February 22, 2009

Native souls in Terminator

In Desert Cantos, the 2/20/09 episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the following exchange takes place:CAMERON:  Native Americans believe that when their pictures are taken, their souls are stolen and locked in a photograph forever.

JOHN:  I think you're safe.

[Because Cameron is a robot who doesn't have a soul.]
I think this soul-stealing thing is more of a myth than an actual belief. Many Indians posed voluntarily for photographers such as Edward Curtis.

And Cameron phrased her claim in the present tense. I'm guessing the vast majority of today's Indians don't worry about losing their souls in photographs.

Still, this is the third time Terminator has mentioned Indians this season. (The first two references were to the Modoc War and Cabeza de Vaca.) As with Ugly Betty, it seems clear that someone on the writing staff favors Indians. No way do this many mentions happen by chance.

But wait, there's more

Later in the episode, Cameron inspects a dead cow and says there are no bullet wounds. A girl named Zoe responds, "What are you...Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman?"

This isn't exactly a Native reference, but it's unusual. It would've made more sense to compare Cameron to Sherlock Holmes...Kojak...Hawaii Five-0...or Quincy, M.E. You know, someone who actually might apply detective skills to a dead body?

So it was a gratuitous Western reference, which shows the writers are thinking of cowboys and Indians. Which bolsters the point I made above.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.


Mikst said...

Well it may very well be a myth today but for my tribe this was serious business back in the day:

In 1847 artist Paul Kane sketched several burial canoes with the deceaseds' valuables therein: shell money, coins, beads, rings, colorful cloth strips, blankets, baskets, kettles, horn bowls and spoons, bows and arrows, paddles, spears and horn picks. Such was the equipment souls would need on their journey to the spirit world.

Before leaving Chief Kiscox's hospitable village on Cowlitz Prairie, Kane painted Caw-wacham holding her infant in its head-flattening ski' in, or cradle board. He was well aware that her reluctance to sit for him arose from the Cowlitz belief that such a portrait stole the soul. When he returned to the village two and a half months later and mentioned her name, no one would speak to him. He soon came to understand that she had died and in pronouncing her name he had been disrespectful and broken a taboo. He also knew that her relatives might seek vengeance, believing him to be the cause of her death. By canoe, he traveled all night toward Fort Vancouver.


dmarks said...

"CAMERON: Native Americans believe that when their pictures are taken, their souls are stolen and locked in a photograph forever."

This is referenced in Peter Gabriel's album "Security". Several of the songs on the album have indiginous-type themes. The song "San Jacinto" is outright about Native Americans:

"..Thick cloud - steam rising - hissing stone on sweat lodge fire
Around me - buffalo robe - sage in bundle - run on skin
Outside - cold air - stand, wait for rising sun
Red paint - eagle feathers - coyote calling - it has begun..."

But I digress. The relevant song to this post is "Rhythm of the Heat". According to Wikipedia, "The song is based on the experiences of Carl Jung in Africa."

The relevant section:

"Smash the radio
No outside voices here
Smash the watch
Cannot tear the day to shreds
Smash the camera
Cannot steal away the spirits
The rhythm is around me
The rhythm has control
The rhythm is inside me
The rhythm has my soul"

Rob said...

It would be interesting to know how widespread this belief actually was. I have no idea how we'd go about determining this or even if it would be possible.