One major theme in most types of literature is that there is a journey. This is also true for indigenous literature. In Cogewea and Ceremony, the main characters are ranchers. They look after the cattle and they are, as part of the frontier, in a liminal space. “Like some creature born of the wild, neither fancied nor actual dangers deterred [Cogewea] from her set course.” (Dove, 16) She has a mission, and she is going to complete the mission any way that she can.
Animals can both be helpful to people and hurtful. In Cogewea, Stemteema finally sends Cogewea to school after being worried about her being attacked by a cougar. “At last, notwithstanding her antipathy to the culture of the pale face, the aged squaw was constrained to listen to the pleadings of the good Sisters, and at the age of twelve the little ‘woods-savage’ and her two sisters were placed in the convent school. This measure was resorted to only after Cogewea returned one evening, her horse bearing an ugly cut on its hip, received from the claws of a cougar. The fierce animal had leaped from a tree and the child escaped only through the agility of her mount. With a mighty bound the horse had thwarted the hungry cat of its prey, with no other injury than the knife like wound, neither deep nor serious.” (Dove, 16) The cougar was dangerous, but the horse had jumped away, leaving her unharmed.
Cogewea was also seen by the Western world in the way that the western world saw women, as less than and incapable, when in reality, “The same skills Aboriginal people used for herding and breaking wild horses and hunting buffalo or herding them into buffalo pounds were quickly transferred and used in the ranching industry. Aboriginal women were not excluded from working as ranch hands. They had always been competent at training their own horses. These skills proved to be valuable in the new circumstances facing Native people and many Aboriginal women came to be known as competent ranch hands and horse trainers.” (Baillargeon, 381) She was sent to school because of the Western way of looking at things: her grandmother was persuaded to look at the incident in a different way. She was seen as a wild savage to the colonizers, and not as a competent part of the community.
In indigenous cultures, “Our relationship with creation involves connecting with all that exists around us: plants, animals, land, water, sun. moon, and the sky world….The land is [not] a wild material resource that needs to be developed, possessed, or controlled; rather, the land is a relative with whom we have a special relationship.” (Anderson, 180) It is possible to be many things at once. In Thomas King’s talk, the world was created by several animals and a girl and a boy. One of them was right handed, one was left handed, one was dark, one was light. “In many instances [at the beginning of rodeos], especially in Cree country, the person praying is acknowledging that those gathered for competition are entering into a competition with ‘sacred beings.’ The animals are recognized for their strength and superior abilities. They might be asked to have pity on the human beings who are entering into a competition with them. An elder might pray that neither man nor animal will be hurt, because both are entering into a friendly competition.” (Baillargeon, 397) Animals do not need to be controlled, they are wild creatures, but they should be respected for what they offer the world.
- Anderson, Kim. A Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood. Toronto: Sumach, 2003. Print.
- Baillargeon, Morgan. “Aboriginal Cowboys.” Hidden in Plain Sight : Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples to Canadian Identity and Culture. By Daniel J. K Beavon, David R. Newhouse, and Cora Jane Voyageur. Toronto [u.a.: Univ. of Toronto, 2005. 379-99. Print.
- Dove, Mourning. Cogewea: The Half Blood. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1981. Print.