Linda Hogan is a Chickasaw meaning she belongs to a group of Native Americans who migrated in to east of Mississippi river, Oklahoma. She is a poet and a novelist writer and has contributed much in this field. In her book, The Woman Who Watches over the World: a Native Memoir, she brings about different themes some of which are associated with her difficult past and those of her people painful history. She assumes the position of a “Clay Woman” named “The woman who watches over the world”, and uses her to view the world’s problem and that of her tribe in that perspective.
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The title is derived from a sculpture figure made of clay which she bought and which became broken on the way to being delivered to her. It is from the figure that she realizes the comparison to human beings life which gets hurt; just as it is with her personal life. From the many fragments in this anecdote, we can piece them together to see the whole history and current status of the Native Americans have undergone. History, survival and healing are the major themes in this book.
The book is a journey from childhood to adulthood and the various problems one encounters. Healing is supposed to be understood from the power derived from words and also the natural healing. The history of physical and emotional suffering she inherited from her people contributes to the way she reacts in life. The Natives Americans are presented with their many problems and are reflected on Hogan’s hard and painful life.
The Native Americans or the American Indians had a traumatizing history. They were deeply religious and most of their beliefs were connected with nature. Land, water and animals became to them a symbol of god’s gift to mankind. This made it possible for them to practice collective ownership especially of land.
Their relocation from their land in 1837 was met with caution since they had to pay allegiance to the USA government. Despite their effort to keep their ancestral land they nevertheless got evicted and trading posts established in their land. The tribal leaders were forced to sell the land and move away to Indian territories. In the new Oklahoma area, where they finally got relocated, the adaptation was not easy bearing in mind that they had to struggle to get food.
By the turn of 19th century, the United States government foresaw the dissolution of the Natives tribal government and a division of their land. Missionaries were established which were taxed with the job of educating the Indians in the American way. Ironically, such an education proved worthless because the girls returned to their world afterwards. Poverty and lack of important physical amenities was the order of the day. The Chickasaws had endured such a life for many decades and it is this life that Hogan addresses. She wants to stress the important aspect of healing from the past so that the people can move forward.
Hogan was born in German and grew up under her father who was a sergeant in the American army and a neurotic mother. Her earlier life saw her move to many places and eventually ended up in Oklahoma. Hogan relationship with her mother was depressing and mostly neglectful in nature. She never experienced love and this fact left her to seek it from other sources. Although, her mother did her duties like any other mother, Hogan asserts that “she could not love”. The rest of her life is spent in pursuit of love so as to heal her wounds she experienced when young.
As a young child, she was susceptible to diseases and infection common to young children. In addition, clinical depression and poor mental health would lead her to alcoholism in later life to an extent of committing suicide. These physical and mental ailments caused her much trauma and she was to live with it in to adulthood. Her mother rarely provided details about her childhood life but remained silent perhaps in line with her ancestors to bury the painful past. To heal from this trauma she was to adopt two daughters and who had similarly undergone a difficult life as her own, in order to connect with that experience.
At only the age of 12 years, she became involved romantically to a man twice her age and they stayed as married. They would later part with Robert and she in turn move from Germany to the USA. This episode hurts her so much that she reminisces it as having been a child but responsible for an adult. Hogan yearned to heal from the trauma she faced of being in school yet married at a young age.
The gap she felt would later lead to her adopting two daughters in order to fill the love void she dearly missed. Both daughters, Jeannette and Marie, also had their own share of hard life, but Hogan felt that love could heal almost anything in this world. Despite her trying to live with the adopted daughters, it proved very difficult for them to heal completely to an extent where Marie denied her own children. We observe that Hogan tried to heal from her loveless childhood by playing motherhood to these two adopted daughters. The silence she experienced about her past could now be replaced by a history of her daughters which she knows. Luckily enough, they have a terrible past just like her own and it helps to connect with her lost past. Both daughters are then a reflection of a past and a future for the Natives especially Jeannette who heals to become a purposeful mother.
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Hogan on the other hand contracted a horrible disease called fibromyalgia. The disease caused her much trouble leaving her weak and unable to sleep. The desire to sleep and dream about emotional healing was too affected. She sought a physical healing which initially became elusive and later even though medicine helped, she never became what she was originally. This was the time she lost faith in medicine world when she reckoned that money was being used in search of a cure yet none came her way. Waiting and hoping was all that was left for her. Through medicine which is extracted from nature in terms of plants and naturally occurring substances dug from the earth, she later in life received her treatment from physical ailments.
A horse named Mystery became to her a close companion. Hogan was able to draw parallel in the horse’s life and hers. Mystery dies in the process of giving birth that was characterized by pain. She likens this pain to her experiences in life and the yearning to heal from it. Another relationship with a horse, the Big Red Horse, also leads to fate as she falls while trying to ride. She suffered numerous injuries leading her to experience short term memory loss. Hogan attempts self healing by indulging in a number of hobbies. She embarks on horse breeding, because in it she finds joy and contentment but it becomes tragic to her. Both of these two occurrences fueled the pain in her life in as much as the desire to heal was multiplied.
Hogan was addicted to alcohol when she was young. The addiction came about as she experimented to find a solution to her troubles. In the search for her “self”, she ends up drinking in order to forget her woes and sleep. The pain and confusion she felt would so many times lead to drinking so as to drown them. History and the ability to remember the past is a disease. Our ancestors underwent much trouble which after we learn it becomes a burden too hard to bear. It is under such an illusion that Hogan just like many Native Americans sought drink to escape the memories from the past and present. As she says” falling was the answer to a broken heart”, as a reference to the attitude she had towards alcohol. She eventually conquers drinking once she became an adult albeit this leaves a scar in her life. It is by extending love to other humans and animals where she finds a healing.
Under all the above traumas, she stood hard to see the healing take place. Hogan just like her ancestors found solace in nature and the environment. Of her doctors she says, “â€¦they became earth, water, light, and air. They were animals, plants, and kindred spirits. It was not healing I found or a life free from pain, but a kind of love and kinship with a similarly broken world”. The sickness and suffering she felt can also be identified with the Native Americans fight for their survival. Such thoughts also reflect nature which if left alone tends to heal by itself.
To be what she is, Hogan had to get changed by pain and events and diseases and she did it with courage and honesty which are vital values in the world today. Personal survival depends on history and by examining hardships undergone so as to find power to refresh ones’ spirit. Nature also plays a role in this healing by providing elements that can be used to cure a disease for example. Hogan is able to overcome and find strength over the many obstacles that stood her way in the course of self-actualization. An interesting parallel is drawn in relation to different natural elements like woman to land and bird to water. Love is the connecting element since each needs the existence of the other in order to survive.
In conclusion, Hogan lays down the many problems faced by people not only in America but in every part of the world. Each people and nation has a history that was faced by problems such as land and identity. Some have even become extinct if their war to survive got worse. In all these stories, it is important to learn from their duel and get insight which in turn should be applied in our day to day lives. Problems are inevitable and it is the way we appreciate and deal with them that counts. Healing as a process should be core in life, whether personally or as a society. If people look for solutions they will always find a way to overcome their pain.
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