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  • 09/28/2003
  • WildlandFire.com Team
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OK guys, and I know by now that most of you on this site are gals but I am
used to calling everyone “guys” with no gender associated with the term. I
am going to get my 2 cents in on this Indian/Native American thing. I
worked for several years on the fire line with Indian crews. My guys and
gals, although very few were gals, were from the rez. We understood each
other perfectly. At that time, Indian crews were on the firelines a lot
but there were still few women. I told them once that they were tolerated
and so was I but that was about it. Neither of us was liked but were
necessary evils. I was a crew rep and traveled with my crews, stayed with
them in camp and looked out for them. I would be like Sammi, mess with my
guys and you are going to be talking to me! We didn’t care what color we
were, we were in it together, white or red, didn’t matter a whit. We
respected each other for what and who we were. People don’t seem to
understand that you take someone at face value. I was appalled when we
were sitting on a hillside in Utah, thank goodness at night so no one could
see my face when this guy who was our strike team leader just popped out,
Which one of you had ancestors at the Little Big Horn??? I could have
died. I considered that inappropriate. There was a big silence but the
guys did respond to the question and I learned something about my guys. I
would never have asked that question, if the subject would have come up,
then they would have told me. I was once invited to a school house on the
rez where the medicine mad could call the buffalo. To be honest, I told
the guy who invited me that I would go with him but I would never just
arrive at a ceremony like that without one of them with me. I have been
invited to a Sun Dance which is a very sacred ceremony. Fact is my friend
asked me to make some blanket strips for her. They are beaded strips about
18 inches long and 4 inches wide. Took me 3 years to get 6 sets made for
her. I considered that an honor as the strips were used on blankets which
were used as gifts in the give away that went with the ceremony.

In later years when I went into dispatch we had a huge uproar about calling
the crews “Indian” rather than Native American. I said my guys didn’t care
but I would poll the reservations to see what they preferred to be called.
You know what, they told me they didn’t care what I called them AS LONG AS
I CALLED THEM! I think that at times outsiders make more of the situation
than the folks who are affected.

You can stereotype to your hearts content but in all my travelings with the
crews I never had a problem. We traveled over a lot of the west. You
will never find a better sense of humor than you find on the crews. There
are a lot of tricksters out there so we got along well. There was a lot of
teasing and good times. Even after 15 years I still see guys from my
crews and we are glad to see each other. I live in a town which is known
for the attitudes that carried over from the 1972 riots. Well, I gave
those folks all something to talk about one morning when right in the
middle of main street, this old white female was out there giving and
getting a couple big hugs from a couple of Indians. White, Indian, not on
your life, they were my friends and I was their friend. That is all that
counts. I have never been asked my my Indian friends to call them Native
Americans. So yes, let’s go a little easy here, there was no disrespect
intended that I could tell.

I have the feeling that I am going to regret sending this as now I will be
drawn into the fray rather than just as you say Lurking!

Old Dispatcher

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