Today I’m beginning to post a sequence of short stories about Blackft. I call it the Blackfeet Bundle Book, each story being like a Bundle to unroll and contemplate. Not necessarily sacred.
The first impulse to write this sequence came from reading reviews of a book called “American Generations.” The premise was that every twenty years is a “generation” -- roughly the time it takes a person to grow up -- and that each generation has its problem to solve, its style, its context, and so on. Each of these American generations was given a name. The first one took place at the time of the American Revolution, when it separated from England.
I wondered what a parallel book about just the Blackft Nation might look like, esp. since the horse got to the Blackft about the same time as the American Revolution. So I got out my time-line, divided it into twenty year sections, and looked at what happened in each. Of course, I had to begin with the coming of the horse.
Several other principles and little “hooks” kept my plots lined up. No one person can be in every story -- they’d have to live for more than two hundred years! But I did manage to at least refer to the people in the previous story so that one gets the idea of an on-going group, a tribe. At the same time, I thought I’d try to pick up the oddballs -- the individuals who were against type and rarely even thought of in “normal” Indian stories: those outside modern gender dualities, those who traveled far, those who were of mixed blood, and so on.
And I had one more little trick. Bob Scriver published a book of photos of his artifact collection (“Blackfeet: Artists of the Northern Plains”) so I thought I would include one artifact from the collection in each story. Most of the objects in that book were things I’ve handled and knew well. In the first story, the object is the copper tea billy, a little pot with a tight lid and a bail for hanging over a fire.
One more thing: Some of these stories reminded me of real people -- not that they are portraits, but somehow the spirit of the person got into the story. I’d kind of forgotten that this first story brings to mind a character we called “Fonzie” when he was in my classes at Heart Butte in 1990. Something about his energy level and his willingness to meet the future. Yesterday I ran into him at the grocery store. Now he has a wife and three kids and he’s about twice the size he used to be, but he’s still that bright, high-energy person.
Maybe that’s why I’m posting these stories now. They’re about 8,000 words long, so they count for a week of shorter entries. (My goal is 1,000 words a day.) I’ll post the whole story at once so you don’t have to read it backwards, but the next story will be after this one in terms of generations. When all twelve are posted, you’ll have to get into the archives to start at the beginning.
Some on the rez will object that I shouldn’t write these stories because I’m white. I’ll say to them what I said to the Fonz: write your stories and give them to me. I’ll put them on my blog. This is not a case of me displacing other writers.