The Long Walk Home

With Ellen Summerfield

Long Walk Home





Take the Empathy Quiz

Read About Empathy, Cross-Cultural Skill #1

Cross-Cultural Skill #1: Empathy

This section on The Long Walk Home is used with permission of Intercultural Press, Yarmouth, ME, and adapted from Seeing the Big Picture: Exploring American Cultures on Film, by Ellen Summerfield and Sandra Lee, 2001.


Who’s Who in the Film

Odessa Cotter (“Dessie”)

African American boycotter and maid in the Thompson home

Herbert Cotter

Odessa’s husband

Selma Cotter


Theodore Cotter

older son

Franklin Cotter

younger son

Miriam Thompson

white, Southern wife and mother in household employing Odessa

Norman Thompson

Miriam’s husband

Mary Catherine “Boo Boo”

younger daughter and narrator

Sara Thompson

older daughter

Tunker Thompson

Norman’s brother


black maid
The Long Walk Home gives us the chance to focus on one of the most important cross-cultural skills: empathy.

The ability to empathize requires imagination, knowledge, and compassion. To empathize with another person, I must recognize and remember that other people are different from myself, and I need to have some knowledge of what these differences are. My knowledge can help me try to imagine what another person is feeling in a given situation, which is not necessarily what I would be feeling in the same situation.

So an adult who sees a child lost in a grocery store can feel sympathy knowing that anyone who is lost is likely to feel confused and upset, but empathy only if the adult is able to imagine in particular what a lost child might be feeling.

An outgoing social butterfly can empathize with a shy woman sitting by herself at a party if the outgoing person can imagine what it might feel like to be shy.

Thus empathy requires that you try to look through the other’s eyes rather than through your own.

In cross-cultural terms, this means that a Chinese person, for example, can never really know what it feels like to be Mexican, but if the Chinese person studies Spanish, travels to Mexico, and has Mexican friends, she can begin to imagine a situation from the “Mexican” point of view.

As you view or think back on the film The Long Walk Home, think of a scene in which a character demonstrates empathy.


History Flash: Understanding The Long Walk Home

The 1955-56 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, which is the subject of The Long Walk Home, was described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “one of the greatest [movements] in the history of the nation.” This boycott can be seen as both a beginning and an end. What was coming to an end was almost a century of struggle by African Americans to overthrow rigid legal and extralegal segregation. In a country founded on the principles of democracy and equality, this segregation kept blacks apart and subjugated, denied them the basic opportunities of American society, and persecuted them in the most violent ways.


Multicultural golden rule for empathizing

Treat others as you think they would like to be treated.


When the South lost the Civil War (1861-65) and two centuries of slavery came to an end, an estimated four million blacks dared to believe that a new life was possible for them. Indeed, the situation for African Americans quickly began to improve, and impressive initial strides were made. But the progress during the so-called Reconstruction period was brief. A backlash of momentous proportions on the part of primarily Southern whites, accompanied by massacres, lynchings, mutilations, rapes, and whippings, acted to replace slavery not with long-awaited equality and freedom, but with a new form of oppression—“Jim Crow” segregation.

Who was Jim Crow? Some believe he was a slave, or a soldier, and others say the label came from the saying “black as a crow.” Whatever the case, the name was first heard by the public in 1832 when a white performer danced on the stage in a comic imitation of blacks to a tune about “Jim Crow.” Soon a common character in minstrel shows, Jim Crow evolved into a synonym for the Negro, and his “comic” way of life, and by the turn of the century into a term referring to the near total separation of blacks and whites in the country.

While this system of apartheid was more open and virulent in the South, border and northern states also participated to varying degrees. Hundreds of laws, decrees, and customs kept the races apart by requiring separate restrooms, restaurants, hotels, parks, theaters, drinking fountains, railroad cars, and schools. Blacks were to be born in Negro hospitals and buried in Negro cemeteries. In South Carolina, black and white cotton-mill workers were not allowed to look out the same window; in Oklahoma there were separate telephone booths; and in Birmingham, Alabama, blacks and whites were forbidden to play chess together. In 1896, the Jim Crow doctrine was given the blessing of the Supreme Court in the infamous case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The Court decided that the states’ “separate but equal” laws did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, despite the wording of this amendment that

