Monday, September 10, 2007

passing in america: image and identity

...if only this were more than just pretty words on a sticker...

You may have noticed by now that I am American, which means I am cooler than you. Despite what Americas' less than savory reputation worldwide might lead you to believe, however, we live much the same as you, benighted heathen reader from foreign parts, truly we do.
Each morning, after I've had my coffee and checked to see that all my millions of dollars are safe aboard my yacht, I load my handgun with fresh ammunition and go dump a barrel of crude oil out into the nearest creek, and..

-No, ha ha, actually I wander around in my kitchen like a lost soul until the caffeine kicks in, and then I go beat my slaves and wipe out another hundred or so chinese railroad workers who...

-No, that's a JOKE. Ha!

Actually, like everyone else in America, I am from somewhere else, but unlike most, I walked here from Mongolia. Well, I didn't really do this personally, but way way back there in my distant genetic past you'll find a bunch of little stubby red people with some nasty looking feet. I'se an Indian, y'all!

So. Every morning after I've tied Narcissa Whitman to the hot wood stove and scalped her, I don my feathered headdress...



I'll stop.

******************

I live in a town that has decided to enhance it's public image with the ambiance of the Old West. We have split rail fences along the main street, lots of wagon wheels scattered about, a large fiberglass 49'er panning for gallstones on the corner of Cherry and 3rd, and an abandoned Pakistani quick-mart.

The fact of the matter is, this area had a completely different look and feel back in those days, but it isn't one that the rest of the world (Canada, in this case) associates with 'The American Wild West' so we're stuck with a faux 'high desert' theme.

Perhaps this is better than the bleak, foggy 'Victorian era alcoholics and gutter French meet deeply resentful Pelagic-derived swamp-dwelling head-hunters' thing that was actually in place; I dunno. I think that could have been pretty cool if they'd done it right, myself.
...johnny depp is just out of frame here smoking opium. meanwhile bilbo baggins peels the living skin from chief lalooska inside that hut there upper right.


This was ostensibly a mining town, although the actual mining took place a few miles up the road. What they (the white folk) did here was drink to excess, scratch fleas, bang Nooksack 'tang, slog through the mud, and have huge garbage fires.

You dig down about a foot and a half anywhere inside the original city limits and you hit a layer of charred Victorian era garbage about 12 inches deep. This is how they raised the town above the flood plain back before the EPA...every year they'd burn the huge pile of accumulated trash at the edge of town, spread the ashes flat and plat another city block.

Anyway, we're stuck with the constipated 49'er and the false-fronted buildings. Could be worse, and by worse, I mean Leavenworth. At least I can go buy a short case of Miller without being having my earholes assaulted every noon by some fucking nut with an accordion who yodels....leavenworth...small town in the foothills of the cascades or strange time-space anomaly with yodelling?

A couple of miles down the road is Lynden. Lynden is under the mistaken impression that it is 1. Dutch, and that 2. People find this charming. Fifteen years ago the people who worked on the main street were required to wear comic opera Dutch attire, even the poor guy who worked in Schucks Auto Parts.
...everyone in Holland looks exactly like this. it's true. they do.

These days that shit is largely confined to a couple of restaurants, but the place is still heavy on the Flemish building details and the tulips. Although oddly enough, come spring you CANNOT BUY A FRICKEN' TULIP BULB IN LYNDEN. You might find a couple of wizened up old 'Darwin' bulbs in the grocery store and that's it. For tulips you have to drive 60 some-odd miles down to Mt. Vernon, which is Federal-era themed. You know, because of the whole 'Mt. Vernon' thing.

No, if you want to visit America you can either go to Glacier (Loggers, farmers, snow bunnies and 'boarders) or Everson (farmers, loggers, migrant workers.) Both of them are really nice little towns, and both of them are simply small rural communities with their own identity, content to let the inhabitants maintain some semblance of self-respect while they go about their business.

Between where I sit and Lynden there are approximately three NA reservations. As far as I know, they're all members of the Nooksack tribe, just different bands. I know next to nothing about them. At one point The Stainless Steel Amazon was going out with a kid from the Goshen Road res and he didn't even know anything about it. It strikes me as very odd.
Another thing that strikes me as odd, and also kind of funny, is that each year the Goshen Road band hold an open house, where they sell among other things, Indian dolls. These dolls are a huge hit with the local ladies of a certain age.

The crafter buys a 'Storybook' doll body, sometimes tinted, most times not. This body is then dressed in 'Indian' costume and sold for an outrageous sum, and sold by the metric boxcar load.
And all the dollies? Are wearing Cherokee costumes. Every one of them.
...woo woo indeed! interpreting the noble Cherokee warrior as only an Armenian girl from California can.

The Cherokee costume is the Native American garb popularized by the western movies of the past. Everyone associates Cherokee garb with Indians. Even other Indians. I mentioned this to one of the women one year. She was selling blonde dollies dressed in fringed hide and beads. She laughed. "I know, it's Midwest," she said

"...but when we dress 'em right nobody buys them."

In America, you pass on the left.

21 comments:

  1. strangely enough, it's the exact opposite here. i really don't know why, but every year, the choctaw tribes in philadelphia and natchez have fairs and stuff, and you won't find a single blonde in the bunch. they're super nice too.

    just by looking at me, it's impossible to tell my great-grandparents were full-blooded indians. i've got blue eyes, freckles, and pale skin that won't tan.

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  2. me too...i'm a mud, though-brown hair and eyes, kinda chinese looking but kinda german looking and 100% cracker. a lot of folks out here on the coast look like me, but i got the epicanthic fold and the flat features just to confuse things further.
    native pride is just burgeoning out this way. so far it consists of small fancydancing competitions and localized festivals that mr. ofay isn't really encouraged to take part in.

