I mean, I loved that movie. I memorized whole passages of dialogue. But recently, I watched the film for the first time in many years and cringed in shame and embarrassment with every stereotypical scene.
I cringed when Philbert Bono climbed to the top of a sacred mountain and left a Hershey chocolate bar as an offering.
I cringed when Philbert and Buddy Red Bow waded into a stream and sang Indian songs to the moon.
I cringed when Buddy had a vision of himself as an Indian warrior throwing a tomahawk through the window of a police cruiser.
I mean, I don't know a single Indian who would leave a chocolate bar as an offering. I don't know any Indians who have ever climbed to the top of any mountain. I don't know any Indians who wade into streams and sing to the moon. I don't know of any Indians who imagine themselves to be Indian warriors.
I was wrong. I know of at least one Indian boy who always imagined himself to be a cinematic Indian warrior.
I watched the movies and saw the kind of Indian I was supposed to be.
A cinematic Indian is supposed to climb mountains.
I am afraid of heights.
A cinematic Indian is supposed to wade into streams and sing songs.
I don't know how to swim.
A cinematic Indian is supposed to be a warrior.
I haven't been in a fistfight since sixth grade and she beat the crap out of me.
I mean, I knew I could never be as brave, as strong, as wise, as visionary, as white as the Indians in the movies.
I was just one little Indian boy who hated Tonto because Tonto was the only cinematic Indian who looked like me.
Sherman Alexie is the author of "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven," the screenwriter of "Smoke Signals," and the recent winner of the 17th Taos Poetry Circus.