Heyoka in Lakota culture is a contrary, a man who does
everything backward, such as walking backward, or saying things
that mean the opposite of what he says. He brings humor to the band
or tiospaye, which is important, especially in the village during
the long months of winter. He is often a holy man as well, and a
person who will through humor and ridicule put down a bully, for
instance, or someone trying to be bossy.
a recent column I noted that an editorial cartoonist must
have the mind and soul of a Heyoka, or Iktomi, or coyote, or raven
or any of those wonderful critters that Indian cultures have used
throughout the centuries to puncture egos and bigotry with humor.
And he must have the courage of Crazy Horse to stand up to the bullies
he has vanquished with humor and ridicule.
I drew an editorial cartoon, which was published in the Lakota Country
Times, and on indianz.com. It was my first cartoon in more than
thirty-five years, but wasnt too bad, if I must say so myself.
last one I did was in 1974, when I was Executive Director of the
National Congress of American Indians. At that time we were growing
increasingly disgusted with the Bureau of Indian Affairs as they
dragged out the process of getting back in operation following the
American Indian Movements occupation of their headquarters
for ten days, which left the place looking like Chernobyl,
as one clever writer put it. By dragging it out, the bureaucrats
apparently wanted to make Indian people suffer, then they could
blame AIM for the delays in programs and payments. AIM was by no
means blameless in this, but the BIA should not have taken it out
on the people they are in business to serve.
by the more conservative tribal leaders in the National Tribal Chairmans
Association, and embarrassed for having to meet AIMs demands
during the occupation, the President fired Commission Louis Bruce
(Oglala Lakota/Mohawk) and his top aides. Under Bruce, much positive
change was happening when AIM did their mischief in the Trail of
Broken Treaties. The so-called old liners in the BIA
seized control in the vacuum left by the firing of Bruce and his
staff, and put a halt to all change.
an Alaskan Native, Morris Thompson, was appointed Commissioner by
the President, and served a very popular term of office for the
next two years of Nixons shortened tenure. The cartoon (shown
below) is the way it looked to me when Thompson was appointed. I
hope the picture tells the story, because any cartoon that has to
be explained is not a very good one.
had drawn earlier cartoons featuring the Burro of Indian Affairs,
and even considered writing and illustrating a childrens book
about it. The book was to be a parable on the federal government
and its ways of controlling Indian people. In the tale, the animals
on the prairie lived the good life, although they had to be resourceful
to stay alive, to find food, and to keep from becoming food. But
they understood their ecology, and existed for many centuries. Their
ecosystem worked well, and all were happy.
along comes a burro, and saddled on each side of his body is a large
wicker basket paniers as they are called in Europe.
And these baskets were full of goodies. The Burro distributed these
goodies to everybody, and all the animals were happy. The Burro
was kind to them, and promised to return. He returned again and
again, bringing his goodies each time. Feeling that they would no
longer had to forage for food, and no longer had to fear becoming
food, the animals became fat, sluggish and helpless. Dependency
Burro told them that he needed pasture land for his family and other
burros, and that in gratitude the animals ought to give him some
of their land. After all, since he was providing all the food, they
really didnt need all that land. So, thankful for his largesse,
they gave him land. But soon, he needed more, because more burros
where coming to live with him. And reluctantly, they gave him more.
soon, the Burro started making the animals do tricks for their goodies.
Then he would cause dissention among them by withholding goodies
from some and giving extra goodies to others. The animal nation
became a zoo of disorganization and chaos. Political parties formed
and split the community, and fought relentlessly over goodies, which
were now delivered fewer and farther between, sometimes not at all.
The animal leaders fought each other for the Burros favor,
so that their followers would have more food. Finally the animals
started dying of poor diets, drinking too much, and killing each
other and killing themselves.
is the parable I wanted to write for Native American children and
others who would be virtually enslaved by the government. But my
book was never written because the Burro threatened to cut my supply
of goodies if I did publish such a book.
I never felt confident to write the story, because childrens
books are harder to write than books for grown-ups. Childrens
minds are more pure, and an author doesnt want to chance despoiling
such pristine, innocent pastures with such gross reality.
Trimble, Oglala Lakota, was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation. He was principal founder of the American Indian Press
Association in 1970, and served as executive director of the National
Congress of American Indians from 1972-78. He may be reached at
email@example.com. or at