Paper on Who Am I

This essay has a total of 1292 words and 6 pages.


Who Am I






Who Am I?

Identity. The dictionary defines identity as, "sameness of essential or generic character
in different instances the relation established by psychological identification,"(http://
www.m-w.com). Identity is important to Native Americans for the reason that it connects
them to the land they are "intended" to live on and with their heritage. The authors
whose works will be analyzed in this essay are James Welch, N. Scott Momaday, and Lucy
Tapahonso, and their works, The Death of Jim Loney, the "Introduction" from The Way to
Rainy Mountain, and What I Am, respectively. This essay will cover the concept of
identity and how three authors use this concept to convey to their audience the importance
of individual and group identity.

Identity can also be defined as the distinguishing character or personality of an
individual. Identity of self is important to most people, but most especially to Native
Americans for the reasons that they feel a personal connection with their past, to their
ancestors from long ago; through their ancestors and foundational stories they find their
individual place in society. James Welch communicates this idea in The Death of Jim Loney
by denying Jim any memory or any knowledge of his past that he can connect or identify
with. Jim is lost with no direction; he has no memory past a certain point, and he uses
this as an excuse to not start a new life. He feels that he has not had an old life which
he can abandon to seek out a new life, and throughout the book he searches for the key to
his past. The only people connected with his past that he knows are his estranged father,
his sister who has moved on and forgotten her past, and an old friend with whom he goes
hunting and ends up shooting. There is no one that he can use to feed his memory and give
him a sense of self. He says, "I've never understood it. Once in a while I look around
and I see things familiar and I think I will die here. It's my country then. Other times
I want to leave to see other things, to meet people, to die elsewhere," (106-107). James
Welch uses the concept of self-identity, or in this case the lack thereof, to illustrate
Jim's lonely and forlorn state.

N. Scott Momaday uses the notion of identity in a very different way. His is more the
offering of hope in finding a sense of self. He believes strongly in self-identity, so
strongly that it caused him to make a pilgrimage to find his true identity, which he found
in his past, or rather his family's past. He had an idea of self before he identified
with his heritage, but it was not a complete sense of self. His journey for his identity
ended in the complete knowledge of who he was, where as Loney died alone.

Lucy Tapahonso uses the idea of individual self in yet another way. Here identity lies
within relationships in a group. In the first two examples, both subjects were raised
with little to no knowledge of their past, not raised in their true Native American
culture. In What I Am, the story of Kinlichii'nii Bitsi progresses through several
generations, but the different protagonists of each generation are identified as
Kinlichii'nii Bitsi's granddaughter, and so on. The granddaughter and the
great-granddaughter of Kinlichii'nii Bitsi are both raised within a Native American
community, surrounded by their heritage. At the end of the story, the great granddaughter
realizes that even if she leaves her land and her heritage, it never leaves her. She will
all ways be how she is: connected with her family who will always protect her, no matter
how far from home she is. Her identity is in her past.

Identity can be defined in yet another way, as the relation established by a psychological
identification. In other words, Native Americans identify with each other and to their
past because psychologically they feel they are nothing without it. As a group it is
important for Native Americans to have a sense of identity because it is almost all they
have left. Most of their land has been taken away from them, and the generations that
remember living on the land of their ancestors are all but dead. All that has been left
to them is their heritage. James Welch uses this idea of group identity to illustrate how
absolutely alone Jim Loney is. Loney does not have a heritage; he seems to not have much
of a past at all. Being half Native American and half white, he feels as if he really
does not belong anywhere, and that the land on which he lives is the only remaining
Continues for 3 more pages >>