A Cherished Alienation

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Organization: Penn State University
Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 16:58:05 EDT
From: Macedon
Message-ID: <96276.165805JRZ3@psuvm.psu.edu>
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: REPOST: “A Cherished Alienation” (VOY) (C)

Star Trek is the property of Paramount Studios. The following is
a non-profit work of fan fiction. The following is also the
third part in a “story dialogue.” The previous stories are
“Talking Stick” (by myself) and “Circle” (by Peg Robinson).

The spelling “manitto” is not an error, but a dialect difference.
This term for the numinous, the spirits, is more commonly
rendered manitou, but can also be found mannito, just as the
Algonquian for the Great Spirit is found both Gicimanitou/tto and
Kitchimanitou/tto. It is a problem of transliteration.

A CHERISHED ALIENATION
Little Otter, c1996
(aka “Macedon”)

“I wanted to learn the white man’s secrets. I thought he had
better magic….Seven years I was [at Carlisle Indian School in
Pennsylvania]….They told us that Indian ways were bad. They
said we must get civilized….We all wore white man’s clothes
and ate white man’s food and went to white man’s church and
spoke white man’s talk. And so after a while we also began to
say Indians were bad….I tried to learn the lessons–and after
seven years I came home….The chiefs said to my father, ‘Your
son who calls himself Rafael has lived with the white men….
He has no hair. He has no blankets. He cannot even speak
our language and he has a strange smell. He is not one of us.'”

Sun Elk, Taos Pueblo

“Frogs and Prejudice”

It was an argument over frogs that made me choose.
I was seven years old, impatient for eight and the
independence of my own scooter bike. But at seven, my mother
said I was too small to fly alone, so I would sneak away with
Avery and Bill on theirs whenever I could. Come evening, we
would return, full of ourselves and dirty with Oklahoma dust
churned up by tiny engines which spurted dry clouds in our wake.
Avery was two years my senior, Bill one. It made me feel
important to go flying with bigger boys. And, truth be told, it
made me feel important to go flying with friends who did not live
on reservation ground.
Old prejudices eel their way from camouflaged lairs in
“harmless archaic flatscreen shows” and curl up in the minds of
children who are too young yet to recognize covert racism
parading as sympathy and “respect for a proud people.” A proud
people, my foot. A *frozen* people–frozen in time by white
Western nostalgia, reduced to some esoteric idea of Indian
“pureness” which is then refined, enshrined, tagged and displayed
as “The Authentic Native American Soul.” Those who don’t fit
homogenized red are labeled rebellious, or reactionary, and
sometimes–if the labelers want to get really nasty–“apple.”
Red on the outside, white on the inside. But it’s not whites who
use the term apple. Thus we absorb even their stereotypes.
Shame drives us to flee our culture, or freeze it.
It was frogs that made me choose.

On this particular day, Avery, Bill, I, and a net and pail
were headed out to Rattlesnake Ridge. It had rained two nights
before, a hard rain that had soaked the Oklahoma dustbowl and
would, we knew, add to The Pond under the north face of the
ridge. The Pond amounted to a thumbprint in the earth where
rainwater would stand for a while until summer heat baked it
away, leaving parched pentangles of cracked mud. This was the
latest rain in two weeks of storms. The Pond was a respectable
size, about thigh-deep in the middle. But it was not swimming
which had brought Avery, Bill and I out on scooter bikes to the
north face of Rattlesnake Ridge.
It was frogs.
Tadpoles, to be exact.
Frogs didn’t realize The Pond wouldn’t last. The females
layed eggs in it and, if there were rains enough–as there had
been–those eggs would hatch. The Pond would roil with tadpoles.
It was to rescue the tadpoles that we had come. Avery’s idea,
actually. His grandfather was a Vulcan and Avery had inherited
Vulcan black hair and Vulcan respect for life–if not Vulcan
coolness. The thought of legions of beached tadpoles abandoned
to fry set his face grim with Red-Cross Rescue determination. He
had called out his guard–Bill and I–and together we set out for
The Pond.
“Chakotay, hold the pail *still*; you’re sloshing the water
over the edge.” Avery was wielding the net while Bill paced in
his footsteps: a shadow as black as Avery’s hair, as black as the
tadpoles in my pail.
“We’re running out of space,” I warned, then squatted down
to whisper over the rim, telling them what they would grow into,
as if by naming them I could will them to live long enough.
“Koka, koka, neejdee koka….” I made a little song of it.
Avery came up beside me. “What on Earth are you saying?”
He dumped in more tadpoles.
I stood up, a little embarrassed and curt with it. I
shrugged one shoulder. “Nothing really.”
“What does ‘koka’ mean?”
“Frog.”
“They aren’t frogs *yet*,” Avery pointed out with that acid
Vulcan precision that I both admired and despised simultaneously.
“They will be!”
Bill had detached himself from the pondside long enough to
come listen. “‘Koka,'” he repeated. “Sounds like a grunt, not a
word.” And he dropped to the earth, hopping about in a fair frog
imitation, croaking, “KoKA, koKA!”
Avery blinked, grinned. “Onomatopoeia,” he said. My turn
now to blink. Sometimes I wondered if he sat around at home,
flipping through a dicto-pad for fun or if his grandfather made
him learn words like that. Seeing both my and Bill’s confused
expressions, he added, “It’s when you find names for things by
imitating the sound they make. Lots of primitive cultures create
their words that way.”

