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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

The Indian Way

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Gen. Quon, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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This is the High Plains Public Radio Reader’s Book Club, and my name is Freddy Gipp.

I am born and raised in Lawrence, KS and currently head a small community development firm called Lead Horse LLC. I am an enrolled member of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, my Indian name is “T’san T’hoop A’hn, meaning “Lead Horse” in the Kiowa Language, and I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in strategic communications from the William Allen White School of Journalism.

As we continue from Neither Wolf nor Dog, by author and narrator Kent Nerburn, we understand more about the complex relationship between the White Man and the Indian.

Nerburn obliged to help Dan write a book that captures his views but under one condition, to “make it sound like I went to Haskell”, in commemoration of his late son who attended the all-Indian higher education institution in Lawrence, Kansas. That book, however, would be a random assortment of loose-leaf papers, notebooks, receipts, and newspaper articles all compiled in a shoe box spanning years in collection.

Shocked, excited, and nervous about writing for the Old Indian Man, Nerburn didn’t know if he wanted to see the pages and if he did, he feared that the old man “might be a crackpot full of wild religious theories”. But shortly after looking over two pages, Nerburn knew that he was in the presence of something extraordinary.

When you are at an imbalance between two cultures, you begin to see things shake. People are uncomfortable with no clear direction on where to go. Nerburn experiences this first-hand while presenting his first chapter to Dan and his friend, Grover.  However, it is Grover’s dismissal of Nerburn's literary approach that frustrates and angers him the most. Nerburn is in disbelief, his mind in disarray and he felt disregarded and not appreciated, especially while Dan was silent.

But it was in this moment, where Nerburn realized the validity of Grover’s words. Grover insisted that Dan has seen a lot and should write it as it is. Not polished, not clean, not white but “The Indian Way”.  The story has always been inside The Old Indian Man, and it is through his voice that will provide the necessary weight of his words to carry the new sense of direction between him and Nerburn.

When the first contact was made between The Indian and The White Man, two different perceived outcomes were displayed. The Indians believed they were making a promise and The White Man believed they were making a deal.

A promise with a purpose. That is the Indian Way.

From the Radio Reader’s Book Club, you are listening to High Plains Public Radio. This is Freddy Gipp signing off.