Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Custom Cutters

Today is gray, overcast, though there is a shallow blue arch over the Rockies that indicates high wind. A cold front is coming in. Yesterday was hot and clear so the custom cutters were working hard to get as much wheat into bins and as much hay into bales as they could. But today is too damp to be cutting, so young men from the south Midwest (Kansas maybe), where they are recruited to spend the late summer going up and down in mammoth cutting machines, are lounging around town cafes and crowding the laundromats. Some of them have found a quiet place to read, often books about the war in Iraq where the military would be delighted to have such a crew.

They aren’t big on drinking -- weren’t raised that way and being missing will get them fired. Hangovers are dangerous with these machines. Grain augers, which move grain from truck to bin, have a huge metal screw inside what looks like an innocent pipe and if it catches on a ragged cuff, the arm of the shirt-wearer will be dragged in and chopped. Combines have huge blades. Even a truck full of slippery grain can pull a person down and “drown” them. Harvest machinery is huge, expensive, and possibly connected to a computer that maps and measures what it harvests.

Cutting hay and bucking bales used to be the high school boy’s preparation for football. No better way to develop muscles and endurance than lifting an eighty-pound rectangle of packed afalfa into the back of a truck. But now the hay is rolled up into a huge round bulk as big as a pickup and covered with net or plastic film. This has to be done with special machinery, which can also jerk the harvester’s arms off, maybe both at once. One brave young man managed to get to his pickup, turn the key (blessedly in the lock) with his toes and drive himself home with his feet before shock set in. His son had to go back for his arms while his wife took over driving and rushed him to the hospital. His arms were not re-attached successfully, but one of the good things about war is that the prosthetic arms are excellent.

Roadside grass was cut more than a month ago but the alfalfa mixed into it has regrown and is blooming purple. Roadside flowers around here tend to be planted by what fell off the truck on the way to the elevator, so we have tender blue flax, bright safflowers, alfalfa, the bright pink French alfalfa whose name I can never spell -- something like “seine foile” -- and lacy wild oats. I’m probably one of the few people around here who likes a bouquet of wild oats. The extension agents beg people like me to burn our bouquets when we’re through with them, so as not to seed the world with pretty weeds. In this small town, my yard is becoming wind-seeded with alfalfa. I dry it and make alfalfa tea -- vitamins in winter.

The kind of concientious and hard-working young men who are generally on custom cutter crews would never allow their lawns to be corrupted by intruders. They are serious and thorough. The small town girls love ‘em. Definitely husband material.

But they are also young, high-energy, and full of high jinks. Once I stayed in a small town hotel (not motel), the kind with the communal bathroom down the hall. I must have been in the bridal suite because I had my own bathroom. I’d been reading and writing all day in this quiet place and was ready for supper out. When I pulled open my door, it was like one of those Bougereaux French paintings of masses of naked girls (theoretically nymphs) except the hall was full of naked young men, fresh from the shower and snapping each other with towels. Though I’m old enough to be their mother, they evaporated, blushing all over.

They’d just quit cutting for the day. Must’ve run out of work, since they usually push on until night. Sometimes at midnight a person can see the combines going back and forth, way out there on the prairie all alone like ships on the sea. Once in a speech I remarked on the modern machines with their glass cabs, often piping in satellite radio from Sirius and often air-conditioned. I said something about them being sissies compared to their grandfathers who walked behind horses or even their fathers on open tractors. Boy, did I get a backlash! I was quickly educated about farmer’s emphysema from dust, shortened lives from heat stress, the ordeal of staying focused and pushing twenty hours out of twenty-four.

The custom cutter crews are almost as far north as they can work without Canadian work permits. Some are due at school right now. Football practice started weeks ago.

But yesterday was summer. Ninety degrees and the air in Valier was stained red by smoke from both forest fires and prairie fires. A huge mountain of those giant round bales was damp enough to have fermented and generated intense heat which set the whole pile on fire. Spectacular and costly. It’s still smouldering, like a pile of tires. Another runaway prairie fire was intense enough to jump a highway and blacken many acres before it was cornered. Water sources are low, both streams and wells.

The cold fronts will become more and more frequent until it is definitely fall and then winter. The light rains will become snow showers and the giant wheat bales will be topped with white. The custom cutters will have gone back south along with the birds.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"American Indians and WWII" by Allison Bernstein

“American Indians and World War II: Toward a New Era in Indian Affairs” by Allison R. Bernstein. (University of Oklahoma Press, Copyright 1991. ISBN 0-8061-2330-3)

When one is reading about Blackfeet tribal history or organizing time-lines, it always seems as though lots happened until about 1910 -- then there’s a big blank until 1960 or so. But now, in reading these studies of Indians in wartime, I realize that war was where it was “at” in those years and that as crucial as the battles overseas, were the battles in the US bureaucracy, much of it during the time that John Collier was the head of the BIA. Collier believed that tribes could keep their culture and still find ways to be self-sufficient -- with the support of BIA programs. There was an equal and opposite force from the US leadership that thought if Indians could succeed as and assimilate as soldiers, they could just join the melting pot with everyone else -- forget treaties. And the US needed the money to rehabilitate the enemies that had just been destroyed.

The issues were very tangled, contradictory and emotional. From the beginning citizenship and patriotism were pitched against sovereignty of Indian nations -- which would be betrayed if there was no way to find a reconciliation or at least an accommodation? Indians who were illiterate could not be allowed to join, even if they wanted to, but Indians who didn’t even speak English were a worse problem. Some said the way to handle it was to keep the Indians segregated, like blacks who were also often illiterate but rarely non-English speaking. Others felt that Indians were just as good as whites and it was a worthy goal to make them assimilate anyway. Some were afraid the soldiers would forget their heritage and not come home -- others felt that if they did come home, they would be changed beyond ever being able to stay.

Through all this the BIA tried to help, tried to figure out HOW to help, and struggled to survive with budgets constantly reduced. The worst blow as having the entire BIA moved to Chicago where they had office in the Merchandise Mart. That mammoth move is probably part of the reason so many lease records were lost or scrambled. From then on it was much harder to coordinate with Washington, D.C., which was the idea -- if you can’t get rid of them, keep them at a distance.

This book has some wonderful draft anecdotes. Drafting Indians was a ball game with no rule book. In WWI they were not citizens, but now they were and they were proven soldiers. The BIA thought they should take care of the Indian draft, but the local boards prevailed. Some men were advised to register as aliens, to preserve sovereignty. One small group of young Hopi found some idealistic lawyers who were prepared to get them declared Conscientious Objectors like Quakers, because Hopi do not believe in violence. But then Hopi elders appeared in court to say that these young men were just lazy and should serve their country!

p. 26 The landless Indians of Montana, poverty-stricken and sometimes deported to Canada, organized under the leadership of “Raymond Gray, a self-avowed Communist,” and opposed conscription for a few months. Meanwhile, some Sioux were angry that men older than 35 could not be accepted. They felt they had a lot of fight left in them after that age.
p. 27 Pia Machita, an eighty-year-old Papago, declared that he did not recognize the Gadsden Purchase so therefore he was a Mexican and could not be drafted by the US. He escaped into the desert with a couple of dozen young men. He was caught, tried and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
P. 30. The St. Regis Mohawk, who in 1918 had already declared war on the Germans over the treatment of member of a Wild West Show, claimed the US was late to the party.

This book ought to be read carefully and not “in summary” because there is so much careful explication of how Collier finally stood revealed as someone who wanted to “help” but didn’t realize himself how much he was not letting Indians make their own decisions. Also, war was one of the strong forces consolidating tribes into a Pan-Indian movement while at the same time it provided justification for gradually reducing funding and management and for simply taking big pieces of ground for internment camps, firing ranges, and so on. Collier was in favor of the Japanese internment camps being on reservations at first, partly hoping to soften troubles for the Japanese (Collier himself looks a bit Asian or Indian.) and partly hoping that the buildings and infrastructure would go to the Indians after the war. They did not.

I’m going to list specific references to Blackft:

p. 8 The Indian Reorganization Act (aka IRA or Wheeler-Howard Bill: 6/18/34) “ Among the Sioux and Blackfeet tribes, the act exacerbated the existing factionalism.” The “reorganization” imposed white corporate structures which mixed bloods welcomed but full-bloods didn’t understand. This split persists today, no longer based on blood quantum, but something like style.

p. 47 A photo of 3 Marine Corps women reservists, Camp Lejeune, NC. One is Minnie Spotted Wolf. (“Shoot, Minnie, Shoot!”)

p. 61 “Blackfeet and Assiniboine tribesmen from Montana were frequently listed among the dead or wounded.” The author says “it is not clear whether these Indians were more courageous in battle or whether their non-Indian commanders assumed that Indians had a “warrior instinct” and sent them into combat more frequently.” Or maybe it was because the less educated were more likely to be sent into combat.

p. 72 After the war “Cheyenne and Blackfeet found jobs throughout the Pacific Northwest as maintenance men for state highway systems.”

p. 124 The Second National Convention of the National Congress of American Indians (Note: Congress like US CONGRESS, not “council” like tribal council) met in Browning, MT., in October, 1945. Membership was 300, which was not much less than the population of the town. The Blackfeet tribe paid travel expenses for the executive council. Two new members were added to the leadership: Lorene Burgess, Blackfeet, and Robert Yellowtail, Crow.

The major task is STILL to convince Americans are not like any other ethnic group -- they are the ORIGINAL PEOPLE, sovereign at least to some degree, and in treaties.

Friday, August 26, 2005

"Paris, Texas" A Movie Review

This came to me via my DVD-by-mail club, so it had the voice-over
comments of Wenders himself. Though Wenders is German, this must be close to an archetypal Western film, not least because it was written by Sam Shepard. It's a Sam Shepard story -- another version of the demon father -- but glorified and sweetened by Wenders.

