A category that is not a category exists only in my mind. Maybe half-a-dozen educated white people who have been visiting the Blackfeet since maybe the Sixties are known to me. That is: myself, Adolf Hungry Wolf, Alice Kehoe, Ken Lowensgaard, Sid Gustafson, and a few more. Some are dead now. One moved to Europe. We don’t necessarily know each other. I’m not counting the white merchants and ranchers whose children are now enrolled. We’re in touch mostly online. Some have written books.
When Mike Swims Under died, Adolf knew many of the ceremonial songs. Ken Lowensgaard and Sid Gustafson were here as youngsters. Alice Kehoe is an anthro professor who has usually spent her summers here and has written books. We are people who know this rez in quite a different way than most people, whether they could be considered Blackfeet or even tribal or not. We do not agree about what we see or what we would recommend.
When viral holocaust hit the Blackfeet on the US side of the high prairie east of the Rockies, it came in waves. Maybe the first was smallpox which could survive on fabrics. “Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977, and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980. The risk of death following contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies.” It may have survived as a weapon. WHO may not survive Trump.
Of course there were always natural disasters in every millennia, but “settlement” made the former nomads more vulnerable, and there are places on this rez that are blind to electronics like radio or telephone. No warning possible. The Big Flood was as much a financial and emotional blow as a pandemic, though it didn’t kill high numbers. The tourist trade was shut down that summer, much like now.
Race is meaningless in terms of skin color or manner of dress. What counts is culture, which is a way of being, central practices, rooted in ecoculture. So it was not the atrocities — like murdering a whole band/family of people by mistake and by stealth in spite of an individual peace agreement — that did so much to impose a holocaust as it was the continuing killing of buffalo on which the culture was based. Restoring buffalo today is interesting, but the culture that went with it did not and can not come back.
Residential schools are blamed for killing the culture, but the continuing web of truant officers, school bus systems that became a minor culture along the routes, and the German military organization of “grades”, “steps”, categorizing, national texts, and teacher training have continued to force people to conform. Now a few ways of escaping have reappeared with home schooling, charter schools, religious schools, are pushing back — because “white” people are rebelling as well. The national WASP culture is seriously eroded and confused, a world class holocaust that affects the notion of globalization as covid-19 travels around the world. At the same time people like Adolf in his log cabin he built himself, he is talking to people around the planet with his computer running on electricity generated by a roll-up photovoltaic panel. I publish this blog that is read by a thousand people daily on every major continent. I used to run a blog gadget from clustrmaps that showed a dot every time they made contact, but I don’t use it now because the governments and international criminals were using it to find their enemies.
The holocaust of right now is the killing of secrecy, the murder of the ability of slide in and out of the mostly white control by simply disappearing. After all, non-whites all look alike to them now that the cultural cues like blankets or braids or language have either been weakened or lost. But anyway the categories have been reinvented, romanticized, so that now it is thought to be admirable to be a “savage” who is making Rousseau (and a lot of other French philosophers) very happy. So pleasant to stiff those stiff English, whose elite force their own children into residential schools where perversion based on force is alive and well. Only a princess can resist them — to a point.
At 80 I am old enough to have known survivors of the “Baker” or Bear River Massacre on January 23, 1870, and to have watched while the memory was brought back to life. Also, “white” kids I taught and who went on to higher education and successful careers have become surprising members of the tribe. The Blackfeet are now intermarried with Cree, Flatheads, Mexican tribes, Filipinos, Germans, and even a few Blacks, though most of them arrived as children with mothers who had survived the relocation holocaust of being moved to city ghettos. They also came with a lot of resistance ideas.
The Pan-Indian movement formed from joining forces politically but also out of the residential higher education schools where marriage-age youngsters fell in love with partners from other tribes, but because the government never expected such a thing, they cannot claim Indian Identity since the pesky records of provenance, (begats), misrepresented as “blood quantum” as though birth had something to do with A,B, or O proteins used to find compatible transfusions or maybe something to do with the intricacies of molecular genetics.
Alas, analysis of genomes which the tribes suspiciously resist as just another plot, reveal that A) there is more difference among the members of the tribe than between tribes so that only hustlers and Oprah think you can tell which tribe is which, and B) the basic 98% of code for American indigenous people comes from Asia, mostly the SE islands whose boatmanship could cross the Pacific. Maybe not on purpose.
The individuals at the beginning of this post came mostly in the Sixties and Seventies when much of this thought had not formed yet, but they’ve been open to sciences of all kinds and keen to learn ideas that might become a new culture. But there will not be one new culture. It will be a range of adaptations to circumstances that persist long enough for people to feel like a group. These individuals will have been gone a long time, but their writing might persist. There were never enough of them to form a tribe.