Slam! Just like that, I hit the walls. It was the first
time I fully realized that my friends did not *see* the world the
same way I did. It was more than language. One can translate
words, but one cannot translate so easily a different way of
seeing…a way of seeing that finds “koka” the better word
exactly because of onomatopoeia. Did that make me a primitive, a
savage? Or more logical than my part-Vulcan friend? I was not
sure. But I *was* sure I didn’t like the sound of “savage”–
whether it was qualified by “noble” or not.
Avery, Bill and I remained friends until my parents divorced
and my father took me with him to a colony world. But that
afternoon when I was seven years old, I learned to be ashamed of
my people, and of my language. I also learned I had two choices
in society: live alienated from the larger culture, or live
alienated from myself. I chose the latter. It would be many
years before I would come to see I had made the wrong choice, and
it would be even more before I would understand that there were
more choices than two…and that alienation could be precious.

He-d’ho!

I.

Tuvok had come silent to the storytelling circle: a tall
figure in brown robes like the wings of a fruit bat. He
approached the group as he lived: on the edge of things,
watchful, maybe a little suspicious.
Janeway came loud.
I was there already, propped on the corner of a table,
chatting with Kes about a new strain of tomato she was trying to
breed, a variation on yellow pears. Tuvok, who was a closet
horticulturalist, had mentioned to Kes that my father had raised
tomatoes. That was all Kes had needed to set out after me like a
bear after honey. “My *father* grew the tomatoes, not me,” I was
telling her when I glanced at the door.
My jaw dropped wide enough to catch flies.
Janeway. Janeway in a bottle-green pantsuit which set off
her hair and made her look taller than she was. Beads in gold
and green glass hung about her neck and from her ears, catching
the dim light and flashing. She called out something to Tom
Paris as if her appearance here was no more than we should all
have expected.
It wasn’t flies I needed to catch, it was my balance. I
shut my mouth, mind spinning. How dare she do this without
warning me.
“How dare she?” another part of my mind mocked. “You
invited her.” I had. I had, indeed, invited her. Needled her
even. And she had risen to the challenge. Could I?
She had approached Paris to set a hand on his arm and
exchange greetings with he and Kim and B’Elanna. The three
junior officers made generous room for her on their blanket–on
B’Elanna’s blanket to be precise. At my side, Kes was watching
me. I could feel her eyes. It’s unsettling when someone not
quite four years old and pretty as a pixie gives you the
appraising glance of a tribal elder. An amused tribal elder.
She picked up the Talking Stick where I had layed it on the table
beside my hip and handed it over. She did not speak. Kes knows
the value of words without words.
The rest of the group was settling down, too. Eyes slanted
towards the captain in green, then towards me. The hands of my
ancestors held me up as I walked towards the circle and sat. Her
eyes met mine, flashed to the stick I held, then returned to my
face: calm, patient, trusting that I would know what to do with
this appearance. I felt the sweat start under my arms.
I had made it my duty to welcome each new person the first
time they attended the circle. But what the hell was I supposed
to say to the captain? Welcome, ma’am, to your own mess hall?
And for God’s sake, what was I supposed to *call* her?
Part of the established ritual of my greeting involved
welcoming new people by name. No uniforms here. No titles
either. Some had only the one name to use, like Tuvok. Most
went by first names, though a few wore last names naturally.
Paris was Paris. Only Harry Kim and B’Elanna called him Tom.
Harry, B’Elanna, and the captain.
Harry, B’Elanna and *Katheryn*.
No titles here. And this was not a woman on whom a last
name hung well.
I set the Talking Stick across my knees. “Welcome to the
storytelling circle, Katheryn.”
Her face could not have turned whiter had I slapped her.

II.

