Jackson Jackson Quotes in What You Pawn I Will Redeem
One day you have a home and the next you don’t, but I’m not going to tell you my particular reasons for being homeless, because it’s my secret story, and Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white folks.
Probably none of this interests you. I probably don’t interest you much. Homeless Indians are everywhere in Seattle. We’re common and boring, and you walk right on by us, with maybe a look of anger or disgust or even sadness at the terrible fate of the noble savage.
If you put Junior and me next to each other, he’s the Before Columbus Arrived Indian, and I’m the After Columbus Arrived Indian. I am living proof of the horrible damage that colonialism has done to us Skins. But I’m not going to let you know how scared I sometimes get of history and its ways. I’m a strong man, and I know that silence is the best way of dealing with white folks.
I set the crumpled Lincoln on the countertop. The pawnbroker studied it.
“Is that the same five dollars from yesterday?”
“No, it’s different.”
He thought about the possibilities.
“Did you work hard for this money?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
I knew that the solitary yellow bead was a part of me. I knew that I was the yellow bead in part. Outside, I wrapped myself in my grandmother’s regalia and breathed her in. I stepped off the sidewalk and into the intersection. Pedestrians stopped. Cars stopped. The city stopped. They all watched me dance with my grandmother. I was my grandmother, dancing.
I wondered if my grandmother’s cancer had started when somebody stole her powwow regalia. Maybe the cancer started in her broken heart and then leaked out into her breasts. I know it’s crazy, but I wondered if I could bring my grandmother back to life if I bought back her regalia.
“Thank you,” I said and gave her one of the bills.
“I can’t take that,” she said. “It’s your money.”
“No, it’s tribal. It’s an Indian thing. When you win, you’re supposed to share with your family.”
“I’m not your family.”
“Yes, you are.”
She smiled. She kept the money.
“And somebody beat the hell out of you,” he said. “You remember who?”
“Mr. Grief and I went a few rounds.”
“It looks like Mr. Grief knocked you out.”
“Mr. Grief always wins.”
“You Indians. How the hell do you laugh so much? I just picked your ass off the railroad tracks, and you’re making jokes. Why the hell do you do that?”
“The two funniest tribes I’ve ever been around are Indians and Jews, so I guess that says something about the inherent humor of genocide.”
The Aleuts sang their strange and beautiful songs. I listened. They sang about my grandmother and their grandmothers. They were lonely for the cold and snow. I was lonely for everybody.