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Power by Linda Hogan
Transcript of Power by Linda Hogan
by Linda Hogan
Main character and narrator. Sixteen years old
Self-aware and constantly refers to herself as small and skinny, but recognizes her strengths. Towards the end of the novel, redefines herself.
“Two worlds exist. Maybe it’s always been this way, but I enter them both like I am two people. Above and below. Land and water. Now and then” (97). Constantly torn between Taiga way and modern beliefs.
Struggles with conflict between the concepts of knowledge and belief
Understands the importance of Taiga beliefs and why Ama didn’t want people to know all the details about killing the panther
Omishto’s “aunt” (A distant cousin of Omishto’s mother)
Feels spiritually connected to the Sisa. Loves the panther.
Omishto admires her sometimes and at other times doesn’t like her and thinks that she is ugly. Varies with Omishto's view of Taiga way.
Omishto feels conflicted about Ama after she kills the panther
Allows herself to be banished from the Taiga people so that they could continue to have hope in their culture.
Ama becomes a mystery after she vanishes; people either believe they have seen her or think that she is dead
Westernized and lives under strong western influence as compared to Ama. "Tries to pass for white" (20).
Believes in God, but turned to the Taiga people to be saved when Omishto was just a little girl
A weak-willed woman who marries Herman to help support her children after their father left.
She becomes stronger after Omishto goes out to live on her own, and though she says that she will leave Herman, Omishto does not believe that she will do so.
Thinks Ama is a bad influence on Omishto (93).
She fears that Omishto will love Ama more than her.
Is very tidy and clean; always says “clealiness is next to godliness”(90)
Is a juxtaposition to Ama and her traditional beliefs.
Turned her back on Taiga culture out of fear for her and her children’s futures in the world
Knows a lot (such as the way that Herman looks at Omishto and Omishto’s whereabouts) but acts like she does not know
Omishto’s older sister
Has boyfriend named Dave
Supposedly prettier than Donna
Follows the ways of her mother more
Always described as being in a hurry, not being able to experience anything meaningful.
Not a very kind or honest man
Stares at Omishto/tries to hide this from his wife
Was abusive to Omishto
Gets along well with the Sheriff and many of the other men
Symbol of the Panther Clan
“ 'Sisa,' that's what we call the cat in Taiga. It is our name for them. It means godlike, all-powerful. The cat is the animal that came here before us” (73).
"Sisa was the first person to enter this world. It came here long before us" (15).
Oldest person in the tribe and head of the Panther Clan (23)
Doesn’t speak English
Always trying to convince Omishto’s mother and family to come live with the rest of the tribe in Kili Swamp
Protects Ama after killing the panther, but banishes her for that act.
Died a mysterious death in which it is questioned whether he died by magical or physical means. (Omishto and Donna saw him right before he died)
Known as a wife-beater
Omishto and her family are part of the Panther Clan. Omishto lives with her mother, her sister Donna, and her step-father Herman, but she spends a lot of time with her aunt Ama. Omishto feels very different from her mother, who lives in a very westernized way removed from Taiga tradition. She feels more comfortable with Ama, who is wise and mysterious, and possesses great knowledge of the Taiga way.
The story begins with Omishto floating in a lake on her boat, where she likes to sleep. After she wakes up, she goes to visit Ama. They talk a little about a mysterious death that occurred, the death of Abraham Swallow. Ama believes that some sort of magic killed him. Omishto is hesitant to believe in magic because of what she learns in schools, but seems to have some doubt about it.
As Ama and Omishto talk and spend the day together, the wind get stronger and stronger. Ama and Omishto know a storm is coming, but do not realize until it hits them that it is a hurricane. They both rush to nail the shutters closed and prepare for the storm, but Ama’s house is old and weak and it offers poor shelter. Omishto soon realizes that she forgot to tie her boat up and decides to venture out into the storm to go tie it up. (The boat was her father’s and is all she has to remember him by). The storm is extremely powerful, throwing deer and other animals into the air and ripping trees from the ground. Omishto manages to tie her boat up and get back to Ama's house.