For two years now I had served under Janeway. I had never
called her by her first name; I used captain, or Captain Janeway.
Occasionally, Captain Katheryn Janeway. Never Katheryn. My
decision. My gift to her authority. Because I had taken the
position of first officer as a step down from captain myself–and
there were still some who thought I should occupy the center seat
–I was careful not to threaten in any way the auctoritas of the
woman who did sit there. So I had refrained from using her given
name, and she had never offered it. I think that was instinct on
her part. On mine, it was a thoroughly weighed choice.
Yet in the storytelling circle, if I granted her her rank, I
would destroy the special dynamic which allowed the circle to
function the way it did. Out here, there was no furlough, there
was no family, no time for the uniform and pips to come off, no
leveler that returned us our humanity at the end of a detail.
People could not live in uniform twenty-four hours a day for
seventy years. Not even Tuvok. Not even the captain. But did
she know that?
She was still glaring at me. I turned to face the circle.
I could not back down or we would all lose our balance. The
others were flailing; I could see it in their expressions. The
best I could do was play ignorant of the captain’s irritation and
give her some space to mull over things for herself. In the end,
she would make her own place here. Or not. I held up the
Talking Stick in silent question. Or maybe a silent plea for
someone to bail me out.
The person who did surprised me.
Tuvok took the stick. Standing, he faced the captain and–
with all the deliberation of Vulcans and the perspicacity of six
years of service under her–said, “Welcome to the circle, Kate.”
Then he began to speak. It was a bland tale, not really a story
at all; he had just wanted to get that stick into his hand. I
did not dare look at Janeway.
Kes spoke next. Of course. She took the stick from Tuvok,
turned to Janeway smiling that charming, disarming, thoroughly
calculated smile and said, “I am so glad you finally joined us,
Katheryn.” Only Kes could say ‘so glad’ and make it sound
anything but trite. Then she slid smoothly into her story. But
Kes was slyer than Tuvok. She told about a recent quarrel
between her and Neelix over a name for the child she carried. At
the end, patting the natal pouch on her shoulder and not so much
as glancing at Janeway, she finished, “What do the rest of you
think we should name her? We need to resolve this issue of
names.”
I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. Kes was born
a psychologist. But it was Paris who said, “Why not name her
Katheryn, after our fearless leader?” And he smiled at the woman
sitting beside him. It gave me an excuse to finally look at the
captain.
She was bearing up. The tensile brittleness had gone out of
her face, replaced by a slightly bewildered blankness. She
blinked at me. I smiled back. She did not return it.
Your ass is cooked, I thought to myself.
I saw her glance at Tuvok; he raised an eyebrow. Her lips
thinned.
Both our asses were cooked.
She was very silent for the rest of the evening. Following
Tuvok, Kes had tried to set a pattern by calling Janeway by name.
Had Janeway not closed up like a tower, had she at least laughed
at Paris’ jest, it would have worked. But she did close up,
drawbridge raised. No one else dared to imitate Kes’ example.
When the circle broke up for the night, she beat an early
retreat. I had half-feared she would wait in the corridor to
haul off Tuvok and I by our ears like a pair of naughty boys. As
it was, Tuvok and I walked back to our cabins alone. In the
turbolift, he glanced at me. “She did not expect that.”
“I didn’t know she was coming.” It was not a direct
response to his statement, but he followed the shift and nodded.
“By the way,” I added, “Thanks.” He nodded again. We said
nothing else.
I frittered about my cabin for most of the evening,
expecting a summons from the captain that never came. The next
day, when I arrived on the bridge, she glanced at me, greeted me
normally. I wondered if this meant she had thought things
through last night and understood. But I still dreaded our
regularly-scheduled meeting at the close of shift. With good
reason, as it turned out.
At 1600 exactly, I buzzed her ready-room door. “Come,” she
said. Infoboard held out before me like a shield, I entered.
Glancing up, she gave her I’ll-be-with-you-in-a-minute smile and
gestured to my usual chair. “Have a seat, Joseph.”
Ah–the artful slice. I recognized exactly what she was
doing. On the one hand, she did understand my decision of the
night before. On the other, she still resented it and was
playing a bit of tit-for-tat in private. Except she had picked
the wrong thing to tat.
I burst out laughing.
Startled as a deer, she looked up. Then she grinned, too.
“Surprised? So was I, last night. You could have warned me.”
I sat down. “You could have warned me you were coming, and
I would have.” I eyed her, then leaned back and crossed my arms.
“I rather think you enjoyed taking me off guard.”
“Have to keep you on your toes somehow,” she said.
Passing her the infoboard, I clasped my hands between my
knees and watched while she glanced it over. “You know,” I said,
“Joseph isn’t my given name. That’s the reason I laughed.
You’ve been calling me by my given name all along. Chakotay.”
Her turn to eye me. “‘*Joseph* Chakotay’ is what’s in your
record, commander.”
“Joseph is…a place-holder, if you will. My mother named
me Chakotay at my birth. When I had my puberty fast–my vision
quest–I received a new name after the fashion of my father’s
people. Peshewa. It means ‘Wildcat’. But Earth Records don’t
take kindly to cultures with fluid naming customs. I kept
Chakotay for common use; Peshewa I employ only in special cases.”
I hesitated, then told her anyway because Tuvok knew and what
Tuvok knew, she knew. “It was my code name in the maquis.”
She smiled. “Appropriate. I didn’t understand the
significance before. So how did you get Joseph?”
“Starfleet gave it to me.” She raised both eyebrows in a
silent question; I shifted posture slightly. “Programmer’s
glitch in Starfleet records. Most cultures of any size develop a
naming system which includes some form of surname or clan name.
In short, everyone has at least two names. Even Vulcans. Hell,
Vulcans have *five* when they want to trot them all out.”
She hid a smile behind her hand. “Most of which are
unpronounceable.”
“Only if your native language lacks the glottal stops and
velars. I understand Semitic speakers have no problem.”
“What? You’re a closet linguist, too?”
I just grinned, went on with my story. “As it happens,
those few cultures which do employ single names with no adjuncts
are all alien–except for a few of Earth’s aboriginal peoples. I
was hardly the first Indian in Starfleet, but the others I knew
of had dual names–white names–to use; they didn’t face my
problem. I had two choices: get continually filed under ‘alien’
or use a place-marker name.”
“Joseph is hardly the equivalent of ‘X’.”
“It’s what my first roommate called me: Chief Joseph. He
was from Senegal and didn’t know shit about Indians, but
somewhere he had read of Chief Joseph and Crazy Horse. He called
me both by turns, as a joke. I think he meant well, but I didn’t
take it well. Around the same time, Records was spitting back my
files because my name didn’t conform to White Man’s database. So
when the woman behind the desk insisted I had to have a first
name–or a last name–not ‘just Chakotay’, I told her, ‘Then call
me Chief Joseph’ and walked out. It was a smart-assed answer,
and I deserved what she did. She put ‘Joseph’ in my records. I
spent the next four years explaining to every piece of brass who
interviewed me that No, I didn’t go by either Joe or Joseph.”
It was meant to be funny. This time, it turned on my tongue
and cut me. Bitterness bled.
She asked the obvious question. “Why didn’t you just use
the X? Or give the name Peshewa?”
Why hadn’t I? “I was young and I was angry,” I said. “And
I was embarrassed for being Indian.”
“Being different.”
“When you’re barely seventeen, it matters.”
Tilting her head, she asked the next obvious question. “Why
didn’t you have it changed, later?”
I smiled faintly. “Because Chief Joseph was a great leader
and I was headed for command. I can think of worse names to
wear.”
She gave me a look that said she suspected there was more to
it. She was right. But I wasn’t inclined to tell the more. Not
just then. Even to her.

