Sequoyah's View of Death

Sep 16, 2019

Blackfoot/Siksika Medicine Man performing mysteries over a dying man
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Hello, welcome to High Plains Public Radio. I'm Freddy Gipp. I’m an enrolled member of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma and my Indian name is “T’sa(N) T’hoop Ah(N)”, meaning Lead Horse in the Kiowa language.

I was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, where I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in Strategic Communications from the William Allen White School of Journalism.

I currently run my own small consulting firm called Lead Horse LLC, which focuses on utilizing Native American Pow Wow celebrations as an effective economic driver for urban and rural communities.

I will be your book discussion leader for the 2018 National Book Award Finalist, Where The Dead Sit Talking by Cherokee author Brandon Hobson.

As Sequoyah progresses in his living situation with the Troutts, he becomes close to Rosemary Blackwell, another young Native American Kiowa girl living in the same foster home as him. While rough and distant at first, Rosemary and Sequoyah bond and connect over their shared ancestry in being Native American, living a life without a stable father figure and even going further to Sequoyah emphasizing to Rosemary that, “I could look more like you if I tried harder,” and letting her put lipstick on him.

Their relationship grows and becomes somewhat of an obsession for Sequoyah on Rosemary’s behalf. They think alike and are starkly morbid in their definition of life and infatuation with death. Rosemary comes forward and tells Sequoyah that she tried to commit suicide twice before they met and arrived at the Troutts. With some of his first questions on page 105 being, “Tell me what happened. How did you do it? You tried to kill yourself. You wanted to be dead”.

Death is a recurring theme throughout this novel and Hobson does a great job in providing excellent dialogue for Sequoyah when he is frustrated. Rosemary’s friend Nora Drake makes it abundantly clear that she isn’t Sequoyah’s biggest fan. While Sequoyah’s predisposition towards Nora Drake was correct and affirmed by Rosemary stating that “she freaking hates him,” his attitude towards Nora Drake and others are drastically impacted.

Sequoyah strongfully states his frustration on page 135, “In the days that followed, I felt as through my hatred for Nora Drake only grew worse. My hatred for the way she talked to me. My hatred for her overall demeanor as it related to everyone else in our house. And my hatred for life when I was around her, and how I thought about death, other people dying, the death of my mother and father, Rosemary, even George. To think of Nora Drake years later in this way is to think of resurrection, a body rising from the earth, covered in dirt and bugs and sickness." That was the second resurrection analogy but this time instead of Rosemary, its Nora Drake, who later died from strangulation in 2003.

Rosemary asks Sequoyah,“Do you ever think about death”, in which he replied “I think about other people dying.” She replied back, “If you could choose how you had to die, what way would you choose? I would die in a fire. Or drowning. Or suffocation or being choked to death,” in which he responds, “Choking sounds good”.

She follows up by stating, “I’ll just say there’s something weird and wonderful about dying, There’s something that moves me, deep inside. It’s too hard to explain or to understand without actually experiencing it, unless we’re there. I think of it as a circle we step inside. We feel something we can’t feel right now, alive. Maybe inside the circle is a warmth that stimulates you and makes you feel weightless, floating on air without any effort, and there's a light of brightness inside you like no other light out there you’ve ever seen or felt.”

This theme follows Sequoyah and his relationship with George, as they begin to play a new game in which one of them was an intruder and the other had to kill intruder by pointing a water gun and shooting them. They took the game seriously and would drastically exaggerate their deaths until George got bored of the game and stopped playing, much to Sequoyah’s disappointment due to the “thrill of being the hunter or the hunted.”

Death is something that we cannot avoid. Its inevitability is welcomed by the cynics, embraced by elders whose time is near and comes unexpectedly at the worst or best of times. Death does not discriminate on what color your skin is, if you believe in God or how much money you have in the bank. Death shifts family paradigms, sometimes ruining situations based upon a few materialistic disagreements. The best thing we can do is not let death define us in this life today but merely appreciate the “circle” in which Rosemary emphasized.