Ama and Omishto are both disheveled and confused after the storm. They go back inside the house and silently look out the window. They notice a deer with an injured leg limping around the edge of the forest. Without saying much, Ama begins gathering clothes, rope, a knife, and a rifle as if she is going out to hunt the deer. Omishto watches her do this and feels as though she is recalling a dream. Without knowing why, Omishto finds herself telling Ama that she knows what will happen, and Ama responds that she does too.
After Ama is finished packing, she and Omishto head out in search for the deer. Here we see Ama’s amazing knowledge of nature and her ability to follow tracks and sounds with ease. Omishto is unsure of why Ama would want to hunt this deer. Then, Ama points to a track in the mud; a cat footprint. It is then that Omishto realizes they are not hunting the deer, but a cat. This confuses and frightens Omishto, because the cat is endangered and an important part of Taiga culture. They come across the cat and watch it from the trees. It is sick and weak. Ama then shoots the cat and begins skinning it, telling Omishto she might have to before they get home. Omishto is confused by this. Eventually, Ama packs up the cat and they take it home. Ama tells Omishto that when anyone asks her what happened, she must tell the truth, except for that the cat was sick.
After arriving back at Ama’s house, Omishto falls asleep. She wakes to find the police arriving, just as Ama had expected. Ama calmly gathered her things, not saying a word to the police, and obliged in going with them to the station for questioning. The police briefly search for the cat, but cannot find it. They ask Omishto where it was, but Omishto said she was asleep and they asked her no further questions.
As if Ama knew already what was going to happen, Ama calmly goes with the police into their car and they drive off, leaving Omishto behind in the house. Omishto attempts to look for the rifle and carcass but ends up only finding a footprint in the mud. The next day, Omishto goes to a gas station and calls her sister Donna to pick her up, and then returns to Ama’s house to bury a dead horse that was killed during the storm.
Omishto gets picked up by Donna while she is attempting to bury the dead Spanish horse near Ama’s house. During the ride back home, Donna tells Omishto that she, Donna, and her mother had run into Janie Soto while looking for Omishto. Soto had walked all the way from Kili with a large bag on her wooden leg. This was strange because Janie Soto never ventures outside the borders of Indian land. While Donna explains all of this, Omishto begins to realize that her family has already heard about the panther killing.
When Omishto arrives home, she is welcomed back by her mother, but not long after this her mother and stepfather begin to rebuke her for the illegal killing of the panther. Omishto knows that she cannot quite explain exactly what happened because her mother would not understand. The family has since received many calls asking to talk to Omishto about the panther. Omishto now feels distanced from the rest of the family believing that they are ashamed of what she has done.
The next day, Omishto walks back to Ama’s house early in the morning without letting the rest of her family know in order to finish burying the Spanish horse.
Spanish Influence vs. Taiga Tradition
While Methuselah uproots during the hurricane, Ama's house remains intact and standing. Although Methuselah was described as a tree that would never fall down and Ama's house was described as something that could collapse and die any minute, after the storm the house was the only thing that remained intact. The fall of Methuselah paired with the survival of the house symbolizes the ephemeral nature of Spanish influence compared to the persistence of Taiga tradition
The Methuselah tree is described as a large tree planted by the Spanish during their conquest. It has survived for centuries and was symbolic of the persistence of Spanish influences within the Taiga clan. The Taiga people believed that no force would ever bring the tree down.
Ama lives in a run-down house with rotting wood and a patch-work roof. Ama's house, in its worn and tattered state, symbolizes years and years of Taiga tradition being worn down by western influence. Ama wants to keep this tradition alive in Omishto by passing the house down to her when she is older.
The next day, Omishto’s mother takes her to church. Omishto comments on the hypocrisy she believes to be evident in the way that her mother practices Christianity. The next day, Omishto goes to Ama’s house and makes a few repairs. Then, she goes to school and faces the rejection of her classmates. The students all stare and talk about her, and someone even paints the word “killer” on her locker. She loses the friendship of her best friend, Jewel.
