On a trip to visit my mother in Oklahoma, we made the drive over to Tahlequah, capital of the Cherokee Nation and home of my alma matter, Northeastern State. Aside from all the happy memories of my college days, Tahlequah also offers an old-fashioned main street, full of unique restaurants and cute, artsy little shops. It was in one of these cute, artsy shops that I noticed the preponderance of cute, artsy things advertised as being handcrafted by “genuine Indian medicine men.”
Well, of course, people. I have, like, four of those in my immediate family. This is Oklahoma, “Land of the Red Man.” You can’t sneeze without getting blessed by a genuine Indian medicine man.
In Oklahoma, everyone’s an Indian. In grade school, on the playground, we all used to talk about how much Indian we were and what kind. Pasty redheads with freckles will tell you “I’m a quarter Cherokee and 3/16th Creek,” and they’ve got a little ID card from the US government to back up the claim. Hell, I’ve got one myself and I’m the palest pale person in three counties – I can’t fetch the mail without sunblock. Around here, if dad decides to dabble in reiki, suddenly he’s a genuine Indian medicine man, never mind that he put his new age on backwards.
You could get scuba instructions from a genuine Indian medicine man, have your computer fixed by a genuine Indian medicine man, get cut off in traffic by a genuine Indian medicine man.
That guy who fragged you three times in pvp last night? Yeah, medicine man. Suck it, noob.
Seriously? At this rate, it would be more interesting if anything wasn’t made by genuine Indian medicine men.
“This here, see, this is special. This was handcrafted by nobody of particular importance.”
“Can you feel the power?”
“Oh yeah. I feel it.”
Not that I’m decrying the idea of genuine Indian medicine men (grandpa might think I didn’t love him anymore!), I’m just wondering, why here? Are these artfully constructed dream catchers and prayer wands supposed to impress the hordes of tourists who are even now flocking to our windswept plains? Look, Tulsans, I love you and I love my hometown, but be honest with yourselves: how many times have you told your medicine men, “Man, I cannot wait for tourist season to be over. Would you LOOK at these lines? Tsk.” We have got to get our genuine Indian medicine junk a new outlet.
Let me explain: I recently moved back to the Midwest after an extended residency in Louisiana. There, everything was made by genuine voodoo priestesses. I even worked with some. (They often made goodies for the workroom.) Whenever I asked my coworkers about the genuine voodoo priestesses, they would yawn and shrug their shoulders. “Meh,” they said.
Over genuine voodoo priestesses?
Now that I’ve moved, I often have this conversation:
Adoring Stranger: “Oh my gosh! That purse! Where did you get it?”
Me, humbly and not at all smug about it: “You like? It was made by a genuine voodoo priestess!”
Excited and Envious Stranger, eyes a-glow: “Get out! Really?”
That’s the appropriate response right there! Not this yawning business.
What I'm trying to say is this stuff is only as fascinating as it is foreign.
Is the Land of the Red Man really the place to be peddling this lovely and spiritual merchandise when we could be making a killing off of it in, say, New England? Forget the lottery, my fellow Oklahomans, for before us is a vast, untapped, renewable, and exportable resource. Band with me: Find the genuine Indian medicine man in your life and put him to work.
“You can come out when you meet your quota, grandpa. I’ve got a man in Philly waiting on these. Hop to it and start whittling.”