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Throughout the years of Jim Crow, opposition was ongoing, strong, and creative. Distinguished black leaders—W. E. B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, William Monroe Trotter, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marcus Moziah Garvey, Asa Philip Randolph, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Ralph J. Bunche, Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy, Charles H. Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and numerous others—devised strategies to keep the dream of equality alive against fierce opposition and the constant threat of violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white militants. Moreover, countless unknown individuals stood up for their rights and worked for the cause, knowingly risking, and often sacrificing, their lives. Blacks worked through the courts, through the media, through labor unions, through national organizations, and in the military to gain a proper place in American life.

By the time of the boycott in Montgomery, a tradition of protest was well-established in black America. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., a little-known twenty-six-year-old pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, led workers, common people, professionals, students, and children in a masterfully orchestrated plan of great daring that inspired a national movement for civil rights.

It began when Rosa Parks, a 42 year-old seamstress and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) member, was arrested for refusing to yield her seat on a bus to a white man. At that time, although black patrons accounted for more than three-fourths of all riders in Montgomery, black riders were forced to sit in the back of the buses—the front rows were reserved for whites—and to give up a seat to any white person who would otherwise have to stand. What was first planned as a one-day boycott of the buses in Montgomery in protest of Rosa Parks’ arrest became a massive action that lasted over a year, from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956. As seen in The Long Walk Home, organized carpools were critical to the success of the boycott; the sponsors of the boycott provided up to twenty thousand rides daily. The Long Walk Home focuses primarily on the first stage of the boycott.

Useful Terms

African American

widely accepted term that places emphasis on the origins of most American blacks; replaces the outdated term Afro American.


widely accepted term, often interchangeable with African American, that arose in the civil rights era as an affirmation of one’s skin color (black pride, black power, “black is beautiful” slogan).


term originating with the Spanish and Portuguese colonists, from the word negro, meaning “black”; widely used in the period between the two world wars; replaced the outdated term colored, but is now outdated itself.


term dating from the earliest days of slavery; unacceptable today except in certain historical contexts and titles (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

;People of color’

term that gained popularity in the 1980s to refer to nonwhites, especially African, Native, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, and emphasize their solidarity.

The enslaved

enslaved persons, preferred by some African Americans to “slaves”, which does not convey the reality of oppression but rather suggests a permanent status or condition.


highly derogatory term when used by nonblacks; sometimes used by blacks to refer to themselves; sometimes called the “N-word.”


ideology that places greater emphasis on the role of African cultures as they have affected American and world history than does the prevalent “Eurocentric” approach.

Related Books

Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America

Bennett, Lerone, Jr., 6th ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1988.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

King, Martin Luther, Jr. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1958.

Quiet Strength

Parks, Rosa. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It

Robinson, Jo Ann Gibson. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1987.

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-65

Williams, Juan. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

Related Films

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1986)

The story of the civil rights struggle between 1954 and 1965 comes alive through news footage, photographs, and personal recollections. Winner of dozens of national awards. Six-part series (PBS Video).

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)

Thirty years after the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, his case is reopened in a search for justice.

Mississippi Burning (1988)

The FBI investigates the disappearance of three white civil rights workers in Mississippi during the summer of 1964.

Separate But Equal (1991)

Traces events leading to landmark Supreme Court victory in the Brown v. Board of Education case. The hero, Thurgood Marshall, is played by Sidney Poitier.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Classic film about a lawyer in a small southern town who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. Based on a novel by Harper Lee.

Rent and View The Long Walk Home

Check your local library, commercial video store, or online catalogs to order a copy.

Find Examples of Empathy in the Movie — Think About…


As you view or reflect on The Long Walk Home, think of a scene in which a character demonstrates empathy.

  • Why you think the character is able to empathize in this particular scene?
  • How the character expresses empathy with actions, words, or nonverbal behavior?
  • What else did you observe in this scene?

Smoke Signals

With Ellen Summerfield

Smoke Signals








Take the Stereotype Quiz

Read About the Film and the Author

About the Film

Smoke Signals is the first full-length feature film to be written, produced, directed, and acted (in all major roles) entirely by Native Americans. Based loosely on the 1994 short novel by Sherman Alexie entitled The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, it won two awards when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. By all measures, it is a landmark film.

