Saturday, February 14, 2015
Have some passing adventure before passing the gate to beyond life
BRUCE KING – EVENING AT THE WARBONNET – 1994
An Indian bar makes us expect stories about drunkards and winos, about
fights and other misbehaviors common with Indians when they are in touch with
alcohol. It starts like that during nearly the whole first act till one of the customers
decides to step out and finds out that there is no outside world anymore.
They discover then this bar is a passage station before the Sweet Gum Bridge,
before stepping to the other side of life. The choice is simple: you confess
what’s wrong with you, what wrongs you have done and you may have the right to
cross the bridge and go to the other side, otherwise you will be thrown out and
be the prey of the Punisher, though it appears that’s nothing but a fake
argument to force the customers into confession.
The two bar tenders, Ducky and Ki are nothing
but the fateful gate keepers, Loon and Coyote respectively, two mythical Indian
characters that Edward Sapir identified in 1910 in his Yana Texts, available at http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/ca/yat/yat10.htm,
and that Jaime de Angulo used in some of this books about Indian folklore (Coyote Man and Old Doctor Loon, San Francisco: Turtle Island Foundation, first edition
They bring the various
customers to their knees so that they all confess their crimes.
Brave Eagle died of a voluntary
overdose because he was a pimp and he discovered one day he had AIDS and he had
infected a tremendous number of women.
Artsy was a liquor store thief
who had gone to Vietnam
and had killed everyone in one village, including a mother and her children who
were begging for help. He lied then systematically not to feel shame, but in
the end he killed himself.
Mable was an American Indian
Movement militant along with a girl friend of hers. She was engaged to a man and
was pregnant with his child when she discovered her girl friend was having an
affair with him. She killed her girl friend, aborted the baby to make the father
suffer and then killed herself with pills.
Sugar Lin was abused by her
father for years when a child till she shot him. But he did not die, which she
did not know because she did not care inquiring about it. So she punished
herself in all possible ways for her crime till one day she shoots herself.
And though this second act of
confessions is interesting, it shows how these Indians are just plain humans
suffering from human situations. The only Indian element then is this necessary
confession to be able to cross to the other world beyond this one. But the first
act is a lot more Indian and interesting as for Indian culture because it
enables us to explore the American Indian Movement since Mable and Brave Eagle
were active in it. The play lists all the actions the AIM performed in the late
60s and early 70s but it also describes some of the typical “Indian giving”
deals of the whites with Indians, particularly the poignant stakeouts that were
accompanied by what was to become the AIM anthem.
“That song was an old song even
back in the old days. . . to encourage those getting ready to stake themselves
out. . . If they quit fighting, Uncle Sam promised to feed them by allotting them
beef on the hoof at railroad stations. Indians would come from miles around.
Being from different nations, they shared stories, and what little food they
had, and songs and dances. . . When they realized the beef wasn’t coming. . .
Greedy government agents didn’t give a rat’s ass whether Indians starved to
death or not, there was a lucrative profit in healthy beef. . . Ain’t no sound
more heart-breaking than the sound of mothers wailing. Too weak to travel they
just set there and starved. . . Back at the railroad locations, manless,
fatherless families starved. Mothers watched their babies die, then they
watched each other perish. That’s when spiritual significance lost its meaning.
No one was thinking about mother earth or being one with the universe. They
lifted their weary eyes to the sky and cried … where’s the beef?”
That makes this play an essential piece of
Indian culture and remembrance. And in this first act these customers and the
two gate keepers are starting to chant this song of the American Indian Movement
which contains no consonants, only vowels for all Indians from all tribes to be
able to sing it since it had no semantic meaning at all. It was only a dirge
bringing together all Indians in front of some relentless suffering and
difficulty, in front of the loss of their culture, life style, world and
eventually life. That makes the reviving of this song by the AIM all the more
justified since they were trying to revert history and recaprture their old
culture and vision.
That’s the meaning of this song, chant, dirge,
we could even say gospel too when the American Indian Movement revived it for
their actions: beyond stakeouts and death there is some hope and life to be