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Essay, Research Paper

[ An extract of an interview conducted by Elias Ellefson, a alumnus pupil in English

at the University of Northern Iowa, as portion of the Third International Conference on the

Short Story in English, held at UNI and Iowa State University. ]

ELIAS ELLEFSON: What does it intend to be a Mesquaki? What is alone

about the Mesquaki civilization?

RAY YOUNG BEAR: Well, I guess foremost and first, and this is traveling

back to how I present myself in a university or simple schoolroom scene: I tell them

that there are a batch of differences within our civilizations. One the linguistic communication, the

spiritualty therein every bit good as doctrine. These factors, every bit good as the history,

divide a batch of people. The Mesquaki people, of which I am an enrolled member, are portion

of this country historically, and so we have beliefs that are animistic. Meaning we have a

broad, unchecked regard for all earthly sorts of life, be it a tree, a rock, or a river.

We believe implicitly they are really much alive, external respiration, feeling, sharing our being.

When you try to convey that to an Iowa schoolroom or elsewhere you end up with kids

and even alumnuss chew overing whether trees are truly alive. In a scientific context, they

respond by stating “ yes, they are, ” but for Mesquakis it goes beyond that. We

believe in the presence of unobserved forces, both good and bad. Once in a great piece, they

reveal themselves, but they are Masterss in hiding themselves in happenstance. Most

Americans I & # 8217 ; m afraid can no longer see how these unobserved factors act upon our day-to-day

maps. That would be the greatest difference in being a Mesquaki, that animism is a

alone doctrine to care for and keep.

For the things that have happened to my married woman, Stella, and myself any American & # 8212 ; I

Don & # 8217 ; t care how intelligent or disbelieving & # 8212 ; would likely look into themselves into a mental

ward. While it may be visually stupefying to watch films like “ The Exorcist ” or

“ Close Brushs of the Third Kind, ” to be an existent informant or participant in

a supernatural manifestation is bloodcurdling. Steven Spielberg is superb, but I doubt if

he has of all time seen a mega-UFO that fills the sky. We have. But that doesn & # 8217 ; t intend anything

unless its image is embedded in your head. In the same mode sceptics scoff at these

enigmas, I believe it & # 8217 ; s silly to populate without this sort of consciousness. I equate it with

exposure that is following to nakedness.

Think about this: When Catholics partake in the wine/blood of their Deity, I believe

that is their belief it symbolizes something that is concrete and unchangeable & # 8212 ; for

them. Although my late beloved grandmother hardly understood English, she would sometimes

travel to the Presbyterian Church, the 1 that used to be here. She would state, “ Ma mom to

minute wa ki-i ni- we ji -ya mom i a Washington Ni. They are praying and that is why I am traveling. ”

She respected that component of faith. I wish the same could be said for the

Euro-American civil order that sought to eliminate us in the name of Christianity.

ELLEFSON: What else makes the Mesquaki people alone?

Young Bear: We are possibly one of the few folks in the United States

who have really purchased their land as opposed to holding the authorities allot the land

for us. In that facet we are alone, for it was my great-great gramps in 1856 who

acquiesced momently to the Euro-American facet of money. Money equals a title. Today,

unlike other folks, we are belongings proprietors here in Tama County.

The existent inquiry that you should be inquiring, Elias, is this: With the

multimillion-dollar chancing freshness, are we still unique? In Mesquaki prognostication, money is

seen as a negativeness. In other words, the really act of geting land could be lost through

similar agencies. If you buy, you can besides sell. But most of our supposed leaders today have

already sold themselves out & # 8212 ; and the folk. We may be considered one of the most

conservative folks in the Midwest, but that may be ephemeral. When greed comes by manner

of cloak-and-dagger understandings and inexcusable bureaucratic misdirection, the opportunities of

going a Hobblelegged State are great.

ELLEFSON: In “ Black Eagle Child ” you write, “ To be

ignorant, uninformed, and unmindful to one & # 8217 ; s beginnings was to openly withstand & # 8216 ; the one who

created you & # 8217 ; and invite hardship. ” What happens to a people who neglect the


Young BEAR: Did I say that? Wow! I plead guilty to all of the above.

in traveling back to some of the metaphors I use, they become culturally

“ hobblelegged. ” Certain, there are some people who have succeeded by populating outside

of the Mesquaki Settlement, but for those who remain the duties are huge. In

my ain instance, compared to my late grandma and my parents, I am a complete vacillator when

it comes to spiritualty. I admit that forthright in my public visual aspects and my books.

I & # 8217 ; m no self-proclaimed expert on this topic but I report what I see.