III.

Myeengun, my manitto, my spirit guide, speaks to me
sometimes in whispers that I do not understand. Or she appears
at the edge of vision, ducking away shy when I look her full-on.
It’s a canted awareness of reality. In order to see all there is
to see, we must learn to see dim, my father used to say.
Myeengun has taught me to see dim: a silver shadow, all yellow
eyes and toothy grin. I think she chose me because I amuse her.
Or she pitied me. I’ve never been able to decide which. Perhaps
it does not much matter. I belong to her.
But she is not a constant presence in my life. I’m no meda,
no muskekewininee–no shaman–to see visions regularly. When she
comes, she tends to come in dreams. Those few times I have seen
her with my physical eyes–when, waking, I have walked between
worlds–were pivotal times. And never had it happened on a ship.
Myeengun does not like steel walls and artificial light.
So when she appeared, sitting bold as you please before the
door to the messhall, tongue lolling like a patient dog, I was
set quite off the mark. I had been headed in a little early to
prepare the room for that evening’s storytelling circle. Seeing
Myeengun, I slowed my pace and halted perhaps fifteen feet away.
I was very aware of the weight of my Stick in my hands. The
manitto are not always safe. A myeengun, even a myeengun
manitto, is still a myeengun. A wolf. “Needjee,” I greeted
her. Friend. I was glad I was alone. I would have hated to try
to explain to another crewmember why I was talking to a
timberwolf in the middle of Voyager’s corridor.
She blinked at me. I came a few steps nearer. She allowed
it, but stayed in front of the doorway, blocking my entrance. It
was clear she did not intend to let me pass. I wondered what
this meant. Perhaps she would tell me. Reaching inside my shirt
for the red leather bag which hung against my chest, I pushed the
top open with my fingers and emptied part of the contents into my
hand. Separating out the dry brown threads of saemauh–tobacco–
I put the rest back. Hand shaking, I offered the saemauh to her,
held out on the flat of my palm. Her head snaked forward and she
sniffed at the offering. Then she struck the bottom of my hand
with the top of her nose so that the saemauh flew up into the
air. It never came down. It just disappeared.
Standing up then, she headed off down the corridor. I was
not sure what I was supposed to do but she paused to glance back
at me. I followed. She led me into the turbolift, which started
without being told where to go. When it stopped, it opened on
the corridor leading to the officers’ cabins. The whole time, we
saw no one. This is the way of visions. When the manitto speak,
it is sacred time, not clock-time. We step outside ourselves.
Myeengun led me down the corridor and up to Janeway’s door. Then
she kept on going right through the metal, and disappeared.
She left me with a thought. “The circle is not complete,
Peshewa.”
I stood there a while; time resumed around me. I was aware
of other crewmembers passing, coming off duty or going on.
Across the hall, the door to Tuvok’s cabin swished open and he
emerged, dressed in his robes, ready to attend the night’s circle
meeting. Seeing me, he paused. “Commander?”
“Is she coming tonight, Tuvok?”
He stepped around to face me. “I presume you mean the
captain? I do not know; we did not discuss it.” He eyed me.
“It is important to you, that she come.”
“The circle isn’t complete,” I said, repeating Myeengun’s
words. He peered at me as if fearing for my sanity–or doubting
my explanation…perhaps not without reason. Did I want her to
come for the crew’s sake–‘to complete the circle’–or for mine?
She completed me, too. I forced my eyes to meet Tuvok’s. “She
can’t just come once, then never come again.”
“How do you know,” he asked pointedly, “that she was *not*
planning to attend tonight?”
I turned away, back towards the door. “A hunch,” I said,
because I didn’t want to explain Myeengun to Tuvok. Raising my
hand, I knocked.
The door opened almost immediately. Janeway stood there,
still in uniform, a datapad in one hand. I wondered if she had
been standing on the other side, listening to my conversation
with Tuvok. “You’d better get dressed or you’ll be late,” I told
her.
She glanced at Tuvok, then rubbed her forehead right between
the brows, as if she had a headache. “I have a great deal of
work to do–before morning–commander. I don’t think I’ll be
coming tonight. But thanks for taking time to stop by personally
and ask.” She gave a tremulous smile that said her feelings of
gratitude were somewhat ambivalent.
The circle is not complete, Peshewa.
But I knew Janeway. If I came at this directly, she would
balk, all pride and cherished “isolation of command.” To get her
to come back, I would have to be as wise Ae-pungishimook, the old
West Wind, and as clever as Nanahboozhoo, his son.
“Well,” I said, thinking fast and hard, “I can certainly
understand when duty interferes with fun, but Tuvok and I thought
we’d knock in case you were going, so we could escort you.”
Tuvok glanced at me as if to say, What you mean ‘we’, Red Man?
Janeway gave us both that Look. “Maybe next time,” she
said. Which was exactly what I was hoping she would say.
“Whenever you decide to come,” I answered, trying to sound
offhand, “maybe I’ll tell the story of why I kept the name
Joseph.” Then smiling my most innocent, hand-in-the-cookie-jar
smile, I gave her a little salute with the Talking Stick and
headed off. I could hear Tuvok a step behind.
In the turbolift, he glanced my way. “I believe the Terran
expression is ‘holding out a carrot to the horse’?”
I just grinned.
After a few more floors went past, Tuvok asked, “How *did*
you get the name Joseph? I had assumed your parents gave it to
you.”
Vulcans and cats, and scientists, all suffer from terminal
curiosity.
“Guess you’ll just have drag the captain to the circle, so
you can find out.” I winked at him. Then the turbolift doors
whooshed open and I escaped into the hallway.