Most of what Wenders says is about the light and the way things look. The movie is in two main places: Texas (2 subcategories -- the Big Bend country and some other country settings) and LA. The outdoor rural places, esp. the absolute desert, is shot in a way that swings back and forth between the celestial (clouds through a polaroid lens -- too early for digital skies) and the lurid (sun rise and setting). The cities, the "built" environment, are as wonderful as the bizarre badlands for his eye. He loves the graphic qualities: the signs and murals, and the geometry of buildings. They are so new, so hard-edged, so slick. Early in the film there are motels that he claimed were untouched by scene designers, but that are remarkable: halfway between kitsch and stage sets: intense reds, vibrating blues, enamel stripes
and fuzzy surfaces. By the end, the Houston hotel room is almost like a Star Wars city set -- a plate glass wall looking down on traffic, skyscrapers fading off into cloud.

The story line explores that same "consequences of a confused, angry, alcoholic life" -- the same generational dissonance (old man, young beautiful girl, accidental baby) and need to travel long, long
distances to get in touch. In this movie it is rather remarkable that the steady, anchored brother is Dean Stockwell, who often plays tormented characters himself. Stockwell does a convincing job of being a typical California guy -- in a production niche (billboards) that pays well but demands total dedication, a little domestic nest that costs too much, a wife who also works, a Mexican maid --- to Wenders in LA only Mexicans are truly sane. The little house is remarkable only because it's up high and overlooks the Burbank airport. I know this view and it is again rather like Star Wars scenery. (With good reason, when you
think about it. Lucas is a local product.)

Wenders explains the whole thing as though it were just a good excuse for getting photos of stuff like gunnite dinosaurs and giant road-runners, but he really is channeling the American subconscious -- with help from Shepard. The closest written thing like it I can think of is Ed Abbey's strange double autobiography -- two parallel stories. Then again, part of the “channel” is German romanticism.

Harry Dean Stanton, everyone agrees, is the key to the movie: an
Ozarkian gaunt soul who, for all his tenderness, can't seem to connect reliably with anyone. But the other myth of the Edenic West is the redemptive little boy, played by a remarkable kid “produced ‘ by Kit Carson [sic] and Karen Black. He's a Hollywood duckling in familiar water. And he has a great sense of the cosmic, the imagination that goes with all these skies and modern buildings. He can't save Pa, but he does save Ma. That strikes me as an American choice -- surely a European would choose a father? Maybe until the 20th century wars anyway?


Though my original plan was to write one blog, 1,000 words a day no matter what, I find myself less dedicated to sticking to my original plan no matter what (unlike George W. Bush), because there were too many things I wanted to say that didn't necessarily fit together or fit my "constant reader." So I've split into three blogs.

"Prairie Mary" will stick to Blackfeet and place-based subjects: Rockies to Dakotas, Edmonton to Yellowstone.

"Robert Macfie Scriver and Art" will turn to pieces about art of the American West (one can't say "Western Art" because that turns out to be European art) and articles about Bob Scriver's work.

"Merry Scribbler" is philosophical grammar with some parts useful for high school teachers of English. Other continuing threads include matters of language and thought dating back to classes I took from Dean Barnlund at Northwestern in the late Fifties. That's when I discovered the famous Whorf essay about how Hopi grammar concerns itself with verbs rather than nouns. I HAD read Hayakawa in high school and think he is worth rereading.

It's changing to fall here -- the leaves are going yellow, school has started, the custom cutters have come about as far north as they can without a Canadian VISA, and the birds have turned south but not the bats since there are still mosquitoes. Indoors my clothes are huddled masses waiting to be re-sorted into seasons and I've changed the slipcovers and curtains from white to stripes.

Monday, August 22, 2005

"Viet Cong at Wounded Knee" -- a review

"Viet Cong at Wounded Knee, The Trail of a Blackfeet Activist" by
Woody Kipp, U of Nebraska Press, 2004

Disclaimers: This really can't be a book review since the review is so much
about things I know about from other contexts.

When I asked someone about Woody, they said, "Well... I don't know
what to tell you, but there sure are a lot of women mad at him."
Clearly, reading the dance card presented here, he hasn't forgotten
many or maybe ANY of them, including a woman in Vietnam and his
Blackfeet daughters who are babies in this book.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Woody is six years younger than I am, and if he hadn't gone to school
in Cut Bank instead of Browning, I'd have been his English teacher.
Most of the other Blackfeet "Viet Cong" his age were in my classes.
I knew most of the older drinkers he mentions because of being the
informal bailiff when they were tried "the morning after" by Bob
Scriver, who was City Magistrate and JP in the Fifties and Sixties in
Browning, and I knew both Louis Plenty Treaty and Joe Eagle Child
because of sitting in their Thunder Pipe Bundle Circle. But remember
I'm a Napi-yah-kee -- white woman. And pretty much a non-drinker. I
knew all those Browning bars, but only from the outside. They're
gone now. Alcohol is easy compared to meth. That "Viet" generation
was easy compared to their children and grandchildren.

All that out of the way, this book is not what I expected at all.
It's not really a book -- more of a long essay that is a down payment
on a book to come. It's free of theory and lecturing, quite simple
and straightforward, one story after another, the way information is
transmitted in the old Blackfeet world. Sure 'nuff, it begins with
his birth and ends with Wounded Knee II, but without chest-pounding
or even TOO much rolling around in the pathos and deprivation of it
all. The stories I liked best, of course, were about being out on
the ranch with his older brother, Big John.

When I taught at Blackfeet Community College back a while, I repeated
the story of how Big John, serving in the South Pacific, was helping
to clear out the last vestiges of Japanese from the islands. The
soldiers found one down in a cove with a cliff around it, so weak
from starvation that he couldn't climb out. Indeed, the soldiers
themselves could barely climb out. Some wanted to just leave him to
finish starving and others thought it would be kinder to shoot him.
But Big John put the man on his back and climbed out with him, saving
the man's life. I'd found this story while reading the old Browning
newspapers. One of the young men in the class was astonished. "How
did you know that?" he demanded. "That was my uncle!!" He had
thought of the story as some secret family knowledge that whites
would disrespect.

So the stories that Woody tells, and that are like this story, are on
the lean side (like Woody), but if you know the times and the characters, they are
pretty eloquent. For me, anyway, they mark a clear set of stepping
stones for a baby born to a Blackfeet woman named "Shanghai Monroe"
but raised by Joe and Isabell Kipp, then in their fifties, in Cut
Bank, the white corner of the county. It's pretty clear how he ended
up being shot at by the same kind of artillery he had been taught to operate in
Vietnam. What's less clear is why he went on back to Missoula to
finish up college. But that's the next book maybe.

The great usefulness of this book, I think, is that it is clear,
short, and accessible enough for a high school kid or an older person
not used to reading. No need to be a fancy literati. Maybe there's
a little too much about booze and women (after a while it sounds like
boasting) but that would kind of keep those sorts of readers coming
along. It has no tricky humor like Sherman Alexie nor is there
anything kinky.

Strangely, there's a kind of "Kipp-ness" to it.
Since the second-to-the-original Kipp adopted a lot of survivors of
Heavy Runner's band after the Baker Massacre, a lot of Kipps are
really Heavy Runners. What everyone forgets is that Heavy Runner was
a PEACE chief. It was Mountain Chief who was brilliant and
resistant. (And married off his sisters and daughters to important whites).
Heavy Runner was thoughtful and conciliatory. It's a
kind of sweetness.

But part of Kipp-ness is getting out there and participating in
whatever comes along. (The "culture" of Jim and Joe Kipp.) This is
different from the writing done by Jim Welch, who grew up on a
different reservation anyway. (Fort Belknap) Jim Welch also
learned to write in Missoula, but he learned as an academic and a
poet. Woody learned as a journalist. He is not full of "post-"
anything either. He was there, Charlie.

The dust jacket does one of my favorite tricks -- Sherman did it
earlier. On the front is Woody in his dance costume with his face
painted. On the back cover is Woody in a three piece suit. What you
learn from reading the book is that when he's in costume, without his
glasses, he can't see beyond his formerly broken nose. In his suit,
with his glasses, he can see you very well and he's smiling. I've
always smiled and wiggled my eyebrows when Woody's name came up. I
think I'll give my eyebrows a rest.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Which Child Shall We Leave Behind?

The “No Child Left Behind” act has made it clear that a whole lot of reservation schools are not keeping up, according to the criteria of the law and surprising no one. Reservation administrators and teachers try to explain why this is so and to fight off the further stigma of being pointed out and penalized by the act.

We have a California-immigrant lawyer named Brian Kahn who runs an half-hour interview show on Yellowstone Public Radio -- Tuesdays at 6:30 PM and they stream the show over the Net. Kahn’s shtick is positive exploration of what it means to be a citizen and, since he was the head of Nature Conservancy in California for years, puts a definite focus on land use issues. He’s very handsome, married to a fine artist and essayist, and has a lovely voice. Oddly, this does not make me like him better. He’s a romantic -- this DOES make me like him better.

A while ago he interviewed the head of the NEA, a man so profoundly, dismally, and bluntly uneducated and avaricious that I was appalled. So was Kahn. The subject was why a law called “No Child Left Behind” might be not be effective. Kahn considers public education a keystone to citizenship. To say that some people cannot be educated means to him that some people will be barred from citizenship, while -- to his idealistic mind -- every adult member of our society should be an active and informed citizen. Remember that when Brown was the governor of California they called him Governor Moonbeam? Well, Kahn calls his organization “Artemis.” She’s the goddess of the hunt, but also the goddess of the moon.

