What distinguishes the Jicarilla Apache from the Seminole, the Tlingit from the Zuni, the Pit River from our local Abenaki is less a matter of substance, and more of style. Style derives from form, and form comes from elements and conditions that dictate the hows and whats of daily existence.
Some tribes thrive by way of the waters, others thrash in the dust and become stalkers of the wind and brush. People hone their ways based on a vast palate of diverse currents. Some travel by great longboats hewn from massive redwood trees, others tame equine energies.
This being said, each far-flung tribe has more in common with each other than the conquerers, the interlopers, the deciders, the despoilers of their ways. Together, the varied aboriginals are steeped in ancestral rhythms and natural cycles. A common parentage is understood by all.
Through the onslaughts of history, Natives have been made savvy to duplicity. With shifting meanings of scriptural law and the fickle blindfolded face of legal justice, there’s been plenty to reckon. A speckled clarity emerges over time, not every descendant of Custer and Columbus is a homicidal crusader, a curse on their existence. Nonetheless, threats to primordial ways continue unabated, ‘progress’ proceeds effortlessly, like rain from heavy clouds.
What do these differing clans with diverging lifestyles from remote corners of the land think about their collective displacement, resettlement, and withering of tradition? Again and again they’re urged to hang on to hope. Conditional consensus has a nasty aftertaste. Enforced freedom, what a contradictory concept.
Remember, style is the common glue, the unifying spirit, elusive as it may be. Despite the disparity of action, and adornment, and customs, style is easily recognizable regardless of where it shows its stuff. It’s a reflection of flow, being in control amidst swirling variables. It’s individuation in action.
Adolescents on razor scooters’, BMX bikers, hill-bombing longboarders, sticky-wheeled urban-cruisers, popsicle-stick kick-flippers, bench-grinders, newly minted groms, in-line dancers, middle-aged-wall-pumpers… all in search of open spaces, reprieve, a chance to survive, perhaps to even thrive again.
These discreet rolling thunders have more in common with each other than the opinioneers, the vaguely interested, the experts of civic process, the lawmakers. It takes great equanimity to always be waiting. Always forced to yield to they who decide when and where style can show its face.