Terre Haute, Indiana--I once lived in Terre Haute as a child, at the age of four. My memories are dim of that time, it was 1972, and my father had a job down there, probably in civil engineering. My only solid memory is being attacked by another child there in the trailer park we lived in at the time. One college acquaintance from Terre Haute once said to me he was told, "You dress like a nigger," because he wore baggy-pants.
This is why the primary results for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama are so surprising in Indiana--Terre Haute isn't exceptional in its backwardness. It's also a prison town, and there is coal mining close by. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed there by lethal-injection at the federal prison (USP Terre Haute, and numerous other anagrams). Only a state like Indiana, and a town like Terre Haute could create a Eugene V. Debs, one of the most noteworthy Socialist Party and labor leaders this country will ever know.
Indiana and Terre Haute are generally an awful place, and it's doubtful that there has been any change since I was last there in 1993 when I saw the hardcore punk band M.D.C. (Millions of Dead Cops, though they change the meaning of the anagram frequently). It was a great show at the 4 Quarters Bar, and the audience was wonderful. M.D.C. did a lot of Johnny Cash covers, which we all sang-along to. The alcohol was flowing pretty liberally that night. But, that's the good-side of Terre Haute.
The air in Terre Haute is so polluted by local factories and industrial incinerators that many people there have respiratory problems, and the Ku Klux Klan has been active there for a very long time (Mishawaka and Knox are doing some catch-up here in the North). T.S. Eliop could have been writing about Terre Haute--or even Gary--when he penned "The Wasteland." Like I've said before, Michiana isn't much better, and neither is our air-quality, some of the worst in the entire continental United States. Things sure weren't like this when the Native Americans held-sway here over 200 years ago.
But, Indiana never had many "Indians," hence the name. A number of the tribes these days are making an incredible amount of money from their casinos, particularly the Pokagan band. Most settlements of Native Americans were so small here after the "great dying," that's what they were called--bands. After 1811--the Battle of Tippecanoe--things were basically over for the Native Americans in Indiana for a very long time. For Native Americans in-general, it was a signaling that they were going to all be forced westward, and their self-rule and autonomy were virtually extinct. The trail of tears wasn't far behind. Indiana truly is the crossroad of America.
There are very few full-blooded Native Americans here, and most of the descendants look white. You would barely know they were Native American at all in many cases, and some of them appear to be acting the same as the whites here who have money. The majority of them are poor, if they even know they have indigenous ancestors at all. "Hangs around the fort" has morphed into "hangs around the casino," though it's an obverse where the white Euro-Americans are doing all the flocking and gambling. Now the whites pay. This is something I like, and it's a complicated picture. But you've got to love the fact that whites are now paying the piper. We should be.
The missive below could be a corroboration of some of these observations, as the director of the museum sounds whiter than me. Dropping the word "political," or "that's politics" is a pretty common shortcut to thinking in Indiana for a specific kind of boorish slob. It wouldn't surprise me if Ms. Creedon has no Native American blood in her whatsoever. But since when did all the bands and tribes get-along?
Once something has been labeled "political" in Indiana, say-no-more, most rednecks and slobs here won't discuss it...or at least that's the way things were for most everyone before the 2006 midterms. It appears the directors of the Native American Museum have some catching-up to do, and prefer to look to a Native American past as something that's safely dead when it comes to spirituality and consciousness-raising. My guess is that Jane Creedon and the directors of the museum are afraid of losing their funding, which could be viewed as a perverse form of careerism. A culture has to be active to be alive:
----- Original Message -----
From: Bluejay Pierce
Sent: Thursday, May 08, 2008 3:04 PM
Subject: Longest Walk II DENIED press conference at Native American Museum!???????????
This message just came in from the group "Red Road Awareness" and I am now turning this one over to my companions here online. I am SHOCKED and ANGRY that a Native Museum would refuse the Longest Walk people to simply use a spot at the museum so that they could hold a press conference about this IMPORTANT event .... the Longest Walk teams have given SO MUCH for all of us in this huge effort....only to be refused a simple thing like this request. AND! by a NATIVE MUSEUM!!!!
I think we might want to let the person here know how we react to THAT kind of behavior?
Matthew just hung up from the curator of the Native American Museum in Terre Haute named Jane Creedon... We were trying to find a place to hold a press conference to raise awareness for the walk with the media... She told Matt that she wanted nothing to do with the walk... She said it was "not their policy to get involved with any kind of political issues" and she wanted nothing to do with us or the walk and would not support it in anyway... She said they dealt only with "the people of that area, Miami, Kickapoo, Wea..." When asked if she would support one of those tribal members if they were on this walk, her answer was a resounding "NO...."
Feel free to call her and voice your opinion:
Native American Museum
5170 E Poplar Dr
Terre Haute, IN 47803
Red Road Awareness
I pointed out that this is BAD ROLE MODELING for today's young. How are they supposed to find healthy activities? It's a SPIRITUAL event, not a political one exc. by default.