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  3. That was a great read, thanks!

    Hmmm, I've got fair skin, blue eyes and the odd freckle too! Maybe I'm NA!?!? That would explain...um...nothing.

    Although I'm quite jealous of the not growing a beard thing. I hate shaving. (or is that a myth?)

    Being German, I'm always amazed at the magnitude of the under-carpet-sweeping of the disenfranchizement and genocide of the NA at the hands of the Anglo-Saxon white europeans. They tend to quickly turn the page at that point in history class ('Murican edjumacational system). Should there not be some sort of Western Hemisphere Holocaust Memorial?

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  4. Fascinating stuff - I've learned something today!

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  5. rimshot: the men out here in the northwest grow long, wispy beards, the kind you see on Ainu people and Polynesian guys. i have a small moustache which I blame of having been raised catholic. what happened to the modigliani? i liked it!

    billy: real America, the one you never see portrayed in the media, is a very bizarre, funny and cool place, and it's because of the strange and wonderful creative solutions people have come up with in order to co-exist. i wish more was said on the SUCCESS of diversity here instead of the failures.

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  6. In all my 29 years in Mississippi, I hardly ever run across Native Americans...although the many counties in Mississippi derive/are Native American names.

    I mean, I pass Mexicans every day, but no Native Americans.

    We do have the Choctaw Indian Fair which is very popular in Mississippi.

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  7. "what happened to the modigliani? i liked it!"(blush) I didn't think anyone would notice.

    Then Modigliani it is (when I get home)!

    It's actual a photo of me Modiglianized courtesy of some software. It does Botticelli as well.

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  8. Ok, ok, ok, I know I would be a tourist but they don't fool me that easily. That can't be authentic! Mike has just stuck a ferret on his head while Sue has gone for the lampshade look (with matching bedspread).
    Over here in the land of your former imperialist masters, we all still wear suits of armour, you know? Mind you, that's more to do with the crime rate than tradition.

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  9. awaiting: oh, thy're there. they're sneaky like that. you probably have six or seven in your garage RIGHT NOW. go look quick!

    aw, not quick enough.

    'shot: oo, i am all over that. my daughter The Stainless Steel Amazon is all about the Botticelli!!

    Reg: I'm waaaaay ahead of you, Reggie me lad.

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  10. Actually, aren't most Mexicans descended from Native Americans? I mean, yo, who were the conquistadores killing and raping, anyway?

    You are really on a roll, lately, FN, aren't you?

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  11. danator: you go back far enough, everyone in the americas is supposed to have walked over from mongolia. which is probably why the bering land bridge is underwater now because thats a shitload of foot traffic, yo. between them and people washing up from Atlantis and Mu and Lemuria and shit it's a wonder we have any real estate left at all.

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  12. FN,

    That was brilliant!! One of the funniest things I've read in ages (hope that doesn't sound patronising - see, I'm being English and apologising before I'm told I'm an arse!)
    I shall print that off and show it to my fellow peasant chums tomorrow - once I've cleared out the plague dead from my hovel and then poached a wild boar from Big Q's forest.

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  13. reg: omg! be secret! peasants are NOT SUPPOSED TO READ! they could get their heads cut off and then there would be a war!

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  14. OK, so if I want to pop across the line from Vancouver I need one o' them thar travel ticket things? Or can I just go straight to Lynden if I wear a Dutch cap?

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  15. FN: Here ya go, have at it with all the photos you like. I've found that the bigger (while slower) the better.

    http://morph.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk//Transformer/

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  16. Lmao....I just read the post on 'the English' and I have to say it was pure genius.....I'm still laughing. I also liked the description of Scotland (being I'm Scottish) and yes, the sound of bagpipes does make the sheep sad...but you should see the effect it has on the Haggis!!!!!!

    I loved this post and I adored that post.....pure dead brilliant!!!!!
    x

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  17. Spatter spatter spatter! They the leaves. Not the leaves. They the waterfall liquid drops rumble...

    Man bug parent female?

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  18. Half-breed, that's all I ever heard
    Half-breed, how I learned to hate the word
    Half-breed, she's no good they warned
    Both sides were against me since the day I was born.

    Now I can't get that song out of my head. Damn you and your Cher pic!

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  19. I havnt got time to read at the moment , I have to run off and do something unpleasant with two tins of chick peas and a packet of rocket.....
    It will all end in a violent attack of the squirts with value added pebble dashing
    I HATE THIS HEALTHY EATING MULARKEY

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  20. dinahmow: if that's all you wear, yeah; probably.

    'shot: thanks! it's on it's way to the Amazon!

    pumpkin: i copied the picture of queen elizabeth from my coloring book. plus i made up some.

    mutaidong: and a hearty 'Gung hay fat choy' to you too, steam dumpling boil have small pork!


    mj: OOOOOOOOH, GYP-SEEEEES, TRAMPS AND THIEVES! i heard it from the people in the towns, they called us GYP-SEEEEEES, TRAMPS AND THIEVES!
    ...but ever naaaaaght all th' men 'ud come arooooooon....
    ...an lay they mownay daooooooown.....

    beast: come back here! i have to sew your pants up! they're falling....um.

    oh, nothing. never mind. did i say-? no, no no no. nothings wrong.

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  21. I'm half an injun, didja know that? Huh? eh? Spent my childhood in the gospel hall and on the trap line.I can skin a mink and recite half the bible. And I swallow.

    rock

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