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Interview with Isaac Welch [2]

Welch, Isaac [2]
Gardner, Susan
Date of Interview: 
Native Americans; Cherokee; Honor; Spirituality; Warrior; Vietnam War; Oral tradition; Race relations; Genetics; Violence.
Isaac Welch, a full-blooded Native American Cherokee, clarifies various portions of his previous interview, and elaborates further on the details of some of his stories. He talks about the importance of maintaining a strong Cherokee bloodline and even discusses the new biotechnological advances of mapping out the human genome as a means to preserve the pure Cherokee bloodline for the future. Isaac discusses the differing viewpoints among the Cherokee in relation to preserving the racial and genetic memory of the Cherokee people. He further discusses various aspects specific to the Cherokee traditional practices and explains their significance and perseverance over time. He talks about obtaining the "warrior" status within the community and how this is not only obtained through participating in war, but also through carrying on the legacy of a fallen warrior. Mr. Welch provides very insightful commentary on honor, existence, simplicity and the Cherokee way of life. He draws from personal anecdotes and stories about the Vietnam War and the involvement of Native Americans in this war. He talks about the concept of completeness in being a warrior, which is only possible through the presence of an honorable enemy. The interviewer alludes to previous comments made on his last interview, which incite Mr. Welch to delve deeper into the details and clarify obscure sentences. As a spiritual and community leader he talks about the importance of carrying the legacy of a fallen brother by assuming his honor, spirit and position in society. Welch closes the interview by informing us of some of the current issues the Cherokee are dealing with in addition to stating his intentions of publishing a collected anthology of stories passed through oral tradition in his society.
Native Carolinian Indian Elders Collection
Collection Description: 
This project, originally sponsored by the American Indian Heritage Council of Charlotte, Inc., collected and preserved the life stories of Native North Carolina Indian people. Interviewers for the project were Dr. Susan Gardner, Associate Professor of English at UNC Charlotte and Vail Carter.
Interview Audio: 
IW (Isaac Welch): What are we working for here? We have an hour and a half; but then I gotta--.
SG (Susan Gardner): Right, you got to--, yeah. (Kelig) was telling me. So I'm glad I got here a bit early, although I, it was unintentional. But you were saying something that I thought was so interesting just now. You said, when you were looking at the last two pages of this [the first interview, 30 August 1997] with Darlene last night, you said thought the first six--, you know, the bulk of it, the beginning of it at least, was you being a cynic.
IW: Well you had asked me a question earlier about the Great Spirit and I had sort of fa--, facetiously came out and mentioned Jim Bean, Southern Comfort and--
SG: Oh yes. Uh-huh.
IW: And, in which I can--, I was looking at some of the, the comments the last two pages and I could not believe some of the things in, in the way I was saying them.
SG: What page are you on, thirty-nine?
IW: Well, right now I'm, I was mainly looking at page forty. I kept thinking now this as something that I'd have to quote myself on. We, I think the, the main--. You asked me if I had been enrolled? And I said yes.
SG: That's page thirty-eight.
IW: And page forty, said "Yes, card-carrying, certified," that's that sense of humor I was talking about, almost cynical.
SG: Well I said--.
IW: And we were talking about how many full-bloods, how few of us are left, and I think it ended on a sad note.
SG: Yes.
IW: And that we are so few, and since the last time that we had spoken, how even fewer we are now. How ethics have really charged the, the scientific research community about the wrongs of potentially, of, of cloning and whether the moral wrongs of, of that and the potential boundaries that could be violated, whereas right now we have a race not only of Cherokee but other, other tribes that are diminishing and going by way of, of, of the, let's say the, the tribes that have vanished in the past. No more of them. And right now there are--, we're encroaching that number of 400 of full bloods in Cherokee. How many will we have left ten years from now, and what's being done to preserve this? And I made the comment that I'd be willing to contribute to the genetic pool. That someday, that some scientist down the road may say, "Well, let's put together this, this, this specimen, and what do we have?" And, again, bringing up Noam Chomsky's name, whatever they put together may be genetically there would be that innate sea of knowledge that could be passed on.
SG: Are you then saying do you believe there is something like racial or at least genetic memory?
IW: Yes.
SG: I see. Yeah, I really wanted to pursue this as well, because I have some Native American friends who are very opposed to the Human Genome Project. You know and they say it's one last way of ripping us off, you know. You took everything else, now you want our genes. You know, who would be in control of a project like this? And what would be the ethical uses for it?
IW: Well, I don't see it as a taking of something, because historically everything has been taken. I'm speaking from the other side of the issue in giving. Our days are numbered. If there is anything that in the future that they can say, "We have something here" and genetically, we found the key to some of this knowledge. I, as a full-blood who has explored just the, the, the outer boundaries of the culture over the past fifty years, I, more than one, would like to have access to that bank of, of knowledge.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: If nothing else, that, that bank of exhilaration, for, for lack of a better term. Because there are just little shades of the past that I experienced here and there. We were talking about the Vietnam experience
SG: Yes.
