Thomas King: Not Just A Reaction To Colonialism

1841 words - 8 pages

"A Coyote Columbus Story" shows the Native point of view of the beginning of colonialism. When introducing Christopher Columbus into the short story, Coyote says "[t]hat is the one who found Indians" (King "Coyote" 123). In many of King's stories, he writes narration without quotations, but this particular short story doesn't contain a single quotation. The style in which it is written is not similar to many other post-colonial texts. Rather than depicting historical facts directly and accurately, this story portrays real characters, such as Columbus and the Indians, but rather doing strange things, like playing ball. While the events didn't occur the way King states, he is reaching for a deeper meaning of the how colonization effected Native people, from the point of view of the Natives. The symbolization and mockery within this short story represents the resentment of the arrival of colonization. On page 126, Christopher Columbus and his men are looking for things to sell, in turn symbolizing the greed of the colonizers. Then, on page 127, Christopher Columbus gets the idea to sell Indians instead, representing slavery during the colonial period. The idea of kidnapping Indians and selling them as slaves appears after his men gather a monkey, a parrot, a fish, and a coconut. Columbus tells them that "[t]hat stuff isn't worth poop" (King "Coyote" 126). Columbus was very much part of a slave-driven society including slave-trading, working as a sugar buyer and visiting colonies where slaves had been traded for years. Here, King both highlights what really motivated Columbus -- finding things to sell to make money. He is depicted not as the familiar hero of history, or a great explorer, but as confusing the New World with China, and searching for China under rocks and in caves, like an idiot "in silly clothes" (125).
The utter foolishness of the Eurocentric historicism and racism is apparent in the opening of the story, as Coyote gets ready to attend "a party for Christopher Columbus" with a party hat, party whistle, and even a party rattle in her hand (123). A little later, Coyote explains that she understood the historical importance of Columbus (through the European point of view, however) from a book, "a history book. Big red one. All about how Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue looking for America and the Indians" (123). Within King's story, Columbus is actually not a product of of the growing exploitative, social, technological, and ideological basis of the slave-using society of Europe, but rather is the product of a totem animal who is annoyed because the Indians do not want to play with her. This story depicts one of King's challenges; the need to "reconcile the material legacy of colonialism with […] the indigenous histories and cultures" (Winks 66).
I can't help but wonder if King would prefer this text to be recognized as 'polemical', 'colonial', or 'counter colonial'. In my opinion, it contains elements of all three. The...

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