The Natural Spirit of Native America
What’s up my teach peeps!?! It’s another week and another Britt Blog! This week we covered the Navajo Night Chant and Yellow Woman. Both of these stories are deeply rooted in Native American’s sacred respect and awe of Nature.
The main theme in both of these tales is the connection to Nature and it’s healing, restorative and blessed state that only it can provide. Native American’s considered the Earth to be hallowed and capable of giving human’s everything they need to; live, survive, and heal.
Teaching this to my highschool students I would definitely emphasize the theme of not only the physical connection Natives had with nature but the spiritual connection to nature as well. Nature influenced every aspect of their life, even love and magic.
In the tale of Yellow Woman, we see how magic, love and nature are all intertwined. ““My thigh clung to his with dampness, and I watched the sun rising up through the tamaracks and willows. The small brown water birds came to the river and hopped across the mud, leaving brown scratches in alkali- white crust. They bathed in the river silently. I could hear the water, almost at our feet where the narrow fast channel bubbled and washed green ragged moss and fern leaves. I looked at him beside me, rolled in the red blanket on the white river sand. I cleaned the sand out the cracks of my toes, squinting because the sun was above the willow trees. I looked at him for the last time, sleeping on the river sand”. (Silko, Norton Anthology, Vol. F, p. 1030).
Even though Yellow Woman has seen all of these things in nature one thousand times, when she awakes after a night with Silva, a ka’tsina – nature spirit, it was as if she woke up with new eyes. The world had changed yet stayed the same. And it is because of her encounter of passion with Silva, she would never look at the world the same.
I recommend asking students how they feel about nature, seasons and particular landscapes have made impacts on their own life experiences and the memories that are attached to those experiences.
In the Navajo Night Chant, we see nature strongly connected to healing and restoring humans from the plagues of disease and sickness. ““Today, take out your spell for me. Today, take away your spell for me. Away from me you have taken it. Far off from me it is taken. Far off you have done it. Happily I recover. Happily my interior becomes cool. Happily my eye regain their power. Happily my head becomes cool. Happily my limbs regain their power. Happily I hear again. Happily for me the spell is taken off. Happily may I walk. Impervious to pain, may I walk. Feeling light within, may I walk. With lively feelings, may I walk.” (Norton Anthology, 3rd Edition, p.946, Vol. E)
Bringing the Native American’s reverence and love of nature in the classroom is sure fire way to make a memorable discussion for the teacher and students alike. It is really so wild how much we take nature for granted when it plays such a large part of our lives. I feel strongly that most students, especially rural students, could identify with a strong memorable connection to a moment or activity involving nature. Bring it out in ‘em! Even better, take this lesson plan outside on a brisk autumn day. Read it outloud, soak up the sun, make a connection to nature that students will always remember!
Relating to this particular theme on a pop culture level… You guys guessed it…. Yes, another Disney movie!
I think Pocahontas makes a wonderful pop culture lesson plan add on, it shows how deeply she was connected to Mother Earth, her love for her tribe, her reverence for all life and how she even fell in love with Mother Nature’s help.
I mean the song, Colors of the Wind, alone are hauntingly beautiful and are filled with Native American pride and love of the Earth.
And you’ve been so many places
I guess it must be so
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don’t know?
You don’t know
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
And for once, never wonder what they’re worth
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends.
That wraps it up for this week! I hope you and your students enjoy Native American literature week as much I do! Be sure and check back next week to see what else we can come up with!
And remember, to be kind is to be brave in this world and we are all connected!
“For whether we are white or copper skinned, We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains, We need to paint with all the colours of the wind”