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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

At a dinner conversation with the Tribal Council Chair Greg Sarris and other folks from my university, someone commented that Bush should have made a statement about the shootings at Red Lake (he has since done so) the way Clinton was quick to make a comment about the Columbine shootings. To which Sarris said something like: Why should he? The Indians don't mean anything to him; he doesn't need Indian approval or votes.

Today, one of Time Magazine's online headlines is "The Devil in Red Lake." That was enough to pique my curiosity so I read the whole the essay. I do not remember if the media coverage of the Columbine shooters or the event itself ever mentioned that this was the work of the devil. I seem to recall sympathetic and unbelieving portrayals about two boys gone wrong in an otherwise "normal" white suburb. On the other hand, Jeff Weise of Red Lake, is characterized as just another casualty of rez life that is already full of depressed, alcoholic, and suicidal folks anyway. The Devil in Red Lake?

My students in Ethnic Literature read Sherman Alexie's The Toughest Indian in the World. In spite of the critical discussions in class, their response papers reveal that many of them still hold on to the view of Indians as the extreme "other" -- Indians are so "different" that the students are almost repulsed by the stories. Given that Alexie's tricksterism and storytelling can be confusing and provocative, what they are reacting to is very much a reflection of their unwillingness to shift the lens of normativity to something else that might open up their world to a whole other way of seeing.

So I was thinking of this as I read the Time essay. It almost makes me retch at how sick we, as a culture (of fear, anger, hostility), have become. Nothing surprised the Pomos I was with. They have known this all along. I should question my incredulity.

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