So to help Kahn cope with his lunar madness, I sent him a paper developed by Robey Clark, who works for NW Educational Labs which has been key in developing strategies and methods for jacking the Browning schools up enough to say they “Leave No Child Behind.” The paper was carefully reasoned, supported by statistics gathered through conscientious research, and I think it will ultimately lead to improvement, though not to the extent that the school administration hopes. (Robey and Mary Margaret Johnson, the Browning superintendent, are both former students of mine. I have the highest regard for them. They were excellent students.) Kahn didn’t like the paper. Didn’t get it.

In the meantime, someone put him on to a man who does brain research with the new tomograpic methods where thinking can actually be observed with a brain scanner -- at least which parts of the brain activate in what order. He said flatly that the part of the brain that processes reading is either missing or not taught to do its job (which must usually happen pretty early in life) in maybe one-fifth of students. (He was far more specific than that, but I wasn’t taking notes. I googled to see if I could recognize the expert’s name and discovered that there is a regular stampede on reading and brain research.) In a world where autism rates are quickly increasing (which means that those future citizens cannot relate normally to other people), maybe it’s not surprising that reading success is becoming more limited, but maybe we ought to remember that Charlie Russell, who was the very opposite of autistic, was both dyslexic and dysgraphic -- not because he was an uneducated cowboy artist (a convenient pose) but because his brain just wouldn’t operate except in pictures and stories -- the classic Indian modes of narration. Many is the nonperforming student I’ve known who could and would draw by the hour with competence and focus.

The bottom line is that there are physical reasons why some kids can’t learn to read but could if they were taught properly in time. The methods for these kids are different than those classically used. The materials needed to teach this way are not available to the extent they ought to be. Indeed, they aren’t fully developed yet. We are leaving children behind because we haven’t really understood how people learn to read.

Very few people don’t learn to speak and understand spoken language. “Wild” children raised by animals (more of them than you might think) or raised by negligent or oppressive adults don’t learn to speak. There was a famous family who had no genetics for speaking properly. It appears to be a phenomenon that requires certain brain processes supported by tiny cellular structures and fluid molecular responses. And then a further set of capacities allow the understanding of the relationship between sounds and little marks, usually on paper but maybe on a computer screens.

Plains Indians didn’t ever develop written language in which a mark equaled a sound, though they did use Asian-style marks as symbols -- never developed as far as Chinese written language. It was no handicap not to read and write. In fact, in “white” society in the past it wasn’t all that big a handicap, although always a marker for the elite, which is why blacks were FORBIDDEN to become literate.

Certainly, as Brian would say, an education ought to be an entitlement and universal education is a prerequisite for a functioning citizenry who can support democracy. But no matter all that, some children are going to be left behind. Some children really are NEVER going to learn to read. They can’t even learn to physically sit down and read a book -- I’m thinking of fetal alcohol syndrome victims among others, like victims of head traumas.

Yet, rather like Brian, I don’t want the focus to be on which kids will fail and why unless it points to what can be done about it and is accompanied by the will to do it. I have the uneasy feeling that the Bush administration, in their usual doublespeak way, was really trying to find ways to stigmatize individuals and groups so that they COULD be left behind, thus freeing up funds that could be better used for corporations and war-mongering. Which kids can we safely leave behind because no one cares?

The Act is also a way of sneaking up on public education, making them prove they are doing something, in a world where expectations of public school include things like compensating for absent parents, supporting huge athletic programs for the entertainment of adults, curing alcoholism, preventing child abuse, and so on and on. I think the covert goal is privatization of education and it is well underway in Browning where there are now FOUR private schools: one Catholic, one Baptist, one based on Immersion Blackft Language, and one sponsored by Blackfeet Community College. They have no public funding and therefore can leave behind whatever kinds and however many they choose.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"American Indians in WWI" by Thomas A. Britten

“American Indians in World War I: at War and at Home,” by Thomas A. Britten. (University of New Mexico Press, copyright 1997. ISBN 0-8263-2090-2) Thomas Britten is an history professor who specializes in twentieth-century Indian history.

An Indian was among a group of recruits coming to boot camp. He was the only Indian but there were both black and white recruits and this was in the days when the companies were segregated. The stereotypical bellowing sergeant was separating them: “All you black guys go over there. All you white guys go that way.” The Indian stood quietly, waiting for his instructions. “Whaddaryadoin?” bellowed the sarge. “Get movin’!”

“I’m an Indian. Which way should I go?”

The sarge was stumped. He scratched his head. “I don’t care which way you go! Just get movin’!” One can change the story to suit oneself about which group the Indian joined and why, but the dilemma of just what an Indian “was” plagued the army for a long time. Maybe still does.

Probably most people who think about American Indians greatly underestimate the influence of world events on the local tribes. Even the Bushian Middle Eastern expeditions are changing what happens at home, offering both opportunities and challenges to individuals and reconstructing the way government operates in regard to Indians. In this book it becomes clear that WWI was one of the main ways that the government was able to justify the continued removal of Indian lands from Indian ownership (“Well, they aren’t using it, are they?”) and the on-going erosion of treaty obligations. (“We need the money for war! What are you, unpatriotic?”)

This book is organized in chronological “before, during and after” fashion and traces both the forces of war that caught everyone up in a great tsunami of events, raised them to emergency levels, and then dropped them back -- changed, damaged, and sometimes strengthened. One of the themes is that though one might trace a continuity of forces -- such as the pressing need to grow more food, the beginning of diversion of trust funds belonging to Indian people into the national treasury for national purposes, and the pushing aside of Indian needs and justice -- every tribe and person had a unique experience which might have been either negative or postive. Some discovered new strengths and some were forced under, whether they were white, Mexican or black. (Asians are not discussed.)

The book supplies many powerful anecdotes about incidents. For instance, Indians were seen (in the usual split way) as either savage and lazy drunks who were fit only for manual labor or as noble warriors who always knew which way was north, could “smell” the enemy, and had supernatural powers of strength and endurance. The soldiers themselves tried mightily to live up to their reputations. The Germans, who had always romanticized Indians, were properly intimidated by the idea of Indian soldiers hunting them down.

This was WWI, trench warfare in which opponents crouched all day in hand-dug, grave-deep, mud holes, and then went out into the night to prowl No Man’s Land and try to avoid barbed wire. Machine guns and airplanes had just been invented and being caught out of the trench when there was enough light to rake the ground with bullets was deadly. An Indian scout returning at dawn was seen to be carrying a wounded compatriot on his back. The Indian was crawling on all fours and when he got close those in the trench could see that he was not crawling to avoid gunfire but rather because his feet had already been shot off. Many men were gassed and many were traumatized.

Indians from the tribes with a warrior tradition were particularly motivated and had traditions and stories to sustain them. But every tribe was different and some chose not to enlist. The draft required “everyone” to register but was supposed to draft only citizens. But there was much confusion about whether Indians were citizens or aliens, could be addressed in categories or as individuals (Universal Indian citizenship was one of the results AFTER the war but individuals who had been declared “competent” -- usually because someone could get hold of their land that way -- were considered citizens, unless they were “aliens” which was an unclear category, especially for binational tribes.) Decisions were left up to the local draft board with the usual tweaking of the situation to favor those in power. Of course, Indians could and did enlist in high proportions.

Before WWI there was a conviction that Indians were “vanishing” and that the scientific community should put much effort into recording their cultures before they were gone. During the war they did “vanish” -- at least from the news and the concerns of Congress -- and conditions got so bad that a reform movement was triggered after the War.

The books begins the account of Indians fighting for the just-born USA with the tribes who agreed as “nations” to help the nascent states fight England -- thus depriving us all of learning French. It continues with what amounted to “mercenaries” working as scouts and then experiments with Indians as regular cavalry since they were excellent horsemen. (They complained about riding with pants on since they felt their bare legs against the horse’s hide was part of their skill.) At the time of WWI there were Wild West Shows touring Germany and the Indians in them were scorned, abused and expelled along with the rest. Some were mistaken for Serbs and arrested. In response, their tribes (Onondagas and Oneidas) declared war on Germany, making the point that they were sovereign nations.

Because the army was trying to sort recruits using newly invented intelligence tests and since the tests (which evaluate people according to their similarity to “average” people, though the actual contents were developed by using college students) they showed that anyone not like these mostly urban whites were “stupid.” This is the body of writing that was available when Doug Gold, superintendent of schools on the Blackft reservation, wrote his notorious thesis about how full-bloods are “dumber” than mixed bloods. Appalachians, Southerners, Hispanics, and so on were also labeled by these tests.

This book is an important cautionary tale for those whose tribal relatives are now serving in Iraq. The Korean and Vietnam stories are being told now. It will soon be time to speak of the Middle East. This book has an excellent bibliography, many notes, and an index.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Eight Bears and the Blackft

“Eight Bears: A Biography of E.W. Deming, 1860-1942”
by Thomas G. Lamb. Griffin Books, Oklahoma City, 1978.
“The Indians in Winter Camp” by Therese O. Deming and Edwin W. Deming, Indian Life Series, Laidlaw Bros., 1931.

E.W. Deming was a Western artist, a contemporary and good friend of Frederick Remington. Deming, like Schreyvogel who was also on the scene, has slid out of public memory, probably because he specialized in Indians in his art and because the books he and his wife wrote about them were for children. The West is interpreted in many different ways and the mainly promoted ways are Remington-esque -- that is, concentrated on action, manliness and patriotic domination of enemies. Though Deming knew very well that Indians were adults capable of all three qualities, the American public didn’t much want to hear about it, esp. then. Deming knew and interviewed warriors who were participants in the Custer Incident, for instance, and painted versions of the battle based on their reports, but these are pushed aside. Only dead Indians were good Indians, unless they were little children, so this is the way Deming took in order to preserve his integrity.

“The Indians in Winter Camp” is one of these books for and about children. The art is “simple” because Deming thinks this will appeal to children. Though they are very appealing, many figures are just outlines filled in with color. Horses are almost always portrayed from the side and always have about the same gait. Backgrounds are usually far-away hills and quite faint. This story is about a generic tribe, but since the little boy’s dog is named “Shonka,” I suspect Sioux is the prototype. Shunka is “dog” in Sioux.

