I thought it might be interesting to look back at the beginnings of this blog seven years ago. At that time my primary goal was providing info for Blackfeet people so there were a lot of book reviews and notes from old newspapers and so on. It’s shocking to see how long ago I was posting this stuff since it seems so recent. If you are a Blackfeet scholar or just curious, it will pay for you to look at these early posts.
The reservation itself has changed a lot since I started. I’m so gratified to see people who were bright and capable as high schoolers now running things competently, even in other tribes. My first batch of eighth graders from 1961 is considerably winnowed by time. They were only a little younger than me and had much more challenging lives.
Of course, the whole world has changed. What has NOT changed is what Alexie calls “the toughest Indian in the world,” the mythological one invented by journalists and dreamers. Those who haven’t figured out yet that the publishing industry has also changed radically still believe that they can write a romantic book about a nineteenth century people that don’t exist anymore and this will make them a lot of money. The truth is that it’s probably going to make a lot more money than writing about things like the FBI refusing to even investigate half the crimes on the rez or about the informed enterprises of the tribe, which has finally figured out how to run things otherwise than as a banana republic.
Saying that the “toughest Indian” is gone in real life is not to say that there are no longer “real Indians,” because there are plenty of them. It’s just that now they’re many different kinds and include a lot more Ph.D’s than they used to. If you wanted to “do good” for Indians, no matter where you are in the US or Canada, you could probably be pretty effective in any, um, institution of incarceration, which always includes Indians and probably a good many African Americans who are claiming to be part Indian. What I’m saying is that Indians are everywhere, some are very successful and some are not very nice. The AIM leaders are pretty old now, though that doesn’t seem to slow down Russell Means very much.
I’ve pulled way back from my relationships on the rez, partly because everyone is too darn busy to take time standing around talking, and partly because they just don’t need me, and partly because gas is $4 a gallon, I’m living fifty miles away on $1,000 a month, and I have a lot of other projects cooking. I try to get to the funerals but there are too many and in winter the roads are treacherous.
I’m disappointed by how many outsiders want me to tell them all about everything so they can write it up as their own research. My guard goes up in a hurry nowadays, esp. when people want to know about ceremonies or massacres. Part of the trouble is what’s left of the publishing industry, which is centered in Manhattan and fossilized. If they met Graham Greene on the street, they wouldn’t be able to tell he was an Indian.
So where do things go from here? The genomic information is not really a game changer -- it’s not that different from everyone else and you can NOT identify tribes by referring to it -- but it does reveal the dependence on pedigree, which is the way tribal enrollment is determined. “In or out” is a practical issue when a lot of money depends on it and I don’t mean money from a book. Eloise Cobell is a game-changer all by herself.
Sovereignty, which boils down to how to interface with state and nation, will be a long hard slow process. Even the states and nation are having a hard time wrestling with all this and the big international corporations are finding tribes are still naive and therefore vulnerable. Somehow law and order MUST be achieved. People need to be safe in their houses and businesses need to be secure. But HUGE strides have been made in empowering people to stop drinking, pick up trash, go back to school, and all the other things that pull people into a positive future. Against all odds, the Blackfeet Community College still struggles along. Piegan Institute has been a national leader in proving that it’s possible to restore the language.
Here’s what I was writing about seven years ago.
INDEX for Prairie Mary: May, 2005
May 1: “Birds of a Feathers” (Age-grouped societies)
May 2: Sweetgrass
May 3: Notes from Rosier’s “Blackft Rebirth” (First half of Chaper 1)
May 4: “The Fleeing Value of the Reservation” (10 kinds of value, 10 reasons people can’t get together)
May 5: Notes from Rosier’s “Rebirth of the Blackft” (Second half of Chapter 1)
May 6: Notes from Rosier (Chapter 2)
May 7: “The Formidable Descendants of James W. and Sara Brown.”
May 8: Notes from Rosier (Chapter 3)
May 9: Lucille Victoria Romsa McKay
May 10: Notes from Rosier (Chapter 4)
May 11: Notes from Rosier (Chapter 5)
May 12: Notes from Rosier (Chapter 6)
May 13: Notes from Rosier (Conclusion)
May 14: “An Unbroken Circle” (Everyday old-time organization)
May 15: “Nitziitapiisini” (A Glenbow exhibition and publication)
May 16: “School Draws to a Close” (Teacher comments on a class that appears in a photo in the William Farr photo book.)
May 17: Browning Newspaper Notes 1922
May 18: Browning Newspaper Notes 1922 - 23
May 19: Browning Newspaper Notes 1924 - 34
May 20: Browning Newspaper Notes 1934 - 37
May 21: Browning Newspaper Notes 1938 - 39
May 22: Browning Newspaper Notes 1939
May 23: Browning Newspaper Notes 1940-41
May 24: Browning Newspaper Notes 1942 - 45
May 25: Browning Newspaper Notes 1945 - 47
May 26: Browning Newspaper Notes 1947
May 27: Browning Newspaper Notes 1948 - 49
May 28: Browning Newspaper Notes 1950 - 51
May 29: Browning Newspaper Notes 1952 - 53
May 30: Browning Newspaper Notes 1953 - 56
May 31: Browning Newspaper Notes 1956 - 58