The next day Omishto is assigned an autobiographical homework assignment. She finishes writing about her clan and the origin story of her clan, but shreds it up and does not turn it in. It is uncharacteristic of her reputation as a good student. She instead decides to walk to Ama’s house and not go to school.
Omishto then must appear in court as a witness. Omishto’s mother drives her to the courthouse, and there are crowds of people taking pictures and trying to talk to Omishto. Once she enters the courtroom, Omishto notices the tracking collar and a rifle (not the one Ama used, but one that the police suspected she used) on the table as evidence. She also soon notices Ama and a group of four Taiga elders seated in the back.
When Omishto is called to the stand, the prosecutor asks her questions in an attempt to lead the jury to believe that her relationship with Ama was strange; that it was a type of coercion of Omishto by Ama. The lawyer also does not seem to believe her whenever she says that she does not know what Ama did with the cat.
Regardless of how the trial is going, Omishto begins to believe that it does not matter what she says, that the court and jury already have their preconceived notions about the Taiga people and about what really happened on the day the panther was killed. It also becomes difficult for Omishto to explain the story how she would like to, because she realizes that the Taiga perspective on the world is much different that the European-American perspective. By the end of Omishto’s time on the stand, the lawyer comes to the conclusion that Ama must have killed the panther for power.
The next day in court, the tribal chairman comes to speak on behalf of Ama. He is asked whether or not it is the Taiga belief that eating the flesh of the panther will give one power. By asking this, the lawyer is again implying that Ama’s act was one of selfishness. The tribal chairman responds with a simple no.
Ama is then called to the stand. The lawyer immediately begins asking questions to discredit her as a person. He then asks her about her beliefs and tries to make it seem as though she does not adhere to these beliefs. Ama is very brief in her words and ends by simply admitting that she killed the cat.
The next day there are both American and Native protesters outside of the courthouse. In court, two elderly Taiga people were called to the stand. One of these women is Annie Hide, who is asked many questions about Taiga tradition. The other woman is Janie Soto, who is asked about the Taiga rules of killing a panther. Ama was found not guilty because of the lack of solid evidence connecting her to the panther’s death.
One of the Taiga elders
Presented as a symbol of healing in the novel
Kin to Omishto’s mother
Soon after the courthouse ruling, a Taiga trial is held in “the place of the old law”. Omishto meets Taiga elders in a clearing in the woods in order to tell them her story. Ama is also there waiting to be judged. As Omishto, Ama, and the elderly people sit in a circle, Omishto begins to recall the story in more detail than in the courthouse hearing. In court these details were omitted because Omishto believed that the court would not understand. In the company of the Taiga elders, however, Omishto feels like these details are vital to the Taiga understanding of the story.
It is during this trial that Omishto realizes why Ama has killed the panther. It has occurred to her that the panther is a symbol of the power and strength of the Taiga tradition. If the Taiga elders would have seen this sick panther, they would have lost hope in Taiga culture. Ama killed the panther to maintain the hope and strength of her people, not for selfish reasons like the court implied.
After Omishto tells the story, Ama is asked by one of the elders if she knew of the proper way of killing a panther. Ama responds with a simple “yes”, and there is a few moments of discussion in the Taiga language, which Omishto does not understand. After this discussion, Ama stands up without saying anything and walks off into the woods. Omishto begins to go after her, but is told by Annie Hide that she must not follow her. This is the last time Omishto sees Ama.
When it gets dark, Omishto runs into the forest to look for Ama but cannot find her. Then, she walks back to her mother’s house. Shaken from the prior events, Omishto does not respond to any of her mother’s questions and begins quickly packing clothes into a white pillowcase. Her mother is upset by this and begins yelling. Omishto rushes out of the door and takes her boat out into the middle of the swamp, where she falls asleep.
