The Red Track
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Page translated the 12th October 2003
Tribute to my sioux friends
Inscription of Buddy Red Bow to this website's author.
The truth about Native Indians.
Meeting with a shaman.
Joseph Epes Brown.
I met in 1981 a remarkable sioux and a very handsome man: Francis White Bird, a recognized hero of the deplorable Vietnam war, that was also professor at Harvard and Senator. But he still liked, several months in the year, to live with his Irish wife in his Tepee. He invited me to see a "Dance facing the Sun", but I couldn't find the time to visit him.
He had himself took part in that danse and exposed scars showing how much it had been done thouroughly; in my opinion he is the perfect example of the indian that remained himself, and who feels comfortable everywhere. He was sober and proud of it, and had a powerful charisma : I saw him delivering a speech with an impressive eloquence to the Mayor and the notables of La Rochelle (France), town where he was invited.
That's how I learned that the sioux call the whites "Washichu" which means "meat thieves", because the first whites they saw were some starving French people that got into a camp to steal dried buffalo meat.
The following year, I decided to invite them to take part in a large french regional expo of which I was the manager, and for that I called the help of a passionate indianist: BS.
The result was the reconstitution la re-creation of a small sioux camp over 1 acre (4.000 m²), avec tous les accessories of their daily life of yore. There was there a lot of beautiful and authentical objects, and animations.
The sioux who came in delegation from Pine-Ridge learned the children - who loved that - to paint hteir faces themselves and what were the meanings of those paintings. They also made a wonderful craft industry. A certain Kevin Lock performed the hoop dance etc
The men were a big hit with the joung ladies, and I had a hell of a job to keep them present on the expo!
As many people I was surprised by their constant cheerfullness and their very subtle humor.
Their true nature had nothing to do with the stereotypical image of the proud and taciturn Indian.This image undoubtedly originates from the photos of them took in the XIXth century, where indeed they look that way.
I think it has two reasons :When most of those photos were taken, the tribes had just been defeated, and often deported: a long period of war and bereavement are bound to leave emotionnal scars.
On the other hand the rudimmentary technique demanded a very long exposure time. (Our great grand-parents photographed at the same period have they too this stuffy look.)
The fact remains that no other people has ever been so much studied by ethnologists, and despite this, the common idea we have of them, is completely wrong. They suffer from it, because they too watch Westerns at TV and know that our excuses to justify what we done to them are false.
These lies have become to the public an historical truth, yet in relation to my Indian friends, I have to re-establish - even briefly - the truth.
I was organizing a reception in honor of the sioux, it was there I really met them; reception to which was invited the upper crust of the town.
It was comical : the bourgeois came, in formal dress, to see Red Indians, that deep down they considered as savages.
The sioux, and especially Buddy Warfield Red Bow, came as Ambassadors of their people, ans so they put on their traditionnal ceremony clothes, and when Buddy, reaching the end of his thank you speech, invited the participants to sit on the sacred ground to make a prayer circle for Wakan Tanka (God), an acute uneasiness happened with the men in smoking and their wives in evening dress. I was horribly embarraced for the french as well as for the sioux !
I took that man aside and told him in a low voice : "Buddy, most of these people don't believe in God, and the are uneasy, please do something ".
Buddy very cooperative, asked me to go with him to his hotel, so I did, and when we came back he was dressed with Jeans and a T-shirt, wore a Stetson, and was holding a guitar. That's how the prayer evening was transformed into a recital of musics and songs of which he was the author and the performer! His amazing style was a mix of Country music and sioux tunes. Besides, he gave me afterwards a record he had released : Journey to the spirit world.
During the same evening we talked a lot together, this man was really a saint and a visionary.He told me how the Wicasa Wakan (clairvoyant-healers) of his people had "seen" the arrival of the horses - previously unknown - far at South, and the life changement that would result from it because theSioux didn't live in the Great Plains yet. How an expedition was sent to bring back those strange creatures the Sioux had never seen before. How the horses had been, not captured, but invited by the chants the danses and the prayer, to accompany the warriors to come live next to the Sioux.