IW: and the familiarity with the smells, the sights, the sounds, in the feeling, the cold mist hovering on the landscape early morning. And I was very familiar with that.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: And it's like I had stepped back a hundred years.
SG: Yeah, uh-huh. Uh-huh.
IW: And, so I look at a few other things, and we're doing nothing to preserve--. Everybody that's so interested in, in putting culture and history to paper right now, when, realistically, there, there has to be something else, something beyond that. We are very limited, and very pedestrian in our, in our efforts to this point. I have to be empathetic in one regard to the people who say they have taken so much from us, now they want our genetic pool.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: Well, isn't the way of the Native American bloods to share? And that's all I have to say about that.
SG: Uh-huh. I, I normally try to keep myself out of interviews, but I told you about this experience I had in South Dakota where I discovered a house that is 106 years old that was built by my great-grand-uncle. And nobody knew, I mean, nobody in my family knows about this. I was following up a really, you know, really a family oral history, but it wasn't very good anymore.
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: And I had that moment in the middle of the prairie when I looked at that house and I thought, this is my house.
IW: This is where I'm supposed to be. I've been in exile all my life.
SG: I belong out here in the Dakotas. And since then, you know, dutiful Western-trained academic as I am, dutiful daughter of patriarchal science, I have told myself what I have to do is disprove this feeling and, but I don't think that can be done. I don't think it should be done, either, you know. So I just, I just did want to ask you a little bit more about this,
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: because this is where I was getting all choked up, and
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: [laughter] you know, about it. I do have several--. Am I interrupting you?
IW: Go ahead. Go ahead.
SG: Do you want to tell me more about that?
IW: Go ahead. No, let's clarify some questions that you have on the transcript.
SG: Yeah. Well the Vietnam experience was one of--, there were some questions there. And I see we've got different page numbers? And that's because I've reformatted it and added footnotes and things.
SG: So I won't be able to tell you the exact page, but I'll--.
IW: Give me the incident, then.
SG: Yeah, well. It was about during Tet, the offensive, and about Bill.
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: Was Bill American Indian ( )?
IW: [coughs] He was Poarch Creek.
SG: Poarch Creek. I knew I was missing something there. OK. And.
IW: Well, we were just talking about the innate. Bill and I, people were who knew Bill were very surprised at the way he got involved with Native American activities because he was a, a loner, a recluse, he was not the, the, he was not the, the singer of the party.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: And when he came out and got involved with the Warrior Society, suddenly he was 150%. They could not believe when they saw videotapes of him dancing in the circle. They said, "That's not Bill, that's not the Bill we know." To hear his laughter, it's as if he came full circle and, and found himself saying, "This is where I belong. In this circle." And that from, the language of the warrior for being the man of war versus the warrior being the ultimate person of peace and to live a life of example, to, to promote peace and harmony, sort of fit right into the nomenclature that Bill had been playing with, his, his life, and suddenly here it is. And, Bill had some unique experiences in Vietnam. He was a senior advisor to a district, and it was during the Tet of '68 that all provincial capitals fell.
SG: Right.
IW: Except for his. And he was just following intuition.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: Something's not right. But because he was senior advisor, he could mandate certain things. And subsequently, as I stated, he was in the ones, his capital was the only one that did not fall into NLF hands, and he made some pretty rash decisions, that really irr--, made some people wonder, like, you're committed of atrocity, it means you're guilty of atrocities. And he said no, that was the standing position I had to take because I realized that the Viet Cong were flat-footed and they could not wear them boots. And it's SOP that if you're in uniform, you wear boots. If you're out of uniform, then you're guilty of being out of uniform. And hence, you would be executed, or punished or fined.
SG: Yeah.
IW: So once you go into combat dress, you are in boots.
SG: Uh-huh. Yeah. Do you think he had any difficulty, you were saying, and it's on page twenty-five of mine, so I don't know where on yours, but somewhere, twenty-three, twenty-seven, somewhere around there. You were saying that you were still trying to deal with his passing, as is everyone and everyone else. When he--, you said he encountered a lot of criticism. Do you think he ever felt that he should not have done that? Was it something difficult for him to live with?
IW: I'm not sure I'd be qualified to even answer, on his part. I saw symptoms of him having to deal with his past. I saw sides of him that other people did not. I think we all weigh decisions that have resulted in, in, in disaster for some people. In retrospect, what if, but when you're, if you're a trained leader, you have to learn to be decisive and to execute. You can't ponder and debate the issues; you have to make a decision. And expedient decisions at that moment have to be made because you've already played the scenario out in your mind and you can't really worry about the consequences. That's the reason you have Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C, you know? If Plan A isn't quite developing, and you have contingencies that disrupt the, the flow of the scenario, well then you go to Plan B. But you plan for those and that's just part of the military training. And you don't really, I mean maybe morally and ethically you may ponder on the consequences for those who suffered, but realistically you have to look at the overall picture. And I think that's what he did and in a lot of respects. And, but he was human.
SG: Yeah.
IW: And like I said, I saw some symptoms of him having to, to endure, this, these many years later.
