Re: Amerindian resistance mode (was: amerindian an offensive

Steve Russell (
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 09:31:25 -0500

On 26 Aug 1996, Gerold Firl wrote:

> In article <>, "Stephen W. Russell" <> writes:
> |> On 21 Aug 1996, Gerold Firl wrote:
> |> > How many copies of _black elk speaks_
> |> > have been sold in the US? Millions? Why do you think people read it?
> |> Surely you must be familiar with the scholarship on how Neihardt shaped
> |> Black Elk into a less threatening posture for white consumption?>
> No, I don't know any of that history. If you can explain, I'd like to
> hear about it.

Today is the first day of school. Not a good day to dig through my back
issues of American Indian Culture and Research Journal to satisfy your

> |> There are commercial "drumming ceremonies" going on monthly in Austin. I
> |> went to one once as a freebie--Indian privilege--and you don't wanna know
> |> about that, trust me.
> Actually, I would. What did you think of the whole affair?

I thought that they have no conception of what a drum is or why one would
use it and as a result they do not use the drum respectfully and they do
not--as many of our young people do--try to learn the old songs. Don't
take this wrong, I really don't care what other people do with drums. I
do care that they represent something as Indian in a cultural context
that is as phoney as a Cherokee princess.

> > |> > Why is it a lie? >
> |> It is a lie when it is commercialized. Even reimbursement of expenses is
> |> problematic to some elders.
> That is one area where I wouldn't expect convergance with traditional
> views.

But don't you see this is the essence?

To most americans, that doesn't make sense.

Exactly my point.

It doesn't negate
> the sincerity with which other areas of native american ideas are
> adopted, however. People will pick and choose. Those beliefs which
> appeal to them will be adopted, the rest will not. That is the
> individual filter of cultural diffusion.

OK, fine, and the sun rises in the East. But the picking and choosing is
not getting at what makes Indian values different. And you wind up with
non-Indians setting themselves up as authorities on Indian culture
because some woman shared her recipie for mutton stew, like the
proverbial tourist who thinks he speaks Spanish because he can read the
menu at Taco Cabana.

Much anti-Brunner stuff bobbitted

Look, the only "ranks" I am in with Brunner that I could "break" is
expressed in the tag of this thread--we both tend to operate in the
resistance mode rather than the conquered peoples mode. You are entitled
to think that is unrealistic or stupid or whatever makes you feel good.
Those Indians who have acquired Euro educations have, in my view, a duty
to defend what little Indian people have left. Brunner is what we call a
"briefcase warrior," and whether I always agree with his methods or his
opinions is really beside the point. I have differed with him publicly
in the past and probably will in the future, but I have seen no evidence
that he deserves the "racist" label. And, no, I have not seen the
exchange you are talking about and therefore I have no opinion about it.

> > And I don't
see as much prejudice as
you do; some of that is > undoubtedly a legitimate matter of perspective.
I think I caught on when I was a kid delivering papers in Oklahoma. I
came into one of the two barber shops during a diatribe about "lazy,
good-for-nothing Indians" that ended when the barber noticed I had walked
in and told me he didn't mean me. Even gave me a tip.

You're right. It's a matter of perspective.

> How do you view the eradication of smallpox? Was that the act of people
> who were part of nature, or superior to it?

If they do kill off that last sample of the organism, it will be the act
of people whose stupidity and arrogance know no bounds. This is
different, please note, than saying we should continue to suffer the
disease. It is possible to explain to a medicine man in very traditional
terms how vaccines work--or to listen to him explain it to you.

It is interesting to compare the "scientific" explanation for the Dine'
deaths at Bosque Redondo to the traditional explanation as it is to read
the poem "My Grandfather Was a Quantum Physicist."

I do not question the scientific method as a way of knowing, but there
are other ways of knowing that I see as light and most Euros see as
darkness. Fine. I do not ask you to believe what I believe and do not
really care whether you do except in terms of survival of the species,
which I would prefer. This is another fundamental difference between
Indians generally and Euros generally. The messianic crazed drive to
stamp out the beliefs of others.

Oops, I better quit pointing up distinctions, lest I join Brunner in the
racist penalty box.

Steve Russell >