Westernized Salish Women; Surviving and Thriving

Our culture with which we grew up shapes our identity as well as forms our knowledge of how to conduct one’s self within society. Being raised within one community and culture and then switching to another can be very challenging as the ideals with which you come to know are not always the exact same.

Looking at “The Laundry Basket” we see a woman who was raised in her Salish family to be strong and not controlled by men. When she marries a white man and is moved into a different community, the ways of life that she knows do not fully conform.

‘“My mother held a job and did the laundry, too.” The quality of his voice has changed. During his endless complaining about her unwillingness to work and work and work, his voice had been loud and arrogant. Now in its dreamy memory state it possess a mocking purr as though, from wherever in the world he was, he knew she was not keeping up with the holy duties of motherhood” (Marcle. 48).

Her husband’s dominance controlled her even when he wasn’t home; nagging in her head as if he were there. ‘“What am I doing? He’s gone but his voice still dictates my every mood. It hangs in the air, like the paper”’ (Marcle. 48). Her inner struggle of wanting to fulfill her desires competed with her husband’s demands creating an inner battle.

When we are controlled we often rebel. Mom and dad say DON’T go to the party that appears to us like a challenge otherwise known as rebellion. When her husband appreciated her and allowed her to run the household she was happy and more than willing to do her ‘duties’ but as soon as he demanded, she resisted. She began finding things that pleased her that he couldn’t touch such as her writing. She began to survive again! She stated “I’ll die if I don’t keep pecking and believing…” (Marcle. 50). She was determined to do what she wanted in life, despite his demands. “She saved time by not caring so much about housework. Wall-washing was sacrificed to writing. Deleting daily floor washing added to writing time” (Marcle. 51). Her writing became more important and gave her a purpose in life again.

The male dominance over her was something she was not used to and felt as if she had been repressed within her own home. “Maybe it was all too nightmarish for him, a white man, to see this Indian bride become one of the pampered literati of Canada. The sickening notion struck her that he had fallen in love with her because he wanted someone to whom he could feel superior” (Marcle. 53).  Of course this made her upset, but it also gave her a new reason to fight! She was no longer going to be an easy going house wife, but rather her own person with her own dreams and desires for her life.

Her determination was seen as she continued to write her stories, regardless of what he had to say. As she divorced her husband, she took control of her own life.  He did not fight her on this issue, and proved his disregard to her and their children. “Her husband had not contested to the divorce or application for custody. No complications except the tight feeling inside her wanted to say, “Excuse me, I just divorced your entire race, your honor, wouldn’t you like to comment on that/ I mean, I chucked out his entire lineage as a possible source of comfort in the hereafter, so wouldn’t you like to resent that for just a moment?”’ Although she is thriving by divorcing the one thing that made her very angry, she wanted some sort of satisfaction. When she purchased the washing machine however, and saw her son’s eagerness to help this was all of the satisfaction she needed; seeing that her boys had not turned out like their father. Although she was now a single mother, she had the freedom to take control of her life without that constant nagging in the back of her mind.

Coming into the western world and marrying a westernized man can not only be a culture shock, but an awakening to ideas and concepts that do not match other cultures; making it hard to fit in and conform.

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