SG: Yeah uh-huh. It's just such a complicated story. I think I said that last time. It's so--, I mean, there was this identification, in a sense, with the Viet Cong, that you talked about,
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: and yet at the same time, yeah, here he is, in the middle of it, an Indian, and they're the enemy--
IW: Right!
SG: In principle--
IW: And I think that's where we, we tend to, I suppose we honor our enemy, because they were men too.
SG: Yeah. Yeah.
IW: They're human beings. And it's wrong for us not to honor them. Because either side of the issue, the survivor is the, the being that they are is an end result of the other half.
SG: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
IW: Now I am not a warrior, without my enemy.
SG: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
IW: So am I any less the man if my enemy is not there? I think that's the issue that maybe not so readily identifies itself among a lot of Native American youth who have this warrior tradition that they've heard about through their stories and, and lore, that, and they always wonder about the warrior, because I am, I am a skin, as they, we used to say. I wonder if I have what a warrior is, could I have lived like they lived, and, and to actually come under fire and realize this isn't the most glamorous aspect of, of, of life's experience that I would ever hope to see. You know, this is nothing to be proud of. And so the, the warrior image really is a conflict when you get to sit down and put it into perspective [laughter].
SG: Yeah, I got confused, and on mine it's on page twenty-six, but you were talking about the lance, the feather, where you after his death ( ) and then someone else takes on his spirit, and they carry his feather on the lance, and so forth, and then you were talking about this Lebanese guy--.
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: And then you said, "I brought the fallen warrior's lance home, and I put it up."
IW: Right, OK.
SG: And Bill had carried it for you, is that right?
IW: Bill had volunteered to carry it.
SG: Oh.
IW: Now, we honor a member of the society, their spirit. We know that their soul returns, to wherever it came; however, the spirit remains. And the spirit, [long pause] the spirit remains and, in whatever form, each individual retained the spirit of someone who has passed on in, in death. What is that spirit? What have we been left with? Or, whether it's a bit of knowledge, that feeling of grief. Bill loved to dance. He loved to enter the circle. In order to represent someone's spirit, you have to be pure. No alcohol, no tobacco, you can't be blinded, and once you pick up that lance, then you essentially become the spirit of that individual. And you are accorded all the respect of that individual. And so you give of yourself for a year. Now Bill--, every time we have someone who dies, that's within the society, they have to have three people minimum, to volunteer to carry that, that lance, or that feather. And after they have carried that feather, let's say during the course of that year one of them fails and can't continue to carry it; well then, number two or number three will pick it up.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: But all three of them have to abstain from alcohol and tobacco for the year. What kind of honor could a, could any man expect other than a few prayers
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: and grief-giving
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: than to say, "You are still such an important part of my life, I will do this for a year."
SG: Right.
IW: And at the end of that year then you'll honor that individual for having made that commitment. This is a good way for a non-warrior
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: to obtain the status of a warrior is to walk for a year in a warrior's shoes--.
SG: This is making much more sense.
IW: And this young man--, I'm pointing to his photograph on the wall with the eagle staff,
SG: Yes.
IW: just completed the journey back in the, the end of July. And he is now a warrior. And he has never gone to war; he's a man of peace.
SG: Uh-huh. Wow, well, who was it that said, and he felt so guilty, because he says, "Why did I say that," like he could have altered fate, you know. Do you, it comes right, it's right down there.
IW: He finally passed away last year. And that had made the eighth. I brought the fallen warrior's home and put it up. He carried it for years. Well, that was a selfish feeling. [phone ringing] That was a result of selfishness, because--we don't like to take it out because that acknowledges that we've had one of us pass away. It's a, an, an ambivalent part, or, or time in your life when you take it down.
SG: I can imagine.
IW: Because you have all these conflicting feelings that I'm in human too, but I have to be man enough to, to stand up and execute my responsibilities as a leader. And acknowledge when I want to be among the rest and just grieve. And when you take it down, well then you have this burden of having to find three people. And, and how are you going to react, if you walk into a circle and call for three volunteers, but no one steps forward? What do you do? It's not that, that I would not be able to carry it, because the obligation would fall on me if I didn't have a volunteer. It's just that how can I do justice to this individual if I am obligated because no one else would step forward?
SG: Yeah, yeah.
IW: And I have to go into it with pure mind and pure intent. And at the same time I have to monitor the individual who carries it for a year. I have to be at their beck and call twenty-four hours a day when they say, "I have this moment of weakness, what do I do?" And I have to stop what I'm doing to go and give them moral support, counsel,
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: or advice, and so when you take one down, you think about all these things. You think about the ceremony, and, it was doubly wrong, or difficult with Bill, because he was so close. And since I am a miko, I couldn't very well carry it, even though I would have.
SG: What is miko?
