Fast forward more than two decades later, where I discovered a black and white picture of my great uncle in Indian garb. In recent months it has occurred to me that this is something people are doing, not just an oddity from my youth. So of course I asked around, and it turns out that many of my friends had engaged in this behavior in some form or another.
Indians have captured the imagination of a lot of people for various reasons, but something magical must be happening here.
In Germany, a Karl May Festival is a cultural phenomenon that draws large crowds of Germans in Indian costumes. Even the people of the Czech Republic engage in the ritual of dressing like Indians. In Europe, the infatuation with Indians wove itself into the fabric of several movements.
Indians inspired a great many people to see the world (and humanity) in a different way: family first, tribal, primitive, and nature based. There's little trace of these values in the modern world.
The Indians I encounter in real life prefer online communities. They wear clothes manufactured from synthetic fibers in dubious circumstances overseas. They fire their shotguns at the mountainside and leave their shells in the sand when they're done. They're postmodern people, like the rest of us.
The ritual of dressing like an Indian isn't just about the Native American people. It's something that transcends all that. It's a symbolic thing, an organic thing like art or spirituality. It's a connection to youth and innocence, I think. Because we're not connecting to Indians this way; they find the practice distasteful, sometimes even offensive for us to engage in. It's the societal naivete of the noble savage. It has less to do with Indians, and more to do with how the west saw them during a particular time in history: with sympathy, and with a longing for our own innocence.
And that is where I'll stop. You can read how this is relevant to my work when Salamander and the Unscarred Mind is published. Cross your fingers for me.