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lundi 6 mai 2013


During the month of April, 2013 I was fortunate to travel to the Indian Country in Nebraska and South Dakota; the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras and three cities in Malaysia and a couple in Indonesia.
(PAUL BRILL in the Middle, my Omaha Brother Charlie in on his right)
I had heard about Paul Brill from the early years on when I began working with the Omaha Tribe. This gentleman with a long-standing connection with the tribe has amassed an incredible genealogy of the tribe and it is truly impressive. I was invited to an Inipi ceremony and Paul was there nursing an injured hand, so I found myself lucky chatting with him for a couple of hours. He has inexhaustible knowledge about the Indian tribes but also about many other indigenous peoples around the world. He lives in Terre Haute, Indiana having retired there after working with several Indian nations across the country. Whenever the tribes had legitimate queries about the usurping of the land, they sought Paul’s help who could provide the genealogy of the owner of the land and from the records could prove whether or not that allotment had been made.
Even after a lifetime of helping the Indians, he had this to say: Truly, it is they who have helped me, by opening their world to me and letting me learn a little bit of their deep culture.
I made a mental note of making a trip to Terre Haute, Indiana; I could also visit the largest Burmese community in the USA in Indianapolis!
(the indefatiguable doctor to the Kickapoo, Dra. Estela Rosales of Piedras Negras and Muzquiz, Coahuila, Mexico)
The next stop was at Piedras Negras in the State of Coahuila in Mexico. My Kickapoo sister lives just across the Rio Bravo in Eagle Pass, but getting there is not an easy matter. One has to fly into San Antonio, connecting in one of the Hub cities and then rent a car for a drive through some Texas desolation to reach Eagle Pass. Taking care of the health of many of the Kickapoo is one of the best holistic doctors that I have ever known, Dra Estela Rosales who also practices in Muzquiz. I am overwhelmed by her devotion to her patients. I had known her personally to take sick patients to Monterrey, a distance of over 300 km! It is a privilege for me to work with her and look forward to longer visits to Mexico.

After enjoying the hospitality of my Kickapoo sister with home cooked native foods, it was time to go up north to the Lakota. Elegantly dressed Chuck, who was a former truck driver, and his delightful wife come from Eagle Butte, three hours away by car. After a welcoming lunch, we are off through the rolling landscape bare of vegetation still under the burden of winter.
The day I arrived, I was told that Rick Two Dogs, a medicine man from Pine Ridge Lakota Country would be talking about the Star Knowledge of the ancients. I was immediately reminded of the Star Stories of the Kung Bushmen/San of Kalahari. I was not disappointed by an engaging conversation (he talks in Lakota and someone interprets, he is fluent in English also). I was so touched with his humility and said to myself: why are these great people with so much knowledge behave in such humble ways and it is so refreshing. Contrast this with attending some medical conference where each are jostling to be the best or the greatest. Rick leaves a mark in your heart and you can recall that presence whenever you want to.
As you can see, the people above are all in my life because of my connection with the American Indians and the next person is no exception either. Dr S is a clinical psychologist but has a long, winding career history touching the Navy, Government, and University. I had lunch with him once at Café Danh in Sioux City, Iowa and on this visit to the Lakota I was more than pleased to be invited to stay at his home. It also became very comforting when a passing snowstorm dumped two feet of snow and there were no movements about and I could enjoy his home and kitchen (mostly his refrigerator!). I have so much more to learn from this very concerned, knowledgeable psychologist. And I will make sure that we meet often when we are in the same Indian country.
As I am writing about some remarkable people, it does not mean that the people I work with or deal with are not remarkable enough, they are, but here I am mentioning people who came into my life briefly and impressed me with their kindness, knowledge and humility.
The flights I have to arrange and follow through sometimes look so illogical: Rapid City to Chicago to London; London to Brussels; Brussels to Cairo to Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur!
When I arrived by bus at Malacca, the place is so familiar to me that I naturally followed my senses to the Zheng He/Cheng Ho museum, to ask whether Dr T, the President of the International Cheng Ho Society would be around that weekend. He lives in Singapore. I was fortunate that I found Dr T at the café and we had a nice exchange of information and he presented me with two volumes on Zheng He, in one of which a short article of mine was printed.
Something he said stays in my memory: In my long life, I had to swear allegiance to so many governments, that I have saved myself being just myself.
“ I was born under the communists, then had to move to Taiwan and the Kuomintang; on to Hong Kong to swear allegiance to the Queen, to then Malaya and finally to Singapore to become a Singaporean citizen, notwithstanding the five years I lived in Indonesia doing my PhD thesis!”
My Kickapoo sister had always insisted, we lived for one hundred and fifty years in Mexico, we didn't become Mexicans, but we were Kickapoo living in Mexico and now we are living in USA, we are not Americans but Kickapoo living in America.
Among some immigrants there is a hankering for the new nationality that they forsake the grounding points of the culture they came from (the deep culture) and end up like a boat in a storm without an anchor (to paraphrase Pablo Neruda).
I had already written about the Ageless Man of Kuala Trengganu and this time, I had the pleasure of spending some time with the “Panda Man”, so named because of the dark shades around his eyes give him such an appearance. Very realistic about life and its fallacies, the Panda Man, would advise you to live the life to the fullest knowing how quickly his business associates had been vanishing form the scene! I had seen him in Phnom Penh and Bangkok, and on both occasions his cheerful presence was a blessing.

The next stop was Bogor where the ever humble, ever helpful Pak Hendra was presiding over the health of his employees and encouraging them to take as much time as necessary so that they would remain healthy and bring happiness to their families. He is incredibly generous and overwhelms his guests with attention to every detail of their stay and make sure they are comfortable. I am picked up at Jakarta airport and then transported to my hotel in Bogor. For the remaining days, it is exercise, conversations, healthy lunch and dinners and more conversations and friendship. I don't mind traveling that long a distance to enjoy a few days of my friendship with Pak Hendra.

After a few days rest in Bruselas, I hope to embark on yet another Food and Friends trip, while occasionally being of use to some Indians…and on this trip I am going to look for my Cuban friend, Jorge Luis, the psychiatrist of the south, an expert on the medical anthropology of trauma (he served in Angola!)…