Everyone knows the Indian's existence is bleak.
In fact, there are people who have taken it upon themselves to speak for us; to let the universe know how we live, eat and think, but the Bumblebeeelder of the Black Eagle Child Nationthinks this sort of representation is repulsive. This past winter, after our car conked out in 80 below zero winds, we decided to pay him our yearly visit. Although part of it was done for amusement, we soon found out there were serious things in life to consider. The poem which follows was written without much revision. In fact, most of it was composed in his earth lodge. I can still remember the warmth of his antique woodstove, as well as the silence after he shut off his generator. He smiled at us as he accepted a carton of Marlboro cigarettes.
For listening and instructional purposes,
the Bumblebee confesses that he sleeps
with earphones attached to his apian body.
"As the crisp December wind makes the constellations
more visible, so too, are the senses. Our vision
and hearing benefits from this natural
purification. Hence, the earphones."
In a lethargic tone someone offers
the standard "so they say" answer.
But the old man is unaffected,
and he continues to animate
what is in his Winter Mind.
"Ever since the Stabs Back clan
made the decision to accept education
for the tribal reserve in the late 1800s
there has always been an economic
depression. And now, when the very land
we stand on could reverse this congenital
inequity, the force which placed us here
seeks to take back this land with force
disguised as sympathy."
From communal weatherization
to peyote songs, regional and world
affairs, his bilingual eloquence
made topical events old news.
Every other topic a prophecy come true.
After an incident in the Badlands
(on a roadside town noted for its
commercialized springwater) when
cinder rocks had been deliberately
placed in his foodsome of which
he had already ingestedhe no longer
believes trapping is limited to his kind.
"I distrust capsules to begin with, and now
I am wary of cooks who are able to look out
at customers from their greasy kitchens.
But aspirins are my salvation. Rural
physicians refuse to prescribe codeine
and Valium on the premise that we have no
reason to get headaches or depression."
We respond with an analogy:
if we were in Russia, the allotment
of vodka could not even begin to alleviate
our pain. Gravel is basically harmless,
but the message from the Badlands
restaurant is lucid.
Over pheasant omelettes and wine
he offers an explanation about his obsession
"It may seem a contradiction,
but those cassette tapes on the wall
are the intellectual freedom
of my progeny."
Everyone laughs at the subliminal
connection to the earphones
and where they are placed,
breaking the tension.
We are accustomed
to his condescending attitude,
but underneath our Transformation Masks
we respect the old man, Bumblebee,
for he has retained the ability to understand
traditional precepts and myths. Moreover,
he understands the need to oppose
"outside" mining interests.
As he lights the candle on the mirrored
sconce, he translates our thoughts.
"Adjusting and manipulating
the strings and pulleys
of the exterior/interior masks
requires work at all levels.
The best test is the supernatural:
how to maintain calmness during its
manifestation; to witness and experience it
as it simply is, rather than camouflage it through
In the gradual darkness our conversation
centers on Northern Lights:
celestial messengers in green atomic oxygen,
highlighted by redthe color of our impending
A hand-rolled cigarette begins
to glow from Bumblebee's lips.
Silhouetted against a white kitchen
cabinet, he rises from the sofa chair
and unfolds his transparent wings.
Just when we feel the motion of his wings
the candle goes out.
Before suggesting a drive in his pickup
to Lone Ranger to see the Helena Whiteskins
gamble in handgames with the Continental Dividers,
he reviews the strategy of the tripartite powers:
the Lynx claims Afganistan and Poland;
the Serpent feels threatened and cannot
choose sides. Having ravaged what he
can't ravage anymore, the Eagle
becomes vulnerable. Once the Three
(volcanic) Sisters in California,
Oregon and Washington decide
to speak, the Missouri River
will reroute itself.
Satellites are taking photographs
of our sacred minerals from space,
revealing what we can't see but know
"In time we'll become prosperous,
or else we'll become martyrs
protecting vast resources
of the Well-Off Man Mountains . . .
The force that placed us here
cannot be trusted."
Ray A. Young Bear, The Invisible Musician, Holy Cow! Press, 1996.