- "Everything the World Turns On":Inclusion and Exclusion in Linda Hogan's Power
Historically marginalized writers are always in negotiation between a myriad of "dominant" ideologies and their own unique cultural experiences. For Native American writers in particular, the results of these negotiations often become complex statements of identity, statements inherently bound together with countless definitions, created by both the dominant culture and Native Americans themselves, of what it means to be Indian and to live within the inherent complexities of modern existence. As Paula Gunn Allen has pointed out, "One of the major issues facing twenty-first-century Native Americans is how we, multicultural by definition- either as Native American or American Indian- will retain our 'Indianness' while participating in global society."1 Some writers may react against mainstream culture by constructing Native characters that are separatist in many ways; that is to say, these characters speak to the fact that what it means to be Indian must necessarily reject other parts of American society. Characters such as Silko's Tayo, Momaday's Abel, and Alexie's Victor are just a few examples.
Other authors work against, or at least in response to, the dominant culture's constructions of "Indianness" by embracing syncretisms and using them as fuel for the articulation of Indian identities and/or realities. Writers who employ this strategy often create plots and characters that seem to insist that understanding the self is bound up in understanding the world in which one lives, and that world is usually one in which complexity and contradiction cannot be ignored. In fact, the syncretic world articulated within these texts reflects the undeniably complex reality in which Native American people exist, and to deny this reality may in fact lead to an essentialism that reinforces stereotypes. [End Page 111] The relationship between oppressed and oppressor, colonizer and colonized, subject and object must inevitably play a part in the construction of identity and cannot be ignored. According to Louis Owens, "Half a millennium of Euramerican attempts to both eliminate and re-imagine the Indian has resulted in a hybridized, multicultural reality clearly recognized in fiction."2 This realization, this conscious recognition of how incredibly complex conceptions of what it means to be "Indian" actually are, is a central theme in much Native American fiction.
In her novel Power, Linda Hogan provides readers with a close look at how separatism and syncretism, or exclusion and inclusion, are complex ideologies that lead to complex decisions. A close look at the novel reveals that the tensions and sharp dichotomies between the traditional world of the Taiga elders and the European American world, closely linked with Omishto's school experiences and her mother's newly found Christianity, exist in order to create dislike, or at least discomfort, in the reader. Many parts of the novel emphasize the fact that the "traditional" world and the "outside" world can find no common ground. The novel, then, is about much more than the importance of tradition and the maintenance and regeneration of culture. Power illustrates the fact that connection is necessary to understand the self, and that connection is found only in the complex realities human beings inhabit. Though some would certainly argue that "Hogan restores Omishto to her place within the tribe and assumes the traditional role of speaker as healer,"3 perhaps the greatest message of all in Power is that balance can only be achieved through inclusion rather than exclusion.
The novel is set in Florida and revolves around three central characters: Ama Eaton, a Native American woman who lives alone on the edge of the traditional lands of her people; Omishto, a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in town and is a distant relative of Ama; and Sisa, the panther. To make a long summary short, Omishto goes to visit Ama, as she often does. A hurricane rolls in, wreaking havoc across the landscape, and after it passes, Ama (accompanied by Omishto) tracks a sickly panther and kills it. This act of taking the life of an endangered and protected species lands Ama in a federal courtroom, where she is judged for this crime. She is also judged by the...