IW: Good English word; king. Being as I am the leader, spiritual leader I guess you could say, although I don't like using that term either, but is that I wanted to carry it, but again I'm bound to present it. Here it is, do I have anyone who wishes to step forward and take this? I had a volunteer within the, within twenty-four hours. And I was then telling him, "I don't know if I should let this thing go," and he says, "You give it to me." And I had others step forward and say, "It's mine, I want to carry it." I had eight volunteers within, within, within four days. And then one, everybody who spoke of him said, "He was my best friend." That made me feel good, and they started turning to me for all the arrangements, but they kept saying, "You were his best friend." And I always thought, "Well I was just his friend." And said, "No, you were his best friend." And so--, 'cause he and I had laughed and joked about it. 'Cause after we had put Jim Solomon, the Lebanese, after we put his spirit to rest,
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: and it's a good-looking lance; well, I hate to put it up, but I'm kinda glad, and I hope we don't have to take it down again for a long time. Now this was in May, at the end of June then Bill dies.
SG: Oh I'm see yeah.
IW: And that had to be, to me, as a human being, probably the most painful experience was to come in here, reaching for it and knowing why I'm reaching for it. And knowing it's going to be out for another year, and once I put it back, well then it's over.
SG: Yeah.
IW: 'Cause I never really wanted to turn him loose. But the other members of the society and the community, it was good closure for them. And I get kind of selfish in that I've never had that closure, because I'm miko. And it still hurts. [weeping]
SG: I'm sorry if I brought up something so--.
IW: No, no, it does me good to feel that; it's not often I have the excuse for being that way [laughter].
SG: You can indulge. Yeah, but you know, I, I thought I had the gist of it, but not nearly, you know, I wasn't fully understanding. This was an enormous help.
IW: Go ahead keep talking.
SG: OK what--, can we lay the skili dance to rest? I looked and looked in Speck and Broome and Long here, but I couldn't find anything--.
IW: [laughter]
SG: I'm not surprised--.
IW: Try Mooney or Gilbert [laughter].
SG: You had said that, and Mooney's so long, I have looked in it, but, but anyway, is that something to do with evil? You said exorcising?
IW: Exorcising, yes! The skili dance could only have been performed by members of the Bird Clan. I'm not sure, is it Mooney who recorded all the, the songs in different communities of Cherokee, but he had mentioned the Bird Clan, the skili dance, and that the Chero--, the Bird Clan from Birdtown were the only ones who could perform the skili dance? I'm trying to remember that, what was I looking for?
SG: Oh, I'll find it ultimately. You know I just have to--.
IW: I want to be back doing some more research in that area, and if I stumble across it, I'll, I'll give you the footnote on it. But it is there [laughter].
SG: Yeah, oh yeah, I expected it might be somewhere, unless it were something that nobody would even have wanted to talk about, you know, to these European investigators.
IW: It has someone who was doing specifically the Cherokee, because I remember I was going through a bunch of Cherokee literature--.
SG: Oh, who was that guy who was supposed to have treated Will West Long so badly? Does he have a German name there was one, Olbrechts? Is that it?
IW: Olbrechts.
SG: Yeah. Who apparently had a rather as they say complicated relationship.
IW: Well, that mask up there
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: is made by Will West Long.
SG: Is it really?
IW: Yes, ma'am. Yeah there were two of them. And the other one has gone away, where I don't know, but Will West Long carved that. And the only authentication I have is the markings on the back. It's his Indian name. And, and I had problems trying to figure it out, and then an elderly Snowbird woman and two Cherokee women who were well-versed in the Cherokee language, in reading and writing, and they all, all three concurred, it's Will West Long's so--.
SG: For heaven's sake! How did you get it?
IW: [sighs] It was in back of a gas station, down in Alarka, next to Fontana Lake, and it was a gas station full of junk. And I saw a couple of buckeye masks back there, and said, "How much do you want for these?" They've been here for years. He said, "Five bucks and get 'em out of here."
SG: Oh, good heavens!
IW: So--
SG: I wonder how that happened, if he had had to sell it.
IW: This was, he said, this had been there for years, and this was years ago [laughter]. So I figured he might have gotten them back in the 50s and 40s, because the gas station is no longer there, but this, I remember it. Used to be a little Pure station.
SG: Uh-huh, yeah I remember those. Yeah. I really have to sort out the story of your being on trial. Some of the names.
IW: Rusher. R-U-S-H-E-R, Thomas.
SG: Rusher, OK.
IW: Thomas Rusher, Wautaga County.
SG: Was it R-U-S-C-H?
IW: E-R.
SG: OK. And who else here? Let me get that ( ) here we are, let me see. You're still in prison here; we're going to get you out of here yet. Let's see; OK, I think I'm getting into it now. Yeah, Mr. Tom Rusher was the roommate in college, and Mr. Sam Wilson who was chief legal counsel to Jim Martin?
IW: Correct.
SG: OK. As with Jim, was that another name there? He was part of that crowd--
IW: As with Jim Trotter? He was another--. Jim Trotter and Jim Knight were all members of the legal counsel's staff for Jim Martin during the Martin administration.
SG: I see. OK.
IW: That's the same Sam Wilson of the Winston-Salem Wilsons. Same crowd.
SG: Oh we have a road named for him in Charlotte, of course.
IW: Oh, yeah.
SG: Fridays, as well, you know, building on campus. And Mrs. Earlene, was that Stakes or Stacks?
IW: Stikes.
