Introduction Identity is a complex concept that can be a difficult to discover and understand. Identity is diverse, and can include a person’s connection to culture, ethnicity, environment, sex, gender, and many other factors of an individual’s life. Sometimes a person’s social location will include contradicting or conflicting elements, which can further complicate an individual’s understanding of their own identity.
In Sherman Lexis’s novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”, the reader is narrated through the life of Arnold Spirit (Junior), a young First Nations male of the Spokane rib who in implicated in a struggle to understand his personal identity. Arnold is bullied by others on his reservation for being different, and decides to transfer schools where he is the only First Nation’s student. Arnold struggles with his sense of belonging – being singled-out at his new school for being Indigenous, and rejected from his tribe for leaving the reservation.
Many First Nation’s individuals and communities lack a healthy cultural identity because of obstacles specific to their communities, such as colonialism and Enfranchisement, and it becomes problematic to their well- Ewing. Using the story of Arnold Spirit, it can be seen how a healthy sense of identity can strengthen and enlighten the well-being of a First Nation’s individual, where as discomfort and negativity can stem from a lack of positive identity. Arnold and Welting Arnold Spirit is a target to bullies at his home reservation of Welting.
The first chapter reveals this with its title “Black-Eye-Of-The-Month-Club”, and Arnold explains how he is singled out from others for having health problems and his physical appearance. Already it is clear that Arnold is disconnected tit his peers on an individual level. It is also revealed that Arnold comes from a poor family, where he explains that his parents never pursued their dreams. The author states, ” But we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams. We don’t get those chances. Our Choices. We’re just poor.
That’s all we are” (Alexei, 2007). These realities affect Arnold’s identity because he does not have any positive First nation’s role models on the reserve. A study in January 2002 entitled “Role Models, Ethnic Identity, and Health Risk Behaviors in Urban Adolescent’ has shown that healthy ethnic identity and elf-esteem in adolescence is connected to having positive role models (Yank, Siegel, McDaniel, 2002). Besides his family and peers, Arnold’s view of his tribe and First Nation’s individuals living on reservations is also exposed.
After Arnold talks with Mr… P, a teacher whom he assaulted with a book, he is convinced that his only hope to be successful is to leave the reservation. The idea that First Nation’s people cannot be successful is a concept developed by colonialism. A Enfranchisement, which was part of a colonial act called the Gradual Civilization Act in Canada, embodied the idea that First Nation’s people could not be educated or successful by taking away First Nation’s peoples Indian statues is they did become educated or successful (Balancer, 2010).
In fact, First Nation’s people would receive full Canadian citizenship if they became educated (Balancer, 2010) which establishes the belief that one had to shed their First Nation’s identity to be successful. This belief is portrayed in the book when Arnold asks his parents about who they believe had the most hope, and they both replied that they believed “White people” did (Alexei, 2007). It is apparent that Arnold and his tribe have been damaged y colonialism from their belief that white people have the best chance at being successful.
At this point of the novel Arnold’s personal identity has negative condensations in regards to both himself and his ethnicity, as he is not content with his current identity. Arnold and Reardon When Arnold first arrives at Reardon High school, he is immediately stands out and receives negative attention for being First Nation’s. His Caucasian peers call Arnold racial slurs like “chief’ and “ton”. Robert F. Berserker speaks about the white image of Native American’s in his article ” The White
Man’s Indian”, explaining how the savage and uncivilized stereotypes are used to maintain dominance over First Nation’s people (Berserker, 1978). The Caucasian males are using a generalizing stereotype on Arnold’s ethnicity, talking negatively to First Nation’s people and trying to show their power over them because they are white – they have the ability to label him as an inferior identity. Throughout Arnold’s studies at Reardon, he establishes a good friendship with a boy named Gorky.
Arnold slowly climbs the social ladder by defending myself against the “Alfa-male” athlete in a fight, slowly gaining attention of a pretty and popular girl. The reader discovers that Arnold appears more happy and confident with himself due to the acceptance and love found at Reardon. This delight and confidence proves to be superficial, and does not strengthen his personal identity. Arnold often points out that his love interest, Penelope, is white – asking his peers “I’m an Indian boy, how can get a white girl to love me? ” (Alexei, 2007).
