By Neil Millard
John and Pauline Jerzyszek have transformed themselves—becoming Running Bear and Small Warrior—after running into a fellow believer in the supermarket seven years ago.
They liked what they heard so much the couple are now dedicated to living as American Indians.
By day Pauline, 58, works with people with special learning needs.
But after returning home to truck driver husband John they wear the full American Indian regalia including WAR BONNETS and feathered accessories.
The pair attend Pow Wows—meetings with other Indians—and have spent time living with Lakota Indians in the US.
As a man who is about half-Cherokee (admittedly, I don't look it...popped out of the womb looking more like my mother's side of the family--European), I don't know if this is funny, pathetic, or insulting.
Jeffrey--I would choose "pathetic." What a sad empty life they must lead. All I can say in their defence is that they are not hurting anybody.
Actually, these wannabes are hurting people--the Indians they're supposedly honoring--by stereotyping them. To be specific, they're perpetuating the belief that Indians are primitive people of the past. That they all belong to one generic Plains-style culture. That this culture is nothing but physical objects: e.g., flutes, animal skins, and dreamcatchers.
And more: That all it takes to become an Indian is dressing up and adopting a funny name. That "war bonnets and feathered accessories" are for anyone, not for Indians who have earned the privilege of wearing them. In short, that they are Indians (per the article's title) because they say they are.
Supposedly they've helped "drunk lads or little old ladies" because of their "Native" beliefs. That's nice. Have they contributed time or money to a Native charity or cause? Have they written or lectured about American Indians today--you know, the 565 tribes who don't dress up in feathers and buckskins?
Indeed, have they done anything other than promote a stereotypical image of Indians? One that's harmed Indians in countless ways? If so, it isn't in this article.
Imagine if they dressed up in grass skirts with bones in their hair and noses and said they were living like Africans. Would anyone consider that harmless? Or a good thing? How is this different from that? Why is stereotyping Indians the last acceptable form of racism?
For more on Indian wannabes, see Irish "Indian Chief Head Dress" and Playing Indian in Not Me!
Below: A new hobby for the Jerzyszeks if they get tired of being Indians.