SG: Stikes, OK. I know an Earlene Stacks, an Indian woman, and I was wondering if I was hearing it right.
IW: Might be her, I might be the one at error there.
SG: Yeah she is.
IW: Earlene, at Metro--
SG: At Metrolina?
IW: Right. It's the same one.
SG: Yeah, it is the same one.
IW: Right. Right. Yeah, she hand-carried that letter to Jim Martin for me. And--.
SG: It's an amazing story.
IW: But I did not see Earlene down there.
SG: And then, this would be--, would that be Carlton Knight?
IW: Yes, that's correct.
SG: That is right. OK. And he singled out Mr.--, the judge did, at this point, "You call yourselves protectors of the people."
IW: That's Mr. Tom Rusher.
SG: That's Tom Rusher again, OK, OK, got it. OK, that will make a lot more sense. OK, well, would you like--, those were the three major issues, as such, but is there anything you want to point out to me? Now that you've been--.
IW: OK, on mine, on page twenty-eight we made reference to that, about the turtle? Being doctored with the turtle?
SG: Yes, un-huh. And about Andy? ( ).
IW: Andy, Andy, right.
SG: I wanted to ask you about him--
IW: Well, the name is Oocumma. Double O, C U, M, M, A.
SG: Double O-C-U-M-M-A.
IW: C-U-M-M-A. Uh-huh.
SG: Oocumma. Meaning?
IW: O-gama. Gourd?
SG: Oh! Oh, I see, OK. But he did the ceremony? How should that read then? But he did the ceremony.
IW: He did the ceremony. I was pointing to a drawing that had both Andy and my father
SG: Yes.
IW: in it, and--. But yes, he's the one who performed the ceremony, 'cause he was the accepted power at that time.
SG: So, do the gourds refer to something in the ceremony?
IW: No, that was just his name. Andy.
SG: Oh, I see! OK, got it. [laughter] And anything else that you noticed, that you wanted me to--
IW: Well, he's the one who said that, when I asked how my father was going to be doing, he said he could see the fresh strawberries. And so my father died that day following the day the first
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: basket of fresh strawberries.
SG: And was that the name of your son? When you said "the boys were just little fellows" and we used to raise a lot of strawberries and cam running in one day.
IW: Bear
SG: Bear.
IW: That's Buddha, Buddha Bear.
SG: Uh-huh [long pause].
IW: My memories of those children coming in with that, that, that, that wide-eyed look of excitement, it hurts, as I recall it.
SG: Your mother's birth name Welch are there any connections in between your family and of the Catawbas.
IW: Not that I know of.
SG: Uh-huh. Apparently there's been a Catawba woman potter named Welch or something like that I was wondering if there was--.
IW: Take this ( ) with you [laughter]
IW: Just peruse through it, I think it may arouse some more possible answers, [laughter] about the English and the Irish influences disenfranchised.
SG: I look forward to it. I'll read it as I read everything [laughter]. With a, one eye slightly askew. A lot of this I realized I was missing the words but in fact you know the meaning wasn't missing at all.
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: You know, I mentioned to you that I couldn't find Tecumseh having gone to England. I looked at Allan Eckert's biography and then just at a couple of coffee table like books that
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: had Tecumseh in it.
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: and so that would mean absolutely nothing, although something rings in my mind. Some bells rings in my mind about--, did Draging Canoe or somebody go? There was somebody.
IW: I'm not that sure.
SG: But I thought it was somebody Cherokee, not Tecumseh. But I'm going to have to do some chasing up there.
IW: But his mother was Cherokee. Tecumseh's.
SG: Yes, and I've realized that since.
IW: Uh-huh. And primarily in the lower Shenandoah, northeastern Tennessee in the panhandle up there--,
SG: Yeah.
IW: there is all sorts of just little shards of information here and there, that you just have to piece together. There's a marker on top of Soco Gap, there used to be a marker; that's where I saw that. This is where Tecumseh held council in October of 1811.
SG: Next time I'm in Big Cove I'll have to go have a look.
IW: And right there. I'm going to be out that way all-next week; I'm pretty much involved with this Locust case.
SG: What is that?
IW: Oh this Cherokee who shot and killed a park ranger.
SG: Oh yes, yes. Uh-huh.
IW: As matter of fact, as of tomorrow I'm, I'm on the case. I'm working for the public defender.
SG: Are you yeah.
IW: There's too many mitigating, in my opinion, mitigating circumstances and I think there is some substantial support now from our side because Pam Law, she's with the, she's a criminal psychologist, an academic who's been brought into this. And so I'm meeting with her tomorrow morning and her and I are going to go up and visit with Jeremiah Locust. Talk with one of his attorneys, and then I think we're going to plot our road map from there.
SG: Yeah. Oh I'll be interested to hear you know what follows.
IW: Oh definitely, yes.
SG: What follows so that it's not going to be an open and shut case.
IW: Right, there's a, as Pam told me yesterday, she said, "I've really had my eyes opened culturally,"
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: and that, that you know she just says, the worst that she can see is manslaughter. We've yet to get the jury to digest this. And one of the best friends that we've had to this point has been the magistrate. I said Max Cogburn keeps, "I'm not comfortable with this."