Basically, in order to be the all-round circumspective Mesquaki you have to be

& gt ; attentive to all the factors of what it takes to be such. That & # 8217 ; s no easy effort. Sometimes

this can non be done to the fullest extent because we are all modernized. However, to the

sole few who uphold the Principal Religion, I am humbled. To the dissemblers,

unfortunately, I am ashamed. And myself? There isn & # 8217 ; t adequate infinite to name my alibis.

In any event, we have all acquiesced to Euro-Americanism: by the manner we dress, the manner

we eat, the manner we act and so forth. To openly pretermit your beginnings, hence, is to

invite hardship that can take many signifiers. Punishment can be divine in beginning for person

non populating up to outlooks. Punishment can besides be sent through dark, mystical agencies.

And I suppose person can endure by populating off from “ The Sett ” ( Mesquaki

Colony ) , suffer because the day-to-day interaction with the kins is absent. That & # 8217 ; s what I


ELLEFSON: How does your composing continue your ties to your heritage?

Young BEAR: Writing is really & # 8230 ; ( intermissions, seting the “ Mesquaki

Bingo ” baseball cap ) How do I set it? In the 1600s & # 8212 ; it is said & # 8212 ; when we foremost had

contact with the Gallic envoies & # 8212 ; adventurers in Wisconsin, we adopted the English

alphabet. For about three centuries the Mesquaki people have been using the alphabet.

But we don & # 8217 ; t utilize it in the English context, instead we use it syllabically. Our tribal

name, as an illustration, is written out as “ Me skwa qi ” proper or The Red Earth


Contrary to the beliefs of many, composing International Relations and Security Network & # 8217 ; t new. For me, composing is a personal nexus

to the Hagiographas of my grampss. I have in my ownership their diaries that day of the month back

to the early 1800s. I hence believe that “ word-collecting ” is genetically

encoded in my blood. I marvel at the procedure itself because I wasn & # 8217 ; t comfy with

English until late high school, 1967 to 1969. Even so extraordinary fortune was involved.

To now happen myself in this profession is amazing, but when I look into my roots,

reading and interpreting my gramps & # 8217 ; s diaries, I realize that I & # 8217 ; m non far off from my

tardily grandma & # 8217 ; s outlooks. Although she taught me to be wary of The Outside World,

she was the 1 who saw there was a intent: maintaining alive my gramps & # 8217 ; s Hagiographas. I

conveying the diaries out on juncture with white baseball mitts in dim visible radiation to allow them take a breath, to

remind them that we are still here. There is a thaumaturgy at that place.

ELLEFSON: I think you answered portion of this following inquiry earlier. Who

was the greatest influence on your growing as a author?

Young Bear: My grandma, no ko me SA, would be the first. From her

I learned mythology, the linguistic communication and imposts. Second, I would hold to state the Up-ward

Bound plan at Luther College in Decorah. I am indebted to a plan. Third, it would

be Robert Bly, a major literary figure, whom I met in 1969. Through him I was able to run into

and correspond with a figure of editors who finally published my work. After Bly, it

would hold to be another establishment instead than a individual: Pomona College. From 1969 to

1971 I was a pupil at that place. I attended most of the poesy readings sponsored by this

upper-middle category school. Since they could afford the top poets, I listened to everyone

who was popular back so.

ELLEFSON: In “ Black Eagle Child ” you write, “ Throughout

the 20 old ages I have been involved with authorship, I have attempted to keep a delicate

equilibrium with my tribal fatherlands history and geographic surrounding and the universe that

alterations its faces along the boundary lines. ” How make you keep this equilibrium?

Young BEAR: Simple, you have to go your ain healer. Literally.

You have to endure for a piece until you ground things out, going in a sense your ain

psycho-healer. Bing a author, I sometimes feel as if the universe is a elephantine concrete span

that is balanced atop my thorax and it & # 8217 ; s about to crash through. The world is, it won & # 8217 ; T.

There are other precedences in the offing that will necessitate go toing to & # 8212 ; I know.

Finally. Writing hence isn & # 8217 ; t everything. As you & # 8217 ; ve heard, far more is involved to

my life than books. I can serve out abrasion but I can besides mind it.

This reminds me of something which might be a good closing.

Once in my young person I flew across America on a plane with two other authors who chatted

endlessly about literature, calling all the books they had read, written articles on, and

so forth. Corning from a community where such gibberish is nonexistent, I remind myself of

these coevalss whenever I get only for literary company. We may all be in

the same “ word-collecting ” canoe, paddling in unison over a silver glacier-fed

lake, but “ if Miss Diane Chambers of the Television situation comedy & # 8216 ; Cheers & # 8217 ; of all time strutted into the

Why Cheer Pool Hall and put quarters up for a game, I & # 8217 ; d single-foot the balls tightly. . . “

Nothing lubricious here, delight. Just quotes from the novel. My manner of stating I like Television and

playing pool.

From The Des Moines Register, Sept. 4, 1994. Copyright? 1994 by the Des

Moines Register.