Upon waking, Omishto begins considering the beliefs of the people around her. She thinks about the traditional Taiga beliefs, Annie Hide’s belief in the power of healing, Janie Soto’s belief that the world balance has been disrupted, and Joseph Post’s belief in the mysterious powers of humans. She then thinks about her mother’s belief in salvation, and Ama’s connection to the spiritual and natural world. Lastly, she thinks about the panther, how its world is being broken down around it and how it is slowly losing its power.
Omishto then goes to Ama’s house. She cleans and repairs it in hopes that Ama will soon return. A policeman stops by one day to ask her where Ama is and to tell her that her mother is worried. Omishto tells him that she does not know where Ama is and that she will not go back to her mother’s house because Herman hits her. It is clear that the policeman thinks Omishto is lying about Ama, but he eventually gives up and leaves.
A few days later Herman comes to Ama’s house, angry that Omishto has made her mother so upset. Omishto only gives Herman short answers and avoids him so that he does not harm her. He ends up leaving angrier than before.
Omishto’s mother comes to visit her. She wants her to come home, and begins to get angry when Omishto tells her to leave her alone. She also leaves when Omishto refuses to talk to her more.
Donna then comes to visit Omishto. She first scolds her for not going home and not going to school, but then sees how determined Omishto is. She is in a rush, so she leaves rather quickly, but not before giving Omishto a hug.
Omishto’s mother comes to visit a second time, this time more accepting of the fact that Omishto wants to stay at Ama’s house. Omishto’s mother tells her a story of a time when Omishto was a baby and the people of Kili swamp took them in for a while when they needed help. This is the first Omishto hears of this. Omishto’s mother explains that she left because she was worried Omishto and Donna would not have much opportunity living in the traditional Taiga way, but she admits that she believes that it was the Taiga people who saved them.
From a dream, Omishto realizes that Janie Soto had the panther hide on her lap the day she went to the Taiga people to tell them what she knew regarding how Ama killed the panther. She later attempts to look for the rifle that Ama had used that night only to find the rifle case empty with a chain of red beads that only Janie Soto is known to wear.
Annie Hide then visits Omishto. They do not talk much; Annie simply asks Omishto if she is all right and Omishto begins crying in Annie’s arms. Annie spends the night and leaves in the morning.
Worldviews are founded upon their unique origin story.
Omishto’s power of knowledge becomes important in her ultimate decision to live with the Taiga people. Through her deeper understanding she is able to see the world in a Taiga perspective, recognizing the origins of herself, the Taiga people, her power, and realizing her identity as a Taiga and thus her belonging in the world.
In the novel we observe a conflict between western and indigenous perceptions of identity during the trial of Ama Eaton. The lawyers questioning Omishto and Ama focus on "full-blooded[ness]", a biological form of identity (125). When asked these questions, Omishto remarks that "this would matter to them, though not to us" (125). We see similar themes in cases like the UCSD repatriation case involving the human remains found at the Chancellor's house. In this case, the identity of the human remains were disputed due to differences in perceptions of identity between UCSD scientists and the Kumeyaay people. The scientists argued for the remains to be kept at UCSD, as they produced no positive biological evidence of having Kumeyaay origin. The Kumeyaay people, however, claimed cultural ties to the human remains and argued for repatriation under NAGPRA. This case, as well as the case presented in the novel, show a sharp distinction between the western reliance and belief in science as a means of determining identity and the indigenous regard for identity based on cultural affiliation.
The next few nights, Omishto is haunted by strange dreams about panthers and Taiga ceremonies. She eventually decides that she will live amongst the Taiga people. She walks toward the place above Kili swamp where the Taiga trial was held. She finds Annie Hide and Janie Soto there, as if they are waiting for her.
In the “White Earth” article by Winona LaDuke, she discusses how Native Americans are connected with their environment in a way that cannot be understood by anyone other than them. The relationship that they have with nature creates their identity and culture, and gives them a reason for living. The environment that they live in is the same that their ancestors harvested, hunted on, and worshiped for generations. Since European contact, their land is not seen as a place that should be respected, but rather degraded and extracted. The value and history of their connection with the land is completely disregarded for the sake of profit from mining, timber and fishing.
