It ain’t easy being an Indian with a hair complex

By Ricey Wild
News From Indian Country 6-09

I just have to share a very spooky moment I recently experienced. It was morning, I absently looked in to my hall mirror and saw Kim Jong-II, big as life. He had red, beady eyes, with dark shadows as if he were ill and his hair stood straight up, real scary-like.

What was the North Korean dictator himself doing, showing up in my mirror? As I looked his eyes widened and he squeaked something unintelligible. I don’t know Korean. Then I focused. The image in the mirror was... me!

Moi. Ricey Wild. I looked like the taller twin sister of Kim Jong-Il, sans coke bottle glasses. It is very difficult for me to communicate my utter shock and horror at my reflection.

I would have passed out had I not begun to laugh and laugh, I laughed so long and so hard I was gasping, almost gagging, for breath. It’s a good thing I have a highly developed sense of humor. And irony?                      

My mirror used to be my friend, but like some friends do, it turned on me, viciously pointing out all my faults and shortcomings in glaring detail.

Back in the day my hair was long, glossy and so pretty. I kept the ends trimmed, I don’t like that straggly dead hair look, and took pains to style it well.           


My features were generic/exotic, most people who were not Indian would ask me “what are you?” and a couple people even asked me what country I was from? I could pass easily for Mexican, Latina, they asked if I was Haiwiian, Italian, Greek, Phillipina, mulatto (thats the word they used), I guess you get it.

When I think about it I really missed my calling, I coulda been an international spy! Oh well.

Fast forward to the present day. Kim Jong-Il showing up in my mirror. Horror. Despair. What happened? How could this be? It’s not just age, although I realize it too has a lot to do with it. It’s my hair.

Whats left of it anywayz. This past January I took scissors to my head and cut it all off, in some places down to the scalp. The reason I did this is because I am grieving.

I used to wonder why Indians did that? Cut their hair I mean, in times of grief and loss. The action puzzled me, what could it prove? Well, now I know, and the why is still too painfully raw for me to share.

In the Geronimo episode of “We Shall Remain,” it said that after his wife and children were murdered, he never grew his hair long again.

This all got me thinking. What is hair to an Indian? Is it personal, spiritual or practical? Is having long hair pan-Indian? There are a lot of photos of the old Indians with longish hair, and others are quite clearly cut in specific cultural styles, short. Hmm.

So I conclude that it depends on what nation you are from, if you keep your hair long or not. And come to think of it, it was those Pink invaders who decided that all Indians have or should have long hair. Look at all them old westerns, ay? Racist pop culture.

Ah! Another thought. Long hair was shorn off Indian children when they were sent to the boarding schools. It was done along with other heinous acts to cut them, literally, from their culture. So all those kids began their schooling in European acculturation, in mourning. You ever see a picture of a happy Indian from those days?

Heck no.

After I had hacked all my hair off, I looked like... well, simply awful! I had bald patches, tufts and straggles. I have seen old white men with more hair on their eyebrows than I had left on my dome piece. My vanity would not let me seen in public with such a ‘do. So I wore hats, tried tying scarves, my Gramma bought me a wig, all to hide what I had done to myself. Finally my hair started growing out. I got it cut and styled, and told the stylist to make it “look like I meant to do this.”

I was pleased with my new coif, but I was still kinda nervous about people’s reaction to it. (I know, they have nothing better to do, ennit?) My head is on the large side, my face very round. In my imagination I thought I looked like a bowling ball with hair. When I went about Blueberry and Rezberry I did catch some puzzled looks. I have to wonder if they thought I caught “gay” and went to bat for the other side?

So imagine my happy surprise, dear readers, after all my sorrow and obsession with my hair or lack thereof... people notice my new ‘do and tell me in very complimentary terms that they like it, think it’s cute. Eh? At first I was nonplussed, thinking they are joking me, but no, they are very sincere and I thank all of yooz here, right now.

It ain’t easy being Indian with a hair complex. The lesson for me in all this is that life goes on, hair grows, and I will see my beloved again. I miss you son.