Kira and Grange have recently returned to school, so the Simpson family is once again entangled in the helter skelter of another educational cycle. During this first term Kira has an American history class that is exceptionally challenging, so Jana and I have been closely monitoring her progress to ensure there are no catastrophes of historic proportion.
While reviewing her text book last week, I noticed the introductory chapters focus on Native America. Although at times I act as though I have extensive knowledge of all things Native, when pressed, I am quick to admit my reach is limited. In any case, it is interesting to see how the academic community represents this aspect of the American experiment.
As one might guess, when it comes to Native culture, my experience is strictly “on the job”, which is not likely to translate well in the classroom. Although I have a few good stories to tell, I should never be given the responsibility of instructing the nation’s youth on this particular topic, so Kira has not received the benefit of my wisdom.
Since Kira and I do not regularly attend services, we are usually assigned to work Sunday mornings at Twin Rocks Cafe; she as cashier and I as janitor, chief bus boy and manager. During our most recent shift, in order to stay current with her class work, Kira brought her history book to the restaurant. Leaving it open on one of the tables, she left to pursue her traditional activities.
Since it was a slow morning, after a time I noticed our two Navajo servers, Josh and Josiah thumbing through the text, skimming the initial chapters with great interest. Josh and Josiah are young and intelligent, and seemed amused with the book’s content. When I quizzed them on what they had learned about their Native brothers, Josh jokingly asked, “Aren’t they all gone?” Everyone had a good laugh, but Josh’s comment “started me thinkin’”.
On many occasions during my tenure as trader at Twin Rocks Trading Post, I have had travelers ask, “Where can we see Indians?” When I point to Priscilla and say, “Right there”, they protest vigorously. “No, no, no,” they say, “we want real Indians.” Apparently, they wish to see the half naked, feather wearing ones who sit astride a painted war pony whooping and hollering; movie Indians. Consequently, Priscilla does not fit their expectations. When I tell them we do not have any of those left, they are disappointed.
Although it is easy to write off these inquiries as cliché or trite, surely Native culture has changed in ways a large percentage of the population has not anticipated. As Josh’s joke points out, however, in many respects Native people are generally indistinguishable from the rest of mainstream society. One might rightly ask whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. My guess is that it is just a thing, neither good nor bad, or maybe, depending on the individual, both good and bad.
With their hats turned backward, baggy trousers and smart phones, you would not know Josh and Josiah from any other young person. As I have told our inquisitive visitors, running around half naked, whooping and hollering only gets you into trouble with the neighbors, so no one (except Barry, who is not Indian), does that around here anymore.
With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team
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