The good side of this strategy is that it tends to make us sympathetic to Indians, especially when the Demings emphasize the spiritual qualities of Indians, for instance, that it is always necessary to thank animals one kills for food. The bad side of the strategy is one we’re still paying for: “Indian in the Cupboard” syndrome which makes real, fully-rounded people into cute little toys who can be pushed around. A recent scandal that is hard for Indians to explain to whites is the case of Professor Gulliford at Fort Union College who wrote a patronizing and pandering little essay about his students, how quiet and attentive they were. He has taken a good blistering for this but still doesn’t understand the objections of his suddenly rebellious students. I don’t think the Demings would have either.

One of Deming’s specialties was painting in homes murals and frescoes, large-scale pastel scenes. Educated in Paris at Beaux Arts, he got his start painting panoramas or cycloramas, which were a very early attempt to create something like a movie. Scenes were painted onto a big upright strip of canvas and people either walked around inside or the canvas was actually scrolled in front of them. Sometimes stuffed figures were put in front of the canvas to help the sense of reality. I hope some museum somewhere has preserved one of these. Maybe one of Deming’s, maybe about the Custer incident according to his information from Indian friends, but probably he couldn’t let the public know of these friendships.

Major institutions bought Deming’s work, bronzes as well as paintings. He traveled among many tribes, even into South America, and brought back a pet ocelot to his studio in Greenwich Village where people gathered to hear his talks. He WAS what many people think Charlie Russell was -- a family man with six children, a stainless partner to his wife, a man of good will and sympathy to all. “Eight Bears” is a name he was given by the Blackfeet, after a bit of negotiation because his wife and six children (8 bears total) were also to receive names but two of the children were identical twins, which is not good luck among the Blackfeet. The solution was to give the two children protective tokens. (My guess is that none of this was free.) Deming called his studio “the Bear Den” and made a bronze door knocker in the shape of a bear.

Here’s one of the most charming memories, quite typical: When Deming married, he took his Eastern bride first to the Hopi pueblos where they were given a living space in the open but under the shelter of a roof overhang. Mrs. Deming was exhausted and had caught a bad cold. That country, you may know, gets pretty cold at night and they were sleeping on a stone terrace. She often waked herself with coughing. Very late she woke to find an old Indian man standing near to her, looking. Then man bent down to put his hand over her cold hand. She thought she might be murdered, but the old man stood up again, removed the blanket wrapped around himself, and carefully spread it over her so she would be warm. Then she slept peacefully and confidently.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

She Who Draws the Line

My book buying habits were shaped by living in Browning through the Sixties before the Internet was invented. There were no bookstores in town, so when I got to Great Falls or some other metropolis, I dashed to the nearest (which was often the only) bookstore and galloped down the aisles picking things off the shelves strictly according to their covers. I had no reviews or recommendations. Even now, when I get to some small historical society bookstore where some of the books were produced at the local Kinko’s and others are so specialized that I can’t guess what they’re about, I do the same thing.

“With the Nez Perces: Alice Fletcher in the Field, 1889 -- 92” by E. Jane Gay came to my hand in just this way -- the impulse of a moment. It was edited, with an introduction by Frederick E. Hoxie and Joan T. Mark (U of Nebraska Press, 1981. ISBN 0-8032-7024-0 pbk). All these names are good signs. The illustrations are wonderful photographs made by E. Jane Gay. The form is a series of letters. The index and notes are useful.

The book is actually about platting out the Nez Perce reservation for division into privately owned “homesteads” for the Indians. Jane Gay describes this thus: “To those not conversant with Government legislation in regard to the aborigines of our country, it may be well to say that after narrowing the tribal lands to the extreme limit of prudence, and it began to look as if the ever encroaching white man would ‘take’ all that was then left, Congress, on February 8th, 1887, passed the Land in Severalty Act, commonly called the Dawes Bill.

“This Bill gave to each Indian an allotment of his tribal land and secured it to him by trust patent, to be superseded after twenty-five years by fee simple patent.

“Special Agents were appointed by the President to apportion these lands, and ‘Her Majesty,” Alice C. Fletcher, was among the first to be sent to the field in that capacity, having already allotted the Omaha tribe under a special Act.”

“Her Majesty” always appears in photos with an imposing hat of wide brim and a large decoration of some sort. Not the same hat at all, and augmented by a scarf when wind made it necessary to tie her hat to her head. Rather astoundingly, E. Jane Gay becomes two persons: the Cook, who is eminently practical and resourceful, and the Photographer (for whom she uses the male pronoun) who is much more philosophical but must take his opportunities after the cooking is done. The best parts of the books are when the Cook gets into an argument with the Photographer. “Her Majesty” does not argue. Not even Briggs, the exceedingly competent and moral surveyor, will try. But “Her Majesty” works from dawn to dark and if the horses are having a long pull up the mountain roads, she gets out and walks without being urged. Day after day she sets up her desk, usually just a board across two chair backs or potato sacks, and dips her pen.

The idea was that the Nez Perce were so peaceable and Christianized that they would easily agree to having their reservation cut up and assigned in pieces. That was about as realistic as the idea that Idaho land -- a mix of steep valleys, mountains, gumbo, rock ledges, swift rivers, alkali and seemingly constant forest fires -- could be nicely divided into squares and plowed for crops. Far from being surveyed for productive farms, the land didn’t even have surveyed roads.

So the women set out on deer paths with a tent and a sheet metal stove loaded onto a dubious wagon. Two stalwart female missionaries, sisters, smoothed the way when they could, loaning cabins and reassuring angry warriors. As it turned out, the tribe was split in the usual way between those who wanted to convert and go into the future, versus those who wanted to stay back in the old ways, esp. the ones who were powerful according to the old ways. One sorcerer came and glared at “Her Majesty” all one afternoon while she interviewed people about their land needs and desires. He hoped to shrivel her into nonexistence with his Evil Eye. At the end of the day, unshriveled, she shooed him out the door and shut it on him as he blinked powerlessly.

At first the people were dubious, resistant, amused, and irate. Gradually, almost one-by-one, “Her Majesty” gained stature until she was appealed to for intercession even against the Mighty Agent, since she was the only one considered powerful enough to oppose him. (Agents came and went while the women did their four year stint, but one of them was John Monteith, brother of James Monteith who was agent for the Blackfeet during the time of allotment.) The Cook was also good for a rousing speech to the locals about “growing some vertebrae” and standing up to injustice, though she didn’t speak the local language.

Instead of “squaw men,” Jane Gay described “border men” with tribal wives who lived along the edges of the reservation -- often trespassing. When Briggs came along with his surveying equipment it was often clear that both bordermen and those without even the marginal entitlement of a Nez Perce wife had taken land inside the boundaries, as well as cutting Indian timber, grazing their stock on Indian grass, and diverting Indian water to their own uses -- even if it cut off the irrigation of survival gardens. Likewise when the railroad came through, it cut farms in half, destroyed orchards, and ate up fertile land. The women witnessed all this in their shuttling to and fro for their duties but could do little about it.

They had the idea that this would stop as soon as the tribesmen were not just citizens but also propertied, landed, and entitled -- but it was hard to get it into the Nez Perce heads that they had votes and power. In fact, the experience of most allotted reservations was that the division was followed by a few years of prosperity and then decades of despair and decline as the land base eroded away.

(For the Blackfeet, the task of division was undertaken by Helen Clarke, daughter of Malcolm Clark and a female relative of Mountain Chief. Consider THAT division.)

The Cook, the Philosopher, “Her Majesty,” and Briggs all came to love the Nez Perce, “their” people, very much. This book is meant to help and protect them, though the women never returned.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The ACLU Handbook for the Rights of Indians and Tribes

In 1988-89 necessity compelled me to take a job in the Browning School System on the Blackfeet Reservation that consisted of supervising the eighth grader study halls. The principal there had the idea that I should also teach Indian law to these kids, who had not yet grasped the principle of ordinary social propriety in the study hall. I figured the principal was hoping I’d get myself fired. (I was cherishing the same hope about him.) A white woman formerly married to a target of Neo-Traditional animosity and now telling Indian kids the law. Right. I have no way of guessing what his real motives were or where the idea came from. I’m guessing it came from the Sioux.

“Braid of Feathers,” reviewed earlier, was a book of persuasion, arguing for the importance of “doing” Indian law from the bottom up, tribe by tribe. The writer’s experience was with the Sioux. The book I want to discuss now also originated with a lawyer on the Sioux reservations, but it is quite a different book. This is “The Rights of Indians and Tribes: An American Civil Liberties Union Handbook,” by Stephen L. Pevar. (Published by the Southern Illinois University Press. The edition I have is the Second, copyright 1992. ISBN 0-8093-1768-0)

There have been other editions and, since Indian law is developing very quickly, the more recent the edition the more useful it is. If one goes to Abebooks.com or Alibris.com, copies of many versions are available for as little as a few bucks. (No jokes.)

A book review by Barbara Gray (Kanatiiosh) at peace4turtleisland.org states right at the beginning that “This book should stand on your bookshelf between Felix Cohen’s ‘Hand Book of Federal Indian Law’ and William Canby Jr.’s ‘American Indian Law: In a Nutshell.’ The book is that good.” I don’t know either Cohen’s or Canby’s book, but I think this little “Rights” Handbook ought to dwell in the backpack of every young Indian person until they have it nearly memorized.

The book is clearly written without fancy language. It is addressed to “YOU” with the assumption that the reader is an Indian. But the law itself is the US Federal Law -- top down, not states. The format is quite clear: topic, overview, Q & A, and notes that take the reader to precedents and other material. The reader is advised to insist on his or her rights with the help of a lawyer, an ACLU lawyer in some cases. This book doesn’t address the law for Native Hawaiians, which is one reason the book speaks of “Indians” instead of NA’s.