*** END PART I ***

A CHERISHED ALIENATION
Little Otter, c1996
(aka “Macedon”)

IV.

As I had hoped it might, the lure of a mystery brought
Janeway back to the storytelling circle. But four meetings went
by before she yielded to that lure.
Her initial arrival had been designed to attract notice: the
captain would be on the bridge, even out of uniform. The second
time she came, she came as herself, as Katheryn. She did not opt
for either making an entrance or slipping in unseen. The others
in the circle noticed the difference. It was from nothing she
said; it was a matter of posture, an indefinable aura of openness
which told them, “I am with you,” not “I am your captain.” They
moved easier, greeted her more warmly, and when they finally
settled into the circle, they made room for her as a matter of
course, not a tacit acknowledgement of her status. She chose a
seat between Tuvok and Kes, a gesture of constrained apology
perhaps, and a notice that this time, she was content to be
Katheryn.
Smiling to myself, I turned the Talking Stick in my hands.
“It’s been a while since I’ve spoken in the Circle,” I began.
“Tonight, with your permission, I’d like to tell a story.” Their
acknowledgement was expectant silence.
Touching my bag beneath my shirt, I sent silent prayer to
Myeengun for guidance and rose to retrieve the bundle I had
brought with me. I had brought it now to four meetings of the
circle, awaiting the proper time. Tonight, the proper time had
finally come. The circle was complete.
From the bundle, I removed a long-stemmed pipe which I
filled with saemauh and kinnikinnick–tobacco and sweet herbs.
“In a circle, there is no ‘head’ and no ‘foot,’ no rank”–I
glanced at Janeway–“no linear order to dictate who has the
authority, who has none. Even the Elder may learn from the
Child. They are closer together than they are far apart. The
one is near to returning to Gicimanitto, the Great Mystery; the
other has just come from it. A circle, not a line. Life is a
circle. Likewise, the bowl of the pipe is a circle.” I traced
it with a finger. “And when we share it, we sit in a circle–
just as when we tell stories. Before I share this story with
you, this story of who I am, I invite you to share the pipe.
White Man called it a peace pipe, but it’s really a pipe of
unity. Where there is unity, there is peace. It is a reminder
that we are all related. As an elder of my mother’s people once
told me, ‘To share the pipe means you quit shitting with one
another.’ When the white man first came to our land, he did not
understand this–and we did not understand him. We would make a
treaty and share the pipe with him, then he would go off and
break that treaty. To him, it had just been a smoke; to us, it
was holy business.” I looked right at Tuvok. “So I explain it
to you now. This is holy business, this circle we make. A few
of you have shared the pipe with me before.” Tuvok had shared
the pipe then betrayed me. I would give him the benefit of the
doubt, that he had not understood what he had done. “Most of you
have not. So I give you a choice. If you will accept the
responsibility of the pipe, if you are willing to quit shitting
with one another–stay. If you are not ready, this is your
opportunity to depart.” I waited. None left. Katheryn had
leaned forward slightly in constrained anticipation like a hound
on a leash. Tuvok’s face was unreadable.
“I realize that tobacco is not something used much these
days. If you don’t wish to actually breathe it in, you can hold
the bowl of the pipe to your chest. There are many different
ways of sharing the pipe, different traditions. In the plains,
where my mother’s father was born, when one took the pipe, he–or
she–repeated the phrase, ‘we are all related’. ‘Mitakuye
oyasin’ in Lakota. But I don’t want you to use Lakota. It’s not
your language. Instead, I ask you to remove your communicators
and repeat the phrase in your own language–whatever that is. I
think it’s important to hear the language of the people: of
ourselves. True unity doesn’t come from obliterating difference,
but from celebrating it. The wholeness of the tribe not only
allows diversity, but *requires* diversity. A body with 10 hands
and no eyes isn’t very efficient. So I ask you to remember for a
moment where you come from, and to repeat ‘we are all related’ in
your own tongue.”
I lit the pipe and got it going, made my silent prayers to
the manitto of each Direction: to West and North, East and South,
then to Muzzu-kummik-quae, Mother Earth. Finally, I raised the
pipe towards the ‘sky.’ “Let us join together our thoughts, our
intentions, our dreams and aspirations, all our petitions and
prayers as thanksgiving to Gicimanitto for having bestowed on us
such bounty and beauty beyond imagination, for granting us such
increase in our days that we might gather together in communion,
and that we might live to see our children’s children.”
Then I drew on the pipe a last time, using my hand to make
the smoke curl back around my head, acrid-sweet. “We are all
related.” And I passed the pipe. In turn and in many different
tongues, forty-seven voices repeated it. When the pipe reached
Tuvok, he hesitated, glanced towards me. “I accept this
responsibility,” he said in English. “And I apologize for
profaning what I did not understand.” He smoked from the pipe,
coughed a little. I smiled. Before, he had chosen to hold it to
his chest. “Mehe naket ur-surveh.” I recognized the words; he
