Post-Deloria, I'm thinking about why some people might be so hung up on needing a dichotomy between the traditional and the modern, and I remember something one of my mentors at U of O, Dr. Sharon Sherman, said. People often talk about traditions as being something "passed down" from one generation to the next as if they are these "pure," uncorruptable entities. But in the realm of folklore, the fact of variation -- whether "by accident" or by design -- puts in the forefront the idea that no tradition is "pure," that traditions are necessarily contingent. (After all of this, Dr. Sherman would always grunt disapprovingly when someone used the phrase "passed down.")

As I said in one of my previous posts and in class, the value of a tradition is in its perceived static-ness, and in its supposed purity. I kept thinking during class about Scottish kilts (A, because I love kilts, and B, because I'm not as up on Native cultures or "traditions" beyond what I've been fed through hegemonic discourse). Kilts in their present incarnation are something of an invented tradition (various stories about dressing up the basic tartan worn by people in the Highlands -- a garment that used to be loathed by those in the Lowlands -- circulate), now connected to Scottish nationalist history. Do the more constructed portions of the kilt's history mean it has less value, is less authentic? And, on another tack, could the kilt in 1782 be considered "traditional"?

For Deloria's work (and others), I'm going to put myself out there and say that, among hegemonic discourse, there is a certain vested interest in maintaining a dichotomy between the traditional and the modern, both for Native histories and for the "American" story (sorry if I'm not wording that right...hopefully I'm making myself understood). Tradition implies an unbroken line to the past, and to admit to things such as invented traditions or tradition as a dynamic process -- again, either accidentally or deliberately so -- does mess with people's imagined ideas of what it means to "be" something.

For hegemonic American culture, "tradition" is part of essentializing a Native identity, and there is a value that is attached to that identity (whether as the "noble savage" or as the "colonized heathen warrior" or some other stereotype). The value comes from the perceived purity of that identity as well as the production/creation of a line from the Native of today to some distant, imagined past. That value is disturbed when Deloria exposes the contingency of those traditions, showing that the creation of tradition is a modern activity and that the creation of modernity is a traditional activity. This, I think, ties in with Deloria's discussion of expectations as ideological constructs. Tradition, far from being "pure," is also an ideological construct, but to expose it as such has the effect, for some, of devaluing it.

(This is not a comment on whether we should or should not work to expose traditions as constructed. Again, drawing from folklore, when I work with what is considered "traditional," I try to remember that said tradition is always contingent.)

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