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A Large Delicate Question
January 11, 2010 |
To the Host:
Making the drive from MI to MN for a couple years at the language immersion camps of Concordia near Bemidji, I was glad to see the many Indian communities in the area. Since my impression is that Lake Wobegon is Up North, possibly in the Paul Bunyan area, I reflected that few if any Indian relationships or experiences or stories appear in your monologues. I have no idea if that is by mutual agreement or simply thematically difficult. But I would be curious to know if there is creative room for Native Americans among the characters of Lake Wobegon.
St. Johns, MI
This is what we call a Large Delicate Question, sir. Lake Wobegon is not close to any Indian reservation, and so the appearance of Native Americans in the stories has been infrequent a stranger appearing in town, distant rumors of a romantic liaison, a story of a heroic rescue long ago. I suppose this is due to cowardice on my part: anything I might say about Indians that is less than adulatory would horrify a lot of listeners who would write me long single-spaced letters calling me to account and I hate to put people to the trouble of writing long letters. I've met Native Americans who enjoy the stories, however, and none of them has suggested I should insert an Ojibwe or Dakota into the mix. If I were to do that, I guess I'd want to put my friend Jerry into a story. He lives on a reservation in northern Wisconsin and every time I see him he brings me a bag of wild rice. He has a spiritual gift of friendship that's mysterious to me, but the moment he walks into the room, though I haven't seen him for a long time, I feel bound to him, feel understood by him. He's a man acquainted with grief, having lost his son, and he is full of love that comes out in everything he says. We became friends about ten years ago and it happened within minutes after we met and I can't explain that. And if I can't, then how can I tell a story about it?