Alexie himself wanted the film to break with tradition. In an interview with the Oregonian (July 7, 1998), he says that Smoke Signals “challenges the cinematic history of Indians.” His Indian characters are virtually new to the big screen, posing a contrast to the stereotypes of Indians as “stoic and alcoholic,” as “depressed poor people.” According to Alexie, “Indians are the most joyous people in the world.” He says, “The two funniest groups of people I’ve been around have been Indians and Jews. So I guess there’s something to be said about the inherent humor of genocide.”

About the Author

One of six siblings, Sherman Alexie grew up in poverty on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State. His mother is part Spokane and a Protestant, and his father is full-blood Coeur d’Alene and a Catholic. Both of his parents were alcoholics, but his mother was able to break her addiction when her son was seven years old, and she subsequently became a tribal drug and alcohol abuse counselor.

A frail and sickly child, Alexie realized early that humor was an effective way to stave off bullies. “People like to laugh, and when you make them laugh they listen to you. That’s how I get people to listen to me now…. I’m saying things people don’t like for me to say. I’m saying very aggressive, controversial things, I suppose, about race and gender and sexuality. I’m way left [in my viewpoints], but if you say it funny, people listen. If you don’t make ‘em laugh, they’ll walk away.” (Biblio Magazine, March 1999).

Also partly to avoid getting beat up, Alexie spent a lot of time in the reservation school library. His father, who often stayed home while his mother worked, read to him and gave him books. Alexie attended junior high and high school off the reservation, in the nearby mostly white town of Reardon. Successful as a basketball player, honor society member, class president, and debater, he received a scholarship to Gonzaga University, a Jesuit College in Spokane.

But he began to drink heavily and dropped out of Gonzaga. Later he enrolled at Washington State University in Pullman. He credits Alex Kuo, his professor in a poetry-writing class, with helping him to discover his talent and profession as a writer. Several poems written in Kuo’s class ended up in his first book, The Business of Fancydancing (1992). While still living in Pullman, Alexie sobered up and became a popular figure at local poetry readings.

Since 1992, Alexie’s literary career has been remarkable. Though he considers himself primarily a poet and has published eight volumes of poetry, his widespread popularity has come from his fiction and screenplays. His works include:

Poetry, trade editions

The Business of Fancydancing

Brooklyn: Hanging Loose Press, 1992.

First Indian on the Moon

Brooklyn: Hanging Loose Press, 1993.

Old Shirts & New Skins

Los Angeles: American Indian Studies Center, UCLA, 1993.

The Summer of Black Widows

Brooklyn: Hanging Loose Press, 1996.

Poetry, limited editions

I Would Steal Horses

Niagara Falls, New York: Slipstream Publications, 1992.

Seven Mourning Songs for the Cedar Flute I Have Yet to Learn to Play

Walla Walla, Washington: Whitman College Book Arts Lab, 1994.

Water Flowing Home

Boise: Limberlost Press, 1996.

The Man Who Loves Salmon

Boise: Limberlost Press, 1998.


The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1993.

Reservation Blues

New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995.

Indian Killer

New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996.

The Toughest Indian in the World

New York: Grove Press, 2000.

Ten Little Indians

New York: Grove Press, 2003.


Smoke Signals

New York: Hyperion Press, 1998.


One Little Indian Boy

Seattle: co-published by One Reel and Sasquatch Books, 1994.

White Men Can’t Drum

New York Times Magazine, 4 October 1992.

The Warriors

Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1997.

Alexie currently lives in Seattle with his wife, Diane, of Hidatsa/Winnebago/Potawatomie descent, and his two sons. His frequent readings and literary presentations around the country are well-attended and hugely successful. He has a large and loyal following among Indians and non-Indians alike.

Related Readings

The Native Americans: An Illustrated History

Ballantine, Betty and Ian Ballantine. Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1993.

Killing the White Man’s Indian: Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century

Bordewich, Fergus M. New York: Doubleday, 1996.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Brown, Dee. New York: Henry Holt, 1970.

500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American Indians

Josephy, Alvin M. New York: Newmarket Press, 1994.