The first chapter summarizes the history of Federal Indian Policy thus, in sequence:
1. 1492 - 1887 Tribal Independence: 400 tribes did things 400 different ways.

2. 1787-1828 Agreements Between Equals: This was a trade-based period, meant to preserve access to goods. Laws pretended to protect Indian lands but were ineffective.

3. 1828-87 Relocation of the Indians: Andrew Jackson, a military man who became president, used the 1830 “Indian Removal Act” to force Indians to the West of the Mississippi River. By 1887 more than two hundred Indians schools intended to remove their cultures from the lives of the students. The first laws prosecuting Indian-on-Indian crimes were passed. In 1871 the practice of making treaties was replaced with federal statutes, which did not require tribal consent. [I wonder who noticed since treaties were commonly ignored!]

4. 1887-1934: Allotment and Assimilation: 1887 is the General Allotment Act, AKA the Dawes Act, which broke up communal tribes. In 1924 Indians were given citizenship in the nation.

5. 1934-53: Indian Reorganization: Partly due to social conscience (Teddy Roosevelt had many reformer friends -- see Charles Lummis blog -- and John Collier became Commissioner of Indian Affairs) and partly due to the Great Depression which meant there was little money for either controlling or subsidizing Indians, the Indian Reorganization Act, also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act, stopped interference with religious life and declared Indian culture equal to that of non-Indians. Tribes were encouraged to become corporations with constitutions and self-government. Indian preference within the BIA was established. Millions were spent on projects and acquiring more Indian land until the costs of war interfered.

6. 1953-68: Termination: Pin this one on Eisenhower, another military president. The IRA was reversed and steps were taken to end reservations. Public Law 83-280 gave designated states full criminal and some civil jurisdiction over reservations. A relocation program moved many Indians to cities where they formed “ghettoes.”

7: 1968 - : Tribal Self-Determination: LBJ and then Nixon, after the disasterous results of Termination policy, declared the great both/and: Indians were to have both citizenship and autonomy. In 1968 Congress said any state authority over reservations had to be acquired through the consent of the tribe. An Indian Business Development Fund, The Indian Financing Act, The Native American Programs Act, The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, The Indian Mineral Development Act, The Indian Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act, The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act all attempted to return tribes to the original “trade” basis of colonial days.

The second chapter is about definitions. The first statement is “there are many legal definitions” of what an Indian is. Most people skip quickly over definitions in laws, thinking they are self-evident, but often a definition is the key to a legal decision. The third chapter is about the Trust Responsibility and the fourth is about Indian Treaties. I think that if I’d been an alert BIA official looking at this book in 1992, I would have taken that order of chapters very seriously. It was not accidental: the major lawsuit against the US Government for its failure to properly guard the assets of Indians and Tribes was just beginning.

I’ll close, as I began, with a quote from Barbara Gray’s review: “Somewhat novel to legal books is that the questions posed are actually answered.”

Sixteen other “Rights” books are in this series, including the rights of authors and artists, employees, older persons, single people, teachers, women and young people. Bless the ACLU.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Eating Well Out West

At first I noticed the trend in the Cowboy Art magazines, then it popped up in comic strips, but it had already invaded books. I’m talking about foodism, both commercial places to eat and fancy cookery at home. Around Valier, judging from the local newspaper, people are still whomping up stuff from Jello and biscuit mix, but we do have one rather nice restaurant where there was actually an “intern chef” from a university program. That would be the “Lighthouse,” a lakeside restaurant which is not really by a lighthouse at all, but rather -- as my mother’s cousin’s husband the pilot instantly recognized -- a WWII airport beacon. Anyway, it flashes and it is not a cell phone relay tower with a strobe on top -- though I suppose some people would like to use it for that since our cell phone reception here will often not get you any contact with rescuers, unlike the wilderness.

Back to the point. In “Art of the West” and “Southwest Art” paintings of the interior of cafes and restaurants both up and downscale began to show up in the advertising and VERY occasionally as part of an entire article. So far no artist has been willing to identify his or her self as a “tablecloth” or “booth” artist. They are very engaging paintings: some fauvist depictions of femmes with their heads together, clearly up to something; dark and dramatic face-offs between what appear to be lovers, often poised in the doorway, one to leave and one to prevent leaving; and sunstruck still-lives of table set-ups, with reflecting flatware and possibly wineglasses or maybe less classy sugar dispenser and ketchup bottle. If there is a bar, there is often neon.

Then there is Pena, who gets a wonderful Southwest flavor in his beautiful girls in shawls and aprons, often exhausted from waiting tables. He gets more sexuality out of tired and fully clothed girls than many painters can achieve with nudes.

So far I’ve seen no restaurant paintings from Russell Chatham, who actually owns and runs one in Livingston, Montana. In the Eighties someone is said to have written a novel while sitting in the Union Cafe -- now THERE was a restaurant that ought to have been captured in oil -- on the second floor of Bozeman’s main street with tall balconied windows, Victorian wallpaper, and a grand piano.

I have a friend who sends me comic strips clipped from the Chicago papers (I respond with Montana jokes) and one of my favorites, among the most artful, is a strip called “Grilled Cheese” which happens in a diner. We “overhear” conversations and interior dialogues from booth to booth, so that they form a kind of texture of theme: ironic, surprising, or just as we suspected.

Books have been padding out their stories with recipes for quite a while and we all know “Water as Chocolat.” Only recently I nabbed a video of “Dinner Rush” where the action swirls around Danny Aiello’s formerly authentic Italian restaurant with plenty of irony for everyone.

A vigorous recipe book industry thrives out there, they tell me. In the Seventies the Cowboy Artists of America, who have never managed to assimilate lady cowboy artists, decided that it would be a great idea for the “ladies,” in other words the wives who generally did most of the work anyway. They asked Bob Scriver to make me send a recipe. So I did.

“Cut a roast into squares. Throw them in a ziplock with marinade of your choice. Put ziplock into a larger ziplock full of ice cubes. Stick in saddle bag. When you come to a place with a good view, or if the ice is melted, build a small campfire with sticks, cut long green nonpoisonous sticks, thread the meat onto the sticks and roast it. Take along some good stout bread to fold the meat into as a handle while eating. Salted Nut Rolls for dessert. Never chocolate or bananas.”

They didn’t print it. In fact, they acted offended. But in those days that really was often the way we ate.

Most recently the Montana Arts Council has produced a cookbook. (Google “Montana Arts Council.”) To go with it, they are producing an entire body of food-related materials to send on tour around the state. They solicited recipes that had been part of books by Montana writers, maybe not realizing that much of the writing is about frontier life or rock-bottom scraping-through agriculture. Remember the winter Laura Ingalls ate nothing but cracked wheat mush?

But I could recommend Natawista’s favorite, which she was witnessed eating by an unenthusiastic greenhorn. (You’ll remember that Natawista was the wife of Culbertson, the fur buyer who plied his steamboat up and down the Missouri.) The greenhorn had gone along on a buffalo hunt. A nice fat cow was dropped.

Natawista hurried forward with her butcher knife and sliced the beast open, drawing out a big chunk of the raw hot liver and the gall bladder. Squeezing the gall on the liver, she tore off and ate a mouthful with great relish. The greenhorn was offered a share but declined. They say gall looks a bit like mustard. He didn’t say.

Prairie sushi.

Oldtime Blackft don’t eat fish.

I wonder how many Jello recipes made it into that MAC cookbook. They say a proper Montana meal is not complete without “green stuff,” a sort of pudding/salad that might include pineapple or marshmallows. Two schools of thought: those who start with pistachio Jello and those who stick to the classic Lime. After all, that’s the only green food true Montana cowboys will eat.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"A Braid of Feathers" and an Aging Diversion Project

When I look around for books on Indian law, I always run into “A Braid of Feathers” by Frank Pomersheim. (University of California Press, copyright 1995. ISBN 0-520-20894-3) Pommersheim worked with the Appellate Courts of the Sioux and Cheyenne, although how and why is a mystery to me. This book is distinguished because its basic premise is that Indian Law should not be studied as something that is handed down from the Congress or Supreme Court, but rather should be studied from the specific tribe and reservation UP.

This is because treaties were made with separate tribes over several centuries of time, during which the US of A was growing into a national coalition and the law itself was developing and changing. Even the theory of “how to deal with Indians” changed, which meant that different treaties aimed at different accommodations, from covert extermination to a good-faith effort at keeping the peace or just moving all the Indians some vague place out West where there was “lots of room” that no one else wanted.

Sometimes tribal leaders were alert and informed enough to shape their part of the bargain and sometimes they were simply left out, the real leaders replaced by dummy leaders. (Iraq, anyone?) And the practical fate of each treaty was also unique: some ratified by Congress, some simply stored, some rejected -- as though that made any difference.

My original intention was to read this book carefully and then render it into “real” ordinary English. I had no qualms about whether I could do this since I used to type for the University of Chicago Law School and developed a good deal of vocabulary from that. But this book turned out to be as mysterious as some treaties, very much full of legal concepts.

The thing about legal concepts is that they are just that: concepts or ways of organizing theories and information and then speaking of them in shorthand by using specialized jargon. No different from any other field, except that the jargon of symphony musicians or nuclear physicists don’t have so much to do with our ordinary lives. What I’m going to do now is simply type out the Table of Contents. Then I’ll make some remarks and wait until I can find a coach to help me decipher the rest. (It might be a while.)

