And though I wear a shirt and tie, I’m still part Redman, deep inside. Indian Reservation, Paul Revere and the Raiders
When I was a little girl, I remember “becoming” the forest. I don’t recollect anyone schooling me on this, rather, just that I would go into this trance state and make my feet become leaves and branches. I never made a sound, traversing the woods, and the birds never hushed to let me pass. Some things, I reckon, are innate.
I also remember Michael Foucault, a delicious, gay French philosopher whom I had the pleasure of dancing with in grad school. Of course, he had died long before, but that didn’t stop us from a little soft-shoe action. Foucault had this whole stance on the primal nature of a thing before language, how language changes/polices that existence, and how civilization then manipulates power structures in order to police language. Right. Like the Matrix, isn’t it? So . . . you have this “thump,” then you name the “thump,” then others use that name and categorize the “thump,” and before you know it: it’s not a thump, at all. Rather, it has become “religion,” or “dogma,” or “partisanship” or “race.” You get the idea. Good ol’ Foucault spent most of his days undoing that little “evolution,” if you will, in an attempt to at least put an ear to the ground on the off chance that there might still exist a “thump.” I wonder what he found?
I hope it made a sound. But I doubt it.
You see, I believe that “thumps” have gone Native: seamlessly pressing their meaning upon the ground of our civilization, weaving their way through the forest of our dogmas and institutions without ruffling the feathers of nary a bird.
Now, we still need to make the distinction between “going” Native and plain ol’ Native. Good luck finding the latter anywhere today in America.
*Native necessarily calls for untouched, unblemished, un-fucked-with indigenous-ness that is right near unfathomably today. Blood ain’t nearly enough. You can have a fully domesticated, potty-trained red fox. With the DNA of his forest brother. Is that still a fox? Hell, yeah. Should you keep it round your chickens? Prolly not. Is it Native? Um . . . .
I remember this audacious scene from Designing Women wherein they board a plane and sit by a handsome man of noticeably Asian descent—who was born and bred in Texas. But there was this other simply delicious scene in which the somewhat innocent bigotry gets flipped on our Sugarbakers:
Akiyama: You ladies are from the American South aren’t you? I very much like the movie Gone With the Wind. It shows the American Southern woman to be demure, helpless and sweet. Most of all, forgiving. Very much like the Japanese woman.
Julia: Yes, well there’s one little difference. When a Southern woman walks on a man’s back, she means it. 
(After y’all quit snickering, I’ll continue.)
Right then. So, what we have here is what Foucault would call (if I can lean on a brother) Institutionalized Nativity. (Yes, I know I made a pun. Bite me. Then think about it.) All Asians are from, well, Asia and do not speak English OR they are backwards, impressionable Chauvinists who don’t know the plural of “women” AND all Southern women are demure and submissive. (My favorite part was Asian Dude’s heavy Texas accent and asskicker boots.)
Sigh. I miss the Eighties.
So. Where is Native in this scene? Well, it’s a little harder to find than Waldo, but it’s nevertheless present. Press your ear to the ground. Hear the thump?
Me, too. And it sounds like Georgia on my mind.
Let’s move on to Going Native, shall we:
*The reclaiming of earthly matter, blood, legacy and regionality despite the iron anchor to the present institutions of one’s environment, government and other bastardly hardasses. “Going,” as opposed to past tense “went” or the directive “go” (or in the Deep South, ‘bout to go”) is a perpetual form of the verb. Swimming against the tide, fighting the man or some such. I don’t reckon it’s always necessarily progressive, at all—but it’s certainly worth doing.
Then, there’s the Done Gone Native:
*Often considered dangerous and outside the bounds of our civil code. Dogs like this might be put out of their misery, while certain human forms might end up in Waco or being hunt down like Rambo. Exceptions occur, such as Born Free, Free Willy or your local Sea Turtle Hospital release party . . . think on that one a minute. Where’s Grizzly Adams when you need him?
Uh huh. Not allowed to have Done Gone Native in our world, are ye?
Not lessen you want to risk government sanctions, your Aunt Bessie calling the funny farm on your behalf and a serious lack of Facebook time.
So, back to Julia Sugarbaker, that sweet, tax-paying, Liberal, mothering, ass-kicking, gun-toting, demure devil. One foot in Hollywood Southernisms, one foot in yor’ . . . you get the picture.
Laws, she was always ‘bout to be Going Native. And that, my friends, is about all we truly have left I can get behind that. Let’s look at it magically:
Whilst it may appear that I’m circumspectin’ on paddling backward to our roots, it only feels backerds’ on account of mayhap we forgot the way.
And if that didn’t make any sense, let SFW tell you a story:
Once upon a time, there was this, um, Cherokee seer. Now, it was 2012 and she had to have insurance, water bill money and the like . . . therefore she left her pentagram at home when her foot stomped on university pavement, nary said a word about her religion (whilst her students prayed before tests and her anthology reader forced her into teaching the Old Testament) and variously bent to the institution whilst she was at her job. At night, she would sob at the fracture of her spirit and drink a little. But, doctors are as expensive as the rape of one’s soul, and since she had children, the little seer bit her tongue until it was bloody. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 till 2.
Now, even though others in her department had been a bit more, um, “out there,” the little seer was minding her p’s and q’s and stayed firmly in the closet. One day, some sweet young thing with a cross and a good hangin’ rope happened upon the little seer’s blog. And, despite her performative denial of her faith—over and over on the stone steps of that institution—the little seer had a whole passel of angry townsfolk show up at her career door, regardless.
What we had here, in this Alabama fairy tale, was a story of a woman who was neither “Native” nor had “Done Gone Native.” Ah, but what folks never counted on was her memory of “Going Native,” wherein the little seer (who had been walking silently and had studied on “being the grass and branches” and was faced with a sudden outbreak of a belligerent loud bird) remembered the other half of the equation. You see, the best part of Going Native is that you can hear the primal thump again. And the primal thump said: BE.
I reckon that bird would have never hollered iffin I hadn’t of had my standardized university shoes on. Damn, those things chafe.
And so, the little seer turned bravely (called the ACLU), steadied herself (hired an attorney in case) and waited calmly in the trees with her bow and arrow. If I’m right, the only sound y’all will hear is the thump of the latter landing squarely in the institutional arena.
I am Southern. I am Pagan. I am Cherokee. I am Teacher. AND I am something there is no name for anymore.
Here’s to Going Native, the last place of sacred defense in an over-civilized world, and to the Julia Sugarbakers who still can hear their primal thump.
I never did much lock up well on reservations.
1. Season Four, Episode Nine. Henry Cho—amazing comedian—plays the part of “Asian Dude.” First aired November 27, 1989.