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dimanche 19 octobre 2014


When I showed a photo of a Breton family get together, taken in a village in Brittany in France, to an American Friend of mine at the UmonHon Indian Reservation, her comment was revealing,
Not a single blonde hair, all of them black hair!
For her, black hair has a great significance since all American Indians have black hair and all the native peoples she had encountered had black hair. Of course when I told her that Breton people are the Native People of what is now France, she was indeed elated.
{DOLMEN at Carnac Prehistoric Site, Brittany. In Breton, Dol means table, Men means stone, so stone table)
If you do not have admixture with European blood, the hair of a native person tend to be black, it is a kind of universal rule.
I was in seat 2 G, busily putting down on paper my wonderful experience with the Cheyenne River Lakota this past week, when I was interrupted by the older man on the other side of the aisle.
(My CRST YDPP Visiting Card in an Unusual Location)

In what language are you writing? Even though I knew the full significance of his question, I answered, in English. I thought so, he said, and his wife, an older blonde lady with very white skin, with a definite Texan accent, wanted to know whether I was writing a book and where she could buy it! I told her I am writing about American Indians and that my writings are of interest to very few people. She replied, and my heart sank: I am an Apache!  I was speechless for various reasons, and her husband reiterated, my wife is an Apache.
I extricated myself from the situation, as gently as possible, by saying, there are about 8 million North Americans with some Indian blood or other but only about 1 million American Indians live in the Reservations.
Even though my Indian teachers ask me to view these people who so desperately want to claim an Indian ancestry, favourably, as they cant claim to be Indian and at the same time harbour anti Indian racist sentiments!
I thought of my Meskwakia teacher who once said: When the white man has one drop of Indian blood, they claim to be Indian; I don't see them rushing to proudly proclaim that they are Black if they have one drop of African Blood!
I was watching the concert by Diego El Cigala on my ipad during the flight and I realized that all gypsies also have dark hair and I don't hear people rushing forward to claim themselves as gypsies!
(A Meskwakia Indian friend of mine in his tribal regalia)
And Mexicans and Mexican Americans, the largest group of people with a significant native blood are happy to denounce their “Indian-ness”, something they perceive as Inferior, like the Ladinos of Guatemala.
In the West, USA or Australia, where the white people are so tout their “native” credentials, it is because of the society’s perception of native people being spiritual and leading harmonious lives with nature. This romantic notion, which is far from reality, makes people who live in Texas or places where there are no Indians to claim to be Apache or Mission Indians. (A Mexican nurse claimed to be a Mission Indian!)
My plea to these people is this. You claiming to be Indian, really distort the picture of what it means to be an Indian in America. Having just come back from the poorest county in the USA, with a mean per capita income of only 6000 dollars, beset with thousands of social and economic problems, most of those Indians do not have the luxury of touting their Indian-ness, aboriginalidad, they are busy being humans, being Indian is not that important to them, when there is no food, no police protection, no heating in the house…
In counties where there are large number of Indians, such as Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia and Peru, the mixed blood population is only too eager to shed their Indian Identity, as they don't want to be associated with the reality of that identity. In countries where there are hardly any Indians or natives, such as Canada, USA, Australia, Argentina, there is a fashion among people to claim a distant Indian or native ancestor. In India and Malaysia, the original inhabitants, called Adivasi in India and Orang Asli in Malaysia are looked down upon.

If you want to know more about Indians, please respect them. If you are truly interested, come and live in a reservation for a few months.
That blonde lady, will no longer claim to be an Apache, if she had lived with the Indians! This concept of wannabee is different from the Going Native concept popular among the Colonial days but that arose out of respect for the native populations.
Just a few minutes before boarding the flight to Miami where I had the encounter with the White Apache (not White Mountain Apache!), an Indian said hello to me, I see you are wearing a Cheyenne River Sioux tribe Jacket. We chatted and within a minute we had established a common world that we both know. He is from Crow Creek Sioux Reservation where his wife is an administrator; they were on their way to a conference in Nashville.
In symbolic healing, one talks about a Mythical World, mundo mitico, which is common for all. I realize that while not being an Indian, I have been given the privilege of entering the mythical world of Indians and able to communicate with them. Interactions with Indians are usually open with no hidden agenda and there is usually some form of exchange, you establish a common world and then you communicate. Within five minutes, we had already mentioned names of individuals or families we both were familiar with!

He knows that I am non-Indian familiar with Indians and that he does not have to proclaim he is Indian, because he is.

Both he and his wife had Black Hair!
El Cigala in Asia with me! He has long dark thick BLACK hair! Listen to him singing, in his inimitable Gypsy style, Dos Gardenias para ti, a Cuban Classic!
This morning, I went to have my Cortadito at my favorite hole in the wall cafe in Miami. How do you like your coffee, with or without sugar, asked a lady, obviously not Cuban by her speech.. I said to her, I beg you, please make me a cortadito like is made in La Habana.. estilo de la Habana!
she smiled and asked me, where are you from?
I had been thinking about it as I walked to the cafe:
My Body is Australian but my heart is Cuban, I smiled and all of us laughed
Cuerpo Australiano, Corazon Cubano!
Celebrating the arrival of Shabbat at the Lounge at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Shirt courtesy of my brother Eliyahu who shleps them, Bag with Che's face, gift of a friend in La Habana. It was an evening to remember, Kippah made by Sarah Cohen of Cochin, India