Joseph Boyden’s novel Three Day Road follows the compelling tale of Native Canadians and their struggles with their Native identities during World War I. While the war in Europe ravages the lives thousands, there is another war in Canada, the clash between cultures. It is a powerful story of the Cree and their fight to keep their culture alive against the growing influence of European settlers. The attempts of these settlers, the wemistikoshiw, to assert their dominance over the Cree peoples due to cultural insensitivity, ultimately results in a culture clash which threatens the unique identity of Native peoples. This is exhibited by the hostile attitudes towards Native peoples, differences of the Cree in interpreting the world through language, and the assimilation of the Cree people. What is seen as an integral part of the Cree way of life is met with hostile attitudes from the wemistikoshiw, resulting in conflict between the cultures. These hostile attitudes stem from the lack of knowledge into the Cree way of life. The first example of this is when the Niska tells Xavier of when the wemistikoshiw church tried to suppress the Native peoples from having their celebrations of the summer season: “Your own people gathering in summer to celebrate an easy season, a tradition they carried on despite the stern words of the wemistikoshiw church” (Boyden 360). The insensitivity of the wemistikoshiw to Cree tradition is displayed, as they develop a hostile attitude towards a harmless, joyful celebration. The Cree put a great emphasis on the importance of seasons because of their way of life. However, the wemistikoshiw provoke a culture clash through their ignorance of the Cree culture which leads them to overlook the reasoning behind their celebration. These hostile attitudes can escalate into hateful acts, shown in a scene when Niska is betrayed by the Frenchman after making love with him: “I fucked the heathen Indian out of you in this church,” he said […] I fucked your ahcahk, your spirit. […] You are nothing special, just another squaw whore. I took your power away in this place and sent it to burn in hell where it belongs” (Boyden 174). The harsh tone and use of profanities by the Frenchman creates a livid and powerful mood which further intensifies the message being portrayed. It illustrates the culture clash on a micro-sociological level between Niska and the Frenchman, as the spite and turpitude in attempting to strip Niska of her spirituality demonstrates the enormity of hostile attitudes directed towards unassimilated Natives. An important term used in the passage is ‘heathen Indian’, which is a derogatory term referring to unconverted, uncivilized Native peoples and presents the motive of the Frenchman for his actions. The significance of the church setting is that it symbolizes the overarching idea of religious dominance and the resulting consequences. Negative attitudes towards bush Indians are reinforced in Elijah’s dialogue with Xavier prior to enlisting in the war: “’Now say, ‘I am a Cree Indian from Moose Factory, and I have come to kill Germans.’ They will like that.’ ‘Will they really ask questions like that?’ […] ‘Maybe,’ Elijah answers. ‘Better to let them know you’re an angry warrior than some fucking bush Indian’” (Boyden 59). It is immediately made clear that the prospect of being compared to a bush Indian is unfavourable, shown by Elijah’s rare use of profanity. Even though Elijah and Xavier have lived as bush Indians, the fear of being stereotyped as one presents the idea of culture clash between civilized Natives and Natives who live off the wilderness. Language plays a large role in the novel, and is vital in the communication and understanding of the world and other cultures. The differences in the Cree and English languages create a different framework in which the world is interpreted, and these differing perspectives of the world precipitate the culture clash. The protagonist Xavier is unable to grasp the magnitude of the number of casualties in the Battle of Vimy Ridge: “The French lost 150,000 men in the fighting here, and the British 60,000. Those numbers are impossible to keep secret. They are impossible for me to understand. I ask Elijah, ‘How many does that mean?’ He smiles. ‘A very difficult question to answer,’ he says” (Boyden 205). Due to the differences in language, Xavier is unable to understand the large numbers that are presented to him. There is a stark contrast between his and Elijah’s understandings of the world, as Elijah’s upbringing in a residential school allows him to understand the wemistikoshiw culture. The wemistikoshiw are accustomed to dealing with large numbers, such as in material goods and casualties, while they are not found in the Cree culture. This rift between their understandings of the world is the basis of the culture clash, and the influence of the wemistikoshiw culture forces the Cree to adapt and understand these concepts. Niska’s descriptions of her surroundings while in the wemistikoshiw town provide insight into how she interprets the world through her culture and language: “More frightening than the crowd of people around me is the one bright eye shining in the sunlight and the iron nose that sniffs the track” (Boyden 4). In this quote, Niska’s limited understanding of the wemistikoshiw technology and culture is evident, and her lack of social experience further characterizes her as a societal outcast. Niska uses personification to describe the steam engine, as that is the method that allows her to understand her unfamiliar surroundings, displaying the differences between the wemistikoshiw and Cree cultures. Similar revelations are shown when she observes spruce trees on the railway: “I look out at the spruce across the tracks. Blackened by soot, they bend in defeat” (Boyden 4). In this situation, Niska focuses on describing the natural aspects of her surroundings through language, while these aspects may not be of particular importance to the wemistikoshiw settlers. This is a powerful image intertwined with the culture clash, of how nature is submitted to the dominance of the wemistikoshiw lifestyle, and contaminated by their machines. It reflects the submission of Native peoples who must unwillingly accept defeat in order to survive by the wemistikoshiw ways, and their resulting loss of unique identity in doing so. The European settlers are also forceful in asserting their dominance by assimilating the Cree people and pressuring them to adopt the wemistikoshiw culture. Niska describes the relationship between the Cree and the wemistikoshiw: “Like forest ticks the wemistikoshiw grabbed onto us, growing fatter by the season, until the day came when suddenly it was we who answered to them” (Boyden 48). In this simile, wemistikoshiw are compared to forest ticks, as instead of repaying the Natives for their help they try to gain control over the Cree. The wemistikoshiw feed off of the Cree much like parasitic forest ticks, which incites a clash between cultures instead of peacefully coexistence. The wemistikoshiw also attempt to impose their laws on the Cree, such as when Niska’s father is arrested by armed North-West Mounted Police for murdering a cannibalistic being, known as a wendigo. (Boyden 47). This action was caused by cultural insensitivity in that they arrested him without taking into account their customs and the importance of significance of killing wendigos in Cree culture. The many rifles that the police carry are a symbol of dominance over the Cree and an indication of the force they are willing to use to ensure that the Cree stay subordinate. The Cree are then left without a leader after the removal of Niska’s father; many of them are forced to move into wemistikoshiw reserves where they are further assimilated. On the reserves, the Cree also have materialistic values introduced to them by the fur traders: “The Hudson’s Bay Company had instilled in the Cree a greed for furs that nearly wiped out the animals, and because of this the time finally came when even the most experienced of the bush men and women were faced with the decision to move to the reserve or die of hunger” (Boyden 90). The assimilation of Cree culture into wemistikoshiw culture occurs in every aspect of their lives, depriving them of their distinctive identities and forcing them to depend on the wemistikoshiw for survival. There are Cree who are too proud to give up their identity, and there are Cree who realize that the land on which they live no longer belongs to them. Both groups are inevitably affected by the ways of the wemistikoshiw. The cultural insensitivity of the European settlers, in their insatiable hunger for dominance, feed off the very livelihoods of the Cree. Their unique culture is threatened through hateful attitudes. The wemistikoshiw fail to understand the differences in the Cree interpretation of the world through language, who at the pinnacle of their vice, forcefully assimilate the Cree. No Cree nature is left untouched. Their cultural identity is irrevocably absorbed into the dominant one, lost with the passage of time. Works Cited Boyden, Joseph. Three Day Road. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.