SG: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Good.
IW: And I've said he's the best friend that the defense has right now. I said, "take it." "Take it". Anything you can get, because Jeremiah is not this, this scourge of society, he's not this criminal, you know there is a reason that caused this effect. It's there.
SG: Yeah and that's what you guys have to demonstrate, presumably. Why he was acting.
IW: Uh-huh. Diabetes.
SG: Oh, poor thing.
IW: And there's no proof that he had been drinking.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: Nothing.
SG: And I'm glad of that.
IW: And there's no proof of premeditation. He had two guns.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: He hid one in his guitar, away from the car where he got stuck. And he took one with him.
SG: And was he in some kind of state? I mean diabetic state?
IW: Yeah, we're wondering. I wonder. And if his blood sugar were high and he's permeating key tones, of course. We was thinking he'd been hitting some cheap wine or something. Because he'd be disoriented, the frustration point would be very low, and the next question is, who fired first?
SG: Yes, yeah.
IW: He only fired two rounds. But there were a total of five shots fired. And one of his rounds went through the windshield of one car, and the other one hit the park ranger.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: But there were five rounds fired. And one witness--, there was a flat shot, high-power shot, flat shot, high-power and a flat shot. OK.
SG: So who fired the flats and who fired the--.
IW: The flats are handgun; high-power's a rifle. So it could've been self-defense.
SG: Yeah uh-huh. I'm reminded of a woman I interviewed in Big Cove, this was in the 30s, but her mother was accused of killing a white man, which she didn't do. You know, another white person in fact killed that white guy, but they pinned it on the Indian woman who was around,
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: and it was just the same old story, you know, the rigged jury. She was packed off to prison in Raleigh,
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: supposedly for ten years but she was back within the year.
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: And actually ran a, a [laughter] thriving little business making lace in the prison; everybody loved this lace that she made.
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: And so she came back much better off economically than when she had gone. But such a hideous ordeal and everything being fixed and rigged. You know that sounds like one of those, do you need another tape? RECORDING INTERUPTED. RECORDING RESUMED
SG: And I've got to have that tape. So Dean Perzel suggested that I put these in the Special Collections where they would certainly be safe and well taken care of, but my question is about access. I, I think any decision about that rests with the person who gave the interview.
IW: Well, right. You know if there's anything you don't want to talk about, that you're not comfortable about talkin' about, you know, just throw up the red flag and move onto another topic and etcetera. I'm very comfortable with it, because, as I was saying, you can look at a transcript, and, again, the highlighter tells the story, 'cause the highlighter tells the story that maybe, if you go back and hear the original tape, then you get the context established and a, an understanding. Because, you know, intonation does not exist on this black-and-white paper.
SG: Yeah, it doesn't begin to capture. I edited a lot of myself out, in fact, you know, all those "uh-hums" and "How extraordinary!" but you know and in other words, you're saying that whatever you've said to me, you would not be uncomfortable with other people seeing it?
IW: No, I've no problems with that.
SG: But I would still think it might make sense to reserve, if anybody wanted to, for the library to contact you first.
IW: Right, right.
SG: And ask permission?
IW: That's fine with me.
SG: I wouldn't feel comfortable with it otherwise. And one of my colleagues did an oral history project in Charlotte some years ago, Boyd Davis, and those transcripts are being posted on the Web. How would you feel about that?
IW: That would be fine with me.
SG: Those are electronic of course. Well, that's something I have to work out with the Special Collections librarian. I like the idea of having them all in one place. But the questions of access and further use
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: disturb me, and so--. And you did say that that little Vietnamese kid who sold you the Pepsi-Colas for 100 piastres a can, they did kill him, the other kids?
IW: Uh-huh. Yeah.
SG: I kept playing that over and over and over again, to make sure that they really did. God. OK, is there anything else you want to--?
IW: Thirty-four.
SG: OK, which, what are you talking about, since it will be a different page on--?
IW: The New Age.
SG: OK, and where abouts?
IW: "New Age capital up here, it seems like, "that's what you said. You mentioned something about Charlotte, in the next paragraph?
SG: Yeah (near the sun wear house).
IW: The paragraph under that, you ask where, and I said, "Over here, at the Forks".
SG: Forks of Ivy.
IW: Forks of Ivy, that's a community.
SG: It what kind of community?
IW: It's in a back region, and it's mainly liberated gay women.
SG: I see. Did you know that when you went?
IW: No [laughter].
SG: I thought that too.
IW: All the sheer (gawks) walking around laid the clue that something wasn't normal [laughter].
SG: Shouldn't they have told you? They want you to participate in this and this is--.
IW: They just wanted me to bless the medicine.
SG: But how can you bless it without knowing what the community is about?
IW: That was my point [laughter]. I mean, "A community of independent women" should have been my first clue, but I was just so blind [laughter].
SG: Yeah uh-huh, I see. I got confused there, about where you say they had a medicine wheel, they had rocks out there is that?
IW: Each one of them brought a rock.
SG: Oh OK.
