“Kicking Bird: How many?
John Dunbar: Like the stars.”
— One old friend inquiring of another as to the numbers of white men yet coming to The West, “Dances With Wolves”
Despite being a Pound Puppy of several ethnicities (Sicilian, Spanish, Mexican, Filipina, English, Irish, Greek, and, as most recently discovered, Sephardic Jew), as well as the fact that Iron Eyes Cody, the weepy chief in the old, 1960s “Don’t Litter/Keep America Beautiful” television commercial, was my great-uncle, I am not even a tiny bit Native-American (and, by the way, neither was he. But, that’s another scandal unto itself.) Not a single drop. However, for reasons that have never made themselves quite clear to me, when I was a little girl I had a recurring dream that I was (I believe that I was, anyway, as I never actually saw myself) a young girl living in an Indian encampment. Sometimes I was a member of a plains tribe, nomadic horse warriors, like The Sioux, and sometimes I seemed to belong to a tribe from a colder, wetter place with canoes, thick trees, and tall mountains, perhaps The Iriquois or The Nez Perce.
In these dreams, which I had consistently, oftentimes several nights a week all throughout my early childhood, I picked berries, scraped hides, tended fires, tended children, danced and laughed with my sisters by a river, bore witness to ancient rituals in smoky, firelit wooden longhouses, fled and hid in tall grass from terrifying enemies, and sang and spoke joyously in languages I did not know or understand in my waking hours. For several years, it was as though I divided my time here on earth between two separate, distinct lives — one at night, and a completely different other during the day.
For a significant portion of my childhood, these dreams consumed me — enough so that I would go to the library at Figarden Elementary School and obsessively seek out and check out every book on Indians they had. Books about every tribe, every chief, every battle, every ritual, every massacre, every injustice, every diseased blanket, every promise ever broken — which was ALL OF THEM. Checking these books out numerous times. Over and over again. Back to back borrowings, with no return in between. Learning, searching, seeking, remembering. I did this enough times that the school librarian actually became concerned for my mental and emotional well-being and contacted my parents — who, to their great, passionate, distracted, young, half-a-dozen-other-children-and-tempestuous-marriage-having credit — could not have cared less what their eldest daughter was reading (as long as it didn’t interfere with her scraping hides, picking berries, and tending to children in THIS life, of course) and told her to just let me check out whatever the fuck I wanted as many times as I fucking wanted it. And, trust me, I did. AND HOW.
Many years later, I very nearly had to be carried out of the theatre after seeing, “Dances With Wolves” and was both ecstatic and devastated for weeks afterward. Seeing it was like being in one of my dreams from childhood. Seeing it was like being ten again — though ten in WHICH life, I do not know.
Anyway, I just told you ALL that — just so I could show you ALL THIS. I am irreverent as hell. I am endlessly offended by people being ENDLESSLY OFFENDED. But, I just wanted to say that even though I myself am not Native-American and can not lay any claim whatsoever to the blood of the indigenous people whose land this was LONG BEFORE IT WAS OURS, trust me:
Unless we honor, respect, preserve, and acknowledge the ORIGINAL AMERICANS…we, as Americans, are NOTHING.
Where do I sign?