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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Custer Died For Your Sins

Floyd Red Crow Westerman - Custer Died For Your Sins
He is probably best known for his role in Oliver Stone's Doors movie where he plays the - surprise, surprise - Indian Chief, but he was actually an Indian political activist, poet and singer.

I got frustrated with the progress in my latest French book so I got myself a rail-thin pocket book from the library here and read it through in two days. Only problem, it wasn't all that great. The book is entitled The Last of the Indian Wars and was written by Forbes Parkhill. It describes the tragic story of the American Indian (to quote Johnny Cash), specifically this deals with a group of Utes living in the Four Corner's area. One of them Tse-quit (Man-Who-Never-Cries) is accused of having murdered and robbed a Mexican shepherd. It is never satisfactorily answered whether this accusation is true or not, but the white settlers of the area seize the opportunity to chase all Indians from the desirable lands which they had occupied before. This in itself is of course nothing new, has actually occurred over and over again, even the methods employed (massacring everyone involved including women and children) do not surprise. What is striking about this event is really only the date. It all took place under the Wilson administration shortly before the outbreak (for the USA at least) of the 1st World War.

The way lawlessness still reigned when it came to Native-Americans' rights (Blacks' as well I guess, but that's a different subject) is quite shocking considering that Wilson's 14 points set a resounding - if unsuccessful - democratic example only two years later. In the end the single Indian prevails - Tse-quit is acquitted - but the Ute lose as they have been forced to live their homes already.

While this is a really interesting story the author sadly does not manage to keep his writing on par. Partly it makes the impression as if he only pasted newspaper articles, Indian folk tales and phrases condemning the white man's treatment of the red man together. While I agree with this condemnation it would have been amazing to read this captivating story of injustice, murder, and violence - no sex sorry - as a coherent story and not as simply a collection of badly connected sentences, paragraphs and chapters.

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