Great Indian Moments
















bent arrow Exhibit: Crazy Horse: the Malt Liquor

CRAZY HORSE™ Malt Liquor has been made by Hornell Brewing Co. since 1992 (distributed by Heileman, then Stroh's, Brewing). Their incredibly bad taste in choice of an indigenous name for "firewater" is compounded, not attenuated, by their apparent (self-alledged) ignorance. As an attorney for the Crazy Horse estate, and part of a lawsuit that resulted in an apology from Stroh's (2001), explains it, "Hornell didn't know Crazy Horse was a real person or that there were any Sioux Indians alive"!

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bent arrow Exhibit: Oklahoma = Native America

I don't think this exhibit needs much commentary. I've driven through OK several times, and the only thing "Indian" I see are all the Native names that ironically adorn place names and road signs. And now, since 1995, the license plate has expressed a sudden pride in its end-of-the-Trail-of-Tears heritage. But I did see a lot of oil-well rigs (read Linda Hogan's Mean Spirit for more Indian irony there), and I did heard my share of waitresses ask me if "y'all want some grits with yer eggs?" (I don't mean to make fun of Southern charm, but how does "y'all" even apply when there were never more than two of us at the table?)


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bent arrow Exhibit: "Indian Spirituality" II     (a mini-editorial: TCG, 6/06)

With the 1990's ascension of the Internet as media-information-center-of-the -planet, the bastardization of Native spirituality has proliferated at least a hundred-fold. One can purchase online dream catchers and medicine wheels, portable sweat lodges and even weekend "Vision Quests." (What kind of fool has the hubris to consider either selling or paying for the "right" to a Vision Quest?! But on the Net, you can even price-compare for the best deal for your "spiritual journey.") I've spared the guilty from my links page, but a Google search for "Native Spirituality," etc., will furnish plenty of material as evidence of such inane perfidy.

The guilty members of what Vine Deloria Jr. calls the "New Age/Indian medicine man circuit"[1] include earnest (if misguided) Anglo-Americans and Europeans and earnest-or-not Natives or mixed-bloods, almost all tossing plenty of New Age gobbedly-gook (e.g.: crystals) into the mix and looking, ultimately, to turn a profit. (General caveat/rule of thumb: if it's "authentic spirituality," they won't charge yu' for it!) Another red flag is the seemingly obligatory "compound-Indian" name, often a pure invention of the white ersatz-Indian, especially if the names are blessed ("by chance") with strongly positive connotations: e.g., "Summer Rain"; "Starhawk"; "Searching Eagle." (I can easily imagine writing a java[script] app./script that generates "real"/"good" Indian names, for any wanna-be-Indian/New-Ager out there. . . .)

I'm not saying that being non-Indian disqualifies someone from providing valid & valuable information on Native spirituality on the Net. But many such "Indian religion" sites give no acknowledgement to tribal specificity & difference, implying that, say, the 4-directions/4-color schema pictured on their page is universally "Indian"; worse yet, when such colors are attached to specific moral qualities: ugh, "God save me!" In sum, most of this crap is closet Christian moralism (& Western mystical impulse) projected upon an "alien" set of cultural practices and beliefs; and the latter can only be corrupted by such ideological impositions.

[1] "Many Indians are irritated, and justly so, by the wholesale appropriation of American Indian rituals, symbols, and beliefs by the non-Indian public. Several national magazines and newspapers and a myriad of pamphlets, posters, and bumper stickers proclaim the wonders of studying with the likes of Wallace Black Elk, Richard Erdoes, Sun Bear, Lynn Andrews, Edward McGaa, and a host of lesser luminaries in the New Age/Indian medicine man circuit" (Vine Deloria, Jr., For This Land, p. 261 [1992]).

"Indian Spirituality" I (1960's page)

"For Your Further Illumination, Grasshopper—er, little Feather": A Joke

Three Indian women go down to Mexico one night to celebrate college graduation. They get drunk and wake up in jail, only to discover that they are to be executed in the morning, though none of them can remember what they did the night before.

The first one, a Lakota woman, is strapped into the electric chair and is asked if she has any last words. She says, "I just graduated from Oglala Lakota College and believe in the almighty power of Wakan Tanka to intervene on behalf of the innocent." They throw the switch and nothing happens. They all immediately fall to the floor on their knees, beg for forgiveness, and release her.

The second one, a Cherokee woman, is strapped in and utters her last words: "I just graduated from the Haskell Indian Nations University, and I believe that the spirits of my ancestors who died along the Trail of Tears will intervene on the part of the innocent." They throw the switch and again, nothing happens. Once more they all fall to their knees, beg for forgiveness, and release her.

The last woman, a Navajo, is strapped in and says, "Well, I'm from Diné College and just graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering, and I'll tell you right now—you ain't gonna electrocute nobody if you don't plug this thing in."  [anonymous email post; slightly revised by TCG, 2/07]

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bent arrow Exhibit: Wall Drug Is a Drug

In the U.S. Midwest, one of the main tourist traps is Wall Drug, in Wall, SoDak—rather the "Disneyland" of the Great Plains, replete with a plethora of Western paraphernelia aimed ultimately at indicating the sure colonial fact that the "cowboys won." Throw my mixed-blood head in a Plains Indian wooden cutout (nice albino horse, en'it?), and have my 7-year-old blue-eyed daughter play the pioneer Penelope, and that's Wall Drug in a nutshell. (But, hey, they do have good burgers.)  [photo, 1999:]

Emma and Dad at Wall Drug
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bent arrowExhibits: "Mea Culpa"

Flattering myself for a more "authentic" Native sensibility (and some musical talent), many of my recent MIDI compositions have been "Indian"-inflected: but I realize at last—given, for starters, the mechanical/electronic nature of their very composition, and my own fondness for synth-cellos, synth-flutes, & synth-toms!—that these may be some of the most simulated items on these pages (musical "results will vary," depending upon the MIDI player on your computer):


--TCG, 1997


Lakota Flag Song ("Sioux National Anthem")
--traditional; arr. TCG, 1998


Blue Mesa Night
--TCG, 1999


In the Hall of the Rain Mountain Queen
--TCG, 2000


Powwow from a Bad Western
--TCG, 2001


--TCG, 2001

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