The story of the Cheyenne without feathers | Culture

The story of the Cheyenne without feathers | Culture


For a long time there have been no redskins, no pipes of peace, no rewards for cutting Indian hair to the glory of cowboys or rangers intrepid who boast of it in the saloonsAnd yet, the story of the American Indians, of their history of defeat, assimilation and survival, is still marked by the voice of the whites, the victors: from John Wayne shooting them to Kevin Costner saving them. Thanksgiving Day, which brings together American families around a legend of unity between settlers and Indians, hid a reality of killings, poisonings and even games with rolling heads of pequots, for example, that in Manhattan people kicked through the streets "like soccer balls". Other heads were displayed in jars, strung on pikes, turned into spectacles for which they had to pay and, until the end of the seventies, the head of an Indian with feathers was the image on the target of a letter of adjustment in the televisions from the USA

Tommy Orange, author of 'Neither here nor there'.
Tommy Orange, author of 'Neither here nor there'.

It tells Tommy Orange, a Cheyenne Indian born in Oakland (California) in 1982, which has become best seller and finalist of the Booker Prize his first novel, a searing portrait of contemporary Indians. Neither here nor there (AdN) is a rabid, fast and contemporary book where those scenes of ancient repression are summarized in the prologue. The rest is a rock sculpted from the reality of the urban Indians under a new repression, that of their addictions, their holes and their uprooting consubstantial with their history of forced assimilation. 70% of the 2.4 million Native Americans live in cities and Orange has chosen 12 of them to describe a truth not at all self-indulgent. There is no epic or more or less folkloric reservations of Indians, but citizens converted into cannon fodder. Orange has proposed to provide an Indian account of Indian history, and this is the result.

"Our own surnames were imposed on us, we only had names," says Orange on Skype. "We have heard many stories from mine." It could have come from the orange color of the sky or from the name of the military company that overcame them, but the Orange saga was forged in the south of the country after the Sand Creek massacre (1864), which stampeded the Cheyenne and Arapajós tribes. Many left for Canada, Montana and Wyoming. Others (like their father's ancestors) stayed in the Oklahoma reservations, they are the southern Cheyennes. "And that is my official enlistment, I am a member of the Cheyennes of the South and of the nation of Cheyennes and Arapajós." "Every Indian needs to know his tribe and his affiliation, and that is mine."

Orange naked in his book the turbulent imbalance of identity, inheritance of forced assimilation. "The repression is still going on. In each era it takes different forms, there are no cowboys pursuing us to get a reward for our hair, it is not so exciting, but it is there. We have the highest suicide rate, the shortest life expectancy in the country, we have dead and missing women all over the US. " Therefore, for him to be an Indian is precisely to tell what it means to be an Indian: not to put the emphasis on the topics of poverty, violence or depressions just because they are a people who want to harm themselves, but in their capacity as children of uprooting, oppression and assimilation.

"They took us out of the way and reduced us to a picture with feathers," says Orange. He is an active member of his tribes, instructs other natives, has participated in the powwows (Intertribal festivals that congregate Indians) and is determined to contribute to a new story about their nation. "My interest is not that of a hobby. Going back to understand what we were is part of the Indian experience: identity and authenticity is the big issue. "

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