The Art of Becoming More by john blackbird
This past weekend I travelled to the 9th Westerwald Pow wow in Lahnstein, Germany. As I walked from the parking lot to the entrance of the Stadthalle, I was met by a guy, an older gentlemen.
This guy says "Hi, are you a really Indianer?"
I nod, smile and say "Ya."
This guy then points to the Stadthalle, and asks me "You go to this sheisse?"
I nod and say "Ya, gonna go check this out. You coming in?"
He makes a finger slicing across his throat motion.
"These people," he continues, "know nossing."
"No. The real situation of the really Indians ist nossing they know of."
"You saw the real situation?"
"Yeah, I didn't just travel there and visit like these people here. I lived there."
"Ah, I have some friends there."
"Yes beautiful land. My wife and I lost our first house in a tornado there."
He smiles, then a moment later:
"20 years ago I lived there first. I travelled all over the States, Texas, California, Wisonsin. And I saw the real Pow wows too."
"What did you think of the real Pow wows?"
"Nice," he only says.
He wants to get to the really situation. I look around, hoping to see someone.
"But the Pow wows is not the really situation of the Indians, I was there, I saw how zey lived."
I nod and wait for the clincher.
"They are poor, they live with 10-15 people in one house. The house is dirty, with holes in the walls and they're always drunk."
I think, okay, I wanna go inside now.
He's not done.
"And at the front of their reserve is a casino." He shakes his head.
Yup, I wanna go inside. I pretend to see someone I know. I wave, turn to say "There's the organizer."
The guy nods, looks to see who I pointed at. I hear him say "See you later."
He is out there later. He spits into his cell-phone, maybe to his wife in Oklahoma. He's angry, he deliberately speaks up.
"These hobbyists they embarrass me, Germany and themselves. Pretenders!"
Someone on the other end of the line is patient, listens and has likely heard this rap before.
I think this guy should have come inside to the Lahnstein Stadthalle to see the Pow wow. Inside was Tdom Bah
(Kiowa), grammy nominated for the flute solos in The Last of the Mohicans. He would have heard David Redbird Baker (Ojibway), folk singer/songwriter sing Geronimo's Cadillac. He would've had the chance to browse various flyers in support of various Native causes, like Free Peltier and Big Mountain. He could've browsed a small library of Native books and Pow wow cds; also Native Jewellery and T-shirts by Ryan Burr (Mandan/Hidatsa) and Christian Bailor (Lakota). He would've had a chance to buy my DVD's Pow wow
If he would've made it inside, he would've heard the first ever European Pow wow Princess, Carolina Meyerova from Czech Republic, speak about what it meant for her earn this title.
"It means to be open to other people, regardless of their roots, and who they are. Even if you don't agree, you can still honour their spirits by listening to them."
Considering what she said, I thought about this guy outside. This guy who spoke to me about the Indians, how they lived. He spoke as though what he would say to me would make me a better person. To him I was still an Indian, from over there, who lived like he said.
Then he was suddenly one of those guys discovering America, the New World, for the first time. He crossed the Big Water, travelled west and circled his wagons. Had he instead travelled with the wind in his hair, he might've met people like my Aunt and Uncle who recently celebrated 50 years together. He might've also met someone like my cousin, who said after 20 years with the love of his life, "love becomes more."
This hobbyist sheisse, as he liked to repeat, is taken seriously. Serious enough to warrant a Pow wow princess; serious enough to have a 500 euro top prize to the top men's traditional dancer.
I overheard a grass dancer, wishing that he was in North America, so he could dance every weekend.
Pow wow is relatively young in Europe, 20 years approximately. Its interest wanes in some places, like the UK. In the spirit of Pow wow, we Indians sometimes travel 15 hours for a weekend. The Centerland Singers from London, UK, travelled this distance to sing and dance, and all in the spirit of becoming more.
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