Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000 Page: 39
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ki* LU Eii
Where history, people, and places come together
BY OLIVER FRANKLIN
Second grade. That was my
first le ing experience about the
Native A icans. I don't recall
very muc except the sketchy
*WrcQ9lks in the textbook. I remember
being interested in the
Indians, but not any more so than
another culture. They were a fact
of history class.
As I grew, I learned more. The
fact that the Indians had a sense
of being in the world that was different
from ours began to be clear.
Eventually, the politics and activities of the
Comanches, Apaches, Tonkawa became
interesting sociology. But the purchase of
bits of flint from the soily vault spoke little
One lesson, however, always stuck in my
mind-when Indians killed an animal,
they first gave thanks to the spirits and then
to the animals for allowing themselves to
be eaten. Then flesh was consumed, hide
was tanned, bones were sharpened--everything
that could be used, was. I couldn't
imagine being able to figure out so many
things to do with a dead body. But, given
the Indian's apparent poverty and lack of
suburban-style resources, it seemed logical.
Ingenious, yet. Passionate, no.
Lately, I have found a renewed interest
in fishing. As a child, I recall visits with
my father to Lake LBJ, times when pulling
a perch out of the mercurine surface was
terribly exciting. I relished the thrill of a
disappearing cork and delighted in telling
my mother of the number we had bagged
that day. By my teens, however there were
other more thrilling things to be done.
As an adult, I return to rugged shores
and find new dimensions spurring my re
vived excitement. For instance there is a
spiritual element that I had heretofore
overlooked. One beautiful evening recently,
on a remote and moon-lit stock
tank, I had a stirring experience.
August. The ground was cooling as the
sun slowly set. The tank was still. The pole
had dipped once or twice; the cork I was
using had gone down but little had come
up. Though I am generally opposed to it, I
intended to catch-and-release that day since
I didn't know what was in the tank and
didn't want to destroy what little there was.
Some time passed. Then quickly, the pole
convulsed, the cork shot down, and a writhing
14-inch large-mouth bass emerged. Unfortunately,
it had swallowed the hook. I cut
its head off quickly to minimize the pain.
Twenty minutes later, the cork sank
quickly again, the pole bent with a jerk,
and I knew I had another one. As I drew it
in, I wondered-should I release this one
or keep it? One fish is not a meal. It will
likely be taken home to languish in the
freezer, eventually spoiling. This one,
though, was a good 12-incher. Lean but a
keeper. So I went for my Leatherman.
I reached for the creature, dancing at
Photo Credit: Field Museum of
Natural History, Chicago.
the end of the line. The evening
light glistened on his back. I had
never noticed so many colors in
their scales. And the marvellous
Cradling him in my hand, I
struck his skull sharply with the
handle of my pocket tool. As the
life left him, a profound sadness
came over me and a profound respect.
All of a sudden, I pieced together
the real message of Native American hunting.
It was not about litany or protocol, or
even economics. No. They used the entire
animal out of a moral imperative. That this
fish, such a magnificent, robust creaturenot
ultimately unlike ourselves-would
mount so noble yet so futile an effort to
keep its life, and that we would end it, is a
sad and marvelous thing. One must make
thorough use of the once-keen carcass or
you disrespect this creature in a most fundamental
way. And ultimately, this disrespect
is reflected upon ourselves.
In today's culture, sheer numbers make
an intimate relationship with our comestibles
impractical. But it is a genuine relationship
that has largely been lost. In short,
we are rendered brutes in our inability to
grasp the sacrifice we make daily to survivethe
sacrifice of the responsibility borne.
So there is much to learn from our indigenous
ancestors after all. Perhaps that flint
point has more to discuss than mere data. In
the right hands, at the right moment, it
might help us discover who we really are.
Franklin is the THF executive director.
HERITAGE * 39 * FALL 2000
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000, periodical, Autumn 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45391/m1/39/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.