Karen Louise Erdrich
Karen Louise Erdrich is a Native American writer born in June 7, 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota as a daughter of American father and Chippewa Indian mother. She is self-renowned author of novels, poems and other books for children. Additionally, Erdrich is a significant native writer of the second wave of the Native American Renaissance. She was raised in Wahpeton in North Dakota where her grandfather was the tribal chairperson of Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation while her parents worked as teachers in the bureau of Indian Falls boarding schools.
Erdrich’s writing prowess in poetry and literature may have originated from early childhood days and heritage. This can be explained with the fact that she was constantly involved in reservations’ life while visiting her grandparents. This clearly comes out in the interview carried out by Janet Witalec. Erdrich’s literally works are defined with a variety of characters that appear in several stories. Her work covers various issues that affect not only the Indian society but also the white society. These elements are Catholicism, government policies and procedures and alcohol especially in the Indian community. Owing to Erdrich’s mixed heritage it was possible for the author to examine the societal practices and their effects on individual and family lives.
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is the recent book written by Erdrich in 2001. In this novel, the author tries to embrace the verbal tradition by considering the themes while, on the other hand, not tolerating print culture. The main elements featured include trickster and myth, which symbolize crossing of the boundary: Erdrich uses Agnes Dewitt to emphasize on gender. The other element is gender and boundary crossing through religion.
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What is Father Damien’s Secret and Why Did the Priest Embrace that Secret? Explain.
Father Damien’s biggest secret was that his actual gender was of a woman. Once he was a nun named Agnes who later transformed to a farmer’s wife. The change of Damien’s identity begins with the flood that happened and took the life of first father Damien. This flood symbolizes a transition from woman to occur for Agnes. It is a new beginning for her. The events of the flood present Agnes an opportunity to take the identity of the priest in Ojibwa reservation. Additionally, it also represents a period of rebirth for her, who is now father Damien and who brings new religious practices in the parish at the reservation. The secret of her past life and the new Father Damien is what she hides.
The secret is also evident since, as we can see, Erdrich gives more consideration on the word “act” to put more emphasis on the new identity that Agnes has acquired. In this case, Agnes ends up dressing and acting out like a priest while being a trickster what is significant to the overall performance. Furthermore, it is vivid that she comes up with a list that helps her to learn and act out plausibly since she had to behave not only as a priest but also as a man. This involved a complete memorization of her script. Some of the listed items and rules included occasional humming a resolute march, accepting no explanations, and sharpening razor daily. On the same note, she mastered the art of admiring the women’s handiwork with amazement and exercised for muscle enhancement (Iovannone, 2009).
Two men she loved helped her to keep her deep secret. One of them was a priest, and the other was a farmer who was helping Father Damien. With the help of Nanapush, who told her all stories about Ojibwa, Agnes was able to live a priest’s life successfully as she learned the Christian religion and the Indian culture.
What Role Does Nanapush Play in Father Damien’s Spiritual Journey? Explain.
Becoming a priest was not a tall order for Agnes who had once left everything behind to embrace the life of a nun. As a result, she adapted to her new role of priest easily and quickly. Agnes had the power of saying the first words and being followed by the whole congregation. Once she began, the flow was like a river that was carrying her to Little No Horse. During her spiritual journey, she came around as a friend and as a teacher who was among the Ojibwa community. Agnes, who has taken the role of Father Damien, acts an important part as a priest and exposes the people of the parish. Nanapush is an unwavering pagan who has always been learnt to see God in all things. He sees God in the manner, in which Agnes was saved from the floods while the real
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Father Damien was killed, as well as in taste and color of carrots.
Since Agnes was a priest among the Ojibwas, Nanapush acted an important part as a teacher for her. He acted as a priest by guiding Damien through the religion, practices and way of living of the parishioners. According to the book, Nanapush does not convert to Christianity; however, he manages to convert Agnes, as the new Father Damien, to the Christian religion. This is evident in the sense that Nanapush is too involved with the people at Little No Horse. He comes across as a person constantly helping others solve their problems. Nanapush has an ingenious way of coming up with answers to every situation. For example, he miraculously helps Agnes assume the new role of Damien. Owing to Nanapush’s efforts and cunning ways, Damien starts acquiring and learning the Ojibwa language. On the same note, the priest also sets out to learn more about the Christian religion. For instance, Nanapush tells Father Damien about Nanabozho a significant personality in religion at Ojibwa. If Damien was to fit the new role, he had to know the facts and role of Nanabozho.
How do Catholicism and Native American Life Go Together in Father Damien’s Work? Explain
Native American and Catholicism lives go hand in hand because Catholicism is a virtue that teaches individuals to strictly adhere to the Christian doctrines and practices. Similar to the Native Americans, Catholics are encouraged to grow in faith and judge any matters that might be contradicting based on their faith. According to Louise Erdrich, the various church representatives have to take conversational approaches in modeling the values. It is thus clear that Native Americans lay the stress on authority and power. However, in Catholicism faithful people are supposed to be compassionate and humble becoming similar to Mary the Virgin.
Another aspect that is similar to the Native American life is that Catholics are not willingly accepted in either Indian or American society. This implies that there is too much spirituality in both communities. It means that both groups exhibit gender specific rules that go far beyond male and female. It is obvious that the author depicts woman as a trickster taking identity of the priest to show that females are also entitled to power in the church.
What Role Do Women Play in the Church and in the Tribe, from Father Damien’s Perspective? Explain
Erdrich’s use of trickster and protagonist, where Agnes transforms to Father Damien, is a clear representation of how women are misrepresented in the church and society. The book addresses the issues concerning gender sensitivity in accordance to spirituality where the woman’s capabilities are taken to be inefficient. This is especially true in religious matters. Agnes, taking the role of a male priest, is an indication that women could assume leadership and power in the church, too.
The author emphasizes on introducing Agnes, who, before taking Father Damien’s identity, was trying to figure out the meaning of sensuality. She was especially tempted to rediscover her identity as a woman beyond the societal and church expectations. The author uses the woman as body with The Holy Spirit inside to bring out the confessional expression of a creed of who we really are in the case of holding back what is inside us. On the same note, flesh can also be viewed as an aspect of emotional reality. This is evident in Agnes’s masquerading as a priest though she was female and later betrayed by her people on grounds of having passionate music.
The role of the woman having the capabilities of making choices has also been portrayed in the book. Saint Agnes was sentenced to life and before being killed, was dragged naked on the streets, but later got chopped. The author uses this narrative to show the misconception that Agnes relationship to God comes about because of sexual experiences (Chapman, 15).