Custer’s Last Words

Just a while back, we took our foreign-exchange students to an Indian powwow in Maupin, Oregon. It is adjacent to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. I spent some time with a crazy Indian guy there. He seemed to be a man of respect and a great storyteller. I told him a  little bit about my time on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, then told him my name. He cracked up, he used my name  ‘Whiteman’ in several contorted sentences, all in fun. He called several teenage Indian boys over and said,” This is white man.”

They looked me over, pink bald head, piercing blue eyes, and  transparent skin. Of course he is they thought. Any native teenager could pick one of these out of a lineup.

After more complete introductions and laughter, we moved off to sit a spell.

He called me immediately into believing that the Warm Springs Reservation had a rare painting called “Custer’s Last Words”. He thought it funny telling about it and I thought it was funny hearing it. I hope you’re not offended in any manner.

It seems this painting is on display somewhere on the reservation. Three sloping hills and a blue sky background. On the hills were Indian women, many Indian women picking cotton and some magnificent looking warriors on their horses standing guard. The painting had some religious reference to it in that it also had a cow with a angel’s halo on it’s head. The old man told me all kinds of art nomenclature about the quality of this painting.

I was confused.

” What does this painting have to do with Custer’s last words?”, I questioned.

He held his big hand out as if brushing the painting itself, ” Can’t you just see it?”, as if the answer lay in the hues and textures of the painting. His hand swept to the cow with the halo and then to the hills full of working Indian people.

“Holy cow, where did all these cotton picking Indians come from?”, like it was so obvious…

The powerful drums started up and as if hypnotized, he smiled and nodded his head upward in my direction as if to salute me and went off to dance.

The pow-wow was fun, lots of kids…

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