Earlier I wrote about how easily charmed I once was by an Indian squaw carrying her papoose around in a laundromat I was using at the time. I insist on believing that she learned that trick from her mother or grandmother, and not from a college course called, "Native American Heritage 101," taught by a professor with a federal grant. This proves I am a bigot with a heart of gold.
The best places to think about this issue of Authenticity versus Romanticization are those where the juxtaposition of the two things is extreme. Consider the northwestern edge of burgeoning St. George, UT: there an upscale gringo retirement enclave lives only a few miles from a small and raggedy-assed rez.
Another, and larger scale example, is Santa Fe versus Española, NM. (That latter is a rez town that makes Gallup, NM look like a "Leave it to Beaver" neighorhood.) We won't even get started on Santa Fe art galleries, Georgia O'Keefe, or Native American chic. But I wonder how many tourists who are taken in by the chic of Santa Fe ever visit Española, and what they think about it.
When I go to a rez town, I always wonder who is responsible for what I'm seeing.
- Is it the Native American themselves? If so, no wonder why they were conquered.
- Is it the welfare state culture of the rez, unemployment, and several generations of miscegenation?
- Or is it the legacy of conquest and defeat. If so, how does it compare to other defeated tribes, such as Southerners at the hands of the Yankees, or Anglo-Saxon 'dogs' at the hands of the Normans?
As I was typing this, a fellow drove my trailer door a bit too closely. He slowed down and appeared to look through the window. Perhaps I will leave it to other tourists to park here overnight. I will go somewhere else to live in harmony with nature and contemplate the animals and plants that were sacred to the Native American.