had not repeated ‘we are all related’. Instead, he had given the
Vulcan greeting: “Peace and long life”–something truly from his
own heritage. Perhaps I should have offered them the chance to
chose their own words as I had asked them to use their own
language.
When the pipe returned to me, I tapped out the ashes and
chanted softly in my own tongue. “N’gah anttisookai.” I call on
the muses. May they grant me courage to speak the truth.
Pulling a chain out of my pocket, I dropped it in the center
of the floor. Gold pooled fluid, winking in low light. “In
chemistry, I learned that was called AU, atomic number 79. In
truth, it’s poison. It sends people mad. In 1860, it was found
on Nez Perce land. The Nee Me Poo, the Real People. Up till
then, the Nez Perce had been friends to the Americans. They had
saved the Lewis and Clark expedition, had befriended fur traders.
But in 1860 a party of prospectors stole onto the reservation and
found gold. Word went out. A flood of miners came in. In 1863,
the US government called together the Nez Perce and told them
they had to give up nine-tenths of their land, land the US
government had agreed–just eight years before–would belong to
the Nee Me Poo in perpetuity.” I smiled bitterly. “The ‘Indian
Givers’ were never the Indians.”
“The US demand caused general consternation, but not general
agreement on what to do about it. The Nee Me Poo were a
democratic people. There was no chief to speak for all; each
band spoke for itself through a civil leader. Some agreed to the
new treaty, mostly chiefs who, like Lawyer, would not lose their
own land. Others refused to sign. Among them was a chief named
Tuekakas, better known by the name of Joseph. As a young man, he
had been converted to Christianity and baptized with a Christian
name. Now, angry and betrayed by white lies, he led his party
home. But Lawyer, pressured and perhaps drunk on firewater,
signed the damned treaty in the name of all the Nee Me Poo. The
government had what it wanted: a piece of paper that said Nez
Perce land was theirs. They bought it for less than eight cents
an acre. It didn’t matter that the purchase wasn’t legal. Blind
justice was never blind for the Indian.
“When Joseph heard what had been done, he threw away his
Bible and his white clothes and returned to the traditions and
faith of his ancestors. He vowed he would never give up his
land. But Joseph was an old man. He died in 1871, before he had
to fight. On his deathbed, he passed responsibility for the
Wallowa people to his son, Young Joseph, better known to whites
as Chief Joseph, the great ‘war leader.’ In fact, Joseph was no
war chief at all. He was a civil chief. I will tell you now the
true story of Chief Joseph.
“For a while, a detente existed. No gold had been found in
Wallowa country. The Nez Perce continued to live there and no
white settlers came until 1871–the same year old Joseph died.
For six years, they lived in peace with the Nez Perce. The US
government even decided to reverse its decision of 1863,
returning Wallowa land to the Wallowa. But the settlers, and the
Oregon politicians, objected. So the government reversed their
reversal, announcing to Joseph and his people that they must
leave. Joseph was no fool. He knew how to use councils to
stall. And his wisdom had won him the respect of many whites,
including the general sent to remove him. Yet General Howard was
white, and he finally sided with his own people. In 1877, he
advised the US government they must force the Nez Perce to move.
A last council was held; the debate grew heated. Some of the
chiefs spoke out violently against the decision. Joseph did not.
He saw there was no way to win a full-scale war with the US.
They had too many troops. So he agreed to lead his people to the
reservation.
“It was not to be. On the way, a young brave from another
band, angry and seeking revenge for the murder of his father,
attacked and killed some settlers. The Nez Perce knew they must
run. Whites wanted Indian land and already thought of Indians as
‘savages’. All they needed was an excuse to commit genocide. So
the Nee Me Poo fled: 750 people including women and children,
horse herds and baggage. This was the great Nez Perce War: US
troops chasing a bunch of families, desperate and fleeing for
their lives. Yet the ‘ignorant savages’ repeatedly defeated
trained troops and their veteran Civil War officers. For 1400
miles the Nez Perce ran, out of Oregon through Idaho into Montana
and Wyoming. First they headed for Crow land. But when the Crow
–who had once been their allies–turned on them to keep whites
off their own backs, the Nee Me Poo fled for the Canadian border
to join Sitting Bull.
“Throughout the war, the skill and humanitarian behavior of
the Nee Me Poo won much respect. The press erroneously credited
Joseph as the leader and mastermind. To salve their pride, white
generals called him the Red Napoleon–a military genius. In
truth, it was Looking Glass and Lean Elk and Poker Joe who spoke
most often in the council. But a myth had been born. Whites
have always seen Indians the way they want to see them, not the
way they are. The myth of ‘war chief’ Joseph is just one more
example of that.
“They almost made it. Forty miles from the Canadian border,
they were surprised on an open plain, their horses driven off. A
five day siege followed. Finally, the children freezing, the war
