Native Peoples in Canada Today -- Cultural Expression

Native Peoples in Canada Today -- Cultural Expression
Greater political influence and Canada?s official policy of multiculturalism have both contributed to a dramatic increase in the cultural activity of Native Canadians in the latter part of the twentieth century. Government sponsorship of the arts, with, in particular, its tendency to support the work of those from ?ethnic minorities?, has granted a degree of public exposure to artists who would otherwise have had great difficulty in getting it.
This page only discusses First Nations literature written in English, although there is plenty going on in the other arts, and in Native languages. Natives who write in English and who are published by a mainstream publisher are inevitably participating in the public sphere of the settler culture, and this fact produces all kinds of interesting tensions in their work, because they are very often trying to recover some sort of sense of indigineity, trying to re-establish connections with traditional cultures whose remoteness or tenuousness is a function of the dominant culture with which they are engaging. The best of the writers recognise this as an inescapably problematic situation, and seek to use the contradiction as a source of creative energy. One of the commonest ways of exploring this is the attempt to bring traditional oral story telling features into the written literary format. This can be done through the inclusion of aural effects such as repetition, or through the inclusion of traditional characters.

One of the problems which Western critics and readers face when confronted by Native literature is that there is a danger when it comes to the application of Western norms of interpretation and evaluation. Native texts can often work in unfamiliar ways and serve unfamiliar purposes. Thus, a reader who is expecting a narrative progression and climax from a piece of prose may well be disappointed. What Native writers are very often trying to achieve with their writing is a kind of pictorial representation of a community, without the privileging of particular characters or events. These stories can often be interpreted more readily as an embodiment of Native values and cultural codes. The blending of mythic elements with realism, too, may well upset traditional Western expectations of narrative coherence. Not that such surrealism is absent from Western writing, but there it tends to have a rational cause within the text, or be the foregrounded point of the text. With Native writing it is much more normative, so that for the Native reader the focus will be elsewhere. For a discussion of these themes as they apply to a specific text, see Thomas King?s All My Relations.

Native Peoples in Canada Today -- Cultural Expression 9.2 of 10 on the basis of 4224 Review.