Native Americans in War Dances
The author of War Dances Sherman Alexie claims that Native Americans comprise less than 0.9 percent of the U.S. population. With such a small number, it is not easy to maintain its traditions and culture as the generation progresses. In his story, “War Dances,” Sherman Alexie laments the identity loss by the Native Americans through a depreciating intonation that shows generations division in the society. Sherman Alexie says there is moral decay in the modern society. Earlier times teachings and traditions are beneficial to Native American culture. But, the modern world exposes people to ignorance about their identity.
Sherman Alexie puts forth questions to the audience in his desire to get what life means in relation to the transitions that the world has undergone. The author considers all people to be equal and wonders why diversity differences exist, and yet people speak similar languages, work in similar offices, dance the same art, and listen to identical music (Westron 83). Further, Sherman acknowledges that change in the society is inevitable since people advance and embrace new ways of doing things.
Sherman blends social issues in his story, which exist in the modern society to demonstrate how morals, ethics, and values have been triggered by modernism. The slow but gradual evolution in the world has changed people’s morals and culture. There is increased separation of the indigenous identity of the Native Americans from the whites, and yet they speak a similar language, this is very ironic. A cultural division is evidenced in the modern society as highlighted by the author.
Growing up in the modern world creates generational clashes. People get frustrated with their own culture. Native Americans seem to assume that it is a common issue for people to die of Vodka and Nostalgia Chaser consumption, “Both are natural causes for an Indian” (Alexie 6). Modernism has contributed significantly to this casualness. This is a detrimental concern that suggests even the Native Americans are coping with cultural segregation by taking it to be normal. The failure to understand integrity measures of Native Americans is embarrassing the two men in the story since they do not fathom the real aspects of their culture.
Further, a clash of generations is created by the modern west culture. As per the title “War Dance,” there is a clash between the two contradicting cultures. The younger generation opposes the beliefs of the older generation. In the hospital, one man is lamenting at his Dad’s notion that it is unnecessary to be at the hospital when a child is being born. He says “you know how many babies died before we had good hospitals? Most of them” (Alexie 5). The younger beliefs in modern medicine, but the aged believe in antithesis. The ancient generation is conservative of the old ways of doing things, and the younger generations have refused to follow the aged ways. The beliefs of the older generation frustrate the younger people in the society.
Sherman uses racial stereotypes in his story towards Native Americans to mask a distressing conflict of cultural confusion. There is disappointment evidenced in the story when the author tries to nurse his father from deathbed and about to pass on from “a natural Native American death,” which is set to mean alcohol and diabetes (Alexie, 52). In this instance, the audience learns that most Native American people died of the disease, which is associated with reserve living, segregation, and seclusion in the society. Alcohol and diseases seem to have killed a significant number of Native Americans, “Vodka straight up or with a nostalgia chaser? (Alexie 6). In this regard, modernism has penetrated culture and contributed largely to changing the lives of people together with their cultures and ways of life.
The language used in the story indicates a cultural distance. In describing heritage, the man uses the “Indian world” instead of using the word “our”; this disassociates himself from the ancient Native Americans generation (Westron 82). A mood of tension is created because young people do not understand their heritage properly. Younger people keep on losing their cultural identity as a result of associating themselves with a novel/ modern generation.
In conclusion, War Dances disconnects the past from the modern life and culture of the Native Americans. The younger generations have failed to embrace the ancient cultures, traditions, and ways of life. The traditions and cultures of the Native Americans have been lost due to ignorance and failure to understand the cycle progresses and lessons taught by the elders of the society to the young generation. As time goes, the Native American culture continues to diminish with the younger generation being more in numbers than the elderly.
Alexie, Sherman. War Dances. New York: Grove Press, 2009. Print, 1-36
Alexie, Sherman. War Dances: Stories and Poems. Open Road Media, 2013.
Westron, Loree. “War Dances.” Western American Literature45.1 (2010): 82-83.