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Any Way to Get an Authentic Native American Experience?

Long-suffering readers probably think that Native Americans are among my favorite piñatas, but that's not really true. But it is true of the gringo's romanticization of Native Americans. 

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.
  1. Is it the Native American themselves? If so, no wonder why they were conquered. 
  2. Is it the welfare state culture of the rez, unemployment, and several generations of miscegenation?
  3. 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?
I really don't have the answer to any of these questions. Oh, one could read books by academics about issues of this type, but what would you get other than PC ideology?

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.


"Is it the welfare state culture of the rez, unemployment, and several generations of miscegenation?"

There are more people on food stamps today than at any time in history.
The National Park Service tells us to not feed the animals. Their reasoning is that If the animals are simply given food, the animals will soon forget how, or simply decline ,to provide for themselves.
Coffee Girl is a good example. It's much easier being your well cared for captive than being a wild dog. She has traded her freedom for security. When was the last time she had to run down a jackrabbit for breakfast ? ;-). Same with living on the rez, or in most metropolitan inner-cities (just another form of a rez). To a lot of people,and dogs, free food served in a bowl beats catching a rabbit.

Ed said…
I tend to believe it is door #3 -"legacy of conquest and defeat."

The Southerners were held in close occupation for only about a decade. Those that could not abide living that way got off the rez and went to tame the West or went to Mexico and South America.

The Bulgarians reminded me very much of our 'noble savages'. They were conquered by the Turks and occupied for 400 years. Probably would still be part of Turkey if the Turkish Empire had not been defeated. Within Bulgaria that was done for the most part by Russia but the Bulgarians to this day talk about being under the 'Turkish Yoke' for 400 years.

That does not explain the Greeks that suffered the same fate but have a totally different world view. Who knows?
Bulgaria is something that I don't know about at all.
Ed,Carol,Gopher, funny that you should mention a dog, because it might be true that rez-dogs show an authentic version of living in harmony with nature: hunger,danger, cruelty, fighting, or being constantly pregnant.
Anonymous said…
Destruction of culture, being forced to live in the most unproductive pieces of geography that can be located and until recent times no opportunities for real education.Those are difficult positions to rise from.
Thanks to oil Osage people that had opportunity did well. To the point local whites started killing and stealing what they had.
I've seen reservations in several places that are lifting themselves out of misery with the operation of casinos. Educated native people are using that education as lawyers and businessmen to force the U.S. to live up to the treaties they made.
The potential for improvement is there for seekers.

It seems to me that the 'apartheid' system has not helped Native Americans. They are not the first people to have been conquered. Assimilation is probably best for the conquered ones. This seems like the sort of issue that Toynbee would have discussed.