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Leslie Marmon Silkos Ceremony

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The white institutions, such as war, have not dealt kindly with Tayo. He was held as a prisoner in a Philippine prisoner of war camp—another culture other than Native American which Tayo encounters—and when he returns home he suffers from what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder. Tayo’s cousin, Rocky, whom he served with, died in the Philippines. Tayo and Rocky had been more like brothers than cousins because Rocky’s mother, Tayo’s Auntie, raised them together like brothers. Tayo’s mother was a homeless alcoholic who often slept with men for money, so Tayo’s father was one of her white clients. Tayo was apparently conceived in such a fashion, which makes Tayo a half-breed in the eyes of other Native Americans and not as well accepted as others who are full-blooded Laguna. Auntie favors Rocky and shows disdain for Tayo partly because of his mixed heritage and partly because of his mother’s choice of lifestyles. He did not know how to tell [Ku’oosh] that he had not killed an enemy or that he did not think that he had. But he had done things far worse, and the effects were everywhere, in the cloudless sky, in the dry brown hills, shrinking skin and hide taut over a sharp bone(Silko 33). While he is not specific about the things he has done that are far worse than killing an enemy, readers can see that Tayo is a man racked with guilt and feelings of low self-esteem. People who represent the other half of Tayo’s heritage do not treat him any better. While he is a soldier, white people respect him even though he is Native American and usually treated as a second class citizen. They had been treated first class once, with their uniforms. As long as there had been a war and the white people were afraid of the Japs and Hitler (Silko 165). When he returns home with what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, he is put into a mental institute. Then he is released without much treatment back to the reservation, to poverty, alcoholism, and second class citizenry. Tayo, still suffering, takes up with his old destructive friends and starts drinking again. Every day they had to look at the land, from horizon to horizon, and every day the loss was with them. it was the dead unburied, and the mourning of the lost going on forever. So they tried to sink the loss in booze and silence their grief with war stories about their courage, defending the land they had already lost (Silko 169). The few family members he has left urge him to see a medicine man. They feel that the white man’s treatment had not worked and that only the traditional healing ceremony will cure Tayo.