Of American Indians
Since so-called "political correctness" is such a raging issue these days, I'd better address the use of "Indian" in this particular story. Although I've changed the title completely, its original title was "The Purple Indian," and I've made a hard-and-fast decision to continue to refer to the main character as such. Now, before the outraged left-wingers--I'm not referring to main-line liberals, but to the angry radicals who haunt Twitter, etc., desperate to pick a fight--I say before these people come down on me, I will make my statement.
Number One: Through what seems coincidence but may have been destiny, I've known far more so-called "Native Americans" than the average "man on the street." I've had personal acquaintances with members of the Arapaho, the Paiute, the Navajo, and the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. I've had passing acquaintances with a Crow man and a schoolboy from the Sioux tribe. Almost without exception, I have heard these people refer to themselves as "Indians." Plain and simple--no shame, no complex. It's possible there are some I haven't met who find the word offensive, but I sincerely doubt it. In fact, during the time I served as a substitute teacher in Blackfoot, Idaho (ironically I still haven't met a member of that tribe), I spent a little time in what was known as "the Indian trailer." This was a fairly posh little set-up set aside from other school properties so that members of the Sho-Ban tribe could study there. Lest I hear "Egad, that monster Segregation!" I will say that the young Indians I met there clearly had no problem with the arrangement, and in fact viewed it as advantageous to them.
Number Two: The term "Native American" is problematic. I myself am a native American, as are millions of others in this country. Also, let's apply some logic: The American Indian lived here long before the land had even been named America. So, uh--Native American? Sorry. It doesn't work. What alternatives are there? Indians could be called indigenous peoples, aborigines, autochthons (feel free to look that up), but all of these are clunky, poor options--especially that last monstrosity. So, people of the Roaring P.C., what would you have us do? I grant that "Indian" as used by Columbus stands as one of the great misnomers of history, yet at the same time I point out that it is embedded in our history. And it isn't a pejorative term. It casts no negative shadows--the Indians of India are as a whole an honorable, intelligent and lovable people. Why would the American Indians feel insulted that their general-use name derives from that nation?
These points made, I refuse to call my character "The Purple Native American." If you're opposed to the decision, just roll that word-combo around on your tongue for a while and tell me how well you think it would work in the context of this children's picturebook. Be honest, now. And feel free to comment . . .
Life is what you make it--or so they say. And fortunately, those of that ever-mysterious "they" are right.
Yesterday was grim and gloomy here in Southeast Idaho--not unusual for this high desert area. I don't remember accomplishing much. Today we had sunshine in the morning, and although the afternoon brought an amazing mix of hail, rain and sleet, just that touch at the beginning had my reflecting to myself, "This is a good day." It just was. And the turn in the weather hasn't changed that feeling. Unexpectedly, for example, I found myself diving into more editing of this website I've so brazenly taken on by my lonesome. I even created two new captions for Pursy, that valiant little bundle of feathers on his perilous quest. So after all these years, the little guy begins to re-emerge from the dusty recesses of my mind. Hard to believe, really--I guess we never know what to expect from ourselves until we've given us half a chance.
I've recently begun "Twitter" activity to the extent that I've trundled around that cyberopolis and clicked "follow" on I don't know how many children's authors. So maybe I'm networking a little--should I stoop to use the word? I guess I will. Even spent some time on Facebook yesterday and today, after years of badmouthing it.
As for my own ongoing journey, I now find in looking back--and imagining ahead--that it's probably just as interesting and perilous a story as little Pursy Duckett's. Up with Pursy--and with his march-forward mallardlet attitude. And may I learn a thing or two from him as I create his trek.
Jamie L. Jonas--under siege by the negative, crusading for the positive.