Prison Writings: My Life Is the Sun Dance

Peltier, Leonard. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

Related Films

Incident at Oglala (1992)

Traces the dramatic events that occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the 1970s, focusing on the trial and imprisonment of Leonard Peltier. Provides fascinating insights into this period in history. Documentary, directed by Michael Apted (Facets).

Powwow Highway (1989)

Offbeat tale of two Indian friends on the road to New Mexico in a dilapidated Buick. Based on David Seals’ novel of the same title. Directed by Jonathan Wacks.

The West (1996)

Nine-part series about the American West, told through compelling firsthand accounts. Documentary series, directed by Stephen Ives and produced by Ken Burns (PBS video).

Where the Spirit Lives (1989)

A painful story of a brother and sister kidnapped from their homes by government that brings to life the suffering caused by the removal of Indian children to boarding schools. Directed by Bruce Pittman.

Related Websites

AIM (American Indian Movement)

The Index of Native American Sources on the Internet

Native American Rights Fund

The Native Web

Sherman Alexie’s homepage

Rent and View Smoke Signals

Check your local or university library, commercial video store, or online sources to order a copy.

Play with the Idea of Stereotypes



Find clips in the movie where Sherman Alexie has the characters play with the typical stereotypes of Indians. Join in the discussion with Faye and Ellen to talk about these stereotypes.







Discussion Between Fay and Ellen

Note: To help make Popcorn and a Movie more interesting and interactive, Ellen Summerfield, creator of Popcorn and a Movie for this site, asked a colleague and Klamath tribal member, Fay Hurtado, to serve as our consultant and “cultural insider” for the film Smoke Signals. During the month of June, they e-mailed back and forth from Ellen’s home in McMinnville, Oregon, to Fay’s home on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon.


Hi Fay,

Before we begin our discussion of Smoke Signals, could you tell me a little about your Indian heritage?




Hi Ellen,

I am an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribe located in Southern Oregon. Although I was born in Klamath Falls, shortly after the Klamath Tribe was terminated we moved to Warm Springs. My grandmother and my great grandfather are from the Warm Springs Tribe, and I married and built my home here in Warm Springs. Although I am a member of the Klamath Tribe a lot of my values and beliefs have come thru the teaching of the Warm Springs people. (Hope that sounds okay! I had to look up the meaning of heritage, in Indian Country we say “where you from?”) So may I ask you where you from?




Hi Fay,

Sure. I’m from the East Coast. My great-grandparents were Eastern European Jews who immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, where both of my parents were born. I was also born in Maryland. I’ve moved around a lot, and my husband and I finally landed here in Oregon twenty years ago. Just last year, my mother moved here from the East Coast to join us.

OK, now to the film. My first question to you resulted from a wonderful evening I spent in Portland, Oregon, last week, listening to a reading by Sherman Alexie, who, as you know, write the screenplay for the film. Alexie was in town to promote his latest book, Ten Little Indians.

In the question and answer session of his presentation, Alexie was asked about how Indians liked Smoke Signals, and he said, “My tribe loves the hell out of that movie.” He also told us that “Indians who hate my books love that movie.” So I was wondering if you loved the movie (I seem to remember you said you did) and, if so, why?




Hi Ellen,

Glad to hear you had a good time listening to Sherman.

I enjoyed the movie because it was the first time I saw things in a movie that I might see at home. Some of the things that people saw as comedy are actually things we see and live with on a daily basis. Remember the girls with the car that only drove backwards? Their transmission was out. Those are things we see here and think nothing about because our laws are such that we have young people driving without licenses and people driving with no windshields in their cars, or no forward gears in their car. Those are the Rez cars. The car never leaves the Rez but it allows people to get around within our small community. I guess that is the reason that I liked this movie.




Hi Fay,

That’s interesting to me to hear about the Rez cars and the fact that young people drive without licenses because of different laws on the reservation.

A different question I had is about the humor in the film. On the vhs cover, humor is mentioned at least four times. We’re told to “celebrate the comedy that had audiences and critics cheering.” The film is called a “rare and entertaining comic treat” and is quoted as being a “bittersweet comedy…funny and stylish” (LA Times). It’s also quoted as being “very funny!” (Good Morning America).

