I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna ask her when she gets here. Today I am going to finally ask that girl Wanda about her roots, you know where she comes from. I have been wanting to talk to her for some time now, but I didn’t want to scare her, but ya know what? I don’t care today. I’m tired of sitting here listening to her stories, she’s so angry, wants to fight the world that one. I have been sitting here week after week, listening to her stories, her opinions, her laugh, but I just want to reach out to her because she looks so sad when she tells her angry stories.
I think I know why I can’t answer his question. It’s because I hate the question. I hate it because of the conversation that ensues. A conversation that I don’t want to have. It makes it even worse that he himself is Indian asking me if I am. What? Are you kidding me? Can’t you see that I am! Is my hair not long enough, my cheekbones not prominent enough, my skin not brown enough?
Of course I was! But what disturbed me the most, was that he had to ask, as if making me quantify who I had been my whole life. Sure I could have just said yes. But when you say yes, you open the floodgates to more. There is not simple yes. Conversation over. It’s yes, what tribe. Yes it’s from Canada, haha, yes we are American Indians, and there is no border for u. It’s no I don’t speak the language, it’s no I don’t know what that word means, it’s no that’s Lakota so we’re not the same ,so our languages are different. It’s “really, how nice for you that your great-grandmother is or was a Sioux princess” It’s no, I’m not sure how you line up to the throne. It’ no my reservation doesn’t have a casino, haha; really we don’t all have one. No I’m not a diabetic and yes isn’t it terrible how there are all sorts of mascots named after Indians. It’s no, really, we’re not all dead. Yes, I played cowboys and Indians, but in my version there was no bad or good buy. Yes, my last name is Chichimon, yes is means big canoe. If I had to define myself, I guess I would call myself Indian, but how can this guy not see that ooze being Indian. Ok, so I don’t have the jewelry, the turquoise and silver, should I have a feather in my hair? What? What do I need to wear to appear at first glance Indian? Cowboy boots, jeans, some turquoise colored piece of clothing, a pearl button shirt with Pendleton jacket? What? Should I drink more, become more belligerent and swill whiskey, while I eat from my bucket of lard and commod cheese? You know I wish I could tell him that yes, trust me; I wish I could be the Indian of my dreams? The Indian in my dreams is perfect. You would know her from history books and romance novels, she or I mean, I would be a story of legend. I am an Indian Princess on my rez. Other people are always making that claim to me, so why couldn’t I? I am an Indian Princess. What would I have to prove?
Would you like to see my dance? My two-step? “Ya, ya, hey, ya…ya, ya, hey, ya...ya, ya, hey, ya…ya, ya, hey, ya.
Oh, you want me to speak? I would wow you with my long soliloquies in my native tongue. I would tell you how my father would tell me stories around the campfire when I was little. How for the longest time I would not going swimming when I could not see the bottom, out of fear of the “Mishipishu” who lurked in the dark waters.
I would share with you stories of how Nanabush, a god like creature came to be. I would tell you the story of re-creation and how the Kitchi Manitou, the Creator, in an effort to help ease Sky-Woman’s loneliness gave her the earth where she lived like a god and created the turtle island from the a tiny ball of mud collected from the depths of the oceans by the tiniest of creatures. I would tell you how she bore twins again, but this time; instead of destroying the world they completed one another. How each had “cheejauk” (a soul-spirit) and how they possessed “chibowmun” (an aura). These new people were called Anishnabeg. Beings made out of nothing, spontaneous beings. My people, the first people. The Anishnabeg. That is where I come from. But I can’t. I can’t tell you all that because that is not who I am.
I didn’t mean to make her cry. But I think she needed it. She still hasn’t answered my question. She looks like she’s fighting something inside but doesn’t know what. I hope the grandmothers will help her. I ordered her a drink because she said she wanted to know my life was like. My life is here. This stool at the corner bar, my back to the wall, a clear view of the front door. I watch as people walk in and out, letting the sun shine in. I left my family years ago because I had to. I couldn’t take looking into those faces anymore. My wife, my little girl. I was letting ‘em down. I had always told my little Nova that she could be whatever she wanted to be. She changed her mind like the seasons. She’s a smart one though. When she was little, she was always reading I hated going to the mall with her, because we would be in the bookstore for hours. I think she was hiding from me though. I’m not saying I wasn’t the best father in the world, but I could’ve been better. She did all these things at school. She played sports, she sang in the choir, or there was always a recital or show to go to. Back then, I couldn’t be bothered with that. I went, but I resented the shit out of it. I had to leave my friends and the bar to go to these damn things, and there were a lot. So I started carrying around a little flask with me, wherever I went. I made it to all her events; I just wasn’t the most sober one there. Don’t look at me like that; I know that some parents would’ve taken a swig had I offered. Those damn things are boring, there are only so many you could go to and just there and be quiet. I would stand up and cheer for her when she was done. I would whoop and holler her name. She was my little super Nova. She certainly blew my world up. I miss her. I miss her so much. That’s why I left. Even through my flask enduced happiness, I could see how much it hurt her. Sure her Dad was there, but was he really? I sat and talked to everyone around me, making sure they knew who my little girl was. I would talk loud and point and yell to her? When she was 10, that’s when I knew I had to go. We were at her district basketball game, she was running up and down the court and I stood in the bleachers, waving my camera in my hand for her to look my way so I could take a picture. “Nova, Nova this way” I need a picture to send to your grandma. But, by that time, my flask was empty and I was a little woozy. It was the middle of the game, her team was winning and I fell off the bleachers. She didn’t rush to me to see if I was ok. She just sat on the bench, trying to pretend she didn’t know me. That’s when I knew to make her life better, I had to leave. She’s a doctor now you know.