Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What Makes the Redman Red?

1. Were the Cherokee people the sexiest people of all time? Any time I get into a conversation about being Indian, without fail, "person B" will bring up about how they are part-cherokee. Then a rusty gear in their brain tries to turn and they mumble about fractions until smoke comes out of their ears and the conversation finally dissipates. I'm always tempted to ask if it's one of those romantic tales of "soldier pillages village" or if some mountain man bought himself a squaw. But to corroborate all of these cherokee bloodlines, either there was some "noble savage" out there who made Don Juan look like Quasimodo (doesn't seem likely) or the Cherokee people had a sexual draw unrivaled by any group aside from the cast of Baywatch. While I would like to believe that is true, it seems that the whole Trail of Tears incident would have been avoided had they actually possessed irresistable come-hither looks. What I'm saying is, unless there is more to the story than "you think your grandma once told you there was cherokee blood in there somewhere" you should just assume nobody cares. And, if there is a group of caucasian people out there with NO cherokee blood in your lines, then you must be the smallest minority group in the land.

2. People also like to ask me: Do you feel like the government owes you and your people retribution? The answer is: Of course they do. Do I expect it to happen? No. Am I willing to let it all go? Yes, at the exact moment when it seems like anything has changed since 400 years ago.

I had a college history teacher who tried to sum up the genocidal use of smallpox that wiped out 90% of this continents indigenous people as a fair trade for the syphilis contracted by those first pilgrims. You may think it would be easy to decline a wagon-load of toxic blankets in a bitter-cold winter but just you try to kill an Indian without first making sexual contact. Brother, it ain't easy. A surprising number of people (including my brother's college professor) seem to think stealing land is justified because "the indians weren't using it" ie. they didn't survey, fence or create arbitrary boundaries the way white people did. They committed the horrendous crime of "they didn't do what we would do." They dared to be different. But if you have a set of golf clubs sitting in your basement collecting dust, does that give me the right take them and seek out my fortune? No. I would go to jail if I did that. I've also heard people try to argue that the Indians had a really bad quality of life (I guess to the extent that they were better off being wiped out? What are you getting at, people who argue this?).

Essentially, government agencies scoured the land for property they could not put to good use (often considered uninhabitable) and fenced the Indians in. At gunpoint in the beginning. Always the promise of a decent place to live, always the delivery of the opposite in most cases. Then the huge blunder of not checking that given land for things like gold and uranium. Now they have to take it back. What's that called again? But that continues on to this very day. People always like to think of it as ancient history. It's not. It was at the heart of the event that sent Leonard Peltier to prison and it is still going on.

I can think of at least one prominent religion that tells a story of how Indians descended from a shady character and God made their skin dark as a punishment for their unfortunate heritage. You can justify that to yourself however you like, but it still boils down to straight-up racism. Anyone who believes that skin-color correlates to sin and unholiness should also be bold enough to see themselves for what they are. An institute that expects people to cast off their culture to obtain God's gift of "pureness" is a culture destroying machine. If you can think of some political party from history that tried to wipe out an entire culture based purely on racial differences, then using that party in comparison to what I just described may be an apt analogy.

Indians are virtually invisible to television and movies. "Networks received criticism because there are not enough shows featuring blacks and hispanics." It's common news. How many shows can you think of with a primary Indian character? That "Spirit" guy from G.I. Joe cartoons? I would like to think he wasn't some kind of stereotype but, if my memory serves, I have never seen any Indian walk around with a 15 pound bald eagle perched on their shoulder. No, the Indians on TV are always the mystic type, ready with the peyote, who know the secrets of the dreamcatchers, and who can get "Walker, Texas Ranger" his mojo back. Or they are mean "Injun Joe" -types. And this articles namesake, "Disney's Peter Pan": Back when racism was still fun, the golden age when Disney could release Song of the South in its full version, including the short "Coal Black and de sebben dwarfs." They seem to embrace it with the musical number "What makes the redman red?" and point-blank lines like "the indian is cunning but not intelligent." Priceless. We have a copy. One year, a german engineer could be giving people the mustard gas and the next the same guy could be designing Tomorrow Land at the happiest place on earth.

The most press Indians seem to get is jokes about casinos. How many times will a joke about losing money to a casino be funny? Not to mention, most Indian casinos are masterminded and brought into being by people like Donald Trump and other established non-Indian casino owners.

I am not saying Indians are perfect and I mean to take them to task on a great many issues. For one, success with casinos has started a trend of tribes axing their own people from the tribal roles for the sake of cutting checks to less people. That is a big issue to me and I'll say much more about it later. I say all of these things for the same reason I blogged about France. If a solution is to be found, the actual problem needs to be discussed.


Native Minnow said...

Hey, I have Cherokee blood in me. About 1/32, or so my Grandma told me.

Native Minnow said...

Oh wait, maybe I missed the point : )

Gordon said...

Hitler was way over the line. EVERYBODY knows if you're going to conduct a military conquest coupled with a genocidal campaign, you aim that shit at brown people.

The British and the Dutch were hip to this. You didn't see them creating empires in Europe. They followed the rules and went to Africa and Asia to spread the love.