Charles E. Trimble, an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation, writes
the following in an article in Indian Country Today, Aug 4, 2003:
"....contrary to the "stoic" Indian stereotype, humor has always been an
important part of Indian life."
"In my tribe, the Oglala Lakota, as in other Sioux tribes, one of the important
roles in the camp was that of Heyoka, the "contrary;" and among his various
roles was that of making fun and laughter. And trickster stories, like the
spider Iktomi, have delighted many generations around Sioux campfires. Humor was
important to preserving civility and order in the community, especially in the
confinement of the long winter camps."
"All tribes have clowns and tricksters as part of their lore. Sometimes, through
humor, a clown's role might be to ridicule, when such was warranted. Felix
Cohen, the great legal scholar, tells about this: "A chief who forgets that he
is a public servant and tries to order others around has always been an object
of ridicule," he wrote, "and Indian laughter has rippled down the centuries and
upset many thrones."
The Contrary in Lakota society
The Heyoka, the sacred clown, is a teacher. This trickster is a
teacher, who can be funny, benevolent or may trick you into doing stupid things
or sometimes bad things, but never anything evil. The Lakota do not believe in
The Heyoka or contrary path leads him to teach about the tricks which life can
play upon us, to watch out and be aware of things in life that will take us down
a dumb or dangerous road. They do everything backwards. They walk and ride a
horse backwards, or wash with dirt instead of using water. Watching them is a
lesson to the people to show them ways they could start being smarter.
An old Native chief sat in his hut on the reservation, smoking a ceremonial
pipe and eyeing two U.S. government officials sent to interview him.
"Chief Two Eagles," asked one official, "you have observed the white man for 90
years. You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen
his progress, and the damage he has done." The chief nodded in agreement.
The official continued, "Considering all these events that you have witnessed,
where did the white man go wrong?"
The chief stared at the officials for over a minute and then calmly replied:
"When the white man came to this land, Indians were running it.
Women did all the work.
Medicine Man free.
Native men spent all day hunting and fishing."
Then the chief leaned back and smiled..... "Only white man dumb enough to think
he could improve system like that."
"Hey, did you know what brand of shirts ol' Custer wore?"
Below are from:
So anyway, there was this old Indian dude who hired into a construction
company. His first day on the job the crew was worried about the dark clouds
He spoke up and said "It ain't gonna rain".
Sure enough, he was right! And so for months this went on, the crew asked him
everyday what the weather was gonna be, and the old Indian would be right! Until
one day, they walked into the local diner and saw their old Indian friend
sipping on a mug of coffee.
They approached him and asked, "So old-timer, what's the weather gonna be
today?". "Don't know", said the old man. "What? What do you mean you don't
know?" they asked. He said again, "Don't know". They were bewildered.
"Why not?" they asked. So the old Indian looked up and said flatly, "My radio's
THE BUREAU OF CAUCASIAN AFFAIRS
United Native Americans is proud to announce that it has purchased the state of
California from the whites and is throwing it open for Indian settlement.
UNA bought California from three winos found wandering in San- Francisco. UNA
decided the winos were the spokesmen for the white people of California. These
winos promptly signed the treaty, which was written in the Lakota language, and
sold California for three bottles of wine, one bottle of gin, and four cases of
Lehman L. Brightman, the Commissioner of Caucasian Affairs, has announced the
following new policies: The Indians hereby give the whites four large
reservations of ten acres each at the following locations: Death Valley, The
Utah Salt Flats, The Badlands of South Dakota, and the Yukon in Alaska. These
reservations shall belong
to the whites "for as long as the sun shines or the grass grows" (or until the
Indians want it back.)
All land on the reservations, of course, will be held in trust for the whites by
the Bureau of Caucasian Affairs, and any white who wants to use his land in any
way must secure permission from Commissioner Brightman.
Of course, whites will be allowed to sell trades and handicrafts at stands by
the highway. Each white will be provided annually with one blanket, one pair of
tennis shoes, a supply of Spam, and a copy of 'The Life of Crazy Horse'.
If you are competent enough, you will be able to be a BCA reservation
superintendent. Applicants must have less than one year of education, must not
speak English, must have an authoritarian personality, proof of dishonesty, and
a certificate of incompetence. No whites need apply.
Commissioner Brightman also announced the founding of four boarding schools, to
which white youngsters will be sent at the age of six (6). "We want to take
those kids far away from the backward culture of their parents," he said. The
schools will be located on Alcatraz Island, the Florida Everglades, Point Barrow
Alaska, and Hong Kong. All courses will be taught in Indian languages, and there
will be demerits for any child caught speaking English. All students arriving at
the school will immediately be given IQ tests to determine their understanding
of Indian language, spirituality and hunting skills.
Hospitals will be established for the reservations as follows: Whites at Death
Valley may go to the Bangor, Maine Hospital; those at the Utah Salt Flats may go
to the Juneau, Alaska Hospital; those at the Yukon may go to the Miami Beach
Hospital; and those at the Badlands may go to the Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Each hospital will have a staff of two part-time doctors and a part-time
chiropractor who have all passed first aid tests. And each hospital will be
equipped with a
scalpel, a jack knife, a saw, a modern tourniquet, and a large bottle of
In honor of the whites, many cities, street cars, sports teams and products will
be given traditional white names.
One famous Indian movie director has even announced that in his upcoming film,
'Custer's Last Stand', he will use many actual whites to play the parts of the
soldiers, speaking real English. But of course, the part of Custer will be
played by noted Indian actor Jay Silverheels.
Certain barbaric white customs will, of course, not be allowed. Whites will not
be allowed to practice their heathen religions, and will be required to attend
Indian ceremonies. Missionaries will be sent from each Indian Nation to convert
the whites on the reservations. White churches will either be made into
amusement parks or museums, or they will be torn down and the bricks and
ornaments sold as novelties, souvenirs and curiosities. --
Satire in its purest form :-)
Here is a website with a lot of Indian Jokes. A lot of them relate to
Reservation living. If you have never lived on an Indian "Rez" you may not
understand the tongue-in-cheek humor. Many Reservations are very poor and have
sub-standard living conditions.