Monday, July 29, 2019


"When discussing Native people it’s important to write & produce outside of typical boxes & categories. If not tired categories become ways to hold, control, define or even destroy a highly complex people."  The Indian Expert

“You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.”  Lakota Man

Some people are beginning to reach back to the "paleoindigenous" -- dawn people, who may have come over the north, or in from Greenland, or in from boats from SE Asia riding the Japanese current that comes up the West Coast of the Americas.  For many years it brought blue-green glass fishing floats to the NW beaches, and during WWII it brought floating fire-bombs in hopes of setting the forests on fire.  When I was a girl, there were soldiers stationed on platforms to watch for those bombs, even years after the war.  

Euros use the Year 1492 as though it were the system of dividing the past between Before Jesus and After the Death of Jesus.  Maybe it was an important year for Euros, since it was what opened the world to Empires based in Europe, exploiting the resources of the Americas, but to the people who had always lived in America, it was hardly noticed.  (Jesus didn't notice either.)  The indigenous American people are still here in the genes of their descendants and in whatever practices and sensory information still connects them to the land.  The practise was to pull in compatible strangers or children raised as members of the clans, so identity was maintained through shared experience.  But the Euros didn't experience the world the same way.

East coast tribes chose sides in the revolutionary schism with England.  Everything was pushed West, so the Eastern tribes pushed the Western tribes as far as they could.  It was easier after disease cut the population down to a remnant.  The history of those dynamics would come far into modern times. For instance, the Civil War was at the root of the Prairie Clearances, spawning white soldiers with no futures, no families, no roots, bellicose dispositions, dependence on federal payroll.

For the Blackfeet, geography and politics both have huge impact.  Since waterways were highways, the Mississippi and Missouri drainage complex brought Euros deep into the heart of the continent, and so did Hudson's Bay.  Some of these were the new Americans and Canadians and some were European, often Catholic, all empire-minded.  Meanwhile, anyone with a sailing ship and good luck could get to the Pacific Coast, and individuals drifted across the continent.  Old trails had long existed among the tribes.  In some places were major cities or at least where they had been.

Cree or Metis   A considerable number of indigenous people had been mixing with Euros from early years when the fur trade began to bring them in.  At first they were all men and formed families with indigenous women. Gradually they became a cohesive new people, the Metis, who formed a spectrum between those who identified with the whites or the tribals.  They were landless because they were on the move.  Euros only understood stationary settlements.  At one point Metis were assigned to the Blackfeet rez with problematic overload of resources and no federal support.  Some mixed with the local tribe.  When the forts began to close, some were assigned to their own reservation.

Asians   Very few Asians located on the rez to stay.  They wouldn't stand out since the basic genome of American tribes is early Asian, as opposed to Euro.  In Canada a Japanese store-keeper was accepted into the tribal doin's but not in the US where memories of WWII hung on.  Meanwhile, in modern times various schemes for moving tribal people to cities ended up with them living in ghettos where they mixed with others with brown skin and straight black hair: Polynesians, Chinese, South Americans, Mexicans.

Blacks   The Buffalo soldiers were a specifically black Cavalry meant to control tribal people at the end of the war between the States.  Tribal people who went to cities mixed with blacks.  Earlier, escaped slaves took refuge with tribes or by coming West.  The Cherokee actually kept slaves, then admitted them to the tribes, then threw them back out.  It was a stigma to some people.  Today it is not so much a big deal except among those worried that the tribal people are much lighter skinned than in the days when they spent most of their time outdoors.

Mexican and further south  Reservations are mixed jurisdictions, which means that something like ICE which is federal, will feel more entitled to seize people, but the tribal treaties and agreements often give the enrolled people the right to cross the border at will.  Since the 49th parallel, the formal border, cuts right across reservations, there is knowledge and sympathy with each other that increasingly challenges US authority and even US citizenship.  They are on the way to being nations within nations.

Europeans  The east slope of the Rockies has always been a resort and adventure area for those who think that way.  In the days when Ireland was in rebellion, which is an attitude that may return, the Irish made common cause with the Blackfeet on both sides, strong enough to allow marriage.  Bill Big Springs, for instance, grew wealthy on oil wells and had an Irish wife.  

In a rather similar way, the Jewish people claimed to be as tribal as Indians, but came to the rez not so much to stay as to provide excellent lawyers who often improved conditions.  Sometimes they were scientists, but usually not resource exploiters.

German women married to tribal members would justify a book.  The German nature philosophy, approaching a religion, gave the people an affinity for native Americans as people close to land.  Sometimes a Germanic person would become part of a tribal family, esp. if the patriarch were a bit of a shaman who led ceremonies.

College grads on the rez begin with the New England universities who created special programs for Indians.  Harvard has always had special programs.  Then came the movement to create tribal colleges, Blackfeet Community College and Salish Kootenai over the mountans.  Both Montana State and the University of Montana have strong -- even aggressive special programs.  These places form cultures that may be hostile to whites.  By now there are Blackfeet lawyers, doctors, engineers, anthropologists, and so on.

Many other groups form out of their occupations and interests and each will have cultural characteristics that are slightly different.  It's important not to assume, not to patronize, not to tease.  Approaching through drugs or alcohol is not wise and might be deadly.

    Blackfeet or other indigenous
    Sand wars
Business owners
Tribal employees
Environmental employess
Federal employees
Teachers and their helpers
Religious leaders
Post office


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