This series of questions further elaborate on the key themes of the previous page. These questions may serve as models for students who are looking for good research and essay questions, or examples of the kinds of questions a teacher may ask on an exam.
- All my relations: King enacts the social code of “all my relations” in a variety of ways throughout the novel. In his words,
“All my relations” is at first a reminder of who we are and of our relationship with both our family and our relatives. It also reminds us of the extended relationship we share with all human beings. But the relationships that Native people see go further, the web of kinship extending to the animals, to the birds, to the fish, to the plants, to all the animate and inanimate forms that can be seen or imagined. More than that, “all my relations” is an encouragement for us to accept the responsibility we have within this universal family by living our lives in a harmonious and moral manner. (King, Introduction ix)
While Christianity locates moral relations primarily in terms of human interactions, “all my relations” extends well beyond this human focus. In particular, King describes a deep relationship between people and nature. Discuss specific ways that the novel engages with the worldview of “all my relations.” How might King’s novel show this responsibility to others, including non-human relations?
Cultures and mythologies in contact
Gender and History
- Four wo/men: Consider what the four old, gender-indeterminate escapees offer to the overall story. How do they disrupt colonial notions of history and identity? How do these figures impact the other characters?
- Sky Woman: What insights do the stories of First Woman, Changing Woman, Old Woman, Sky Woman, and Thought Woman offer us about their respective Indigenous worldviews? For instance, what does the Moby Dick scene with Sky Woman and Ahab suggest about early Euro-American perceptions and literary representations of nature, gender, sexuality, and racial difference?
- Cultural conflict: How does the conflict over the dam reflect on broader differences of cultural values between non-Indigenous and Blackfoot characters?
- Multi-cultures: As Blanca Chester notes in her Canadian Literature article,
Green Grass, Running Water: Theorizing the World of the Novel,King writes a story about characters from a Blackfoot reserve while also incorporating “multi-faceted translations and recreations of various stories and characters from different Native cultural traditions. King connects … Okanagan Coyote with stories from the Blackfoot of Alberta, and the traditions of Thought Woman (Pueblo), First Woman (Navajo), Old Woman (Blackfoot, Dunne-za), and Changing Woman (Navajo)” (6). Thus, King creates a larger web of perspectives that weaves together a variety of Indigenous narratives with colonial ones. How does this larger view undermine the narrow perspective of colonial narratives (such as in the Westerns that feature in the story)?
Characters and Communities
- Stereotypes: How does King pull apart stereotypical images, such as of the noble savage, through the figures of the Lone Ranger, Robinson Crusoe, Hawkeye, and Ishmael? (See Wyile 115 for some starting points.)
Communities and Locations
- Identifying Relations: Consider the character of Eli and his protest against the damming of the valley. What does his story, knowledge, actions, and interactions reveal about his identity and his relationship to the land, his Blackfoot identity, and to non-Indigenous society? How does the reconstruction of his cabin indicate a legacy of his ideas continuing in the community?
- Sun Dance: Consider how the different characters’ perspectives on the Sun Dance reflects their past experiences and decisions. How do their understandings of it change over the course of the story? What is the overall impact of the Sun Dance on the characters and their connection to the Blackfoot community?
- King, Thomas. Introduction. All My Relations: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Native Fiction. Ed. Thomas King. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990: ix–xvi. Print.
- Wyile, Herb.
Canadian Literature 161–62 (1999): 105–24. Print. (PDF)
Trust Tonto: Thomas King’s Subversive Fictions and the Politics of Cultural Literacy.
- Chester, Blanca [Blanca Schorcht].
Green Grass, Running Water: Theorizing the World of the Novel.Canadian Literature 161/2 (1999): 44–61. Print. (PDF)
- Goldman, Marlene.
Mapping and Dreaming: Native Resistance in Green Grass, Running Water.Canadian Literature 161–62 (1999): 18–41. Print. (PDF)
- King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1993. Print.