By Helen Addison Howard
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Extra resources for American Indian Poetry (Twayne's United States authors series ; TUSAS 334)
Barnes's investigations have led her to conclude that the essence of Indian poetry is aspiration, and that its symbolism reveals penetration of thought, effects conciseness, and gives strength and beauty to the aboriginal verse. Indian poesy has beauty in thought and image, graceful phrasing, and symmetry of form. An example of aspiration expressed through symbolism and incorporating the dominant religious motif is found in "A Dreamer's Thanks for Food" 5 6 from the Nez Perce: The light be upon us who believe, Leader of all with Power given, The Gleam beckons clearly before us, Our beings are nourished by [the] Gleam.
2 7 They w e r e more engaged in agricultviral and industrial pursuits than in artistic expression. Even so, Fletcher's governmental work among the O m a h a resulted in her adapting their creation myths and their ritual chants for attending the sick. In rhythm, form, and imagery, t h e Omaha verse is typical Indian poetry, such as this free translation of t h e "Ritual of t h e Cosmic Forces": 2 8 Toward the coming of the sun There the people of every kind gathered, And great animals of every kind.
She explains that the four songs "are attributed to a black horse, which was heard singing them" by a dreaming man. The songs "were sung [by a medicine man] to cure [a patient of] an injury caused by a fractious horse. "20 The Papago respected animals as superior beings who were better adapted to their environment than man. Animals gave power (to people), but they also sent disease to humans who wantonly killed animals when they didn't need food. The Papago believed that by describing a desired event in magical, beautiful speech, they could make that event take place.