A Modern Napi Story
The Great Oxymoron
Lester Log Roller was from a family of Indians named for a drunken forebear who had been ‘challenged’ by some White loggers in the Pacific Northwest to participate in the “Logger Olympics” of sport unique to their profession. Lester’s forebear actually had brought off his performance quite well, while keeping his balance on a log in a pond which he managed to roll with agility, both forwards and backwards… his fame for the event however, was the wild look of panic on this Indians face with his braids flying askew, because this Indian did not know how to swim.
The Indian’s champion log rolling performance was purely survival driven which made the event all the more hilarious to the redneck Whites that had sent him onto the log at gunpoint. The chief of this White Redneck tribe’s sense of honor, his name was Lucious Ludicrous Bean, declared Log Roller should be allowed to live for his amazing ability to mimic the loggers in the sport (“Damn, who’d believed”), but the Indian would hereafter have to be known by the new name and answer to it.
The Indian agreed to the terms required to save his life while still on the log, and was subsequently fished out of the pond both before he had drowned and nearing sobriety, because he had finally fallen into the water from pure exhaustion. Log Roller’s descendant, Lester Log Roller, subsequently was from a family of Indians that did not drink. They knew better. He went to Law School instead
Nobody in the White Academic world knew how to create a Native Studies Program because in fact to postulate a program as such in the western classroom was oxymoron. Hell, they did not even know that. Native Studies, if it was Natives doing the studies, would be non-interfering in Nature, observing the processes from which all Native intelligence had been drawn. Lester Log Roller did not know that, because he had been off to Boarding School from age five and then off to University in Kanadada.
By this time, Lester had mastered the provincial English linguistic trick of stating the just so “Eh?” after postulating something as mundane as “How aboot (yucky pronunciations) we run to the trading post for some smokes. Eh?” And his Blackfoot language was rusty, such as the time he was home from boarding school to visit and his Aunt told him to go back out (he had just come in the door) and bring in the “Napi-aki.” Lester started to go back out, he was confused, but then resolutely faced his Aunt and told her “I don’t have a White woman!” She laughed and said in English “I’m not talking about White women, I want you to bring in the milk jug.” Lester felt dumb. Napi-aki could mean either milk jug or White woman, but he did not get the context. He had been too long away at school
Lester was a conscientious sort, and so when his undergraduate major in ‘Native Studies’ was decided on, he returned home in summers and brushed up on his Blackfoot Language. But he did not realize that the answer to bring his university into line with the political correctness of the new times had been to establish a White Anthropology program staffed by White-educated mentalities in people with Red skins and call it ‘Native Studies.’ And so, Lester, like the now countless other Red skinned people of Native descent, thought this was real. He should have remembered the Blackfoot proverb “Everyone knows the Whiteman is crazy.” But Lester could not know this now applied to himself. So Lester questioned his former people’s elders to get ideas for his papers he would need to write in the discipline of anthropology disguised with the ‘Native Studies’ euphemism. And thought he was Indian
Lester went on to Law School and eventually became Director of ‘Native Studies’ at a great university which had been duly impressed with his achievements in the Whiteman’s so-called field of ‘Indian Treaty Law,’ having nothing to do with actual Aboriginal Laws of past times, but which combined with the idea he spoke Blackfoot, seemed to make him eminently qualified to run their program.
Here at university he met the great White theoretical physicist David Bohm and they had discussed David’s curiousity as to why it had been noted as early as the 1920’s the Native American languages seemed to have no problem describing many phenomena of the new theoretical physics, which western languages had difficulty coping with. Lester had no idea why either, but it seemed there must be something to it and so they began a dialogue… and eventually Lester became a god. To at least three or four people.
Lester, later on retired and living in a townhouse in the better part of Lethbridge, Kanadada, had continued with his anthropological interest in studying his former people and was particularly interested in their form of government before they had been conquered. His anthropological studies got him up and running on three legs in Blackfoot ways, like the proverbial wild dog that had chewed off one leg to escape a trap… and that was about it
Lester had by this time taken over the dialogue and thought he had some things figured out: Like how the old time chiefs circle of oratory had worked. Not. What he attempted to replicate in fact became a lunatic caricature of what had been his ancestral wisdom. It was not meant to be evil and in fact it was not evil. It was merely stupid. But Lester could not know that
By this time, these dialogues, with David Bohm now dead, had become sponsored by a ‘Wannabee Indian’ organization called ‘New Age in Native America’ run by an anal-retent-hyper-liberal White intellectual who fancied himself an enlightened feminist man. Though one might suspect otherwise, this man was not ‘bi,’ neither bi-sexual, nor bi-cultural
Narcissus Yabadabadoo Montenegro was a “Coyote” in the strict local Hispanic sense of the term, that is a ‘Spanglo.’ You would never know to which community of his ancestry he was loyal to, because this sort of Coyote could only be loyal to himself. His ego was of a soft burnished sort, the kind of lovely passive-aggressiveness whose nasty aspect was presented in the effeminate dark side aroma of the flower he was named for. As a real Indian, you just did not want to get too close to Narcissus if you were to enjoy the genuine natural beauty of his expression. And so it also was with the NANA sponsored dialogues he so expertly organized for the world to know the truth of the New Age in Native America
When Narcissus gazed into the reflective pool of the soft loveliness in his ego, he could detect no offensive aroma. His ethnocidal nuance as applied to Native American thought and philosophy was of a much prettier and more refined sort than that established for his intellectual forebears in the psychological literature developed by Erich Fromm: who postulated the Nazis much enjoyed the smell of their own farts.
