Dreamt up at an out of doors café in Sant Feliu de Guixols
Napi. Just who is this guy? Napi is many things. Napi is a teacher, an archetype, our Blackfoot ancestor and much more. Napi is a god, he is like Jesus or a holy man. Napi is the devil, Napi is the first real human being, Napi is a fool, a friend, and the trickster- Old Man Coyote. Essentially Napi is all the possibilities embodied in any Blackfoot MALE
Everyone learns from Napi (his stories) in Blackfoot culture, and the idea behind Napi is to foster what is sane and healthy in men and put strict controls on what is not. Because men are men, there are the men’s Napi stories which are supposed to always be cleaned up in the presence of women (sorry.) Culturally speaking, some of the men’s Napi stories simply should never be told in the women’s presence at all
Did the women have the prurient Napi stories? Men were never admited (NEVER) to the women’s secret societies, so we (men) supposedly must accept at face value the idea the women only knew the cleaned up versions of Napi stories. But because I am Napi (a Blackfoot male) onetime I tricked one of the old ladies into an admission of sorts, that is I made a reference to Napi’s butt
When one of my elder woman teachers was present, I had an opportunity to identify myself in the Blackfoot language.. and instead of using my proper Blackfoot name Pee-ma-na-kwan (man with a rope), I identified myself as Penucquem (Puh-nuck-qwee-um) or that is to say I identified myself as Napi’s rectum with the proper/formal expression
That drew a belly laugh from the old lady, the spontaneous and deep sort of laugh burst out that would make a man think she had heard the dirty stories the men tell (but only behind the women’s backs.)
In actuality I cannot know, it may be she simply believed I am an asshole, that interpretation works just as well. And as she was my elder teacher, I had to stop there, because she subsequently gave a look of spine shivering evil, as though daring me to die for having breeched her dignity and caused her involuntary laugh. It is safe to say I never broached the subject with her again. She was what would be known in the old matriarchal times as a Ni-na-wa-ki, or a woman that was the highest form of Blackfoot chief. You do NOT cross these women
I will come back to Napi, and how he ate his own ass for lunch, but first I think I need to explain Indian humor is more typically healthy, and give folk here in the outside world some idea of how it works
Native humor is all about keeping things honest, in a fun and entertaining way, and consequently, this humor is often self-deprecating in a gentle or harmless way, that is laughing at having made a fool of oneself, or jokes can be created with a little license describing another’s encounter with life’s many surprises. Spontaneous jokes are appreciated, a quick, creative wit is a prized possession in the personality. The taciturn Indian is a face presented to the outside world only, within the community life is filled with fun and liveliness in most conversation.
A Honky Snow Cone
I was at a pow-wow in the southwest where people did not readily know me as an Indian.. looking like ZZ Tops. I was watching the dancers, there was a Rastafarian dreadlocks White guy doing what appeared to be a stoned southern style war dance, overly exaggerated and out of time and I was amazed at the Indians straight faces as this guy made an incredible spectacle of himself. I could not help but laugh, it was that ridiculous
I was thirsty, it was hot, I walked to a concessions stand to see the possibilities with this fresh memory of someone that made me feel pretty stupid about my original race. The Native ladies ceased their conversation, normal when a White comes into earshot, I noticed that and realized they would not know I was Indian. As I approached the stand, I did not have a joke in mind about my Whiteman appearance but being Indian, it had to pop out
The only refreshments on sale were all sugar laced poisons, generic colas and other pop, and I did not want any of that. I ordered what I figured was least sugar poisonous, a snowcone. The (quite pretty, actually) young woman dutifully scooped the crushed ice into the paper cone and then turned to face me and asked “Which color?” (sugar syrup, red, blue, green or yellow)
I asked “Can I have it just as it is?”
She seemed surprised “No color?”
I replied with the perfect musical reservation inflection: “We can just call it a honky snow-cone.”
She looked down at the cone of pure white ice she was holding for me with a dumbfounded expression and the other girls broke out in involuntary laughter but quickly recovered their straight faces and gave this what looked like a Whiteman with perfect Native expression a suspicious look (wondering for a brief moment what had happened, is it safe?) but I had got them
She broke out in a gentle and wry, but friendly smile as she handed me the little cone of ice and took my money.. as I said quietly “I am diabetic” and she replied while now smiling in a truly sweet way and with genuinely friendly voice, also quietly, “Thank you.”
That “Thank you” stated more than the outsider would ever imagine. Indians don’t typically say thank you except in heartfelt circumstance. It was ‘Thank you for being genuine’ and ‘I recognize now you are Indian’, and it was ‘Thank you for the joke and bringing a great laugh into our day.’
Who Framed Melvin Bunny?
Because men are men (yes, in Native America as well) and because the culture is breaking down and becoming western, the humor is becoming ever more dangerous, as it must, to serve keeping the culture honest
So, to another real life Indian story. I hate to do this to my old friend Melvin Running Rabbit (his Indian nickname is Melvin Bunny) but here is how it is in Indian country today. It is a story about accountability
Melvin (if he is still alive) is a really good guy but he had a blind spot. He never looked at the possible consequences of those times he occasionally ran with the wrong crowd when he liked to go out of town to indulge in a really good Indian drinking binge, and those can be pretty stupendous events. I had checked it out for myself on a couple of occasions, any damn thing can happen, it is crazy to drink with Indians or, better said, when Indians drink, crazy things happen, like waking up from passed out with only one braid, the other having been cut off. Melvin was destined to a bigger joke. The Indian joke that backfired, but as the Indian world is not logical, neither are the consequences.