This seems to me to miss the point of the film. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s not a “comedy” to me, and that’s not what should be emphasized. What do you think?




Hi Ellen,

Some of the things that Sherman showed the world about Indian country he chose to do through comedy. Or that’s how it comes out! When we see things happen that are not the norm or something that we consider unusual, it’s considered funny before anything else. Think about how the dominant society would react to things that happen in the movie? Would they laugh at the situation or become angry for the person being stupid, or just what would they do? And even saying it is a comedy in Indian country is okay. Comedy to us is not belittling it, or saying it is not as good as a documentary. Was that what you felt it was doing to say it was a comedy?

Waiting to hear from you!




Hello Fay,

I’ve been thinking about what you said about comedy. To me, the film is much more than a comedy. Yes, it’s very funny, but it’s also very serious. There’s a great deal of pain that is dealt with through humor. But the pain is the overriding emotion for me. I think of Victor and his suffering as a little boy when his father leaves. To me the film is about Victor’s journey to make peace with his father, which of course is very powerful. I also think of his father’s pain at knowing what he did and having to live with it. And of Victor’s mother, who had to lose her husband to save her son.

All of this gives me a picture of Indian country in which life brings sadness and grief, but where people show incredible resilience and humanity. So I guess I would call the film a “drama,” even though the word itself isn’t that important. It’s just that I don’t want the film to be advertised on the cover in a way that might be misinterpreted as something light, even silly or superficial.




Hi Ellen,

But, out of what you said, is Indian? I see things in there that you cannot see. What you explain about a suffering little boy could be about any culture, so what makes this movie different? Are you relating the suffering to Indian? If you took what you wrote about Victor and placed it somewhere by itself, would your reader know that it was about an Indian boy? If not, then I don’t think you are getting the right picture of Indian country. That’s what I enjoyed about the movie. Sure the story line is very familiar, it could be Orphan Annie or some other film of that nature. But what makes it Indian, that’s what I enjoyed. That is why Sherman said his tribe loved the hell out of it.

Does that make any sense?




Good morning Fay,

I think you caught me. Your question is right on. What is “Indian” about the drama I described? Well, I have to admit that probably it’s my stereotypes. This is embarrassing. I’m sorry but I have to tell you the truth if Popcorn is going to be worth anything, so please bear with me. I think it’s the poverty and alcoholism. All the negative stuff.

But, like you wrote, there’s poverty and alcoholism elsewhere, and non-Indian fathers leave families. So are you saying that what makes this film Indian is the slant on life, the way of dealing with things that is more accepting and humorous (humorous in an “Indian” way) rather than getting mad and trying to change everything like non-Indians might do? Please help, I don’t know if I’m getting what you are explaining. Is this particular attitude toward life part of what you said you see that I don’t see?

I think I need to watch the film again!




Hi Ellen,

Sorry to make things so confusing for you! Sometimes I can see and feel the confusion and that makes it very hard for me to stay in the Indian and not just do what I have been trained to do (give you the easy out and just agree with whatever is bringing the confusion). But I have come to realize that there is not growth for the other person when I do that. Sometimes I want to do that also because I get lazy too and don’t want to put the work into it that it takes (just letting you know so that if it does happen, maybe you will see it in my writing, that you can hold me accountable to the commitment that I have made with you).

Sorry, because my intent was not to embarrass you. Most people either put us in a place of feeling sorry for us, or hate what they do not understand. The idea of “the slant of life” makes sense to me. What people usually want to see is the negative stuff or the magical mystical stuff. Those seem to be the only two categories that the dominant society puts the Native American. Do you see anything different in the movie when you take out the poverty and alcoholism? What about the characters? Do they all seem normal to you? If not, who are the normal ones, or are they all not average or normal? Do they interact with each other as the dominant society does? Those are the things to me that make this movie good or why Indian people like the movie. Like I said before, the story line is somewhat familiar, the thing that separates it for me is the details of the story line. They are very subtle and if you do not know any Indians or have never been around them, you might not even catch them or be aware of them. That’s what I meant about things I see that maybe you do not. Because our beliefs and values are different I would not even call it an attitude. Attitude to me is something that is very much on the surface, things I can change by what company I am in. What I mean about the slant on life goes deeper than that. It is a way of being that we are or are not aware of.

