I've talked off-blog with Berna & Janet about the violence in the novel. It is a terribly violent book, with lots of things none of us want to look at. I want to argue that the violence is necessary in order for Silko to leave us with hope at the end. The potential for beauty Silko is showing us has to come from the violence.
I like Chris' assertion that Silko is talking about a culture of life versus a culture of death (though don't get me started on the Catholic notion of "culture of life"). Somewhere -- Chris/Berna help me out here -- I've read that The Fifth World is where/when in Native mythology we are progressing as a world. We're in The Fourth World now, which is a time of great disconnect and splintering. I think Silko is pointing out that IT'S unnatural -- it being capitalism, colonialism, slavery, and all of it -- and we have become so disjointed that violence and horror are the only results. When people try to control place/land/Earth, they lose their connection to everything and are all fucked up. Our options are suicide or transformation.
I think this novel is called Almanac of the Dead because it is literally a calendar of what has happened and what will happen. If you lose your past, you fuck up your future. If you've lost your connection to the Earth, you've lost your past, and the little wires in your brain don't work right.
I know I'm all over the place -- y'all need to talk to me, or I'll keep posting these Cybill-like rants.