He assured me that he had seen his grand father capturing a beautiful stallion that way, and seen the wild horse dansing to hte rythm of the drum and the chants of the grand-father. While he was telling me that, I was seeing the tears streaming on his cheeks. His emotion was contagious, the nostalgia of that life that I had known took over my soul, and I cried with him.
In this emotion Buddy gave me an eagle feather that came from his headgear. In the past adorned with a ermine, and the circle of life, this object was wonderful, but although now it has lost its splendor, it still remains for me the most precious object I "own". I share it with you, here it is:
That day, I felt how much their destiny was tragical.
I quote Joseph Epes Brown:
" If the Great Spirit always acts " by circles " , It also acts in another way "by quaternities" as indicate the spatial directions and the temporal cycles . That's why the Indian whose life takes place somewhat between the central point and the unlimited space, achieves the static things according to the circular or unitive principle, and the dynamic things - the actions - according to the quaternary principle, which means to the four cardinal virtues that for him are the courage, the patience, the generosity and the loyalty.
This deep structure of the indian life means that the red man doesn't intend to "settle" on this earth where everything, according to the stabilisation and condensation, not to say "petrification" laws, can "cristallize" at any moment; and this explains the aversion the indian has for houses, especially the stone ones, and also the absence of writing that, according to that point of view would "freeze" and "kill" the sacred flow of the spirit
That's why the Red Indian's sanctuary is everywhere; that's also why the land must stay intact, virgin, sacred as it came from the divine hands - because only the pure hands reflect the Eternal.
The indian is not "pantheistic" but he knows the world is mysteriously plunged in God what we just said will allow us to understand why nature - landscape, sky, stars, elements, wild animals are the necessary support of the Red Indians tradition, just like temples for other religions; all limitations imposed to nature by artificial, heavy, unmovable works- and imposed to man by his sujugation to these works - are then sacrileges, not to say "idolatrous", and bear the seeds of death ...
The Red Indians destiny is literally tragical: tragical is a situation with no solution that results, not of a fortuitous cause, but of the lethal clash of two principles.
This immense tragedy could be defined as the fight between not only a materialist and trader civilisation, and another chivalrous and spiritualist, but also between the city civlisation meaning ideas of "artifice" and "servility" - and the reign of Nature, considered as the majestuous, pure, unlimited clothing of the Divine Spirit. Yet the Nature, to which the Indian feels like the incarnation and that is at the same time his sanctuary, will end up by defeating this artificial and sacrilegious world, because it is the Clothing, the Breath, the Hand itself of the Great Spirit. "
Afterwards I often talked to Buddy and his friends. They bear no grudge against us, despite what our race did to them.
They thank God the Earth had been able to still remain beautiful in many places. If, it is true that in the reservations, many are alcoholic, we carry the responsability for that. We took their country, we cooped them up in lands we didn't want, have destroyed their way of life, we forbade them for a century to continue it, and to practise their religion. We snatched the families their children to send them to far away schools in which we taught them nothing besides: it were like prisons.
Moreover, it's curious to notice that the anglo-saxons in America kept willing to change the Indians into Whites, whereas they kept preventing the Blacks to become Whites!
It is curious to notice that the historical fight of the Indians was aimed at remaining Indians and save their way of life, while the Blacks' fight was aimed at getting the same social status the Whites had, whom they envied the way of life.
The Indians have compassion for us !
To see us so crazy makes them sad ! and if Kevin Lock made me remark how it was difficult for the sioux to adapt to the whites, who are changing all the time, it was with humour.
Some weblinks to Buddy who, unfortunately for us, is dead:http://www.nativeamericanmusic.com/hof/buddy.html
follow the red track: all the native indian articles and texts, itinerary of a state of mind... (click the teepee !)
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Updated September 1st, 2005