BRAID OF FEATHERS: American Indian Law and Contemporary Tribal Life
by Frank Pomersheim

Introduction: Why Indian Tribes and Indian Law Matter


1. The Reservation as Place
2. The Colonized Context: Federal Indian Law and Tribal Aspiration


3. The Crucible of Sovereignty: Tribal Courts, Legitimacy, and the Jurisdictional Backdrop
4. Liberation, Dreams and Hard Work: A View of Tribal Court Jurisprudence

5. Tribal-State Relations: Hope for the Future?
6. Economic Development in Indian Country

Conclusion: A Geography of Hope

The action these day, partly because of economic development coming to reservations in the form of casinoes -- which are regulated by states -- is between tribe and state and it has always been that way, in part because many of the states didn’t exist yet when the treaties were made. In fact, the states couldn’t form until reservations were delineated. Since the early days in territories were enough of a gamble that no one thought about casinoes, the laws didn’t allow for them.

Also, in the early days the Indian culture was still strong enough that it made sense to let them run their own affairs in their own way, particularly when it came to matters of the family (adoption, violence, inheritance) or religion. They were seen as “different” from other State inhabitants, which was a good reason for the State governments, baby organizations themselves, to wave reservations on past unless their denizens left the den. What this has meant over the years is that as the federal government, who evidently expected Indians to somehow expire on a certain date, tried to withdraw from the duties of education, welfare, transportation, whilst trying to secure the right to tax and enforce laws apart from the State, left a patchwork of important areas either not covered at all or duplicated or overlaid in some mysterious pattern like school financing. Not to address tobacco, drugs, gasoline, and border-crossing, especially when the tribe is bi-national.

This book is ten years old. In the interval much has happened. Eloise Cobell’s claim against the misappropriation of Indian trust funds was too new to be mentioned, but the principles on which the lawsuit was based are here described. The jargon phrases are “the doctrine of discovery,” “the guardian-ward relationship,” and “domestic dependent nations.” As Pommershein remarks, these phrases were not based on precedent because there was no precedent. If a nation “discovered” new land, they simply killed everyone and took it. But that was morally repugnant in the “home of the brave and the land of the free” so the superior white dominators would simply consider the former inhabitants to be “children” until they grew up to be white dominators themselves. (Of COURSE, they would want to!! Why would they want to remain children?)

These concepts now ARE the precedents. But speaking of “domestic dependent nations” and “soveriegnty” created a situation in which tribes and states were like rival wives or step-siblings who must constantly fight each other for resources and strategies.

One of the examples that has been in the news in Montana is the fate of a river that originates in Glacier Park, flows to the Blackft reservation but is diverted to Canada where it runs through a series of flumes and ditches and then, far to the east, returns to the Montana side. It is a hundred years old and “an ecology has grown up around it,” not just towns who depend on the water, and fields that are irrigated from it, but also certain kinds of plant growth and animal communities. If it breaks down, all these entities will be snuffed or at least radically changed, and the system IS on its last legs.

In seeking money to rebuild, the question of a new route for the water comes open. And suddenly, everyone realizes with a shock, the water -- which belongs to whomever is there earliest and highest towards the headwaters -- has totally by-passed legal owners: the Blackfeet. NOW they are players, and NOW they can get some income from it. How this plays out will tax the ability of everyone to be ethical, generous, and simply self-protective.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Charles Lummis

Charles Lummis was one of those amazing characters who used to inhabit the interface between today and yesterday. In his case, today was about a century ago and yesterday was more than five hundred years earlier, the Indio/Spanish culture that developed in the Southwest. He was a Harvard classmate of Teddy Roosevelt and woven into that complex of naturalists, adventurers and artists we love to read about today: Will Rogers, John Burroughs, John Muir, Thomas Moran, Mary Austin, Ernest Thompson Seton, Charlie Russell and a host of other familiar names. Through John Collier and by direct advocacy with TR, Lummis was able to help develop much more civilized policies towards Indians.

His home, El Alisal, which he handbuilt of stone and cement mostly by himself (like the poet Jeffers or the sculptor Voisin), had a courtyard where many a festival was staged, many pets and comestibles (rabbits and chickens, all unknowing) wandered, a huge old sycamore presided. Above the home on the hillside was built the Southwest Museum, which came to include the files of Walter McClintock, the “Lummis” of the Blackft, as well as many objects from Lummis’ own career as an amateur archeologist. His was an era that was always digging everything up, that didn’t shrink from or honor the mummies of peoples far distanct in time.

But mostly he wrote, both acid and practical criticism of his times, and lyrical constructions of romance and aspiration of a remembered past and an imagined future. For a while he edited the LA Times, going out to look for stories if necessary, and editorializing with a sharp and funny pen. Then he had a magazine, “The Land of Sunshine,” which made the reputations of many ink-stained strugglers. If I had to nominate an example of this genre in our own times, I’d suggest “The Canyon Country Zephyr” (P.O. Box 327, Moab, Utah, 84532) whose motto is “Clinging Hopelessly to the Past Since 1989.” Jim Stiles, Publisher, cannot quite match Lummis in romantic soaring but is more than a match at the Saracen-blade pen. It’s up to Martin Murie, in his column called “Losing Solitude,” to pick up the poetry. He’s quite capable.

When Lummis became the librarian of Los Angeles, then staffed entirely by females as a kind of enormous lending library, he became inspired. Faced with book theft he BRANDED the books on their edge. (And like it so well that he went home and designed his own brand for books, tools and what-have-you.) He surrounded the building with a garden and put another one on top where there was a place for the nicotine-addicted (of which he was one of the worst) to smoke while they read. He began to develop lists of books people SHOULD read, books and other materials that scholars NEEDED, and other pro-active lists. Needless to say, he was a boat-rocker and he was eventually thrown overboard.

When he came to women he was quite like Bob Scriver: he loved them and he used them up, both wives and “secretaries.” Sherrie Smith, in “Reimagining Indians,” calls Lummis a workaholic and so he was -- but he was also what some today call a “sex addict” -- that is, someone who finds the act a comfort and a renewal out of proportion to what society approves. It is not unrelated that he occasionally was stricken by physical states that some suspected to be psychosomatic: a long period in youth when one side was paralyzed, the arm entirely helpless, and, late in life, other periods of blindness. The recoveries were nearly always “miraculous,” in response to some romantic and woman-connected moment.

One child was lost early to pneumonia. The others grew up both loving and -- well, not hating their dad but wearing out like his many secretaries who were pressed into not just feeding the chickens and rabbits but also murdering and cooking them for crowds of visitors.

I hadn’t expected to take a tour of Lummis just now, but a friend gave me a copy of “American Character: The Curious Life of Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Rediscovery of the Southwest” by Mark Thompson. (Arcade Publishing: NY. Copyright 2001. ISBN 1-55970-550-7) That got me interested in the book by Keith Lummis and Turbese Lummis Fiske, his children. (“Charles F. Lummis, the Man and his West.” University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, OK. Copyright 1975. ISBN 0-8051-1228-X. It is a wonderful large book with reproductions from the “House Book” in which noted people signed and noted artists drew.) I had earlier read Smith’s book, “Reimagining Indians: Native Americans through Anglo Eyes 1880-1940.” (Oxford University Press. Copyright 2000. ISBN 0-19-513635-7) It is a book of argument rather than biography.

A couple of years ago Darrell Kipp and Shirlee Crowshoe were asked to come to Southwest Museum to comment on McClintock’s photos and help sort them. They were impressed by the museum collections, particularly the many kachinas that lurked everywhere. It is said that disturbing a kachina can change the weather, but there was no way to get at their materials except by moving the katchinas. After some trepidation in the beginning, they soon were cracking jokes about rainshowers at Four Corners and hail at Santa Fe.

Recently the Autry Museum reorganized itself to be an umbrella over three entities: the Southwest Museum, the Institute for the Study of the American West, and the Museum of the American West. A recent event was Russell Means, AIM activist and Hollywood actor, presenting a book he wrote to the mayor of LA. I wonder what Lummis would have thought.

Lummis was never particularly consistent, even allowing for the long ascending trajectory of understanding in his ever-learning life. But events are not consistent either and it’s important to allow them to be themselves. An excellent photographer (so many portraits of clear-eyed, bearded old visionaries!), Lummis as a personality is an excellent lens through which to view developments in the Southwest. “What would Lummis have thought?” is not an idle question.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Richard Stern

Be warned that I’m going back to my former context now and leaving the strictly Blackft focus, though I can’t help talking about those issues since here I am, as I wished to be, right in the middle of them. If you’ve forgotten, my idea was to be place-based -- the place being from Edmonton to Yellowstone and from the Rockies to the Dakotas.

But, right off, I’m going to jump to a topic that is technically not part of this place, though what is part of me is necessarily part of this place because I am here. This week’s New York Times Book Review includes a review of “Almonds to Zhoof: Collected Stories” by Richard Stern. (Tri-Quarterly Books, Northwestern University Press.)

Other connections:

1. Norman Maclean, acknowledged Montana author, was a Professor of Lyric Poetry for many years at the University of Chicago. He needed “someone who could be a mean son-of-a-bitch” to hold the line for quality in some undergrad program. He said, “I hired Stern and he has been very satisfactory.”

2. When Maclean himself began to write, he decided that he wanted an honest evaluation and took one of his early memoirs to Stern. Stern, who was telling the story, said he “marked it up” as though it were any classroom submission. Maclean never said anything about it but it was a while before he agreed to have anything published. Stern is an interesting “marker upper.” On the one hand, he puts all corrections in light pencil, respectfully. On the other hand, when he sees things are gone badly wrong, he rips and tears and writes exasperated expostulations up the margins that reveal whole new worlds to the writer. Until Stern I had no idea that a sentence could be written wrongside out or backwards, let alone that I was in the habit of doing it. (Still! Still!)

