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(page 37 of 93)

A Different Kind of Indian
Fiction by John Biggs
Part 1 of 2
Previous (page 36)  |  Return to Contents  |  Next (page 38)

A Different Kind of Indian
Fiction by John Biggs
Part 1 of 2

(page 37 of 93)

Keywords: eleventh transmission, poetry, fiction, photography, visual art, spoken word, film, socially engaged,
political, human experience, writing, satire, photojournalism, activist art, activism, socially conscious, art

A Different Kind of Indian

by John Biggs

Some kids sell tacos after school. I make arrows. Four of them a day,
because that’s a sacred number. I haft them to shafts of white aspen
harvested from the spirit-mountains somewhere in Montana. I fletch
the shafts with wing feathers of the red-backed hawk—that’s Crazy
Horse’s spirit bird. Mom sells them for a hundred bucks apiece on the

The flint is real, but everything else is as phony as my website name.
In cyber-space I’m Joseph Little Wolf, a cool old dude whose great-
great grandpa was the Cheyenne Chief who kicked Custer’s butt.

Joseph Little Wolf doesn’t care about things like making friends or why
girls don’t seem to like him. He’s too busy selling
Authentic Cheyenne
Medicine Arrows
so he can pay for Authentic Native American
, like freeing Leonard Peltier and tearing the white presidents
off of Mount Rushmore. I don’t mind being Joseph Little Wolf. It’s
better than being Joseph Beaver. That’s who I am everywhere but

Mom says taking the white man’s money is an act of revolution. She
says I’m a cyber warrior, even if I am a fifteen-year-old Choctaw kid
instead of a grown up Northern Cheyenne.

“It’s Karma, Joseph.” Mom talks about Karma a lot.

Karma is how the Choctaw will get everything we’ve lost. Our land. Our

Authentic Cheyenne Medicine Arrow at a time.” Mom says it
might take a while.

Mom says the white man’s world is falling apart and pretty soon
America will belong to us again. She’s not talking Ghost Dances or
bulletproof shirts like the Indians at Wounded Knee. We’re Choctaw,
after all, one of the Civilized Tribes.

“It’s the riots,” she says. “The power failures, the strikes, the murders.”

In the old days the cowboys always won. They had the most guns and
the cavalry. They’ve still got the most guns, and now they have
armored cars and tanks and airplanes instead of horses.

“The Indians are winning quietly,” Mom says. “It’s our way.”

“We’re used to cars that don’t start,” she says. “We don’t fly in
airplanes or ride in tanks.” She says Indians can get by without
electricity, and gasoline, and all those things that are going to quit
working pretty soon. Mom’s been talking about Indian ways ever since
we moved to Oklahoma City so she could be with her girlfriend Chris.

That’s something I’ve learned to quiet about. Cowboys hate lesbians
even more than Indians.

Mom says, “Indians win plenty, but we don’t brag about it, so no one

I tell her, “Quiet’s kind of lonely.” Sometimes those feelings just slip

She says, “It won’t be forever. Things will change when the time is

“Karma” Mom says. “It’s another Indian thing, but a different kind of
Indian entirely.”

Old time Choctaw blended into grass and trees like rabbits and white
tailed deer. Three steps into the woods and we were one extra tree in
a forest that went on forever.

In the city we blend into crowds. Not the tallest, or the shortest, or the
best dressed, or the worst. Someone is always first to be noticed.
Someone is always last. Invisible people aren’t noticed at all. Eyes
skate over us and land on someone prettier, uglier, more unusual.

One more Choctaw is never noticed if he stays in the shadows of
important people where everyone’s attention naturally goes.

An invisible Choctaw can walk through a crowd without anyone
noticing. He can watch the prettiest girl in high school from a few feet
away and she won’t complain to her boyfriend that, “Some Indian kid
is stalking me.”

But that’s really difficult, because girls are harder to sneak up on than
buffalo. Girls are the most observant creatures in the world, except for
Mom, who never notices how miserable I’ve been since we moved to
Oklahoma City.   

The lunchroom is an easy place to go invisible, because everybody
there is either looking at their food or talking with friends who have to
listen because their mouths are full.