IW: Of the different points, of the different directions of the earth. At the center they had little additional circles within the circle, the inner circle, the intermediate points, those making the transition to the different points. They had some sort of ritual they went through to where they started out, when they first came there, in, in, in the South, and worked their way to the East. And I sort of rocked the boat, I said, well how about the interval between east and south? What, what, what's there? And they were sort of stumbling over that one and I said, "Well, you can leave that one open for the men." [laughter] They didn't like that.
SG: I don't think that would have been ( ) at all. Why do you think they asked you?
IW: I can only think I was the closest thing to an Indian medicine man they could find.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: Maybe be too critical of them. I knew several of them just from association.
SG: Oh I see.
IW: And, and they had asked START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
IW: if I would come out there, and one of them was a very respected person in the public media, and she had asked, and I met with her at a club, or at a supper club, and we had talked about it. And so, and I asked her well, I had no problems with it, 'cause essentially the naturalness--. I think that word kept flying around--. The "naturalness" involved, and mainly it's what you people feel it's your intentions, and not necessarily, it doesn't really have to be, if you need to have it sanctified, I said, you can find any priest with holy water to come out and you know sprinkle it, I mean, either that or [laughter] find a, a coven come out there with the incense, they'll do it, too. But they wanted a Native American, because this was a Native American area so.
SG: I see, it all sounds very confusing.
IW: It is. It is.
SG: Confusing and confused I guess. Yeah. OK, anything else?
IW: Yes! Beware of the Confederate Cherokee!
SG: Oh!
IW: [laughter] They're operating primarily in the Triad area of North Carolina.
SG: Who are they?
IW: Hobby Indians.
SG: Yeah, I know and there are Hobby Indians out there and where did I run into them? Is that what the school of the arts is? No, not arts, arts and science.
IW: Winston-Salem.
SG: Anyway, yeah OK I'll be aware of those. What did you mean by the Yellow Star?
IW: That's a society.
SG: Oh so that should be capitalized. And who are the Yellow Star? Are those you guys, or others?
IW: Some of us.
SG: Some of you, OK. Because you have the Tsalagi, the Qualla, and then the Yellow Star. OK I see.
IW: OK the Etowah, E-T-O-W-A-H, the Etowah, that is the group, and the Yellow Star'scontained within that group. When people refer to us, they refer to us as, as the Etowah or the Etowah. And that in itself has its significance; I think I explained last time about the plunging, which is part of the purification process. But the Yellow Star are primarily the keepers of the law.
SG: Oh, uh-huh.
IW: And so we are bound when, when asked to help keep the law.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: So when I was asked about this Jeremiah Locust thing,
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: I said, "Not only am I bound," I said, "But I'm very happy that I have been asked," I said, "Because I don't want to be lying awake at night wondering, if there, was there anything that I could have done."
SG: Oh how horrible yeah.
IW: And knowing the individual, knowing his family, and knowing him since grade school,
SG: Oh really do you.
IW: and this is not, this is not consistent with his personality.
SG: What a tragedy.
IW: But I made some penciled notes on mine that you can carry back with you.
SG: Could I do that? Yeah, and we wont waste time now but then I'll send it back to you, yours and an amended one of mine.
IW: Yeah, at one point I made--. They didn't know the difference between--. You could not appreciate a bottle of chardonnay like you--.
SG: Oh chardonnay. OK.
IW: A bottle of ripple, you know it's.
SG: Wow, isn't that ironic. I heard ripple and I didn't hear chardonnay [laughter] I'm appalled at myself.
IW: Or shall I say ( ).
SG: Whatever you said, I didn't hear it. I didn't get the good stuff I got the bad stuff. [laughter]
IW: Oh have mercy.
SG: Yeah. [pause] I loved your Thanksgiving story. With the boiled potato and the butter--.
IW: Right. And I kicked myself in the butt for saying Thanksgiving, but that's what it was. Because it was at Thanksgiving time of the year.
SG: I did also wonder about that but assumed something about what you were saying.
IW: Because there was a significance of the meal, separate of any other meal and we ate in the middle of the day and it was one of those western practices, and like I said, just the meagerness of it, and the sharing,
SG: The sharing was the, was the point.
IW: I loved boiled potatoes and butter, actually. And I ate the whole potato.
SG: Anything else as I said I don't want to--.
IW: Do you have any other questions? RECORDING INTERUPTED. RECORDING RESUMED
SG: I still have the feeling Profesor Kolenbrander might rip you off, and I don't like it.
IW: If he does, I know where he lives [laughter].
SG: Shouldn't he at least give them back to you?
IW: I would hope so. It's been three years now. I think he's still there.
SG: And you were talking about Columbus, and Bartolome de Las Casas.
IW: Uh-huh.
SG: Did I say it was yeah twenty-nine on nine. So it might be a little bit earlier than yours. It's just going on Tape two side B.
IW: Tape two, side B.
SG: And that's where you were talking about Jim Beam, Bacardi, Johnny Walker.
