Anthros, Indians, and more anthros

This story has been sittting in an obscure comment on an obscure blog for more than a decade, and it's about time I published it here.

Long and long and long ago, my children, before the days of AIM and the repurposing of the word indigenous, there was a young anthropology student. And the young man was interviewing an Indian chief, and not merely a chief, but the eldest of his tribe, the only one who remembered the ways of his people now lost in the mists of time, replaced by Keds and Elvis and Coca-Cola, to say nothing of other and less innocent things.

And the young man saw that the chief was sometimes faltering, sometimes doubtful in his answers, a little hesitant in his recall of the dead past. And betimes the chief could not answer the young man's question at all, and would repair to the inside of his house; for the chief, like the others of his people, had long since abandoned the Old Way of shelter in favor of the white man's houses, though to be sure not particularly good ones. And when the chief returned therefrom, his answers were fluid and unhesitating, detailed, complex, and most excellent in quality.

And the young anthro began to wonder. "Perhaps there is a yet older chief within the house", he thought; "more knowledgeable, more wise — perhaps bedridden?" And so the young man broke the frame, and asked the chief wherefore he would go into his house and return with such wonderful answers.

And the chief made no reply, but went into his house, thinking to himself, "This young man is very ignorant. He wishes to learn the ancient ways of my people." And the chief returned carrying a battered old book, and he was thinking, "By great good fortune, I have a book which tells of them. The ignorant young man does not, alas, possess this book. I will tell him what it says."

With horror, the young man saw that the book which the chief held in his ancient hand was neither more nor less than the relevant volume of the Handbook of American Indians issued by the U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology in the generation preceding. And the young anthro returned to his home, a sadder but a wiser man he.