As Omishto recognized in Power, while the anglos like to feel that they have a personal connection with the panther by using it as school mascots etc, but when it comes down to it, Omishto realizes that they have no true respect for the panther because they have destroyed its environment resulting in its impending extinction. The highway that was built cut through the natural path of the panther, and resulted in them being killed from being hit by vehicles. While the white people like to think that they care about the cat by putting it on the endangered list, they are not willing to take the necessary measures to ensure its survival. When Ama took matters into her own hands by killing the panther to put it out of its misery, it was seen as murder. However, when white men kill animals, it is seen as hunting even though they have no relationship or connection with their prey. Although Omishto lives off of the reservation, she still has a deep connection with the land, and she knows how to read it well. Later on when she understands why Ama killed the panther, she expresses a sense of sorrow for the animal, but also for the future of the tribe. She does not want the elders to lose hope, but at the rate in which things are going, it is up to her to ensure the survival of her people.
Creation of the World
The world was created " of wind and lashing rain".
They were blown together by a storm, and the whole world was created out of storms.
The mud was blown in with the trees and the seeds of growing things.
Wind and the concept of Oni is a crucial part of Taiga world view and origin.
It is also interesting to note that the Taiga believe that the white egrets were carried here from Africa in 1927 by a storm. It is the Taiga way of explaining foreign animals or perhaps even people into their territory.
Sisa and the Panthers
"As the great bird rested, the panther entered through the broken shell, the hole of creation."
Oni was the word the panther spoke to help the creator breathe the Taiga to life in the oldest times when everything was only air and water.
The Taiga view themselves as descendents of the Panther.
Panthers were the being that breathed humans to life.
Taught the Taiga the "Oni", which means song, prayer, and wind.
Similar to Acoma Origin Story where there is a spirit that guides and teaches the Acoma.
Lowell John Bean describes this in “Power and its Applications in Native California,” when he discusses how knowledge is valuable in of itself and is also important for being able to use power, so those who have it are considered powerful (411).
Throughout all of chapter 7 in the novel, Omishto explains the deep insight that she receives from the wind, Oni. She learns about the perceptions and things that those around her believe in, particularly revolving around Ama’s killing of the panther. After contemplating all of this information, she is internally challenged about what it is that she believes, whether or not the stories that were passed down to her through the Taiga culture are true.
Through her own keen insight, Omishto tries to make sense of Ama’s actions when she killed the panther. Omishto turns to a story that was passed down to her in Taiga tradition which described a Panther Woman who had to sacrifice her friend the panther in order to bring renewal to the animals, but the sacrifice, or any sacrifice that is required needs to be done correctly (111). Similarly, the World Renewal dance in Theodora Kroeber’s retelling of “The Inland Whale” portrays the significance of power in rituals. The story explains the World Renewal dance as being important in keeping the world in balance, for if the dance is done improperly or carelessly, the effects on the world are disastrous (Kroeber 25).
In the novel, ways in which power can be obtained are implied through the wind, Oni, and Omishto’s dreams.
Omishto describes her experience with Oni while she is lying in her boat on the water during an extremely foggy time. A wind rolls in, but it does not blow away the fog, and as the wind surrounds her, Omishto feels the understanding of the deeper thoughts of others come to her as she lies there (180).
One night, Omishto wakes up suddenly to realize that she knows where the missing hide of the killed panther is. She realizes, through knowledge that she receives from her sleep that the hide was sitting on the elder, Janie Soto’s lap the day that Omishto went to the Taiga people to talk to them about the killing of the panther (217).
Sixteen-year-old Omishto, a member of the Taiga Tribe, sees her Aunt Ama kill a panther - an animal considered to be a sacred ancestor to the Taiga people. she is torn between her loyalties to her Westernized mother, who wants her to reject the way of the tribe and to Ama and her traditional people, for whom the killing of the panther takes on grave importance.