So we were at a party once and Fyl was talking about some American Indian thing, I can’t remember what. But she said American Indian several times. That was too much for one guy who told her they are not American Indians, they are Native Americans. Calling them American Indians, he explained, was repressive and colonialist. Fyl looked surprised. But we say American Indians, she said. So who exactly are you, he asked, rolling his eyes. I’m this she said, pulling out her tribal membership card and handing it to him. Yankton Sioux it said on the front, with the Yankton flag. Her tribal number and the blood quantum and other details graced the reverse. He stared hard at the card for the longest time, both sides. Then he handed it back, utterly bewildered. So you’re Native American? You? Really? Fyl said nothing and gave him the Sioux Death Stare. Against its withering remorseless glare words are useless, just sound and air. He stopped talking and froze. I had to look away to not burst out laughing and Fyl began to talk about her recent visit to the American Indian Center downtown. We had gone down there to fill out some forms but were there just at the right time and got a free lunch, she said, and described the contents, a sandwich and fruit and chips and juice. And a cookie, I said. And a cookie, she said. They gave Brick lunch too since he’s married to an Indian, she said. The lecturing guy winced at Indian. His face bore an expression of humiliation and despair. You could almost hear him thinking so this is a Native American? The one he met at college had been angry and cool. He couldn’t restrain himself any longer and suddenly interrupted her story about the Indian Center. What do you think about Standing Rock? he blurted loudly, like a kid blatting through a trumpet. Oops. Fyl stopped talking and gave him another Death Stare, even more withering and remorseless than before. When are you white people, she said in a cold Amerindian monotone, going to learn to stop interrupting? Silence. After a stunned moment he stammered an apology and fled.
She had ancestors at Little Big Horn, I said.