3. Stern was a big bulky guy, with a beak nose, a comb-across and one eye that wandered around on its own -- not an evil eye but a sort of dissenting viewpoint. (I see from photos that it’s been fixed. Not sure I’m glad.) He had a wide red-rubber mouth that could curl and stretch with enormous expressiveness. At the U of Chicago, where everyone is brilliant, NO one could put him down. But the lit crit world had just arrived at a turning point: post-modernism. Stern was a Modernist, and therefore suddenly OUT. He believed that there WAS a truth, that it was knowable and reportable in spite of the familiarly unreliable narrator, and that virtues like trust, honor, honesty, even gallantry and respect still mattered.

One of the early events while I was just getting to know him was what the campus paper famously called “the Derrida Corrida,” and he was in charge of it somehow. While the students in his class were doing some kind of milling-about business before we began, someone asked me if I were going. “It’s very expensive,” I said. “I might try to just sneak in.” Stern’s head came up out of a circle of students and he roared, “There will be NO SNEAKING! Pay the price!” I did.

Experts like Stephen Toulmin and Edward Said sat on a dais in the center of a very large room. The dais was assembled of individual platforms which at one point got pushed apart, causing Mrs. Toulmin to fall off the dais, a height of about three feet. She was not hurt. The other misadventure was that Edward Said went off to lunch with a beautiful woman and failed to reappear when we reconvened. People said, “Oh, his is a different culture where such an action would be the norm.”

I couldn’t unravel this. I was in love with the thought of Toulmin, though I could barely understand him and had never thought about the history of science before. It was like being ten years old and reading the historical novels of Anya Seton (daughter of Ernest Thompson Seton), so that I could “feel” that there was something important and passionate at stake, but not quite figure out what it was -- knowing that the only way to find out was to keep reading. Fortunately, there are a lot of Seton novels to read and the strategy worked, partly because I was getting older as I read.

But at the University of Chicago I was forty and at least a little bit an imposter -- I was registered at Meadville/Lombard Theological School which had an understanding with the U of Chicago. This meant I was really part of a world foreign to Stern, which he frankly said. He was hazy about Unitarians (which is what M/L is), knew nothing about the West, and couldn’t get out of me what my reading background was. (I told him I read paragraphs, not whole books. It was a punt.) Nevertheless, he allowed me to enter his creative writing class.

Alas, the post-crits had convinced all the handsome and angst-ridden young men who were his normal aspiring writers that Stern was old-fashioned. The potential class consisted of four women and ONE of the above described type. Stern advised him to drop the class, which he did. Stern was thinking of dropping the class himself. It was a terrible blow to his prestige to have only four sign-ups, but for them to be all female... almost intolerable.

One was me, one was an urban Jew like Stern but who had survived cancer as a child, one was normal person (not common on this campus) and one was the young second or third wife of a cosmic-level astronomer professor. Stern decided to go ahead and assigned us to write a story. They were awful. “What were you thinking?” he begged. “This is dreck!” But he was also kind to us, explained a lot of things, and read to us.

The second stories we wrote took a major leap in quality. From there on we were all bonded and working as hard as we could.

I took every Stern class I could. He kicked me out of all his classes when he saw from the telltale bookmark in my Proust that I was making no progress. If he hadn’t, I’d probably have bolted the ministry program. He didn’t hand me my head -- he handed me my heart.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"One Windy Day" Chapter 12

So that was our big “bad as it gets” chapter. We tried to make it really seriously bad without being too lurid.

Now the problem was ending the story realistically in one chapter, since school was winding down. Obviously it would be stupid to just say everyone shaped up and lived happily ever after. Or, like, Heather’s father gets a job somewhere good, moves the family there, leaving Che behind, and Itzy dies of her injuries so she’d not a problem anymore. We did want to leave the door open for the next school year in case we wanted to go on with it. But it turned out that the next year no one wanted to continue the story. We had some decent readers and our lives had changed.

I had thought maybe the next 7th grade class would like to write some kind of story, but they turned out to be like little children compared to the class ahead of them. They wore little kids’ backpacks and brought stuff animals with them. They had packs of colored markers and wanted only to draw. If they had to read, the childish readers the others had scorned suited them pretty well. Their world was small and they intended to keep it that way. Hard to criticize that. But some among them were just hidden and had the same old troubles.

Chapter XII

When Heather's father got home there was a terrible quarrel in the house. Her father blamed Heather and her mother for not knowing where Itsy was, but the two of them stood together and agreed that Itsy was defiant and uncontrollable. No one, they agreed, could have kept Itsy from that kegger.

But Heather did not tell anyone that Che had taken Itsy in the first place and, oddly, neither did Itsy. Maybe she didn't remember. Certainly, she didn't remember much of what happened to her. When she woke up she was lying on the road where she had been thrown. After that she was only partly conscious, mostly mixed up.

For just a moment Heather had felt vengefully happy that Itsy was hurt, but then she felt bad, both that Itsy was hurt so much and that she, Heather, had been glad. She wondered what had happened to Che, and in spite of herself she wanted him to be all right. Yet, the fear nagged at her that somehow he had been involved in what happened to Itsy-- beyond taking her there in the first place. Had he been the one who got her drunk enough to pass out? Had he attacked her? Had he tried to stop others from attacking her? Why hadn't he gotten help for her instead of leaving her out there on a road? Or was he hurt himself? Her head hurt from trying to figure it all out.

Che was not hurt physically. He woke that morning with the sun in his eyes, conscious only that he was on the ground in a lot of grass. He stared up into the dazzle of the morning sky, trying to decide what time it was.

"It is still early," said a voice. The old grandfather sat on a log, ignoring the terrible mess left behind by the kegger.

"How did you know where I was?"

"Hmmph," the old man snorted. "Kids are lots easier to track than elk."

"I think I may be going crazy. I saw stuff last night that..."

"Could be. Now let's go home."

"How are we going to get home from here?"

"Your aunt is waiting in the pickup out on the highway. It's only a little ways." He did not help Che when Che staggered to his feet, but set off on the trace of road that went uphill to the highway. The sun was hot and Che felt dirty, not himself, and very thirsty-- but not so hung-over as usual since the LSD had taken effect before he had a chance to drink much.

He was puffing by the time they came out of the aspens to the blacktop. hIs legs felt like rubber and his eyes kept swirling around. The old man walked slowly ahead of him, but with long sure steps. Che was grateful to have someone to follow, because he hardly knew which direction he was walking. It seemed like hours from the kegger firepit to the road. He was amazed to see his aunt's familiar pickup and when he got next to it, he just stood there. There was a scream high overhead and a golden eagle flew by, its shadow raking past them.

"Get in, Charles," said his grandfather.

"Get in, Che," said his aunt. He got in first, so that he was sitting in the middle. No one said anything more.

But to the boy's amazement, the pickup when it got to town went on past both his grandfather's little house and his aunt's house. His aunt, looking determined, drove on up the main street to the old hospital that had been made into a rehabilitation and counselling center.

"What are we doin' here?" asked Che. "Is someone sick?"

"Yes, my boy. You are." His aunt was still gripping the steering wheel. "And maybe this whole family is sick. Your uncle is staying here while he begins his treatment and I want you to stay here, too, for a while. We need to do a lot of talking to understand all this."

Che turned to his grandfather, who was looking straight ahead. "Why can't we just have a sweat? I only went to a kegger. I didn't kill anyone."

"You are killing yourself. You are killing our people. Booze is no good and the old ways are not enough. You need more than that."

Suddenly Che was terrified, more afraid than he ever had been. He had felt all his life that he was no good and that if people found out about him they would turn on him and kill him. Secretly he thought that the reason his mother had died and his aunt's marriage was so hard was just because of him. He felt that if he were not alive, everything would be all right for the people he loved, and maybe that's why he tried to kill himself in the roundabout way of booze and fighting.

But he wanted to live. He wanted to be walking over the prairie with the wind ruffling his hair and moving the collar of his shirt. He wanted to sit in the little kitchen of the trailer and talk to Heather while she beaded. He even wanted to drag the bedding out of the old man's little house and take care in hanging it over the clothesline in the sun. Suddenly he thought how good it would feel to just carry water and cut wood by that little house.

The pickup sat on the hospital parking lot and the three people sat in a row inside of it, trying to understand what might happen next. Sweet clover bloomed all around the asphalt, because it was a weed that took hold where it could. The smell was sweet and filled the cab of the pickup with its honey, its perfume of summer. Che's aunt put her hand on the handle of the door. "Times will get better for us now, Che." The three of them went inside where a counselor was waiting to hear their story, so that a new story could begin to replace the old tales of terror and punishment.

In the new hospital next door Itsy moved restlessly in her bed. How could anyone ever think that a rape might feel good? She had always heard people joke about it, but she ached everywhere and her stomach felt ripped apart. The doctor had told her she would never have children now, and she felt worthless. She thought of suicide, of just not existing any more. What was there to live for? No one would want her. Most of her life had just been a bluff anyway. She was just playing it for laughs. It was kind of fun to fool her mother and the school people.

A shadow in the door made Itsy look up. Shyly, Heather came in with a handful of lupine the color of evening shadows. Without saying anything she jammed the prairie flowers into a drinking glass. Only then did she face Itsy.

"I brought you a bouquet."

"So I see."

"I'm really sorry for what happened to you."

"I'll bet."

Heather was so earnest that she forgot that she was really kind of afraid of Itsy, who always seemed so tough. "No, really, Itsy. It must be terrible to be beat up like that. I didn't tell where you went, but maybe if I had told, they would have gone and gotten you before you were hurt. It's my fault."

"Hah! You don't know nothin', kid. If anyone had come lookin' for me, they'd 'a never found me. Our father could never just come bustin' into a kegger after his kid! No one does that!"

Heather only heard Itsy say, "Our father." Oddly, it made her think of the Lord's prayer. "Our Father." She remembered how enraged her father had been over this whole thing and suddenly she realized that even though he seemed so strong and powerful to her, that maybe he really COULDN'T do things and maybe he got so mad because he knew he couldn't control Itsy, couldn't make the world better for Heather, couldn't keep her brother alive, couldn't earn enough money to buy a new house, couldn't even find a job at home so he could be with his family.

