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Growing up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, my concept of “Indian” formed early on: unprivileged as we were, we employed an Indian cleaning lady, Elizabeth Fasthorse, a wizen, old lady who spent as many weeks absent as she did in service. And my father took Indians as clients to help pay the mortgage, although payment to him often took the form of tomahawks and ghost shirts whose ignominious provenance, thus, included being passed to an Irish American lawyer in hopes of release from the drunk cell or dismissal of an assault charge, our home, museum-like with Indian artifacts, our mailbox brimming with bills.
Years and miles distant, I began reading the history of Native Americans, now knowing that I had earlier encountered symptoms of a scourge so deep as must be denied, allowing the American narrative to survive unsullied.
The critical pivot point for me was reading Charles C. Mann’s books, 1491 and 1493, recommended to me by Lincoln Mudd, a professor at Montgomery College and a Smithsonian Fellow that year. The act of which birthed my Native American series:
The use of alcohol in subduing Indians was a shamefully effective method of containment.