Do Indians have sex?
Do Indians think of sex?
Do Indians fall in love?
Why do we never see these expressions of sex, love and romance? Yes there is Indian Love Medicine, we all know it when we find it but to search for it, well you better have excellent bush skills—as in tracking skills. You can find Indian Love Medicine in many forms. Just be careful, because there’s all kinds of snags out there: the tipi creepers, the rez honey badgers, the pow wow romeos, the buffalo humpers, the beaver skinners and the big bear women.
Cheyenne River youth with Rapid City-based graffiti artist Tyler Read.
There is a tradition of sex and erotica common in tribal oral histories, much like other cultures where sex and normal bodily functions were openly talked about in public forums, from storytelling to dance performances to the stage. Our oral traditions say sex created the world, all its physical features and spiritual mysteries. Whether it was a trickster or the celestial wind, there had to be a primal energy. For a society, a culture to get anywhere, people need to engage in sex, to enjoy sex and nurture their younglings to engage in healing, supportive culture.
Consider that the population of Native North Americans was down to the tens of thousands, due to disease, genocide and government policy, it was a true decimation in that 10 percent survived. Our families were targeted and that is also a true definition of genocide when women and children are killed, not just the men, and families cannot replace their numbers. There are tales of Indians from tribes who were made slaves by the Europeans and stopped having sex so their children would not be born into slavery. And so if we can come back from genocide, you have to know that we engage in sex, lots of it, and love it too. When trauma takes all that you have, then you use all that’s left to the best of your abilities. We just keep coming back—like Charlie Hill said about the Energizer bunny.
Native women and men have always been treated as sexual objects, play-things and romantic fantasies. Natives become targets of fantasy or violence because of the way we were dressed—or not dressed. We were asking for it. “The sexual allure of the half-naked Native…” is a phrase that can be found in all media and especially the fashion industry. Narratives of capture and captivity were the first American stories and novels, and what sold the stories was that sometimes the women did not want to return to their settler lives, lives of constant work and child-rearing, without having the rights of their Native sisters. Consider the tale of Mary Jemison, whose life with the Senecas was a page-turner when published in 1823.
Illustration from the 1898 edition of 'The Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison, De-He-Wa-Mis, the White Woman of the Genesee,' by James E. Seaver.
It was at Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848 that the suffragettes started their fight for the equal rights that Iroquois women enjoyed for centuries, so it is incongruous to think that these progressive American ideas from centuries ago old are still more progressive than what is on the political agenda these days. The Puritan fathers banished free thinkers (mainly uppity women) to Rhode Island but when they were informed of Maypole Fertility rites being conducted with the Native populace, they busted them like the Untouchables during Prohibition. This Puritanical strain still festers in the USA as they gather in their churches to nominate a Presidential Candidate for 2016 to take us back to these Good Ol Days. Consider that a recent Christian tale of redemption from savagery and potential ravagery, a controversial movie from 2013 called Alone Yet Not Alone, was created for a specific "modern" audience.
A scene from 'Alone Yet Not Alone'
Repression of all this humanity has created bloody religions, divisive politics, and hypocrisy as the Bible Belt is at the top in viewing pornography, while porn is a top corporate earner on a per pay basis in the hospitality industry. Then there is a whole catalog of romance novels, notably Cassie Edwards' "Savage" series (though she is by no means the only author in the genre), that pass as updated captive fantasies, and they do not appear likely to go away anytime soon.
Romance novelist Cassie Edwards has built her career on stories of white women falling for Native studs.
Natives are always seen as historical creatures, providing outlets for fantasies, acting as talismans for the phantasmagoric of people’s innermost feelings, fears, desires, traumas and visions. They attach these concepts to us with no guilt, sometimes even no sex, as we can be seen as spirits and guides, or just characters in movie scripts who do not feel anything. We are totems standing impassively, if we have emotions they are not shown—we're like Hank Williams' wooden cigar-store Indian Kaw-liga, the "poor old wooden head," who falls in love with a wooden Indian maiden in an antique store across the street.
Nowadays we can have Powwow Shades of Grey on Twitter and "50 Shades of Aye" on YouTube but try to get a Native family on network TV.
We’ve found a few places to start: Red Erotic, from Janet Marie Rogers’ Ojistah Press; the RezErect exhibition at Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver; Native Entertainment magazine, a gender bending gallery of hard-core NDN’s having fun, start with their Art & Ink issue, they also were involved in MAFIA a short-lived NDN Hip Hop mag; xxx ndn – from 2011 by the Aboriginal Writers Collective of Manitoba has mixed reviews. Hard to find anything on Exposed – Aesthetics of Aboriginal Erotic Art, by Lee Ann Martin, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Winnipeg, 1999, you would need to find the actual catalog. And back to the source, Daphne Odjig, who illustrated a 1974 collection of erotic stories collected by non-native author Herbert T Schwartz, Tales from the Smokehouse (readers weren’t high on the Schwartz collection but said Odjig went her own way to illustrate erotic Aboriginal tales that she knew).
Cover of 'Tales from the Smokehouse'
Most recently, ledger artist Chris Pappan offered new work at IAIA’s Museum of Contemporary Arts in his Account Past Due: Ledger Art & Beyond exhibit. His statement coincides with other Native artists that say it is time to express a positive aura about our own bodies, that it is all quite healthy and normal, with no cause for shame. His research led him to a Mohawk woman vaudeville performer from the early 1900’s, Deer Woman or Princess White Deer, and her biography. Pappan says that in some ways, Deer Woman is still performing, reaching out from the spirit world.
Princess White Deer, muse to modern-day ledger artist Chris Pappan, circa 1927.
ICTMN also offers Derek Miller’s Guilt Free Zone on APTN, where we have yet to see how far we can go, think like a brown Dr. Ruth Westheimer or a red Dr. Sue Johansen for starters.
If you are thinking that’s too old just remember that the biggest NDN sex scenes in cinema history feature Chief Dan George with young Native women in Little Big ManandThe Outlaw Josey Wales. Consider "The Power of Cherokee Women" as a guide to what empowered women would expect of men.
If you just start looking stuff up on the Net you won’t find anything helpful—useful, maybe, but not really helpful. Hit the Indian Sex search button and you’ll find lots of gay NDN sex, modern captive narratives with updated leather, and we finally get to The Village People and Cher (what a tour that would be!). Keep going and all you’ll find is Punjabi Indian Porn, ex-commies having Red Sex, and Native American Hotties who are all part-Cherokee, every one of them. So PLEASE leave your comments in the provided section below and let us know what’s up or down, or in or out, or just hanging around beyond the buckskin fringe.
‘Dr.’ Alex Jacobs,
Santa Fe NM
March 30, 2015
“I’m not a real Doctor but I played one on the radio…Dr. X, Doc of Rock, Physician of Funk, the Godfather of NDN Soul.”