Neytiri and Jake Sully -
"Avatar" movie scene © Twentieth Century Fox
Like so many millions of other people, we
went out to see the movie "Avatar." We had heard all the hype
and the negative comments ("Just another Pocahantas story") and
decided to see for ourselves. I must admit, we were not prepared
for the impact the movie would have on us!
When boiled down, this is indeed yet another story of first
contact, and of the confrontation between "primitive" aboriginal
beliefs in the spirit of the land, and the modern "enlightened"
belief in exploitation of natural resources, regardless of cost.
In this case, the story is placed in the future, and the
aboriginals are the Na'vi, occupants of the planet Pandora. They
are unmistakeably First Nations in flavour, with perhaps just a
sprinkle of exotic African spices. Pandora is the unspoiled
wilderness, with an underlying spirit called Eywa, with whom the
Na'vi live in harmony and respect. Neytiri, daughter of a Na'vi
chief, fills the role of Pocahontas, with Jake Sully filling in
for John Smith. The conquerors are taken straight out of today's
North American society, but with bigger machinery and weaponry.
The conflict between two opposing beliefs begins, treachery and
murder follow, and... well, if you haven't already seen the
movie, I won't ruin it for you. Suffice it to say that it's just
history revisited, with shinier technology.
On a smaller scale, we see the struggle of a wounded human
warrior as he tries to understand the culture of the Na'vi. Over
a period of months he comes to appreciate the spiritual aspects
of the world around him, and to understand the value of those
aspects. To me, Jake Sully represents the many people today who
have realized that technology has failed to provide the paradise
that it has promised for so long, and now look to spirit to
fulfill that promise. He is Everyman in today's modern society,
and I recognize him in myself. Like him, I have realized that
there is more to life than materialism, and I am trying hard to
grow beyond what society has programmed me to be: a consumer of
things that do not need to be consumed.
The part of the movie that touched me the deepest was the way
the link between the Na'vi and Eywa, and indeed all the spirits
of the land, was portrayed. The Na'vi have a queue of neural
fibres, often in the form of a braid, through which they can
directly connect with many of the other beings that share their
world, and even with the spirit of the planet itself. In one
memorable scene, we see the Omaticaya clan gather together to
pray for help from Eywa, and each and every one of them connects
to each other and to Eywa through a connection between
themselves and the earth. The sight of all these people, who
believe much as I try to believe, all able to make such a
profound connection network to everything around them, rocked my
very soul. Why? Because I know that all of us, regardless of our
ancestry, have the ability to make that very same connection! To
me, the Na'vi queue is symbolic of the latent ability that we
all are born with, but have chosen to give up in order to live
in a world of things, rather than a world of spirit and meaning.
To know that we have walked away from such a powerful and
precious ability, and to know how much effort it takes to try to
regain it, literally made me cry.
In truth, the story is simplistic and very polarized: here are
the good guys and here are the bad guys, and there is very
little gray area shown. However, I can hope that this movie will
inspire people to reach out to our Mother Earth, and to the
spirits that surround us, and make the attempt to become more
than we are today.
There is one more impression that the movie left on me that I
would like to share. In order to try to overcome the conquerors,
it becomes obvious to the Omaticaya clan that ALL clans of the
Na'vi must unite and work together. The call goes out, and
differences are put aside to act for the common good. In our
world, First Nations all across North America are threatened in
many different ways by the so-called "dominant society."
Unfortunately, my many brothers and sisters of different tribes
and nations cannot seem to put aside their differences and
present a united front. Imagine the power for change that could
result if ALL First Nations, America-wide, could simply act as
one. Imagine a final resolution of all the issues that stand
between the two societies that share Turtle Island, so that we
can finally close a pain-filled chapter in history and move
Cry, my brothers and sisters, for what might be...