Baxter Black: Part Indian

Cutter said to me, “I’m part Indian.”

I’ve heard that statement so many times from gringos that I’ve concluded I’m probably the only white man in North America who can’t claim to be part Indian!

But when you think about it, that’s a pretty positive comment on the improving race relations in our country. White men in the early part of this century did not brag about being part Indian. It also appears that Indians are having a renewed sense of ethnic pride. That’s a good thing.

I can understand the indignation regarding Columbus Day, although I’m not in favor of changing it. The battle’s over. Columbus won. And I question their objection to professional sport teams names like the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Redlegs. Personally, I think it’s silly. But, I guess there’s a pen rider somewhere who takes offense at the naming of the Dallas Cowboys. I do believe Indians are entitled to the extras they receive in their reservation treaties, like fishing rights and tax breaks.

Most of the Indians that I know personally are cowboys. Just regular people with families and horse trailers, jobs and a little cow savvy. They live in places like Farmington, Winner, Ft. Belknap or Pawhuska. They go to rodeos, haul hay, attend high school basketball games, vote, go to church, shop at Wal Mart and saw Dances with Wolves.

Yet many urban citizens have no contact with reservation Indians. Therefore they depend on childhood Hollywood memories and the stereotypes created. Sometimes we embarrass ourselves.

Flint is a Scottsdale Comanche. He looks like ‘heads’ on a buffalo nickel! He dresses regularly in elaborate Indian regalia. His job, he says, is to look good. And he sure does!

So he attracts attention like a peacock in a patch of sandhill cranes! He tells the story of a tourist who spotted him in a restaurant and asked him to pose for a photograph with his wife and kids. Flint obliged. The man took the picture then left without introducing himself or asking Flint’s name. Flint caught him and asked if he could take a picture of him and his family. The tourist was suspicious. “You don’t even know me,” he said. “Why do you want my picture?”

Flint said, “Well, you don’t know me. Why did you want a photo of me?”

“You’re an Indian,” replied the tourist as if that explained everything.

Flint told the baffled tourist that in his house he had pictures of family and friends hangin’ all over, but they’re all Indians! He wanted a picture of at least one white man hangin’ on the wall!

By the way, I asked Bill, who is half and half, if Indians bragged about bein’ part white. Not really, he said.