Analysis of Touch the Earth

Touch the Earth – A self-portrait of Indian existence

by TC McLuhan

1971 Promontory Press, NY

This book is meant to describe the experience of the North American Indian as their way of life was altered by the intrusion of white man upon this continent.The writings are composed of selections taken from letters and orations by Indians primarily from the eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth century.This historical perspective of their experience with nature is not necessarily a well-known account as far as popular literature goes but if it were to become more of a lesson, in general population education it may serve to broaden the understanding of the Indian’s way of life now and is it was then.There has been very little documentation that has brought such insight into mainstream culture.

This book was chosen because it was written though an indigenous cultural and spiritual perspective.It is written in anecdotal form.While there has been growing support within the last fifty plus year to understand other peoples introduced to this land, such as African Americans, Asian Americans, and much documentation to support European American, comparatively little has been mainstreamed regarding Native Americans.While many of the above-mentioned groups of people have under went oppression, cultural devastation, even destruction and slavery, many areas where historically accurate representation of culture and spirituality still exist, this cannot be as strongly stated with regard to the Indian.Even today, there is a division between those who want to find out about their past, their cultural ancestry and those who just want to find the white man’s American Dream (Joe Bear, Catawba Tribe, 2001).

One statement in the beginning of the book was especially poignant to any one who studies Indian culture, It is easy for us to feel a vicarious rage, a misery on behalf of these people, but Indians, dead and alive would only receive such feelings with pity or contempt; it is too easy to feel sympathy for a people who culture was wrecked..

Pride would breed contempt for sympathy, a strong people do not want sympathy.Pity, because the ancestors knew of destruction, they watched, unable to stop as so much of what was so bountiful was destroyed.This scraping of the land is still continuing while the land is still raw from past abuses.Rather than living as one with nature all manner of developed countries devastate that which has brought us riches, yet some leave a much larger footprint then others.The pity is that without such balance there can be only one outcome, we are but small hiccups when viewed from the Earth’s calendar.

We are all responsible for the actions of man; it is not the other countries, other people.We are responsible for either allowing of for ending the things that have or will alter the delicate balance of man and nature.Pity is for lack of responsibility and courage to sand one’s ground even if that means learning to live in one spot.

It takes much more effort to make things work in one area than to journey to another more suitable area.How can this be said when so many Indians themselves journeyed across great plains in search of better climate and food?While that may be so, they also relented, most gave up the pursuit of their way of life to save it from destruction to reside themselves to the American Reservations.It is much more difficult to make things work in one place than to move to a more suitable habitat.

Isn’t it amusing that when you want to go out to dinner, get a plane ride, go to a nice hotel or something special, you must make a reservation; while if one were to visit a great many of these “special” places (reservations) they would see poverty, row houses, beat up cars, and beat down people.While this in no means is meant to belittle anyone who lives on a reservation, there are many such areas that cannot be ignored, but that is precisely what the majority of America continues to do.

How is it possible that in the twenty-first century American can continue, for the most part, to ignore the plight of the devastating effects of its forefathers on the true America?While there is a growing global awareness of other such ignored cultures, the one that is here in America’s backyard seems to be dimly illuminated.

Illumination.We love the quiet, we suffer the mouse to play; when the woods are rustled by the wind, we fear not (Chief to the governor of Pennsylvania, 1796).Light chases away the demons of the night, the Indian is not afraid of the dark, the wind in the woods, why is tit that the white man must be surrounded by light?Look out from your home on any given night, drive down a street, everywhere it.