chiefs dead, Joseph surrendered. ‘It is cold, we have no
blankets. The little children are freezing to death,’ he said.
‘I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now
stands, I will fight no more forever.’
Joseph and his people were not allowed to return to the
reservation to which they had been bound. They were shipped to a
malaria-ridden area of Kansas where many died, then on to Indian
Country–Oklahoma. For years, Joseph fought legal battles to
secure their return. In 1879 he even spoke before the president
–Hayes, at the time. In 1885, he and his exiles were allowed to
go back. Their return met with resistance. The whites in Oregon
called them ‘savages and murders’. Once again to please the
protestors, the government reversed its previous decision and
sent them to Washington territory. In 1904, Joseph died, ‘of a
broken heart,’ the physician said. He was only 64 years old.”
I had been standing while I told Joseph’s story. Now, I
squatted down to put myself on a level with the rest of the
circle. “When I left home for Starfleet Academy, I was sixteen,
almost seventeen. I had received my scholarship on the strength
of my programming skills. Most of my childhood and youth I had
spent as a Net Monkey–a wizard of the virtual world. I could
break into anything. Or out of anything. The world of computers
was clean and unambiguous, and linear. White Man’s paradise, an
Elder called it once. Created reality to escape the reality that
is. But I preferred it. I could live in a virtual world and
escape the real one around me, forget that I had one foot in
white society and one on the red road. A divided life. I wanted
both feet someplace. Yet I found that whichever way I stepped, I
was alienated from myself. For a while, the white world, the
world of the majority, appealed. I was content to forget I had
been born Indian. After all, the Indians were a conquered people
and who wants to count himself among the losers? I was a good
little assimilated red boy. Starfleet was my Carlisle Indian
School. Like the children who had been sent there, I learned to
laugh at my own people. Did I want to be an Indian? No!
Indians were ‘savages’–primitives. They embarrassed me.
“But when I got to Starfleet, I found I had a little problem
–related to being Indian, of course, which made it intolerable.
I had been given only one legal name: Chakotay. If I wanted to
be the same as everyone else, wanted to escape my alienation, I
needed to have two names. My first roommate–as a jest–had
taken to calling me ‘Chief Joseph’ so when the officer in Records
demanded that I chose a second name as a place-marker, I told her
‘Call me Chief Joseph.’ I was angry. Having only one name had
made me feel different yet again. But ‘Joseph’ is precisely what
she put in my records. I became Joseph Chakotay. At first, I
was unsure whether to be amused or insulted. I considered
changing it. I do have a second name, given me in adolescence,
but it reminded me of my father and my Indian heritage. I
dallied. In the meantime, the outcome of our senior War Games
made me decide to leave my name as it was. I had decided that
being the Red Napoleon was not such a bad thing after all.”
Janeway suddenly sat up straight and blurted out, “YOU’RE
the Red Napoleon? My God! I spent my entire freshman year
hearing about the Red Napoleon!”
There was scattered laughter. Embarrassed, Janeway put a
hand over her mouth. I just grinned and did not reply, went on
with my tale. “I had got into the academy on the strength of my
programming skills but during my first year, my advisor suggested
that I switch from science to command-track. And, being command-
track, that meant I led a unit in the War Games. But I was not
the one who chose the name of that unit; they named themselves.
My Second had learned that my roommate called me ‘Chief Joseph’.
He did a little research and suggested a name: Nee Me Poo. At
first, I was embarrassed. I saw it as just another case of White
Man using an Indian tribe for a mascot, along with tigers and
bears and other wild things. ‘Savage’ haunted me. Except he had
not suggested the white man’s name: Nez Perce. He had suggested
ours: the Nee Me Poo. My unit was trying to honor me, not make
fun of me. They wanted me to be their Red Napoleon. Yet, even
in the midst of their respect, that old myth remained. They
wanted a person who had never existed.
“Nevertheless, I accepted it. I studied what Looking Glass
had done, what Toohoolhoolzote had done. But I also studied
Sitting Bull and Tecumseh, Crazy Horse and Geronimo, Little
Turtle and Red Cloud. And I discovered something–those war
chiefs were *good*. In the end they lost not because they were
less clever than the whites, but because they were outnumbered.
I rediscovered pride in being Indian.
“When it came time for the War Games, I transposed their
tactics into space. It worked surprisingly well. Our unit made
it to the final round. The night before that battle, we burned
sage to purify ourselves and shared a pipe to make ourselves one.
Then, the next morning before boarding our ship simulator, we
painted ourselves with warpaint. They gave me a headdress with
seven eagle feathers–one for each ship we had eliminated from
play. It was all very silly but we were young enough still to
get carried away by melodrama. Looking back, what amazes me is
that none of the officers made us wash the stuff off our faces.