Itsy watched Heather's face. It was a kid's face, but then it struck Itsy that this kid was her sister. Somehow at the moment that meant more to her than having a father, to know she had a sister. For Itsy power was nothing. She knew powerful people and she had a lot of power herself. What she needed was understanding, and maybe a sister was a person who could listen and understand.

Standing there, Heather could feel the change in Itsy, a relaxation, an opening up. On impulse she sat down on Itsy's bed and Itsy reached out to take her hand. Their hands were just alike, slim with nails like smooth seashells, but Itsy's hand had scars on it and tattoos she had made with a pin and ballpoint ink. Both hands were the exact same shade of skin color, not red as people speak of Indian color, but fawn-colored with a hint of the same delicate lavender as the lupine. Heather held on tight to Itsy's hand and through the window came the smell of sweet clover.

Monday, August 01, 2005

"One Windy Day" Chapter Eleven

Now we were ready for our big turning point where everything got as awful as it could be. We thought it would seem even more awful if Heather did something good instead. No problem -- she could go to church. But we didn’t know enough about evil, hellish beer busts with drugs.

Luckily a transfer student appeared just in time. He was half Sho-Ban and he’d been around. He was the son of a Blackft man and he’d been sent to Heart Butte to cool off after some trouble on his home rez. Maybe he made up a lot of what he told us, but we wouldn’t have known the difference. It sounded pretty wicked to us.

We were more judgmental in this chapter than we had been earlier. Partly I was pushing that because the kids were so into the story that they started thinking it was real or that they should imitate it. But this was the wrong chapter for that -- though the fate of Itzy was “ripped from the headlines.”

Chapter XI
Heather was feeling as bleak as she had ever been. It seemed to her that everyone had deserted her, that there was no place for her to go, that there was nothing in the world to hope for. And though her only fault was looking to other people for her own picture of herself, she felt that she had done everything wrong in her life, that she was hopelessly stupid and unlikeable. She stood there in the window watching Che's back, watching Itsy's back, and feeling that the whole world had turned its back on her.

Then she heard the church bell ringing just down the road. It was the Catholic church and the priest had decided to do a vespers mass once during the week, more or less as an experiment. He hoped that people would gather together for a time of peacefulness and then go home together to eat as families, instead of trailing in and out of their houses eating sandwiches and microwave snacks. He believed strongly that people should sit down and break bread together.

Something in Heather heard the bell as a call and she walked out the door and down the road without even closing the door behind her. "I don't care if someone comes along and cleans the whole place out," she thought. Maybe she was a little bit afraid that if she took too much trouble leaving, she wouldn't go on to the church. It was hard to go to a public place when she hurt so much and her instinct was to hide, but at the same time she had always found comfort in the church and something in her urged her to go get help. She slipped quietly inside and sat in the dimness unable to see while her eyes adjusted.

Someone was playing the guitar softly. The walls were a soft apricot and votives flickered up front near the beautiful statue of Mary. The ancient nun who worked for the parish came in and smiled at her. Heather slipped forward onto her knees and prayed fiercely for help. She really meant it but wasn't sure she was heard. Still, she kept it up, even after the mass began. She prayed for Che to love her, for her room to come back to her, for Itsy to be nicer, for her father to come home, for her mother to give up bingo-- and for Che to love her. It seemed to her that if Che loved her, everything would be all right. It was impossible for her to see that Che was just a lost kid, worse off that she was herself. In her mind she had made him a hero, the way her dad once had been for her.

Itsy and Che were in the back of a dirty old pickup, bouncing from side-to-side so hard they began to laugh and then couldn't get their breath again. They hung on to everything, but especially the kegs that were riding in the back with them, not just because they were the point of the party, but also because the heavy kegs would have crushed them if they had rolled onto their legs. Itsy had no idea where they were going, but she was used to that. "What the hell," was her general attitude towards life. She tried to keep herself from sweating about anything. If she were only cynical enough, she thought, it was almost the same as being in control and knowing what she was doing.

Che had stopped thinking about anything but his need to get drunk. He wasn't a very deep thinker at the best of times, but when he was overloaded and baffled, he just didn't want to feel at all. Oblivion was the only comfortable state. And it was familiar.

By the time they got to the party site, a bonfire was blazing. Che knew most of the people there-- the boys more than the women. Itsy looked around and saw that this was her kind of crowd: tough, devil-may-care, scarred from fights and accidents. No one here was going to put on airs. She had perfect confidence in her ability to handle herself on this scene. What she couldn't handle was people who thought they were good, because Itsy liked to feel she was wicked, the WORST, the BADDEST. To her Che was no knight in shining armor: he was just a convenience. If she found someone at the party who entertained her more, she would dump Che in a minute. Or so she thought.

Some girls came over, beer cans in hand, to look Itsy over. As soon as they laid eyes on her, they didn't like her simply because she wasn't from around there, but they didn't say anything. They waited to take their cue from the boys. The boys ran everything at a kegger. Women were just a convenience. Che disappeared somewhere.

Itsy looked around to check out the boys. She was looking for an Alpha, the one in charge. And she figured she'd spotted him, too. He was laughing, throwing back his head so that the muscles and veins in his neck showed and his open mouth showed very white teeth. A tense little girl with dramatic eye-makeup noticed Itsy's interest and was instantly enraged, for she considered that man hers. She began to plan revenge on Itsy for daring to check out "her man."

When Heather came out of the church the few people who had been there stopped to visit and she tried to slip past them.. Father lifted a hand and winked at her. It seemed to her that several people looked at her and laughed, but she hurried off. When she walked into the trailer, which had not been invaded after all, and then into the bathroom, she looked at herself in the mirror over the sink and had to burst out laughing. She had gone off with only half of her hair up in curlers! The rest of it hung straight down the side of her head. She looked very funny indeed.

At first she felt humiliated, and then she started to laugh. That's when she knew she wasn't going to commit suicide after all. At least not now. She got busy to set the other side. "I can't BELIEVE I did that!" she said to herself.

When her mother came home, Heather was watching television and reading one of Itsy's magazines at the same time. It made her feel better to go into her OWN old room and steal one of Itsy's dumb old magazines. She enjoyed reading it, though she really didn't care about it.

"Where's that girl?" asked her mother. She didn't like her name and tried never to use it.

"I dunno," said Heather truthfully. After all, she didn't know where the kegger was.

"When is she going to be home?"

"I dunno."

"Big help you are. What are you watching?"

"I dunno." Both of them laughed. "Well, shove over and I'll watch it with you. Is that one of that girl's magazines?"


"It's trash."

"Yup." Both of them laughed again. Heather pitched the magazine onto the floor. "Mom, I sure wish things were like they used to be before she came here."

"I know. But it means something to your dad and she doesn't seem to have anyplace else to go."

"Well, neither do I." For a while they watched the television without really seeing it.

Then her mother said softly, "If only your brother hadn't died in that car accident. That's when the devil got in the door." Then she seemed to grab hold of herself. "Want some supper? There's a frozen pizza."

They ate the pizza on the bed, laughing at the television shows, and Heather felt as though she were just a little girl again. She slipped into sleep and dreamt of herself on a tricycle and her parents joking happily while they watched her pedal around and around. But where was her brother?

She woke with a start. Her mother was walking up and down the hall. "Mom, what time is it?" The television was off the air but the set was not turned off.

"You'd better put on your pajamas and brush your teeth. Where's that damn girl? Didn't she say anything about where she was going?" Heather didn't answer. She didn't want to think about it.

The girl with the painted eyes knew exactly how to get Itsy. "Hey, Itsy. Have another beer. Or, here-- I've got a bottle of something stronger. You ever drink Creme de Cacao? Good stuff! Here, have a pull." Itsy's head began to spin and she knew she ought to slow down to stay in control. She knew her limits with beer, or even with hard stuff like whiskey-- but liqueurs? Where she came from no one could ever afford them. The taste deceived her: sweet, thick... and deadly. Her last thought was, "Oh, God! I hope I don't pass out." But she did.

Che was experimenting with something new, too. The big hard-bitten Alpha fellow who had come with the girl with painted eyes had some tabs of LSD. "Take this stuff, man. It's like peyote. It'll put you in another world." Sounded good to Che. He'd heard of the stuff. He'd take anything-- anyway, peyote was ceremonial, wasn't it? His grandfather might even approve. He dropped a tab. For a while nothing happened. Then things began to bulge and buckle. "Have another one, kid! They're small."

They were laughing. And their faces began to turn into snouts, their eyes filled with fire, their hair rose up and sprouted into antlers. He was looking at beasts, swirling in sunsets and great convoluted caves. They flickered and flamed and fluttered and then he was gazing into the wall of fire and his mother was screaming and ... then he was screaming, too.

The shadows around him laughed and threw more wood on their bonfire. It was fun to watch this tough guy writhing on the ground and crying for his mother. It was nothing to them, just a spectacle. They were tough, they were survivors, they had already seen everything. They drank more and looked around for other fun. That's when they noticed how drunk Itsy was getting. It looked as though the evening was going to get pretty interesting.

The girl with painted eyes laughed and poured more of the chocolate syrup for Itsy. It wouldn't be long now before she passed out. She knew how much her man enjoyed "pulling a train." Of course, he would never let it happen to HER, because she was his girl-friend and he was bad enough to protect her. He was the baddest dude there and she was proud of him. She felt chosen and special, never doubted that she was safe.

The police called Heather's mother in the middle of the next morning. Itsy had been thrown out of a car along a side road. She had been gang raped and was bleeding inside. Her pelvis and one arm was broken. No one knew that Che was missing or had been with Itsy-- except Heather.