Native Americana

Two weeks ago I went to visit my parents in North Carolina, because I missed them, but also because I wanted to get out of NYC.  Being here in this densely packed city for too long fills me with tension, and at times I feel like I’m going to explode.  

While I was in North Carolina, we drove out to a spot called Hanging Rock, where we hiked up to the top for a scenic overlook.  I felt suddenly so serene being up there, sitting on the rocks high above the valley below, watching the clouds drift lazily by, and the pine trees reminiscent of desert junipers, lull back and forth with the wind.  It reminded me just the slightest bit of being in Arizona and Utah, and I was suddenly filled with a great urge to go out there again - out west.  I don’t know what it is about that area , but I am pulled to it as if by a magnet.  A really strong magnet.

When we got home that night, we were watching a documentary about Custer’s Last Stand.  I don’t know why, but I suddenly became very interested in the story.  You see, my dad has always been interested in this part of US history - the clash of cultures between the Native Americans and the white man.  When I was younger, I remember him devouring books about the Plains Indians, and the battles they had with the US government, who was trying to take over their lands.  It never interested me much before, but for some reason, on this night, after this hike, dreaming of the west, and being thoroughly exhausted by modern “civilization”, something about it resonated with me.

My dad has a lot of books about the Indians and pioneers of the west - some that belonged to my grandfather, which I can remember perusing when I was young.  I pulled these books off the shelf again and started to flip through them.  Something is very fascinating about the proud Native American warriors.  I realized that I really identify with these Plains Indians, especially Sitting Bull.  Seeing that the US government had broken almost every treaty it made with the Indians, he refused to have anything to do with them.   He would not accept the white man’s bribes, threats, and lies, and as the leader of the Sioux people, formed an active resistance to the government’s hostile actions.  The Sioux fought to preserve their lands and their way of life with valor and honor, refusing to be bullied into a way of life contrary to their beliefs.  I find this to be incredibly admirable.

So all this Native American history has me yearning to go to Montana and Wyoming.  I’m pulled there by the same saudade-encrusted magnet that pulls me to Arizona and Utah.  Saudade is a Brazilian term which describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for something or someone you loved but is now lost, and may never return.  I have this saudade for the way the west used to be, for the Native American way of life, for respect of the land, for resonance with nature, before “civilization” (which is not so civilized after all) came and ruined it all.  

I’m planning to go to Montana and Wyoming this summer - Yellowstone National Park to be exact.  I’m excited about seeing so much natural beauty, and I know it’s going to be a source of great inspiration.  I’m just scared I may not want to ever leave.