No one in the cafeteria uses an inside voice, and everybody has a lot
to say. People cheer when a glass breaks or a tray hits the floor. The
place is so noisy I don’t have to take careful steps or avoid accidental
bumps. Anyone can go invisible in a lunchroom, but it takes a real
Indian to infiltrate the athlete’s table.

The most important jocks leave the campus for lunch, but the second-
string players all sit together. Each talks louder and nastier than the
next to see if anyone notices. Of course everyone does.

I move among them smoothly and suddenly at the same time. No one
knows what to expect, so after a while they give up trying. Pretty soon
I’m at the table where the jocks are playing who can boast the loudest.
No one notices when I sit down. Almost like I’ve been invited.

If they were catfish, I could noodle them out of their muddy hiding
places. If they were deer, I could smoke their meat and feed my two
mothers for a month. They aren’t any of those interesting things. They
talk about girls, but the things they say don’t help me and I lose my

The second string quarterback says, “Get lost Chief Red Cloud.”

The other jock’s laugh at that, even though Red Cloud was an Oglala
Sioux and not the tiniest bit Choctaw. I don’t tell them, because I’m
busy drifting on the wind again, going invisible so fast they barely see
me leave.

White people have this thing about eye contact, and talking all the time.
They don’t understand how hard it is to stand up under the weight of a
steady gaze, how difficult it is to breath air that’s thick with words.
White people think you’re lying when you look at your feet. They think
you’re stupid if you shut up for a minute. It’s hard for a Choctaw boy
to fit in.

I watch the popular kids and imitate them in front of the full-length
mirror in my room. Over and over, until I’ve almost got it. White means
you’re the center of attention. Exactly the opposite of being Joseph
Little Wolf. That should be easy for a smart Choctaw boy who’s only
Joseph Little Wolf when he’s making arrows.

The Internet has lots of tips on making friends.

Introduce yourself.

I figure out a little too late, the P.E. shower room is not the place for
that one. White boys scream while they are getting wet, like they’re
emptying out all of the dirty stuff inside. Soap and steam, like a
warrior cleansing his spirit before going off to battle. I think maybe
I’m beginning to understand, but then the naked dancing starts and the
towel popping and genital grabbing and loud talk about blowjobs and
anal sex and queers. Everyone’s an expert but me.

It’s hard to be an Indian when you’re naked and unarmed, a good
place to go invisible, but I’ve made up my mind to change my ways. I
try my friendship skills on a black boy first. He’s an oppressed minority
too, so maybe he’ll understand if I don’t get it exactly right. He doesn’t
look at me when I say hello the first time, and I wonder if he has a little
Indian blood.

“Hello.” This time I say it in my loudest, least invisible voice. I stick my
hand out in the white businessman shake position, and then I
remember black boys have a special way of doing this.

I can’t back out now, because the locker room is suddenly quiet and
everybody looks at me and the black boy. My eye contact is perfect—
strong, aggressive, a little bit dangerous. My hand is out, the fingers
wiggling the way they would if I was sneaking up on a sleeping catfish.

“My name is Joseph Beaver.”  My voice hardly quavers, but it’s the
only sound in the room. Dead silence for a dozen heart beats, then
everybody starts laughing all at once.

Except for me.

The black boy says, “Pussy name.” He doesn’t shake my hand. He
claps both of his instead and does a little dance while everybody else
in the room shouts, “Pussy name! Pussy name!” so loud it makes the
lockers rattle.

I don’t know what to do, because nobody is getting dressed and there
are so many enemy eyes turned toward me that I wonder how long it
will be till some one goes looking for a rope.

The mostly naked boys form a circle with me at the center. Their faces
look like the faces of the rioters on TV who break store windows and
set fires when the electricity goes out. Mom says that’s how the white
man’s world will fall, but right now it looks like it is going to fall on top
of a Choctaw boy who is trying to make friends.

Before that happens, the coach pushes through the door. He yells at
everybody in general, but the only one he’s looking at is me. One
more enemy, but not the kind who’ll kill me. The Internet doesn’t tell
you things like this can happen when you introduce yourself.

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