What Must A One Eyed Raven Say?

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

  1. Is there a difference between sacrifice and giving up and must you give up in order to have sacrifice?
  2. Is it a true sacrifice if there isn’t any giving in to others/world?
  3. Is revenge ever fruitful?
  4. Why are there such clear divides between Native Americans in this book and yet, American History 101 lumps them all together like a field of sheep.

Did you know sheep have no idea how to be a leader, they only know how to follow.  It may be the thick band of black in their eye, a censor bar to any sort of theory, or it may just be that they come as a clump and fall as a clump.  So much so that recently, 450 sheep jumped to their death in an effort to play follow the leader.  This is the metaphor the Christian faith has chosen to describe Jesus and his followers which simultaneously makes me feel full of strength because I’m surrounded by community, but full of fear that no one knows the answers.

  1. (This should be five) Should we all have a death song?
  2. Are out of body experiences literal? (Is anything literal)
  3. Do animals have Orenda (a supernatural force to be present in all object and persons)?

Dictionary.com said that Orenda is a thing of only the Iroquois First Nations, but I think this book would take that offensively as the groups are so disparate in their group-hood, but the same in so many ritualistic ways.

  1. (This should be eight) Does the whole world look at Catholics as evil?
  2. Did missionaries (and do they) ever really help the people that they surround? Was that a bias question?
  3. Can a missionary become part of the people without giving up their mission?
  4. Will torture always cause what we call today, PTSD?
  5. Is an act of sacrifice righteous in itself regardless of its reasons?
  6. What does it mean to be moral? Are the standards similar for everyone? (no.)
  7. Why are we scared to get blood on our hands?
  8. Is the act of “blood brothers” a nod to a First Nation history (more research needed).
  9. Define savages and civilized and give a brief example of each.
  10. Will you read this book to discover the prompt of these questions?

Okay, I can stop now.

Native American Indians in Canoe – Hiawatha´s Sailing @ Delcampe.net

While I thought the pacing of this book was sluggish at best, it took me a month to read it, LITERALLY.  The fact that it left me with so many burning questions (METAPHORICAL) makes me think that it deserves more than the three stars that I gave it on Goodreads.  The problem is, I didn’t really enjoy it.  In fact, I didn’t really like it at all.  It might be one of those situations when you go through a bad break up and you’re like “It’s not me, it’s you.”  I’m not sure if it’s the book in this case or it’s me being a lazy reader.

I’m going to blame the book.

This book was SLOW. It took hot baths and forcing myself to get the bar on my E-reader to move up another 20% each day for the last two days.   There were other problems with this book than just pacing.  The best character is a sorceress (the reader isn’t sure if the powers are developed throughout her tribe, or if they come to only her Orenda, but it doesn’t really matter).  She’s easily the most powerful character in this book as she constantly goes against the Catholic missionaries with a sly smile and cannon eyes, but in the end she folds under the birth of twins and becomes another harborer of death.  She can’t save the girl who is the true hero of this story, and she is still an outsider even in the end of the book, when the reader realizes they too have become an outsider, and have always been an outsider.

John White’s Depiction of a small palisades village in North Carolina @Belvoir.Army.mil/Native

The hero girl, Snow Falls, is the truest of characters because she actually experiences real change in the story.  Most of the characters stay flat (other than Christophe Crow, the main Catholic missionary).  Snow Falls is only interesting because she surrounds herself with “drama.”  At least that’s how my high schoolers would say it.  She’s raped (almost, or definitely) three times in the story, she’s stolen from her family in the very beginning and fights off the bondage by taking off two fingers (of who I cannot say).  She keeps a totem raven with seashell eyes.  Occasionally, there’s hints that Gosling’s sorcery will one day become hers, but that’s never realized.  She kills a Haudenosaunee without ever having picked up a large, sharp tool.  She’s just a BAD B, if you know what I mean.  Her dad (adopted dad – she adopts him as much as he adopts her) is a brilliant father figure and village leader (named Bird), but he never really changes from the swift fighter and sentimental lover that he is from the beginning.  He follows the village ritual book to the T, even when walls are crumbling around him and corn is gray with rot.

Painter Robert Griffing placed Father Joseph Pierre Bonnecamp @ Explore PA History

Fox, Bird’s best friend, is a great minor character, but he’s unfortunately MINOR.  All of the members mentioned are Wendat tribesmen and women who accept the coming of Europe as a way to have easier trade deals.  What they don’t accept is the sickness and direct confrontations they have with these people.  All the questions about sacrifice come from the main Jesuit missionary, Christophe Crow, who is likable and dislikable at the same time.  He’s a friend to the Wendat, he’s willing to die for the Wendat, and he may be an equal leader to Bird, only he’s powerful in words where Bird is powerful in action.  Together, they’re an odd, but fruitful pair.  Christophe Crow is the first “crow” and missionary to “descend” on the village, but two others become main-minors as the story goes, Issac and Gabriel.  Neither are as strong as the first Crow in deed or manner, but Issac is really likable due to what he suffers at the hands of his first journey.  He threatens to kill you at the end though, hate it when that happens.

A Jesuit Missionary, Jean de Brebeuf, was the first person to document lacrosse in 1636. Then, in the 1840s French settlers in Canada took up the game. @ The History of Lacrosse

I am not sure though about other reader’s claims that these missionaries (European invaders) are seen for what they are (invaders).  I’m not sure that that’s the message of this book at all.  First, there’s no direct blame on them for the illnesses (that’s our own assumptions from history, which I think are accurate, but still).  They’re all willing to sacrifice themselves for the betterment of the First Nations, even if it is to fulfill their own goals of bringing more people to the “Great Voice.”  They suffer right alongside on cold winters, huddling in their beaver skins.  However, there’s the other side.  There are hints of rape (as everyone loves to put in their books using the Catholic Church as a vehicle), and then there are not-so-hints of rape.  There are poisonings, nastiness, bitterness, worry, boring, BORING, letters home to France.  However, Boyden ends the book with the true suffering and resolve of one of the key members forcing the reader to realize that there is some missed connection between the First Nations and the missionaries.

The true beauty of this book is that there is very little judgment from the author.  He could play sides very easily in this war that the United States has been fighting since before its creation through revolution.  He doesn’t though.  He keeps it very clear that there are no two, three, four sides to humanity, only humans acting for the betterment of themselves, until their empathy or arrogance forces them to act for the betterment of others. Throw loyalty in there too while you’re at it.

One thought on “What Must A One Eyed Raven Say?

  1. Bea says:

    Welcome back, we missed you! I am happy to see that you have found some time in your life to read and to let us in on it.
    The book sounds deep, and years from now, when you are still trying to find answers to those questions, you might just say, “It was a good book, it made me ponder.”
    I loved the sheep commentary/quote, “Did you know sheep have no idea how to be a leader, they only know how to follow. It may be the thick band of black in their eye, a censor bar to any sort of theory, or it may just be that they come as a clump and fall as a clump. ” There are times in all of our lives when we are sheep, but hopefully we seperate from our clump at the right moments.

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