A far cry from the camps and ovens, the ethnocidal ‘thrust’ of Narcissus’ ego priapismic tendencies was to bring about the immolation of the Indians beliefs and thinking with grandiose graphics of Taoist imagery superimposed on Native American fruits and vegetables extrapolated to western print: advertising the many ‘Red Skinned [Elmer] Fudds’ (PhDs) he would gather alongside White skinned western scientists in a grand orgy of psyco-somatic ego-stroking masturbation in high intellectual workshops of inter-racial discourse
Napi fell for it in the beginning. It was attractive, because Lester, a Blackfoot Indian who could speak his language was master of ceremony and that fact, taken together with the promoted agenda of Native America’s relationship to an observational philosophy of Quantum Mechanics, convinced Napi at the start he would learn something. Well, Napi did learn some things, he just did not learn what he had expected, like a wider understanding of Native Quantum Reality. Napi learned about Quantum Mechanics in the laboratory from the White scientists and absolutely nothing at all from the many PhD Native Americans because they had no idea at all of how Native Quantum Reality functionally worked.
Damn, it was sad. Not one PhD, not a single PhD from either side of the Racial divide, understood that to be Native American in thought and philosophy had absolutely nothing to do with Race. PhD. Wow. The White western scientists were sometimes frustrated with the Red western scientists who could only tell stories from anthropology that were totally out of context and consequently nonsensical. That fact only made the Red western scientists equal to the White western scientists totally out of context with Nature and nonsensical lab experiments
Napi simply observed the first year he attended. The second year he contributed a little bit of real Indian thinking and freaked out Lester because it looked as though the entire event could be shown up as a case of ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes!’ The third year Napi had tried to explain to Narcissus and had approached Lester directly about making a contribution, how some things could change to open up the dialogues to real learning, but Napi was frozen out instead. No upsetting the gravy train of ego allowed here!
Rather the ‘face’ of the event was to be preserved at all costs, a portrait of the mysterious and knowledgeable Indian, Lester, presiding over an event that might one day yield his great secrets held in abeyance: to his lesser Native beings and the handful of toadying sycophant Whites who peered upon his Native holiness with expressions of Heavenly reverence as though they were alter-boys seated upon the left and right hands of God. In fact, it appeared to Napi that Lester didn’t know shit. Lester only knew how to rest on his laurels from his former Native Studies program directorship at Harvard, look important, and otherwise act cool and all knowing. That’s it.
This lampoon of Leroy Little Bear and the ‘Language of Spirit’ dialogues at SEED Open University, goes to the point of what you see isn’t what it was and what it was, is something you’re not going to get at any ‘native studies’ program, either…
The women’s secret societies had been the driving social engine in the Blackfoot culture, the anthropologists were males and males were NEVER admitted to these societies. The upshot is, when every sister, mother, daughter and wife of every man of consequence delivered identical message, the men would meet and take the nation in the direction these women had insisted upon. The anthropologists only saw the men meet and come to decisions. The ‘circle’ at SEED supposedly replicating the ancient native governance system, is entirely devoid of the matriarchal concept and background. An important note would be, the anthropologists were allowed to keep mistaken assumptions (mistaken assumptions that now are integrated material of so-called ‘native studies’) because the culture they were studying did not have a concept of correcting so-called ‘wrongs’, people are supposed to figure out their mistakes for themselves.
The Blackfoot word for wife, ni-naki, translates literally as “boss.” Ni-naki is the lesser form of the word ni-na-waki, which had been the highest form of Blackfoot chief in pre-contact times, and could only be a woman. The equality there was really quite balanced, with a slightly higher female authority, with great respect between the sexes and women had been fully entitled to be warriors, the term for such was sak-wo-ma-oui-aki-kwan, loosely translated as ‘defiant women.’
The men with more than one wife were seen by anthropologists as polygamists in the western sense, the western observers not realizing the women determined this. Close sisters or best friends shared the man and without this female consensus, polygamy did not happen. And it was the important women who determined who would be a man’s ‘sits besides him wife.’ In the present time, relating to any politically correct western anthropology program with the ‘native studies’ euphemism, it is the western ideas are coming to dominate the native perception of themselves, with the loss of language and oral tradition through enforced western educations, these people don’t even know who they were anymore. But what had been was, the women instilled the culture’s values and stability.
Another misconception is the countless forms of gender in the language, the western linguists puzzling over how so many masculine and feminine forms could be kept straight and why so many when in fact this was the language expressing varying degree of androgyny in descriptions, an alien concept to western linguists.
The unfortunate conclusions concerning the western culture, drawn from thirty plus years work bridging the cultural gap, can be read in my essay ‘You’ve Got Apes!‘
Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories