Living Things

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. – Native American Proverb

Written in the 1970’s, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko is a work of environmental literature from a Native American perspective. Most of the writing reflects the main character, Tayo’s, personal thoughts and conflicts. One theme I found interesting was the significance of prayer. Tayo caused a drought by praying against the rain after a flood killed his cousin Rocky in the Philippines: “He damned the rain until the words were a chant, and he sang it while he crawled through the mud…He wanted the words to make a cloudless blue sky, pale with a summer sun pressing across wide and empty horizons” (Ceremony). Tayo prayed for the rain to stop but his gods caused a drought which devastated crops.

Tayo views the environment as a powerful and conscious presence that should be honored and taken care of. This fits Buell’s belief that “the nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history” (The Future of Environmental Criticism). Silko recognizes through Tayo that the nonhuman environment like rain, wind and sun are moving presences that directly affect human’s well-being and therefore the future of human history. Without nature we would not have food or any of our basic needs met. Without nature we would not be alive.

Through Tayo’s appreciation of nature, Silko shows the power of the natural environment as a living thing rather than just “a framing device” (Ceremony). 

I do not think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man. – Chippewa

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