Gather Around Children...Time for your Indian Lesson!

Recently, I have been getting into some pretty heated discussion on Tripod's "Native American Pod". Now, many of you regulars know that I tend to be just a little hard and sarcastic in my writing. Certainly this has raised the ire of many of the people in that discussion group because they might just be feeling guilty as charged. I have not pointed out individuals -- this is something that I will not do. It is for others to decide for themselves which people they see as being "some way". There have been cries of reverse discrimination and things like, "We are not let in because we don't have dark skin!  We are treated badly because we are not enrolled!" etc, etc. How many times have I repeated to them that it is not a matter of skin color. It is a matter of behavior. They think that I'm just a mean Indian and have forgotten my ancestors and that I should be teaching them instead of berating them. They make sure that whole texts of 18th and 19th century oratories are posted to the discussion group to educate me on how I should really be. Some of them have still asked (even after several of my tirades) that I teach them spiritual stuff.  Hello? Is anybody on there really listening to what I am saying? Unbeknownst to them, I have actually been trying to teach them something. They just don't get it because it is not what they want to hear. There are several purposes to my works, none the least of which is to educate people -- particularly Twinkies. One of the goals is to get them to stop their stupidity. The other is to show them how to avoid making fools of themselves when going into Indian country. Granted, maybe the way I express myself on this issue is "on the edge", but hey that's the way I write. And by the way, if you haven't spent a lot of time around Indian people, please be aware that cut-to-the-bone sarcasm is a way of life amongst our people. Anyway, I decided that it would be a good idea to develop some specific Indian lessons.

Lesson #1

Spirituality is not something that is discussed in an open way. It is private and personal. A lot of Indian people are turned off by latter-day Indians coming around and instantly discussing these things. Generally, it is uncomfortable for Indian people to speak of those things so openly (especially with strangers) BECAUSE in our cultures these are VERY private matters. Except for those Indians who are making money off the twinks and plastic "sham"-mans, the people do not openly discuss religious issues as a general matter of conversation. We do not talk of visions and animals and all this other stuff for the entire world to hear. So the moral of the story is...keep these things to yourself. Go into Indian country and start talking like a twinkie, and you will be treated like a twinkie.

Lesson #2

As a general rule, regalia items are just that...regalia items. They are worn for dance or other ceremonies. They should not be worn to accessorize everyday clothes. But how many new-Indians do this all the time, usually thinking to themselves, "I am honoring my ancestors by wearing this...or maybe people will think I am Indian if I wear this." Well, when these folks come into Indian country looking this way, they are usually labeled as Twinkie despite their "sincerity". Dressing "Indian" does not make you appear more Indian. Dress like a Twinkie, you will be treated like a Twinkie.

Lesson #3

Please don't demand that we teach you anything -- we owe you nothing! What do we owe you? No need to summarize past wrongs, but does the taking of our cultures (usually uninvited) have to be added to the list? Do we owe you because you are having some sort of identity or spiritual crises? That is your problem...not ours! By the way, how do think we learned our culture? Do you think that our parents and other Elders gathered all the kids together for our Indian lessons? Asking me to teach you how to be Indian sounds just like that! How can I teach you something that became part of me as a result of living? Demand teaching like a twinkie and you will be treated like a twinkie.

Lesson #4

Please don't assume that all of us are somehow spiritual. Not all of us are. One time I had gone to a school to talk to young people about our culture. I told them some of our stories, did a couple of dances, and then at a level they could understand explained to them that what they saw on TV and the movies isn't real. The kids were great and at times funny...I really enjoyed it. After it was over, the teacher said that the principle wanted to talk to me. I had assumed that she merely wanted to thank me for coming. That is until I went into her office. There was the obligatory mandela , dream catcher, cheesy Indian statue, and Lakota sayings all over her office. I knew what was coming. Twinkies are very predictable. She started in on how she was on a spiritual journey and she didn't know where it was taking her, etc, etc, etc. Then she looks me in the eye and say, "Can you show me the Lakota way?" I simply said, "No". She had this crushed look on her face and asked why not. I said, "Simple, I'm not Lakota (and she DID know this by the way)." I asked her what tribe she was supposed to be...of course it was Cherokee. So I said, "If you are Cherokee, then why do you want to know the Lakota way? That is theirs...try learning about Cherokees." Then I left. This is not the first time this scenario his played itself out. Remember, I am not Lakota. Quote Black Elk to me and I will more than likely remind you that he was Lakota, and then start quoting Charles Darwin. If you want to believe in Thunderbirds and all that, then you are more than welcome, but please do not assume that because I am Indian that I do. And damn any man or woman to hell who says that I am somehow not Indian enough because I don't!

Lesson #5

(WARNING! -- This article contains material from an earlier piece, but it is very relevant to the lesson -- the management)

Do not correct those of us who have been Indian all our lives. We grew up with our ways and understand our traditions.) I am reminded of a time at a powwow here in Texas when my father who is a full-blood Comanche and elder of the nation was blessing the arena prior to our dance, when this "Cherokee" Elder of a SOB with his turkey feathers in hand gets in the Old Man's face and tells him that he is doing things the wrong way. How DARE this twinkie do such a thing? The Old Man's sons took care of the Cherokee. Who was this person to self-aggrandize in this way? He finds out that he might have an Indian ancestor then proceeds to be Joe Indian? If you are white (in the practical sense) then shut your mouths, observe, and listen. This man had no right to do what he did, anymore than I have the right to barge into a Catholic Mass and begin the Liturgy or tell the priest that he is doing things the wrong way.

Lesson #6

Please refrain from easing your phantom conscience on us. Most of us really don't want to hear how you think is was terrible the way we were treated back then. That was back then. We are trying to cope with today -- alcoholism, drugs, AIDS, government dependency, unwed mothers, dead beat dads, illiteracy, gangs, crime, fight the government, etc, etc all at the same time. We do not live in the 19th century or below. We are 21st Century people; please treat us as such. You want to help? Then donate your time, money or both to charitable organizations. Write your Congressmen and demand that they do what is right for Indian people. Playing Indian does not help us; all it does is piss us off.

Lesson #7

I absolutely HATE the movie Dances with Wolves. Why, you might ask. Because it was the catalyst that brought this whole Twinkie thing to an explosion. If you had any clue as to how often after powwows we sit around and make fun of that movie. And here is the real story -- IT WAS A MOVIE! If you really think about it, that movie wasn't about Indians. It was a movie made from a book written by a white man ABOUT a white man who becomes Indian. The original wannabe. So many people are doing this thing because of a movie. And some of you have even admitted as much.  Hello! That isn't real life! Want to see a real Indian movie? Then check out Smoke Signals by Sherman Alexie. You might actually see some Indians. That is not to say that whites were never adopted by a tribe or anything like that. But, when those things happened, it was on Indian terms. Deal with it.

Well, here is the end to today's Indian lessons. Go go to recess, you may still have time to play Indian before school starts again.

Learn the reality of Comanche Spirituality HERE.


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