In the book Power by Linda Hogan, the main character, Omishto, encounters a clash in the cultures of the people who are closest to her. The ideals and beliefs of the Taiga people and the Western culture are in conflict with each other as Omishto tries to figure out who she really is. This creates a tension inside of Omishto because the cultures believe in different things and have different ways of life, which then allows her to figure out her identity as a Taiga Indian in response to the conflict.
The conflicting cultures that affect Omishto are the Taiga tribe and the Western culture because they have different beliefs about nature and life. She was born a member of the Taiga, but her mother then moved her away from them, to a more modern area. The Taiga are very close with nature. They see the wind as a living force and named it Oni. It connects creatures to each other and stays with them their whole lives. The Panther Clan of the Taiga tribe, which she and her Aunt Ama belong to, are descendants from the panther, named Sisa. Because of this, the endangered panther is worshiped and seen as all-powerful by them. However, that is not the case in the Western culture. Omishto’s “mother and most other people say the cats are all gone” (pg. 58) since they don’t have as much importance and value to them as they do to the Taiga. They don’t believe in them in the same way. After leaving the Taiga people, Omishto’s mother converted to Christianity, which introduced new beliefs into her life. She “said to Mama that God was what we call what we don’t know. Mama said not to think about such things when she is so young” (pg. 62). Both of the cultures that Omishto is exposed to have different values and beliefs about the world around them, making it difficult for her to completely believe in one. This creates tension within her by having both be a part of her life while staying true to what she personally believes in.
The two cultures in conflict also impact Omishto because of their different ways of life. The Taiga tribe’s culture is more old-fashioned and traditional. Her Aunt Ama “has no lights or television or washing machine, but … she’s got more than the rest of us because she believes in herself, in what she does. She lives in a natural way” (pg. 16). Omishto sees this and understands the way she lives, no matter what others think of her. This is different from her mother’s culture because she has more modern technology, like photography and a television. After being at Ama’s for a while, the modern house that she grew up in looks unfamiliar to her, since the Taiga way of living has impacted her. Once again, the cultures come in conflict because of the different styles they have of living. Most of the Taiga people live in or near the Kili Swamp, while the Western society lives more clustered in a town. The head of the Panther Clan of the Taiga people “wants to avoid the town people. All of the swamp people do” (pg. 86). The two areas recognize their differences and don’t share the same ways of life, so they let each other be. Omishto, being in between them because of her relationship with Ama, faces the tension caused by the conflicting cultures challenging each other.
In response to the conflict between the cultures and pressure from her mother, Omishto decides to have some time for herself. She sits “hidden in the bushes until everything is silent and no more words chase her. Then she runs toward Ama’s and goes down to the boat and takes it out into the water” (pg. 175). She gets yelled at and hit by her mother, so she runs away, giving herself time and space to think about who she is and what she believes in. She stays at Ama’s house for a while, even though Ama isn’t there anymore after her banishment. Omishto realizes “it’s not that she’s waiting for Ama. She won’t be back. She knows this. She is not waiting for anything. She is living” (pg. 207). That’s when she knew that she wanted to be a Taiga. She ends up leaving with Ama’s chickens and goats, while remaining with the Taiga elders at the Kili Swamp. Her response to the conflict resulted in her independence to make her own choices, and her identification as a Taiga Indian.
Omishto’s internal conflict was due to the clashing of the cultures of the ones she was closest to. The different beliefs and ways of life of the cultures only increased the tension inside of her. The way she responded to it allowed her to realize who she is and stay true to her beliefs as a Taiga Indian.