The Gallup Ceremonial

While reading Ceremony, I struggled to find a topic that I felt was relevant to a class called Environmental Fiction and Criticism. I ended up plucking nature-related quotes and puzzling over how any of them could provide enough content for a 250-300 word blog post.

Near the end of tonight’s reading selection, Tayo reaches Gallup, a town that exploits Native Americans for cheap labor: “The Gallup people knew they didn’t have to pay good wages or put up with anything they didn’t like, because there were plenty more Indians where these had come from” [106]. In spite of this, they still host the Gallup Ceremonial, an annual festival that sounds like the theme park version of collective Native American culture. Silko writes, “They [the white people] liked to see Indians and Indian dances; they wanted a chance to buy Indian jewelry and Navajo rugs. Every year it was organized by the white men there … Dance groups from the Pueblos were paid to come; they got Plains hoop dancers, and flying-pole dancers from northern Mexico” [107].

I was struck by how similar this sounded to the article I had read for our first assignment, “‘The Chocolate Eater’: Food Traffic and Environmental Justice in Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby.” In it, Allison Carruth describes a Western “consumer fetishism” for foreign commodities, implicitly tied to both cultural ignorance and the exploitation of the developing world where these commodities are mined. Carruth writes of Westerners’ taste for slapdash “exotic” meals with not an afterthought of the cultures supposedly behind them, the theme park versions of Eastern fare. This sort of fetishism from unwary Westerners leads to the economic and environmental impoverishment of the Caribbean.

The parallels between these two class texts led me to wonder how reckless consumerism and exoticism fall under the Environmental Studies umbrella. Certainly there are recurring themes here; it’s not hard to come up with ways nature is “exoticized” in an ignorant, anthropocentric manner. In class, or via comments, I would love to talk more about how in the world we humans can enjoy nature — just as Gallup tourists want to enjoy Native American culture and Westerners exotic meals — without participating in its degradation. I would also like to hear my classmates thoughts on comparing the subjugation of Tayo and the other Laguna Indians to the subjugation of nature, and how Ceremony qualifies as environmental fiction.

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One Response to The Gallup Ceremonial

  1. carriereed says:

    I think the link between consumerism/exoticism and environmentalism is commodification. The Gallup Ceremonials showcased Native American performers from far-flung regions such as northern Mexico and the Great Plains, creating a “theme park” experience. Why would the white leaders put together this bill of far-flung acts for a show that supposedly showcases local Native American culture? They want to pack in an audience and profit from the Native American way of life through tourism dollars. They pack in the attractions, even if they misrepresent actual local Native American culture in the process. So the common thread between consumerism, exoticism, and environmentalism is capitalism. Tourists go to Gallup and buy exoticized souvenirs to take home with them. Native Americans who used to make things for their own purposes, like a rug for instance, are now keeping up with the supply and demand process. Their way of life has become commodified. Something is only worth saving if profit can be earned from it. As a result, we have a lot of environmental destruction. I suppose the value of reading texts that critique consumer culture in this class is to help us understand how we arrived at this present state, the state that the texts are responding to.