I Heard The Owl Call My Name: Native American Perspective On Death

1137 words - 5 pages

I Heard the Owl Call My Name is a 1967 film which opened a new perspective on Native Americans, beyond the cliché images put forth in Country Westerns of that time. This new perspective is seen later in the 1990s in films like Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves. In I Heard the Owl Call My Name, the main character Mark Brian encounters three main animals that act as metaphoric and literal representations of death, the salmon, the eagle, and the owl. Each relate to specific conflicts in the film, while conforming to the theme of death.The story of the salmon is central to the film’s portrayal of death as it relates to Mark and, his Kwakiutl guide, Jim. Like many Native ...view middle of the document...

Jim and Mark agree that death for the salmon is a triumph because the salmon has reached its end, and as expected, Keetah, after experiencing the modern world, comes back to the community to marry Jim.The eagle acts as a second metaphor for death. On the boat ride over to the Kwakiutl community, in a narrative, Mark describes an encounter with an eagle. He sees the eagle catch a fish which is too heavy to fly away with, and the eagle ends up drowning after never letting go. The eagle symbolizes the Kwakiutl community in its struggle to keep younger generations from leaving and forgetting Kwakiutl culture and values. Upon entering the village, Mark is seen by the community as the iconoclastic close minded white man who will blindly impose Christianity upon the natives. From the audience’s perspective, as these perceptions are shed from Mark, they are put upon the community school teacher who plays a sub plot antagonist against Mark. The teacher is frustrated and with little motivation, he has no interest in the future of his students. Through this experience he has become rash and cold hearted. He acts as the community’s main reference for what white men are like, and it is easy to understand why the community, especially the young generation, has set such negative inclinations towards Mark, upon his arrival.These inclinations are affirmed in Mark’s first church service. In his speech, Mark says that the community is trying to make a metaphoric boat which will bring the Kwakiutl community to modern civilization. In this way, they will be able to acclimatize to the white man’s world. The elders take offense to his speech. They are afraid of the white man’s world. They realize that their culture is dying after seeing the younger generations leaving and never coming back. Like the eagle with the fish, the elders are willing to fight this change until the end.The theme of death, as it...

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