“We won the War Games that year, and I decided that Joseph
was not such a bad name to have–but not because he was the Red
Napoleon. When the last battle was over, I told my unit the
truth about Chief Joseph. But in my victory speech, I quoted
some of what Joseph had said to President Hayes:
“‘Treat all men alike. Give all men the same law. Give all
an even chance to live and grow. All people were made by the
same Great Spirit. They are all brothers and sisters…Let me be
a free man–free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to
trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to
follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act
for myself.’
“I decided to keep the name Joseph because I believed those
words. He might not have been a military genius, but he was a
wise man. That mattered more. And because I believed his words,
believe the Federation existed to guarantee them, I took an oath
as a Starfleet officer. I was proud to wear the uniform.”
I looked down at the Talking Stick in my hands. “For more
than twenty years I wore that uniform. I wanted to ensure
freedom for all, ensure that justice had finally put on her
blindfold for peoples of all races and colors. We had become
properly ‘civilized.'” I raised my eyes to Janeway, and Tuvok
beside her. “Then the Federation sold out my people to the
Cardassians. It was 1877 all over again and a modern committee
of General Howards dressed in red admiral uniforms had decided to
take our land without our consent. Nothing had changed. In four
hundred years, nothing had changed. We were abandoned to the
tender mercies of our new overlords. They herded us onto little
squares of land–our new reservations. Four hundred years and
nothing had changed. When my father went to argue against these
new land restrictions, he was shot: an unarmed man. All he
carried was this.” I hefted the Talking Stick. “The Cardassians
called it a potential weapon and shot him. The Federation did
nothing but make a few protests and apologies for the ‘tragic
incident.’ I left Starfleet that day. Like the older Joseph, I
was tired of white men’s lies. I threw away my ‘Bible’–my
Starfleet uniform–and I returned to my people. I joined the
maquis.”
Standing, I turned my back to the circle and raised the
Stick. “Hey-d’ho!”
B’Elanna spoke next. Picking up on my cue, she told how she
had come to the maquis. Gerron followed her. One by one, those
of my former crew who were present told their stories, the
horrors which had led them to join the maquis. They spoke until
the younger Fleet officers, those like Kim who still believed the
Great Federation Myth, were reduced to tears by the hard reality
of a people betrayed. Rape and murder and butchered children.
This was no seminar to discuss the ethics of rebellion or
necessities of Realpolitik. It was a storytelling circle and my
people told the stories of their grief.
When all the former maquis had spoken, the Stick returned to
me. I stood. “I am, still, a man of peace. And I continue to
believe those words that Joseph spoke before the President’s
cabinet. ‘Treat all men–and women–alike. Give them all the
same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All
men–and women–were made by the same Great Spirit. They are all
brothers and sisters.’ We are all related, friends: mitakuye
oyasin. We are responsible for one another. We have to quit
shitting with one another. The only alienation that exists is
the one we create ourselves.”
When the circle broke up, I busied myself in rewrapping my
pipe. To speak what I had spoken exposed myself to wounding;
instinct made me withdraw to protect the tender places. But I
was aware that a number of Starfleet officers had approached
other maquis to express sympathy. Kim had put his arms around
B’Elanna, holding her for a long time–though that may have had
other motivations. I grinned to myself.
A hand on my back brought me spinning around in surprise.
Janeway stood there. “What you said tonight was not easy to
hear,” she told me. “I’m not sure right now that I can honestly
say I’m glad you opened that can of worms. But another part of
me knows it needed done and, quite frankly, I doubt anyone else
could have done it without having it turn into a confrontation.”
It was meant as a compliment, but it irritated me. It was
impersonal. I had risked myself and now she stood here talking
in generalities. “We never really understand another person’s
motivations till we hear his or her story,” I replied. “I wasn’t
after a confrontation. But there are truths you needed to hear,
wounds that are festering. We must stop being Starfleet and
Maquis and become *people*. But we can’t do that until we
understand one another. You can’t understand who I am or why I
left Starfleet until you know something about what it means to be
Indian, and how it feels to have your father killed because he
dared to demand freedom and justice.”
“‘Don’t judge me till you’ve walked a mile in my
moccasins?'”
I smiled slightly. “Yes, I think someone said that once.”
She looked off, didn’t answer immediately. At last she
said–still without looking at me–“I think you chose a good name
for yourself, Chief Joseph.”
“Why thank you, Kate.” I gave her a little bow, moderately
sardonic.

*** FINIS ***

All comments are welcome. The story continues in Peg Robinson’s
“The Red Queen’s Repose.” I can be reached at jrz3@psu.edu

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