Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Indian Summer

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Last week while Janelle and I were watching the local forecast, the weatherman used the term “Indian Summer”, sparking a lively discussion.  Is it politically correct to use the phrase, and if not, is there a better term for the phenomenon?

A few days later, the kids and I were enjoying  a beautiful day out with the bicycle trailer, park hopping along the swollen Red River.   The rapids near the dike were  barely visible as we passed the Main Avenue bridge, water churning over the submerged boulders for a change.  We rode south to Lindenwood, playing at several playgrounds alongside others taking advantage of the spectacular fall weather.  Loading up again, we crossed the barely passable pedestrian bridge into Moorhead then on to Davy Park to eke out a bit more playtime before a mid-afternoon siesta.

The water fountains in Davy Park were still functional (a relief since we were running low) and the picnic table adjacent to the playground was occupied by a group of five Native Americans, four men and one woman.  We did not interact at first, but when I came back to refill a sippy cup one of the men commented on how it was almost “Indian summer” weather, but for the small amount of rain.  My mind flashed to the debate over the term and scored a point on the side of common usage over the protests of sensitive nomenclature.  The man produced a dollar bill, asking me to take it and “buy something nice for my baby”.  An open (and nearly empty) bottle of mouthwash sat in the middle of the otherwise empty table.

I accepted the dollar, thanking the man but insisting that I show him some tricks with my juggling ball by way of trade.  The group was impressed with my skills, so much so that the most intoxicated man began babbling about sorcerers and witchcraft.  Another man, also clearly drunk, saw that I was wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt and asked if I knew what made him so great.  I confessed that I did not know, that I played a little bit of guitar but could never play like Jimi.  “It was the smoke,” he pronounced, and I politely agreed.

Finally, the man who gave me the dollar asked the question he had been holding, “Are you American Indian?”  My lame responses followed, about how I am not but that I went to high school near the reservation and count several natives as friends, and how I am occasionally mistaken for an American Indian due to my dark complexion and hair.  Dylan decided that our interesting cultural exchange was over by ramping up the volume of his voice so I made my excuses, wished them a good day, and set off for home.

So now that is settled.  If they are comfortable using the terms “American Indian” and “Indian summer” then so am I.   I wonder though, whether the dollar would have been offered if I were blonde and blue eyed?  I think so, and am proud to have taken the time and perceived risk to hang out and talk with some intoxicated American Indians here in Moorhead on an unseasonably warm autumn day.