TO MY GREAT FRIEND BILL STOUDT, IN MEMORIAM .
Those who belong to our generation (almost fifties or fifties directly), remember those Saturday afternoons of winter and autumn watching black and white television, watching cowboys and Indians films in “First Session”. Films were “PG rated”, not like the casting at night and they were a perfect excuse for our parents to send us to bed without complaint. As much as we try to let us see “King Kong” as was the “R rated” and the cast at night, had to settle for hearing the soundtrack crouching at the door of the parents room.
But what we’re seeing those western movies we kept thinking they would have made the Indians to the cowboys for the latter is bent on ending them. Why Indians were so bad ? Why John Wayne hated so much? Would you happen to John Wayne as well as with the Incas Pizarro ? Were the jeans as devastating as the Spanish Indians were for the Indians of South America ? Had not good Indian ? The good Indians Indians could be working for the white man as guides and as carrying the white man where were the tribes , those were good ( and traitors ) . Interestingly , all of those questions , all those doubts always remained unanswered while we were children . To give Dad s boring again with so many questions ?
My friend Bill Stoudt, was a Spanish professor in southern New Jersey (USA) and a lover of Spain – had studied at the University of Salamanca -. His dream, and for his wife Linda too, was to have a ranch in Montana, the Big Sky state, and retire there to live quietly in the middle of Nature. To get it working as a teacher until noon the day devoted to building pools as the weather permitted. In that area of the United States the winter was very hard, I can assure you. When I met with Bill at the time, was established between us a very strong friendship very, he “adopted” me and wanted , at the time of college , I did not lose any of it so I felt a deep interest and a huge curiosity. Bill was the one who introduced me to artists in Philadelphia by the hand of his wife who was “curator” at the Museum of Art, Bill was one who made me a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, I made my first trip with him to Washington DC (visiting museums) and shared a table with him and conversation with three war veterans. He was a man who made me a better person and I will remember it forever.
Years passed and Mr. Stoudt eventually went to live at his ranch in Montana with Linda, near a small village of farmers (cowboys) called Stevensville, in the valley of the Bitterroot – with the bitter root is the sarsaparilla – . At that time we maintained contact by letter and told me in detail what was the day on a ranch. It was the first time I heard (read) about the “horse whisperers”, the fear of Bitterroot River overflowed, how dangerous they were deer crossing the roads, grizzly bears that went into dumpsters and American Indians of the plains. The latter was what my fascinated me to read the letters on the Indians, pow wows, on reserves and huge landscape of the American West. All childhood memories related to those questions I accumulated in the head. And of course I finally made the trip to visit my friend and thus clarify for myself all those questions.
My first contact with the Indians it was at a pow wow. During the summer months the various Indian nations come together to pay tribute to their ancestors making a big party. They call that party a pow wow. All Indian territories held pow wows, some larger parties than others. The pow wow that attracts more tribes is held in Calgary (Canada). I went out with Bill and Linda to Hamilton to pow wow,”black feet” territory. The other Montana tribes were there: “Flat Heads” , “Crows” , “Cheyenne” and “Chippewas”. Ultimate goal of these events is that the kids , mainly from the hand of his grandparents, know and learn music, dance, practice the language and honor their ancestors, so, in that way, their culture won’t be diluted into oblivion avoiding to be lost forever. Looking also that the tribes remain together and they can remain vindicating the rights of the Indians, by force the government face group (the subject of reserves remains a serious problem). All white men present at the party took off their hats and we all approach teeppees concentration to participate in the party like everyone was doing. We were told we could not take picture , the photos steal the human soul. It was a memorable day for me.
