Symbolism In Sherman Alexie's 'Smoke Signals'

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Smoke Signals is one of the most touching films of the 1990’s, based on Sherman Alexie’s short story, This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona. Although it is not a standard Western film, but one can learn much about American Indians’ life as it is a film created and acted by them. The indigenous characters of the film are not represented as the typical Western film’s American Indians, but the story represents indigenous life in a natural way, and gives a contemporary image to the viewer of them as the new generation American Indians, who grew up in Native American boarding schools, speak the English language well, and white people started to convert them into the Christian religion. The well-known stereotypes about their roots and lifestyle appear in a hidden, humorous way with the help of symbols that usually refers to their past; and do not appear in an easy, clear way, as it is hard to understand without any background information about Native Americans. In this paper I would like to search for the symbols of the film, analyse them, and try to understand the historical or even political background of these motifs, which pervades American Indian’s life, and can help us understand their spirituality that is deeply rooted in their culture.
It is not necessary to start the film if one wants to find the first symbol; it is enough to look at the title on the cover that is really thought-provoking. Smoke Signals cannot refer to anything else, but the American Indians.
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