The poem prefaces Leslie Marmon Silko's novel Ceremony, the story of a young American Indian who regains the wholeness and meaning of his life by rediscovering his ancient tribal roots and rituals. It is a story of the American Southwest, especially the Pueblo-Laguna people. Anyone even vaguely familiar with American Indian culture knows that the groups were originally as different from each other as modern-day Swedes are from Albanians or Catalans, if not more so. There were more than 2,000 independent culture groups in Columbus's time, and they spoke 500 different languages belonging to fifty distinct language groups, some as different from each other as Chinese and English. It was the primitivity of white thought which lumped all the groups together under the absurd term of “Indians.” Hundreds of years of forced acculturation have not erased the most essential distinctions among them.

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