IW: Right [pause]
SG: They were living off concrete marks on a piece of paper and we only know them by imagery and stories and chronology and so how can they, what do you believe in, do you believe in God? What's God? Then I've got "12,000 year-old man."
IW: Mel Brooks. Ed Sullivan. Special visit tonight, by the 12,000 year-old-man. Mel Brooks would come on stage. He had all the answers [laughter]. Ed Sullivan asked him, one night, he says, "Well, that would make you older than God!" He says, "I don't want to talk about it." He said, "I knew back, I knew God back when we used to call him Jaime." And but I, I referred to that a lot and every once in awhile this Dr. Green, Keith Green, we were talking about that, we were talking about God, the, the myth of God, the origins of God, and one of my papers I submitted, just by coincidence I was watching TV Land, Channel 39, and they had Ed Sullivan, Mel Brooks, the 12,000 year-old-man. And he was talking about--, and Mel Brooks is an educated man, he has to be. To make the allusion that he makes.
SG: Yeah.
IW: And I'm listening to him, I kept thinking, well, as a kid it was funny. But now, you realize that everything he does is steeped in history.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: Historical fact.
SG: Yeah, definitely.
IW: Now, open your eyes, humor I can criticize,
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: but what's, Paul Harvey'd say, it's the rest of the story? And he got to talking about how God--, well, you know, why are you running from God, run up the tree? A bolt of lightning hit the damn tree, you know. And all God was thinking was, God!
SG: Yeah [laughter].
IW: Ever since then we've known Jaime as God! Something's bigger than God, the biggest guy in town! [laughter] So even God won't stand up to God. So, so it, but I've made reference to that and I started watching TV Land and every time I hear '12,000 year-old-man' beyond that hour, see just see what he says." And (Shen) was asking me, "I want to see History of the World Part Two again." "Yeah," I says, "if you can get past all the, the facetious humor,"
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: I said, "Every facet of it even to the point of, 'We need a miracle.'
SG: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
IW: [laughter] Up even to that point. I said, "What is a miracle, in reality?" You think about it. You need a miracle, somebody says that's the same white horse comes ( ) through pulling a carriage, then make their get-away.
SG: Uh-huh [laughter].
IW: That's it, you know, one time the horse doesn't show up, you need a miracle, and they start (stomping), 'miracle'
SG: Miracle come here [laughter].
IW: Now here comes the horse! And he loves it because they're praying, they're praying for a miracle, what's gonna happen, and here's a miracle [laughter].
SG: Is anything more happening with your stories?
IW: Well, MariJo has them. I was supposed to do something for her anthology of Native American works.
SG: Yes, she was working on that this weekend, she said.
IW: And, there's a couple things that I've been thinking about, I don't know if I want to do something for fun, or very profound, or--.
SG: Uh-huh couldn't you do both?
IW: I don't know. Maybe I'll write about miracles [laughter].
SG: No but I was just thinking about the stories from the children's perspective you know if--.
IW: Well, that in itself is in its rawest form. They, they have no buffer to put things into perspective or to put things in their niche, of appreciation, or lack of: It's there, it's real, they experience it. I've often wondered how did they catalog it.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: And, but, five breaths in time, they will go back being children.
SG: Uh-huh. Yeah.
IW: In spite of how miserable they are. And, and their misery can only be incremented by adult values.
SG: Yes, yes.
IW: And so that, that to me, is the, is the challenge of the whole thing. And then my fear--, not my fear, but my concern is that the reader be able to read and to lower their inhibitions for where they can appreciate the rawness of it. And the only ones I can really encroach upon right now would be the mothers. A mother,
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: because a mother knows how helpless this child is. And, and very few men would feel that. They'd get very bored by looking at it. Be not one to check off other stories unless you know some background on them, but if I could just approach that, and maintain that.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: Certain people have said that they're, they're too sides to it
SG: Oh really?
IW: by our adult standards,
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: but, if you look at the children's stories, they go from (sadness) to cheerfulness in just one wonderful jump. And then they move on.
SG: Could one, could one of those go in the anthology?
IW: Thank you, I think I will call her and use "Best Gift".
SG: I think that would be, I mean would that be a possibility?
IW: Uh-huh. Everybody says, use 'The Best Gift', for everything I do, that's the story.
SG: And it hasn't been published yet?
IW: No.
SG: Oh well, why not?
IW: That's, the, the social misfit, the crippled, and, and how it becomes part of someone's life and in the end, in his youth, he makes a very life-altering decision. And that one faction may not be appreciative of it because they do not know the other half of the story.
SG: Uh-huh.
IW: But the whole story's there.
SG: Yeah.
IW: So this depends on what heart and mind do you read it through.
SG: Right. Uh-huh. That sounds very sophisticated.
IW: It's very elementary.
SG: I think it sounds like a very sophisticated viewpoint. Filtering consciousness, whatever you would call it, through which you would narrate it? I'm just guessing not having seen it [laughter].
IW: It's very elementary.
SG: Well, I think I've cleared up everything that I was concerned about, as long as you have. That's the main thing.
IW: I'm comfortable with it.
SG: Yeah, I think it's good, I really do, and you know, when I set out I mean it--.