HOW DOES MARMON SILKO DEFINE LANDSCAPE?
How does Marmon Silko define landscape?
Essay#2: Defining Landscape
Landscape can have different meanings to all sorts of people – people located in numerous places, speaking varies languages and having different beliefs. In the essay Yellow Woman And A Beauty of the Spirit: Essays On Native American Life Today Leslie Marmon Silko defines landscape as being cultural. Similarly, Spirit Of Place And The Value Of Nature In the American West by Dan Flores and The Trouble With Wilderness; Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature by William Cronon restates Marmon Silko’s definition of landscape. Marmon Silko states landscape as being cultural because she points out how pueblo people related to nature by sharing Indian stories with one another from past generations as well as inheriting their virtues, how their views on landscape differed from others and how they were one with the landscape around them.
Marmon Silko related to landscape by listening to older people narrate stories about their surroundings and grew up inheriting the same virtues as them including the same culture as she grew older. Specifically, Flores, D. (1998) calls inherited virtues that are developed through our culture “spirit of place” and concludes how our interaction to landscape by culture is always changing (p.32). The pueblo’s people’s stories passed down included several descriptions of their surrounding like special landmarks, geographical details, immigration patterns of animals and fresh water locations. Pueblo people because of their culture believed landscape to be of utmost importance. At the end of Marmon Silko’s essay she explains how Yellow Women dared to cross traditional boundaries of ordinary behavior during times of trouble in order to save the pueblo (Marmon Silko, p.13).To the pueblo people it was crucial to adapt to nature as it was. In other words they made a series of changes when needed for the specific purpose of maintaining the landscape. As Cronon declares “It means looking at the part of nature we intend to turn toward our own ends and asking whether we can use it again and again and again – sustainably – without it being diminished in the process” (Cronon, W (1995). Pueblo people believed in adjusting their way of life for the purpose of sustaining the landscape. Finally, though pueblo people classified themselves into a particular area they still found their identity in creation. Pueblo people still recalled stories that had been passed down from generations and shared the same worldview.Virtues were something that within a culture would be passed down affecting the way one saw landscape.
Pueblo people and their views on landscape differed from others. Though within the same cultural group they had the same virtues, other people had their own views on landscape. In Marmon’s Silkos essay she emphasizes how the Yupilk Eskimo women understood landscape and her relationship to it (Marmon Silko, p.9). Not everyone had the same understandings about landscape as the pueblo people did or to a degree had a relationship with it. People are not born within the same culture thus everyone’s points of views differ about landscape as cultures change. Flores, D.(1998) notes that “The most important thing about spirit of place is that cultural values and human imagination determine it as much as landscape does and that it exemplifies history’s greatest lesson: everything is always changing” (p.37). Pueblo people viewed and interacted with landscape diversely. As history has changed people have viewed landscape in a variety of ways. They’ve viewed it as religious, precious to view for one’s pleasure and even have used landscape to trigger ones feelings like feelings of comfort. As times change so does points of views influenced by cultures and the way one treats the environment. Indeed, the pueblo’s people’s points of views weren’t the same as everyone else’s within that time period reviling why they treated the environment the way they did – with respect.
The pueblo people were one with the landscape around them. They didn’t see landscape as being separate from themselves. Marmon Silko, L. (1996) describes that they “depended upon nature and its resources (p.6). Not only did pueblo people realize they depended upon nature they also knew they needed to maintain it. Pueblo people experienced the landscape around them right in the place they called home. They didn’t need to travel distances to care for their landscape. Responsibility for their landscape was taken everywhere they were present. Nevertheless, they left landscape as it was. Marmon Silko, L. (1996) notes in her essay “Any narratives about the pueblo people necessarily give a great deal of attention and detail to all aspects of a landscape. For this reason, the pueblo people have always been extremely reluctant to relinquish their land for dams or highways” (p.8). Leaving landscape as it was rather than trying to change it was always better. Pueblo people simply didn’t see themselves distant from landscape, they experienced nature right where they lived developing a sense of oneness with it.
Cronon mentions “There is nothing natural about the concept of wilderness. It is entirely a creation of the culture that holds it dear, a product of the very history it seeks to deny” (Cronon, W (1995). Pueblo people treat and see landscape the way they do because of their cultural virtues that they’ve learned from past generations. They have developed them throughout time through experiences and have practiced them daily. Marmon Silko defines landscape as cultural because of how she reveals her virtues being passed down, the differences her and other non-pueblo people have and her encounters with landscape that provide that oneness through stories. Landscape is cultural – it can be seen from many views that have been developed throughout history by varies groups of people presently passed down.
Flores, D. (1998).A sense of the American west. Spirit of place and the value of nature in the American west (pp.31-40) J.S. Sherow (Ed.).University of New Mexico Press.
Marmon Silko, L. (1996).Yellow Women and a beauty if the spirit: Essays on Native American life today. Interior and exterior landscapes: The Pueblo migration stories (pp.25-47).New York: Simon and Schuster
William Cronon,ed.,Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: W.W. Norton & Co.,1995,69-90;