Melvin had, with several other Indians, drunk himself into the oblivion that seems required at these often extraordinary events, in a motel room in Great Falls, Montana, in the 1990s. There was a popular animated video out at the time: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”
As it happens, there was one late arrival to this drinking binge who did not pass out to the typically near comatose condition and he was feeling a bit hard, or hard up. So he pulled the pants off of a passed out woman, used her like an ultra-conservative Republican on viagra would use a plastic blow-up doll for sex and then he had an idea for a joke. He pulled the passed out Melvin’s pants down and dragged him on top of the passed out woman he had just squirted full of his stuff, and left. That was a bad joke, but it gets better
If he had not done that second part of his criminal act, but rather had pulled the woman’s pants back up instead, he likely would have gotten away with the rape, because every Indian woman that attends these binges knows the risk, it has happened many a time and is often the joke story of the modern Indian drunks. She likely would have been disgusted with herself, having discovering what had happened to her, taken responsibility for being there and let go of it. End of story
But as fate would have it, along comes a family member looking for her and stumbles on the passed out old guy, Melvin, lying on top of the much younger woman, both with pants down. He called the cops and Melvin went to jail and was charged with rape
Melvin professed his innocence at his arraignment, the Indian humor telegraph was working hard on the story, supposedly in his cell Melvin was given a Viagra pill, a playboy magazine and a paper cup, to get his DNA and the subsequent big story on the Indian humor telegraph was:
“Who Framed Melvin Bunny?”
Napi Eats His Butt
I close this essay with a story of the proverbial trickster, our Napi. There were many stories of Napi holding philosophical conversations with his rectum, and this is where typically the Napi stories become really dangerous. If you can understand this story, then you will have a good idea of how to see where human nature has gone wrong in the Whiteman. Because this is the Indian story of the Evangelical Whiteman, the Whitemen we have met in Andrew Jackson and George Bush. It is about the Whiteman that rules America today. It is about corporate America and nacissism in the extreme. It is about narcissistic men like Barack Obama. It is about a man that does not learn from his mistakes. It is about a man that does not put two and two together concerning the consequences of his actions. It is about a man that does not understand his relationship to essential functions in nature necessary to his survival. It is about a man that does not pay attention or listen. It is about a narcissistic man so full of himself, he lies to himself about others good intentions. It is a story about how not to live your life. And perhaps most of all, it is a story about recycling old and failed ideas. The name of this story is “Napi Eats His Butt.” The story is told by Napi’s asshole, Penucquem, and it goes like this:
Napi had been to a great feast with his brothers. He returned to his camp very full of food and tired. Napi curled up to sleep by his fire, and you know where a dog’s nose is when he curls up to sleep!
Spuurrpp! Napi farted and it woke him up, his eyes were watering. Napi said aloud ‘Well, that was really rude’ and curled back to sleep…
Spuurrpp! Napi’s head popped up again, irritated, Napi shouted at his rectum: ‘Penucquem! If you won’t let me sleep, I am going to teach you a lesson!’ Napi curled up again.
Spuurrpp! That really did it. Jumping up, Napi grabbed up Tail, out of harms way, and sat on his campfire to get even with Penucquem. “Yii! Yii!” Napi really took off, like only a hurt dog does, and this started him on his travels.
Napi moved for a long time, he was thinking of how Penucquem had bit him really hard when he had tried to punish him, he didn’t understand how his asshole could do that to him while pushed down on the fire. It was Penucquem that should have cried out and ran away.
So Napi kept moving and thinking, he was traveling a long time in a big circle…
Napi walked and thought about it for so long that finally the large scab fell off of his rectum and still walking in a circle, he came across the scab and said “What do you know! Dry Meat!” Napi was getting hungry again about this time and he was happy to have found the dried meat some Indian had lost.
The Magpies shouted out to him “Napi! Don’t eat that! It fell off of your rectum!” Napi shouted back to the Magpies “You’re not fooling me, you just want this dry meat for yourselves!”
And then very delicately because there was not much of it, and with a lot of savor because he was hungry, and very deliberately, so the Magpies would envy him while watching, nip by nip, Napi ate his butt.
“Hun Neow Wah Nee Moo Oosss” (This is what your ass has to say)
The best part of the story about Napi eating his butt is, it was just such a good story I couldn’t help myself, I stole it from the Crees. I stole it from Wee-say-kay-cha (the Cree trickster) and gave it to our Napi. It’s a Blackfoot story now-
“Two Medicine Men, both teachers, visited the big city and took in a service at the cathedral. Returning home, they took their Indian students on a journey of ‘Discovery.’
“First, they killed the nicest kid in the group and told the rest it was their fault for being born. But now, if they would eat the nice kid and drink his blood, calling it communion, they would not be held responsible for anything, ever.
“And this conferred upon them the right to tell other people how to live their lives- what they can and cannot do” –Penucquem’s Journal
Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories