- Landscape as Narrative, Narrative as Landscape
In his interpretive essay on Linda Hogan's Solar Storms, Geoffrey Stacks calls the novel a "defiant cartography, one that is historically rooted in indigenous culture, narrative in nature, and connected to the land and therefore able to resist rather than assist colonization" (161). Through mapping land, individual healing and growth, and the struggle for Native sovereignty, Hogan's work suggests ways in which the reader may learn to navigate a world that is both familiar and strange to the Euroamerican consciousness. Hogan indicates that seeing the land with a Native eye means learning to dwell in community. Safely travelling that land signals reclamation of identity in a natural world that can be described but never defined by directions and distance. And listening to that land teaches one to hear and eventually to retell the stories embedded therein.
The late Vine Deloria Jr. was a great interpreter of Native North American life ways and a lucid and provocative writer and speaker. In his work he told the story of this continent, and like any good storyteller, he spoke of memories and dreams, creating an anamnesis for Native people while instructing non-Natives about the character of American Indian religions. In reading Deloria we understand that the colonizing religion of Christianity was very much an orphan washed up on the shores of North America and that this orphan, removed from its roots, failed to understand that it had found high ground upon a sacred and peopled landscape. The European Christians stood in stark contrast to Indigenous people like the Hopis, [End Page 58] who, traveling in hollow reeds fashioned for them by Spider Grandmother, emerged from a flood to stand and dwell in a home that they still understand and protect through ritual. Deloria's critique of the alien and alienated mindset of Christianity is further developed in his contention that while the Abrahamic monotheisms may have been born in revelation, in their overemphasis on transcendence, they quickly desacralized the world and prioritized time and history over space and place. As Deloria was fond of noting, Christianity is largely a commemorative religion while Native American traditions are revelatory. This means that Christianity, in its myth and ritual observances, marks past events by construction of churches and doctrines while Native people continually receive direct, unmediated revelation from a sacred landscape and the genii loci that populate that landscape. Memories and dreams as told in myth and enacted in ritual are constantly being formed and re-formed, in a continuously present moment, informed by the past and oriented toward a future. As Deloria put it, in religious worldviews, "Space generates time but time has little relationship to space" (71).
While many born again and, especially, charismatic Christians who seek direct and often thaumaturgical revelations of god's power might rightfully disagree with Deloria's characterization of their religion, mainstream Christianity certainly conforms to his description. Further, even among the Christian seekers of miracles and the fully one third of Americans who say they have interacted, personally, with angels, direct experience remains curiously dislocated—or we should say, un-located. Houses of god are built upon, not discovered in, landscape, and religious experience gestures toward a heavenly rather than an earthly reality. This lack of location, this inability to "dwell" on the earth, is indicative of a larger contemporary North American malaise permeating a mobile society that moves through and consumes land as resource. In speaking of American geographical insensitivity, Barry Lopez describes a natural world that, when not being destroyed by consumption, is romanticized into a sort of theme park: "a magnificent garden, a colonial vision of paradise imposed on a real place that is, at best, only selectively known" (82). It is a place that is understood as scenery and visited [End Page 59] through pictures and infrequent vacations in state, provincial, and national parks. Referred to in songs like "America the Beautiful" and "O Canada," contained, controlled, and stripped of its power, the natural world has even been transformed into an insipid soundtrack for Euroamerican national identity. As Lopez puts it, Euroamericans "no longer … know...