By Drew Hayden Taylor
Originally published in December 2013
Why is it always the Lakota? Personally I have nothing against the Lakota. I have met many in my travels and they all seem cool and great people. Was it that memorable showdown with Custer back in 1876 that made them so popular, or the more recent movie “Dances With Wolves” perhaps? It seems they have a better publicist than most nations.
Before I continue my rant, perhaps some context is in order. Just recently I returned from a trip to Spain. My novel, “Motorcycles And Sweetgrass” was translated into Spanish and I was there for the launch and a small publicity tour.
At one event in the town of Alicante near the Mediterranean, there was a gentleman quietly waiting in the audience for my reading/interview. He had contacted my publisher a week before, having seen some of the publicity, to say that he was going to try and be there.
The guy, who had hitchhiked 10 hours to attend, was wearing jeans, a t-shirt with a simple unadorned open vest. Over his shoulder he wore a leather bag with fur trimming. Add to this an impressive bone choker around his neck.
His long hair was tied off in the back with a feather and beaded hair clip. He looked very Native. In fact, when he arrived at the book store before me, the translator thought he was me. In truth, not a drop of Native blood flowed in him. Pure Spanish. Didn’t even speak a word of English. And then I showed up, in dress pants, a nice shirt, short blondish hair, and blue eyes. Once again, I disappointed an audience in Europe.
This guy was what I called a Fandian – a fan of Indian (or more correctly, First Nations) culture. There are lots of them out there scattered across the globe. And frequently they know more about us than we do.
Over the years I have lectured all across that far off continent, in particular, in Germany. It’s no secret how fond and obsessed many Germans are with Native culture.
There are clubs that embrace various Native customs and practices. They have powwows. A few live in tipis. I have come across various stores in many different German towns that sell only Native jewelry, pottery, dreamcatchers/medicine wheels, cuisine, etc.
In one way it’s quite flattering. In another way, the romanticizing can get quite annoying. It’s hard describing the thrill of hunting buffalo bareback when you live in central Ontario in a brick bungalow and have led a primarily horse-free existence.
And the Lakota, for whatever reason, have an especially proud place in Fandian hearts.
Once when I was directing a documentary on William Commanda and his Gathering of All Nations in Kitigan zibi, Que., I met and interviewed many people from all over the world, including these three people (two white women, one Black guy) from New York City, who said they followed the Lakota spiritual path, holding their ceremonies in Central Park. It takes all kinds of people, I suppose.
And now, unexpectedly, this guy in Spain. He told me he and a group of followers call themselves the Clan of the Wolf or Clan Del Lobo, and live up in northern Spain. They have opted to embrace the Lakota lifestyle. Their Web site is amazing… though obviously I could not read it. But it’s very pretty.
And this gentleman’s dream, and quite probably many of his associates, is to visit the Lakotas next year and live with them.
I asked him how he planned to do this without speaking any English. He didn’t think it would be much of a problem. “We will find a way” I believe was his translated response. Well, that should be an interesting experience for both parties.
I am not even sure if this guy has ever even heard of the Ojibway/Anishnawbe. Yes, we weren’t at Little Big Horn… there was a baseball tournament that weekend. And you know Ojibways and baseball.
Instead of “Dances With Wolves,” we had “Dance Me Outside.” Though the original story dealt with the Plains Cree (as filtered through a White guy’s perception), the movie and subsequent series was shot in Ontario. Dancing is dancing….
So I ended up telling this guy about great Ojibway places and things like Head Smashed In Raccoon Jump and the great battle of Sciatica (not to be confused with Wounded Knee).
I know. I’m bad.