This suggests that although Arnold seems more content with himself, he still has negative condensations towards his ethnicity and biblically expresses it. This event in Lexis’s novel can be compared to the concept of Residential schooling where First Nation’s youth were taken from their communities and put into boarding schools to be assimilated into white dominant culture (Jacobs, 2006). Arnold has thrown himself into a school where he is trying to dismiss his First Nation’s identity to behave and become educated in a westernizes fashion.
After all, the main goal of residential schooling was to “kill the Indian” and “save the man” in First Nation’s youth (Johnston, 1995). Arnold tried to act white, explaining how he returned to have more money than he actually did to fit in with his white peers (Alexei, 2007). In the novel, money is viewed as an aspect of white privilege (Horse, 2005), because it is another form of white dominance over First Nation’s people – white people have money, Indians do not. Arnold reflects on how the townspeople in Reardon have compared the team’s basketball players to great players in the past – but not for him personally.
Arnold says, “l wasn’t from the town, not originally, so I would always be an outsider” (Alexei, 2007), displaying his developing self-awareness of who he is s a First Nation’s person in view of the Reardon community. This His self- esteem may have improved, but his identity is still not understood or embraced. Welting and Reardon Identities Collide Arnold’s identity is truly challenged when his basketball team at Reardon faces his reservation’s team. This is when the reader witnesses Arnold’s struggle with his identity and belonging.
He is a member of the Reardon team, but a descendant of the Welting tribe. The first time the teams face each other, Arnold wants to play against Welting and win, to spite the negative actions from his tribe. He identifies with the Reardon more than his Welting heritage. Arnold feels he has something to prove to his tribe, that Reardon has bettered him. This can be compared to the desired results that the Canadian government wanted from Enfranchisement and residential schooling.
The book displays Arnold as “improved” from his former Indian state as he is more confident and has developed into a talented basketball player since being at Reardon. Arnold’s tribe displays great dislike towards him for leaving Welting for Reardon – the crowd boo-ins him when he entered the basketball court, the Welting team purposely trying to hurt him, and even getting things thrown at him while playing. In this situation, Arnold can be compared to First Nation’s women in Canada who lost their Indian status’ by marrying non-Aboriginal men.
When Bill C-31 allowed First Nation’s women to reapply for their status, they often could not return to their communities because they were discriminated against and viewed as traitors (Balancer, 2010). The second time Reardon and Welting face, Arnold plays fiercely and helps Reardon win the basketball game – but then he immediately reflects on the negatives of his tribal team losing. Arnold says, “l cried because so many of my tribal members were slowly killing themselves and I wanted them to live.
I wanted them to get strong and get sober and get the hell off the raze” (Alexei, 2007). One part of Arnold’s perceived identity was flourishing and succeeding (Reardon identity), while the other part was wilting and failing (Spokane identity). Arnold’s True Identity Nearing the end of the novel, the reader discovers that Arnold is developing great insight to who he is. He is no longer ignoring the importance of his First Nation’s ethnicity, and his tribe members. Arnold embraces that his diverse identity by stating “l realize that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian.
I belonged to that tribe. But also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms. ” (Alexei, 2007). Arnold has realized that his identity does not have to be restricted, and that one aspect of what he identifies with does not mean it has to conflict with another aspect – even if they are contradicting. He can be First Nation’s, and be successful, overcoming the systematic colonial belief that First Nation’s people cannot succeed in the modern world.
Arnold discovers that he is not his First Nation’s stereotype, and that First Nation’s stereotypes used by other people can no longer euthanize him, or freeze him in an ineffective state. Arnold has found his balance, and this is confirmed by a discussion he has his friend Rowdy. He tells Arnold that First Nation’s people were once nomadic for survival, and that he is was the only nomadic one from the reservation (Alexei, 2007). Therefore, Rowdy is implying that Arnold does not have to Stay on the reservation to have a First Nation’s identity.
Conclusion Human identities are shaped by social and cultural systems (Bandmaster, 201 1), which complicated Arnold’s understanding of his identity. Aboriginal identity has been damaged by negative stereotypes and stigmas, making it difficult for First Nation’s escape those preconceived notions. It can even result in First Nation’s people believing in their negative stereotypes and stigmas. Arnold discovers that he can identify as a First Nation’s individual ND be comfortable with leaving his reservation to pursue his dreams.