Thursday, November 01, 2018


I never thought I would be doing this instead of posting today.  I'm piling up all the 2-inch three-ring binders of Blackfeet materials that I've accumulated over fifty years.  I thought I would be using them to post about the people who live here and I have been, I still am.  But I'm getting old and my heirs are not Blackfeet scholars.  It's time for Blackfeet, Metis, Cree, and all the others to take hold.

I have two close relatives.  One is my brother Mark who came to visit in the Sixties when he got out of the Marines to see what I was doing.  When he arrived, he parked his little sports car in back of the Scriver Museum of Montana Wildlife. The little car had no trunk, but his luggage -- strapped on behind -- had not been bothered as he came from Portland.  Now -- five minutes after arriving -- everything was gone.  

Bob Scriver made a quick phone call and in another twenty minutes the officer on duty was back with Mark's luggage. In those days theft was not a mystery.  We usually knew who did it and where to find them. They were generally long-time alcoholics, mild and non-objecting.  They claimed they had no idea at all how it happened that they had these stolen objects.  Mark was stunned and never came back.

The other relative, the one who is my designated executor in case of my death, is my niece, the daughter of my other brother who died some years ago.  She is an only child.  A successful business woman and professor in Oregon, she is a biologist with an artificial insemination company, married to a timber man, raising two little boys.  

She and her mother came to meet me for the first time a few years ago.  We stopped at the gas station in Browning and a tribal man, a little bit drunk, came along when my niece's pickup door was open (she was driving) and tried to slide in beside her.  He wanted money.  I said to him in Blackfeet, "Who's your grandmother, child?  What do you want?"  He was startled, leapt out and began apologizing.  I told him I was Mary Scriver, formerly married to Bob Scriver, and he knew right away who we were.  The women were impressed.  But they have not been back.

It's clear to me that I'm preparing for death, though I don't expect it for years.  But the world has changed since I began collecting these things and they need to go to younger people or institutions that can protect them.  Too often I've seen people with narrow points of view blithely discard valuable records to suit some political and personal prejudice. An instance is the Museum of the Plains Indians taking all files that weren't specifically about Blackfeet to the dump, in the spirit of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. 

One of the important parts of really advanced education is teaching the value of saving things and what to do that is significant, though the items may seem trivial.  Some years ago the tribal people running the Museum of the Plains Indian decided that the big case of mannequins in historical dress had gotten dowdy and dirty. So they made nice new versions, thereby destroying the historical value and authenticity of the old things.  It was entirely innocent. But it was imposing Euro values of "new" and "clean."  

Right now there is an obsession with not dressing like an "Indian" for Halloween and a willingness to be violent about it. I'm not saying that ideas about indigenous people aren't intensely in need of reform, but rather that this is a misguided way to go about it.  It only provokes white people to idiocy like forbidding a Yakama man in Sioux parade gear complete with eagle-feather bonnet to come into a legislative hall. Would they make Ghandhi wear a suit in order to address them?  Even more outrageous is using gimmicks that make it impossible for indigenous people to vote. Law suits will go on for years.

So far I've piled up a dozen binders of clips and articles from the past, plus half-a-dozen personal letters from a man now dead who was a huge influence. I'm in contact with a few close friends we shared so we can figure out the best destination for these materials. Some things could be found in archives -- the letters could not.  

Not that the house will be empty when these materials are gone.  I've saved a few things and have spent years working on other writing, not counting fiction and the family accumulation of fotos.  Maybe I'll change my mind anyway.

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