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Reading Response: Copway (from The Life of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh)

Copway's _Life_ is a continuation, given the limits and opportunities of his socialization among whites and the loss of his tribal existence, of the teaching practices of his father and of his tribe.

Added by colin #442 on 2006-02-03. Last modified 2006-02-03 23:33. Originally created 2005-11-22. F0 License: Attribution
Location: World, United States, California, San Diego, SDSU
Topics: personal
: engl522

Colin Leath
Professor Borgstrom
English 522
22 November 2005

Reading Response: Copway (from The Life of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh)

The Life of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh is an expression of Copway’s vision for the future. In that sense, it is not targeted at an audience that is one color, creed, gender, or social status. He is writing, as he says “that the world may learn that there once lived such a man” as he (1478), and that he “may yet speak” after he has died (1485). Copway’s Life is a continuation, given the limits and opportunities of his socialization among whites and the loss of his tribal existence, of the teaching practices of his father and of his tribe. It happens that the people he has in mind to speak to are for the most part people like him: Indians and others, including whites, who have adopted the practices and many of the views of white, middle-class, male protestant Christians. As in the work of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Harriet Wilson, it is the expression of a vision that takes precedence over the complacency of his audience.

Copway’s vision is of a Christian America which respects the traditions of the Indians that are consistent with Christianity. Copway’s religiosity and appreciation for his conversion to Christianity are expressed repeatedly. It is his intention to inspire others “with a trust in God” (1478), in part to make amends for having done “[c]ompartively nothing” for Christianity, which he says rescued him and his father when they “were just at death’s door” (1489). Throughout the text, Copway distances himself from Indian traditions he believes are inconsistent with Christianity, while at the same time portraying in a romantic way those customs that demonstrate “the value of tribal culture and the essential humanity of Indian people” (Ruoff 1476).

Life is similar to the work of Douglass, Jacobs, and Wilson in that it seeks to bring to a wider awareness respect for a group of people who have been and are being destroyed or oppressed by white culture. As does Copway, Douglass, Jacobs, and Wilson express the humanity of the people they represent, particularly through demonstrating their respect for and desire to embrace true Christian values and beliefs. Douglass and Jacobs in particular share Copway’s emphasis on documenting traditions in a manner that demonstrates the humanity of the group they represent. Unlike the black writers, Copway spends more time portraying the customs of his people than documenting their destruction or oppression by the whites. This is consistent with Copway’s purpose of encouraging the preservation of what he saw as the good parts of his culture, whereas the black writers were concerned with being respected as humans rather than winning respect for the way blacks live in a society which harms them.

Copway’s indirect expression of his vision for America is effective in that it appeals to and channels the white middle class respect for Christianity, learning, and nature. He is not arguing for a preservation of the ancient tribal cultures, but for the space, freedom, and protection for what is left of native peoples to develop in ways consistent with Christianity.

The Prompt: Copway's primary audience was non-Indian. Write a response that examines how his text might demonstrate this awareness of audience through its usage of specific rhetorical strategies. How do Copway's methods compare to those of other ethnic authors writing at this time (e.g., Jacobs, Douglass, Wilson)? Does his text differ in any significant ways?

  1. Brainstorm:

    1. Copway, from outset, shows he has adopted the white, male, middle-class, protestant view of Native Americans “that unfortunate race called the Indans” (1477). Beginning with “The Christian” (1477) his audience.

    2. Emphasizes his civ. Mind, “mind for letters” “was asleep, till the dawn of Christianity arose”.-- Served the old gods- “who, it was said,” distancing himself from belief in the old gods. The “!”- shows amazement at these beliefs= further distance.

    3. (1478) “bosom of the highest” reit. Conversion. Emph. Conversion.

    4. “inspire them with a trust in God”

    5. totem—coat of arms.-- in white terms.

    6. 1480 “good and great” farmers. White people kissed. God vs whiskey.

    7. “Nature’s wide domain!” 1480- is he playing to transc.?

    8. Language he writes in.

    9. 1481- “grace of god”

    10. 1481 nature again vs. civ. Like those in gardens among. The whites.

    11. 1482 “I cannot but bless God”

    12. 1483- no harsh means.

    13. 1483- father teaching son.

    14. If you reverence the aged.

    15. 1484- hunting tips. - - discussion of things whites could relate to.

    16. 1486- I shudder when I think of those days of our darkness”

    17. A focus on religious practices. 1487- the moral teachings.

    18. Focus on whiskey as evil, and tobacco.p1486-8

    19. 1489 Unchristianized Indians.

    20. How text differs/is similar to that of other ethnic writers, and rhet. Strategies. The slaves try to bring home how horrible their pre-free, pre-christian existence was. Copway does the same. Focus on costoms and beliefs.

    21. Biggest difference is on his focus on his own-prewhitechristian civ. For the blacks, this done less.

    22. OK, we have enough for a page.

Colin Leath <>    

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