Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Indian Country Tourist

Mount Rushmore is located in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota. To the Native people of the area it must be vandalism of the highest order. It's a permanent reminder, not graffiti that can just be painted over. Not far from there is the much larger monument to Crazy Horse which had been under construction for years when he arrived at the visitor's center.

He had come to meet a Native writer who was doing a book signing at the center that day. Driving alone through the Badlands, visiting the cemetery at Wounded Knee, climbing Bear Butte
and meditating there had him feeling spiritual. He looked forward to the conversation he and the writer would have although he could not yet imagine it.

The sun was very hot in the middle of the afternoon. It was quiet except for the wind. There were only two or three cars in the parking lot of the visitors center. Someone was assessing Crazy Horse through binoculars. The writer was sitting alone at a table upstairs with a few books spread before him and a box or two under the table that he wouldn't need to open. He approached the table timidly, respectfully, and said hello. The writer responded with a one syllable "lo".

He paged through one of the books he hadn't yet read while trying to think of something to say and decided to purchase it. While the transaction was taking place,  he decided to tell the writer how much he'd enjoyed and taken from the two books he'd read. He told the writer about some of his own experiences as a white man in Indian country. The writer looked in his direction but not really at him. He could hear his own voice talking and wanted it to stop.

He told the writer it had been good to meet him. It was still just the two of them on the second floor of the visitor's center. He asked the writer, what lessons can the larger society learn from Native spirituality.

The writer said he didn't think it would learn anything from it.

Outside, the hot wind continued to blow.

That spiritual feeling was paired down to its essence now. Mild nausea. Vague ache.

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