Posts Tagged ‘survival’

Caitlin’s depiction of Native Americans

In George Caitlin’s In Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians, there is a an obvious comparison between the Native American and the buffalo who are both part of the same vast area who have fallen victim to the civilization and the noble white man. He talks about them as strong creatures that have fought their battles just too simply survive. Caitlin’s depiction of Native Americans shows how closely related they are to nature and just how distant they are from anything considered “civilized”.


Even though in his writing and even more so in his paintings he depicts Native Americans as strong individuals, the noble white man is seen as have almighty power over them and without civilization they will fall and eventually” expire”, along with the buffalo. Indians are seen as valuable resources only because of what they have to offer to the white man which is land, the clothes off their backs and the food they have to eat which are added to what Caitlin calls “fashionable world luxuries”. They are merely there to supply the necessities, just like the buffalo supply coats to the noble but where will they be many years from now when the Native Americans are all gone and the last buffalo has skinned and used up?


It is not just that the Native Americans and buffalo are seen as one in the same but that they more the buffalo are being used by the noble, civilized white man, the less the Indians can use them and the harder it is for them survive. Near the end of Caitlin’s letters he says “ It seems hard and cruel, that we civilized people with all the luxuries and comforts of the world around us, should be drawing from the backs of these useful animals the skins for our luxury…”(43) Even though he is talking about the buffalo in these situation it can relate to how the white man is taking from the Native American because in a way, taking the buffalo away from them is taking about resources that they need to survive; so they are stripping luxuries from them even though the noble have all the luxuries they could ever want. Caitlin’s image of the Native American is one that has a will to survive and strength has big as a herd of buffalo. His view point on the civilized man is one that is seen has destroying the Native Americans and in slowly allow them to disappear into the vast land that they once called their own.


Caitlin, George. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. Ch./Art: Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians p. 37-45. pub. Penguin 2008


Dead animals in A Tour on the Prairies

       The death of the animal depicted in “A Tour on the Prairies” seems to be completely for sport. The narrator does not demonstrate or mention a need to kill meat for the purpose of survival. Shooting the buffalo was done without much care or emotion on the part of the narrator. He demonstrates his lack of connection with nature and the world around him by wasting the valuable resources around him.
       The death of the animal, specifically the reaction of the narrator, evokes anger in the reader. The narrator shot down an animal with no reason besides thrills. He goes on to describe the helpless buffalo he had wounded with no real need and the fact that it will lay there and have its body eaten by other animals in the area. Rather than him using the “sport” of hunting when it would have been of use to him, he selfishly shoots down an animal that will evidently rot because no one will eat it’s meat.
       The narrator, soon after taking a first shot at the buffalo and bringing it down, realizes what he has done and the guilt he feels. He says, “Now that the excitement was over, I could not but look with commiseration upon the poor animal that lay struggling and bleeding at my feet” (178).  This line reveals a negative quality of humans. He allowed his adrenaline to make the better judgment; he let his excitement push him towards killing the buffalo without good reasoning. While the man does not promote or condemn anything, he does reveal the selfish, uncaring ways humans can be when they want something.
        Animals are presented as nothing more than moving targets. Even after we are given the narrators heart-felt words on his agony for what he has done, still are not given anything that would make a reader feel a closer connection to the animal.
Irving, Washington. A Tour on the Prairies.  Universitof Oklahoma Press, 1956. 178. Print.