I could imagine that for tribes meant the arrival of the white man into their territory. I could imagine the horror. The devastation caused by the government’s desire for riches American wilderness, the arrival of the railway to facilitate transportation of workers and adventurers, the latter without scruple, ended the idyllic life of Indians in Montana. That “conquest” was a real holocaust for Indians. John Wayne, now I understand perfectl , it was a real bastard and Custer – we will talk about the character in another post – it was a real jerk murderer. Emerged peace voices crying, asking the big boss of the white man to stop this slaughter. A great white chief had promised the chiefs of the tribes that everything would be done in order and respect their peoples . Finally, desperate, an Indian chief of the tribe ” seattle ” sent a letter to President Franklin Pierce for the latter to see reason and leave his people with peace. This letter became a desperate edge in defense of nature. Let me transcribe literally it:
Chief Seattle’s Letter to the President of the United States.
President of the United States, Franklin Pierce , in 1854 sent a proposal to the Chief Seattle , of the tribe Suwamish , to buy the Northwest Territories of the United States now forming the State of Washington. In return , he promises to create a “reserve” for indigenous people . Chief Seattle responds in 1855. < / Em >
” The Great Chief in Washington has ordered us know that we want to buy the land. The Great Chief also sent us words of friendship and good will . Much appreciate this kindness , because we know that makes little miss our friendship . We to consider his offer because we know that , otherwise , the white man may come with guns to take our land. the Great Chief in Washington can rely on word of Chief Seattle as surely waiting for the return of seasons. Like stars immutable are my words.
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land ? That is for us a strange idea ?
If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water , how can you propose to buy ?
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people . Every shining pine needle branch , every sandy beaches, the gloom of the dense jungle, every ray of light and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red .
The white man’s dead forget the country of origin when they go to walk among the stars . Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man . We are part of the earth and it is part of us . The perfumed flowers are our sisters , the deer, the horse , the great eagle, these are our brothers . The rocky crests , the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family .
Therefore, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us . The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place where we can live happy… He will be our father and we will be his children. Therefore, we will consider your offer to buy our land . But that will not be easy . This land is sacred to us . This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers running through it is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land , you must remember that it is sacred , and must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my ancestors .
The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst . The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember and teach your children that the rivers are our brothers , and yours too . Therefore, you must give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.
We know that the white man does not understand our ways . For him a piece of land has the same meaning as any other , he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother but his enemy, and when he has conquered it , moves on. Leave behind the graves of their ancestors and no worries. Steal of the earth what would their children and do not care .
The grave of his father and the rights of their children are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, to his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or colorful ornaments. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.
I do not understand, our customs are different from his. Maybe it’s because I am a savage and do not understand .
There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities . No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of an insect wings . But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand . The clatter only seems to insult the ears .
What is there to life if a man can not hear the lonely mourn a bird or night croaking frogs around a lake? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the surface of the lake, and the wind itself, cleaned by a rain day, or scented with the pine trees.
The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath – the beast, the tree , the man, they all share the same breath. It seems that the white man does not feel the air you breathe. As a dying person, is numb to the stench. But if we sell our land to the white man , he must remember that the air is precious to us , that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports . The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. If we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred , as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers .
Therefore, we will consider the offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers .
I am a savage and do not understand any other way to act. I saw a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to survive.
What is man without the beasts ? If all the beasts were gone , man would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man. All things are connected .
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. To respect the land , tell your children that she was rich with the lives of our people. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. All that befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
This is what we know: the earth does not belong to man, is the man belongs to the earth. This is what we know: All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, can not be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We’ll see. Of one thing we are sure that the white man may one day discover: our God is the same God.
You may think that you own Him as you wish to own our land , but it is possible… he is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man to man white skin.
The land is beautiful, and despise despise is creator. The whites too shall pass ma s perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
When deprive us of this land, you shine brightly through the power of God that brought them to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over the earth and over the red man .
This destination is a mystery to us, because we do not understand when the buffalo are exterminated all the wild horses are tamed , the secret corners of the forest dense are impregnated with the smell of many men and the view of the mountains obstructed by talking wires .
What happened to the thick forest ? Disappeared.
What happened with the eagle ? Disappeared.
Life is over. Survival starts now”.
END OF THE LETTER
Thank you from the heart my friend Bill Stoudt for teaching me so much beauty . I’ll never forget .