October 14, 2006

Indians talk'um funny in spoof

PAC satire:  Sitting Bulldozer, Kosher Horse talk like Tonto

8 comments:

Not a Sioux said...

rob sez "I think this piece is supposed to be satirizing white hypocrisy. But whether it intends to or not, it satirizes (and stereotypes) Indians much more than it does whites"

I'll take your word for it. Such speech in written form is for me, difficult and annoying to read (and yes there is the offensive stereotype factor to taint it some more) so I did not finish it.

Carole said...

I agree with you, Rob. Satire is a difficult artform, and this guy failed miserably. He should stick to writing about "man bites dogs" stories...

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
And yet there were Native people who spoke almost dead-on to what is called stereotypical when writerfella was growing up in the late '40s and early '50s. Part of it was due to knowing the English language only by hearing it and as a second language, with the rhythms of a given Native language imposing themselves on spoken English. Much was mysterious and unfathomable. Clocks were thought somehow to be connected to sunlight and that was how the hour became displayed. Telephones more or less seemed like STAR TREK communicators, in that somehow you magically were connected to someone else and usually the right person, at that. I recall a humorous (to Natives) story where a young man picks up a phone and the operator says, 'Number, please,' but all the man knew was to ask if his mother was over there.
Stereotypes also can arise from unfortunate places. The original LONE RANGER radio broadcasts had Tonto speaking in Spanish only, and Lone used him like a rhetorical sounding board, more or less thinking aloud. And when Lone asked Tonto a question, Tonto would answer, 'Quien sabe?' That slowly devolved into Kemo Sabe and Tonto began to have English speeches in the plays, of the halting, verbless, -um type of colloquy.
Joey Bishop told a story on himself that he was a guest at a Viking Club (Hollywood men's society) dinner and found himself seated next to a fine-looking middle-aged Native man. When dinner was served, the man nodded and pointed at the coffee pot. Bishop poured him a cup and then asked, 'You like-um sugar?' And the man nodded. 'You like-um cream?' and the man nodded. The dinner went that way for some time. Then George Jessel announced that the speaker for the evening was a Rosebud Sioux actor and then introduced him. Whereupon, Joey Bishop's dinner partner rose, went to the podium, and gave the most articulate, warm, and funny speech about what it was like to be a Native actor in that day and age. Joey Bishop was greatly embarrassed. When the man returned to the table, he asked Bishop, 'You like-um speech?'
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Hmm. I've never heard anyone claim that some Natives naturally spoke in a "Tonto style." I don't doubt that you heard what you heard, but I've talked to many of your Native contemporaries and no one has said anything similar.

I've read five or ten possible origins of the phrase "kemo sabe." Yours is yet another one. As far as I know, no one has definitively established any of these origins.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
The Lone Ranger radio series began in 1933 and was created by radio writer Fran Striker, possibly having been inspired by the 1915 Zane Grey novel, THE LONE STAR RANGER, and the film of the novel made in 1931. That particular origin of Tonto's laconic character is part of an article put out by the Radio/TV Hall of Fame.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
POSTSCRIPTUM: since it is near All Hallows' Eve, herewith a ghost story to prove a point. The Kiowa Agency once was located on the north side of Anadarko, Oklahaoma, in a cluster of brick buildings called Old Town, that bordered the Washita River. The Agency itself and the brick and concrete jail were the first and oldest buildings in what later became the town of Anadarko. A horseshoe cluster of newer employee housing made it complete. An older cousin of mine, Evelyn Longhorn, lived with her husband in that housing cluster in the 1950s and so she often worked evenings at the Agency because she could walk home in three minutes. The agency building was constructed like a one-story long house, doors at both far ends, offices off to either side of a hallway that ran the entire length of the structure. Evelyn's office was two thirds down the hallway and that evening only a dim ceiling fixture was lighted in the hall. She was working on land lease records when she heard a tapping on the glass of the front door. She left her desk, walked down the hallway, and looked out, intending to tell whoever it was that the place was closed. No one was in sight and she checked the doors: locked. A few minutes later, back at her desk, she heard the tapping again, more insistent. Then she heard the rattle of the doorknob and the squeak of the hinges as the front door swung wide open, then slammed itself shut. Instantly, she was afraid: someone must have broken in and she was in the building alone! She stayed at her desk and listened. Footsteps came down the hall, going thump, thump, tap -- thump, thump, tap -- more like a shuffle than a walk and the person was using a cane. Then there was a tapping at the Agency payment teller's cage and my cousin was more afraid than before. Robbers? But what came next scared her most of all: an old Native woman's high-pitched voice, coughing and saying almost breathlessly, "Ahn so-ha, Gillette! I me want or-der. Gillette, I gimme or-der! Aynh-haw!" The tapping and coughing continued.
Slowly, my cousin made her way to the door and looked out. The hallway was dim but there was no one in sight. And the tapping and coughing had ceased. She hurriedly went to her desk to get her purse and belongings.
In the early days of the Agency, older Kiowas knew little English and, if they wanted some of the lease money being held by the Superintendent, they knew they would have to come in and ask for a work order. The Superintendent was named Gillette around 1920.
My cousin Evelyn reached the front door and it still was closed and locked. She fled the building and, thereafter, made sure her work was done by 4:30 pm or she took it home with her.
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Not a Sioux said...

Here's a big old Oklahoma Native-related ghost story. I loved it when I last read it many many years ago. I even once wrote a sequel to it. I wonder what stereotypes are found in it that I would notice now? I believe the author never got anywhere near Oklahoma.

H.P. Lovecraft - The Mound

http://www.noveltynet.org/content/books/lovecraft/collab/html/mound.html

Not a Sioux said...

I looked at "The Mound" again. Didn't take me long to find the sq*** word.

It takes place near Binger, OK... a half hour from Anadarko. There's nothing authentically Native about it, of course.