Coyote's Second Cousins

V. Blanchard Singingeagle
Dept. of English, Creative Writing Program, University of South Dakota
August, 2006


The scene is set in October 2000. A 15-year-old boy living in California has phoned his father in South Dakota to report, "Dad, Mom kicked me out and now I have no place to live," resulting in the father making the long road trip to collect his son in a beat-up 1973 Dodge Charger. Since the car's radio does not work, father and son must entertain each other on the long drive back to South Dakota. Here is where the father decides to tell his son about his true origins, ancient and powerful stories concealed from the boy for most of his life...

In the tradition of N. Scott Momaday, who traced his Kiowa ancestry in The Wary to Rainy Mountain, this work juxtaposes old Urban Potawatomi Indian stories with historical accounts, ethnographies, census data, tribal accounts, genealogical resources, artwork, and even e-mail transmissions. However, in addition to the above, it diverges from Momaday in at least two important ways.

First, it addresses the often overlooked issues related to the American Indian Diaspora and the resulting "Urban Indian." While these phenomena have several causes, this work provides detailed accounts for the experiences of one bloodline in particular.

Secondly, this work boldly stomp-dances through the minefield of "Indian Authenticity," beginning with the family lamentation, no one can bicker like an Indian can. Natives are well-known for playing what the father-narrator calls "More Indian than Thou," and there are many causes for this. Urban Indian families suffer the greatest under this behavior and without a doubt, the misery is most intense for Black Indians, groups and individuals possessing both African and Native American ancestry.

Ultimately, this work demonstrates how the Urban Potawatomi are undeniably linked to their rural kin back east, proving that our stories, our experiences, our cultures are just as rich and legitimate as those of our so-called "more traditional" brother and sister Algonquians. We have been torn away; many of us do not know our language, our clans, or even our precise bloodlines, and yet, we still know who we are. And that knowledge has kept us strong.