Hang in there! Fay

Looking forward to hearing from you again.



Hi Fay,

What you wrote yesterday is very helpful. Thank you. I will try to understand better the “way of being” you referred to. I plan to watch the film again this weekend to try to see it in a different light.

Another question I’d like to ask you is which scene or scenes in Smokes Signals stand out for you? I suspect that we will choose different scenes, so it should be interesting to compare.




Hello Ellen,

I am having trouble with this… Trying to decide on a scene is a little harder than I thought. What the Indians liked about the movie was the similarities to our way of life. The slang language “enit”, “aye” and such are very common to the Rez. That is the way we talk and make fun. The main point Sherman is trying to make is at the end of the movie, which I am sure that we all understood, but in trying to pick something that is Indian, you could actually pick any scene and go from there.

One thing off the top of my head, why is it so important to be able to make the best fry bread? That is common throughout the movie. There are comments throughout the movie like that that we understand. The comment about going to a foreign country when leaving the reservation, that is common. Anyway, let me know what you think and maybe we can go from there. Hope you have a great 4th!




Hi Fay,

This weekend I’m thinking about July 4th in terms of the film. It’s important, I think, that Sherman chose that day. I’m wondering if it has a particular meaning for you. Do you and your family and friends on the reservation celebrate it? If you do, is it more in an ironic way rather than a real holiday?

I’d love to know more about the slang you mentioned. I don’t even know what enit and aye mean. How do you use them to make fun?

Also, could you please explain why it’s so important to make the best fry bread? I thought that was sort of like me saying that “my mom makes the best apple pies,” but I wasn’t sure if that’s the meaning.

Hope you’re enjoying at least a long weekend and look forward to hearing from you,




Hi Ellen,

The 4th is kind of celebrated, because we like fireworks, but as for the meaning no we do not celebrate it as an Independence Day. (It’s really only White People’s Independence Day.) For us it is a paid holiday (day off with pay) and I guess ironic rather than a real holiday. That is the same with Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day, Washington’s Birthday & Labor Day—we all joke about celebrating it. They don’t have any real meaning to us other than bad news for our people.

This one I might have to think a little about, off the top of my head, enit is used kind of as a question that is made after a statement you make. Rather than saying “that dog is pretty, don’t you think?” you might say, “that dog is pretty, enit.” That’s how the word is used in language structure, but we are never looking for an answer to the question. There never has to be a response and usually never is. There are other ways the word is used but they are difficult to put into terms that would easily be understood.

“Aye” is more or less an expression of something joking. When you are teasing someone, you might make a teasing statement and then say “aye” at the end of it laughingly. It is funny but for the most part all reservation Indians are aware of the use no matter what Rez you are from.

In terms of Smoke Signals I guess “the best fry bread” would be the same as apple pie. From a country that has been oppressed for so long and has lived in poverty for so long, what you can “do” and who you “be” tends to have greater significance than what you drive and what you own or the career you have. Our political structure is based traditionally by what family you come from and what you “do” and “be” for the people rather than for yourself.

Well, I hope some of this makes sense and you get something out of it. Sometimes I wonder if any of this makes any sense because it is not something that you can really use for any purpose but maybe for your own knowledge. Just remember once you seem to get a handle on it and kind of understand it some other Indian is going to come along and say “no that’s not how it is for us.” Just as you have experienced even in the dominant culture, some don’t know the definition of culture and might answer you differently.

Hope you had a great 4th of July. What does that mean to you anyway? Do you celebrate it with any particular meaning or is it just a day of leisure for you too?

I sure enjoy the emails, they make me think! (Maybe you will see some of the way we talk written into our emails, I have been trying to respond the way I would at home and not make it sound like the way I am supposed to write.)




Hi Fay,

About the 4th. I’m not sure how much meaning it really has for white people or other non-Indians. It’s a paid holiday, like you said, and people usually get together with family and friends for a picnic or barbeque. And they set off fireworks or go to town to see them. I guess for a lot of people there’s some patriotism involved, but I’m not patriotic myself when it comes to things like holidays.

More later, Ellen

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