (Long Soldier, 2017).” The passage indicates that Long Soldier and the indigenous communities do not enjoy showcasing their suffering. However, even though the tooth, representing the suffering they experienced, is gone, it will not grow again since it has already been lost. This shows the dissatisfaction among indigenous communities because even though apologies may be directed to them, they have already suffered and sustained humiliation and prejudice. This relates to the thesis statement since it showcases the lengthy period of suffering the indigenous communities were exposed to suffering. The stance is furthered by Holland & Vizenor, (2020), who indicate, “But a significant part of the ongoing struggle is the fact that powerful historic voices such as Crevecoeur formed a definition of America that wrapped the nation in a type of exceptionalism.” It is evident that Long Soldier and indigenous communities still bear the effects of the suffering they sustained. Natives are disgruntled as a result of the oppressive behavior directed at them.

Further, the poetic piece 38 accurately presents the suffering of the indigenous communities in Dakota. The poem refers the Dakota 38, which entails the events and the aftermath involving the hanging of 38 Dakota men. The men were executed under the order of the then president Abraham Lincoln (Martinez, 2020). The event is recognized as the largest mass execution in the US. Long Soldier notes that the hanging occurred one day after Christmas, the same day the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into effect. The men were hanged due to their participation and advocation of the Sioux Uprising. However, Long Soldier notes that these men had no choice but to revolt since they were chased from their land, starved, and not allowed to trade with the surrounding people for food. It is depicted in the passage, “One trader named Andrew Myrick is famous for his refusal to provide credit to Dakotas by saying, “If they are hungry, let them eat grass.” There are variations of Myrick’s words, but they are all something to that effect (Long Soldier, 2017).” The passage clearly showcases the abuse directed at the native Dakota communities. Even though food was available, most natives had a better chance of eating grass than getting food through trade (Manshel, 2022). The passage relates to the thesis statement, which targets the oppression the native communities were subjected to. Denying native people food and other needs because of their affiliation is injustice and a travesty against human rights. The poetic piece 38 depicts the suffering of the natives within Dakota.

Additionally, Long Soldier disagrees with the stance on oppression during the presentation of the apology to natives by the US government in 2009. While the effort by the government is welcome since it shows recognition for the oppression that natives were forced to endure, there is little recognition for the ceremony. The apology was presented by Barrack Obama and was dubbed the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans (Brunvand, 2019). However, despite it being an official ceremony, no natives were invited to the event, which did not sit well with Long Soldier. Further, the apology was not formally read by the president; the document was merely signed to indicate its validity. The apology by the US government is backward since the people did not know the document’s contents. Further, there were no native representatives to receive and accept the document. It is depicted in the passage, “My response is directed to the apology’s delivery, as well as the language, crafting, and arrangement of the written document. I am a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation—and in this dual citizenship, I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live (Long Soldier, 2017).” This depicts the dissatisfaction of Long Soldier at how the US government delivered the document. Even though there was an official ceremony, there was no native to acknowledge the document. As a result, the document was forced on natives since they were bound by the constitution and their position as US citizens. This relates to the thesis statement since the US government’s apology indicates that the natives were indeed exposed to massive suffering. The US government only acknowledges the occurrence of oppression without taking responsibility for it, which does not please the native people. There is disagreement in the US government’s presentation of the apology to the native communities.

Moreover, indigenous communities faced oppression due to separation from other US communities. The indigenous communities clearly remember the injustices they faced at the hands of the US government. Long Soldier describes the relationship between natives and the US government as complicated through her description of Indian health services. Even though medical attention was afforded to the indigenous people, it came long after they sustained damage and injury. The US government acted callously with the natives and only provided the native communities with healthcare after getting what it wanted. This is a blatant disregard for the needs and feelings of the native communities. These actions resulted in a feeling that the US government was not aligned with protecting the native communities or their interests and that the natives could only rely on each other for sustenance and protection. As a result, the group cohesion among the native communities heightened rapidly. Because the natives are united against actions of oppression, it is indicated in Whereas “this is a ceremony (Long Soldier, 2017).” It shows the formality of the independence that the native communities have. These communities take efforts to prevent oppression seriously and are aligned with mounting a joint effort against the practice. The statement is related to the thesis since it shows the current united nature of the native communities; it is possible due to the oppression they experienced. The separation of the natives from other communities is a telling part of the oppression they experienced.

Also, the indigenous communities sustained oppression since they were regarded as inferior to other US communities. From reading Long Soldier’s account, it is clear that the natives were regarded as unworthy of the same status as other people. It resulted in the diminution of the rights and sovereignties of the native communities. This is shown by the passage, “Native People are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”…Whereas I remember that abstractions such as “life,” “liberty,” and “happiness” rarely serve a poem, so I have learned it best not to engage these terms anyway. Yet I smash head-on into this specific differentiation: the Creator vs. their Creator (Long Soldier, 2017)” This shows that even though there exist rights such as life and happiness for the indigenous people, Long Soldier finds it best not to engage the issues since the US government did not observe them. Further, Long Soldier points out the reference of using ‘their’ instead of ‘the’ regarding creation. It depicts that most people regarded the indigenous communities as undeserving such that another creator must have made them. It relates to the thesis since regarding fellow men as inferior depicts the oppression directed at them. The inferiority of the indigenous communities is a pertinent issue in Whereas.

Conclusion

Long Soldier’s account, Whereas, makes a deliberate attempt to address issues of oppression faced by the native communities. The author is a member of the Dakota indigenous community and uses this position to elevate the validity of her statements and claims. Evidently, the natives sustained much oppressive action, largely directed at them by the US government. Even though the US government drafted a formal apology, it did not elect representatives from the native communities to oversee the event. Further, the apology was more of an acknowledgment of the oppression faced by the natives rather than an effort to take responsibility for the actions. It shows that the US government is unconcerned about the continued suffering of the native communities. Also pertinent is the inferior designation directed at the natives; most endure oppression daily because of this. It is critical that the native communities are protected against oppression.

References

Brunvand, A. (2019). The Poetry of Government Information. DttP, 47, 16. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/dttp47&div=18&id=&page=

Griffis, R. B. (2020). “Language to Reach With”: Layli Long Soldier’s WHEREAS Connects Words to Reality. Studies in American Indian Literatures, 32(1-2), 52-74. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5250/studamerindilite.32.1-2.0052

 Holland, P. J., & Vizenor, G. (2020). Ghostly bodies, spectral texts: how Layli long soldier’s whereas and Leslie Marmon Silko’s ceremony untangle oppressive narratives. Western American Spectral Studies: Haunting in Film, Literature and Landscape, 144. https://search.proquest.com/openview/33650791480b25c3412206648fd83cbd/1.pdf?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y#page=151

Layli L. S. (2017). Whereas. Greywolf Press.

Manshel, H. (2022). “Never Allowed for Property”: Harriet Jacobs and Layli Long Soldier before the Law. American Literature, 94(2), 331-355. https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-9779064

Martinez, Y. (2020). An Assignment Sequence on Layli Long Soldier’s “38”. https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/104172

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