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WOUNDED CHEVY AT WOUNDED KNEE / Diana Hume George —Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation, July 1989 //TF YOU BREAK DOWN on that reservation, your car belongs X to the Indians. They don't like white people out there." This was our amiable motel proprietor in Custer, South Dakota, who asked where we were headed and then propped a conspiratorial white elbow on the counter and said we'd better make sure our vehicle was in good shape. To get to Wounded Knee, site of the last cavalry massacre of the Lakota in 1890 and of more recent confrontations between the FBI and the American Indian Movement, you take a road out of Pine Ridge on the Lakota Reservation and go about eight miles. If you weren't watching for it you could miss it, because nothing is there but a hUl, a painted board explaining what happened, a tiny church, and a cemetery. The motel man told us stories about his trucking times, when by day his gas stops were friendly, but by night groups of Indian men who'd been drinking used to circle his truck looking for something to steal—or so he assumed. He began carrying a .357 Magnum with him "just in case." Once he took his wife out to Pine Ridge. "She broke out in hives before we even got there." And when they were stopped on the roadside and a reservation poUceman asked if they needed help, she was sure he was going to order her out of the car, steal it, and, I suppose, rape and scalp her whUe he was at it. As he told us these contradictory stories, he seemed to be unaware of the irony of warning us that the Indians would steal our car if they got a chance, and foUowing with a story about an Indian who tried to help them just in case they might be having trouble. He did make a distinction between the reservation toughs and the poUce. He wasn't a racist creep, but rather a basicaUy decent feUow whose view of the world was narrowly white. I briefly entertained the notion of staying a whUe, pouring another cup of coffee, and asking him a few questions that would make him The Missouri Review · 111 address the assumptions behind his Uttle sermon, but I really wanted to get on my way, and I knew he wasn't going to change his mind about Indians here in the middle of his Ufe in the middle of the Black HiUs. Mac and I exchanged a few rueful remarks about it whUe we drove. But we both knew that the real resistance to deaUng with Indian culture on these trips that have taken us through both Pueblo and Plains Indian territories hasn't come from outside of our car or our minds, but rather from within them. More specificaUy, from within me. For years Mac has read about the Plains Indians with real attentiveness, and with an openness to learning what he can about the indigenous peoples of North America. He reads histories, biographies, novels, and essays, thinks carefuUy about the issues involved, remembers what he has read, informs himself with curiosity and respect about tribes that have occupied the areas we visit. For a couple of years he urged me toward these materials, many of which have been visible around our home for years: Black Elk Speaks, In a Sacred Manner We Live, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, studies of Indian spiritual and cultural Ufe. WhUe we were in Lakota country this time, he was reading Mari Sandoz' biography of Crazy Horse. But he has long since given up on getting me to pay sustained attention to these rich materials, because my resistance has been firm and long-standing. I am probably better informed about Indian Ufe than most Americans ever thought of being, but not informed enough for a thoughtful reader and writer. My resistance has taken the form of a mixture of pride and contempt: pride that I already know more than these books can teU me, and contempt for the white liberal-inteUectual's romance with aU things Indian. But my position has been...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 111-124
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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