My madcap adventures in Germany during my year as a Fulbright Scholar.

23 February 2007

Take a moment to appreciate the crazy.

This is Willy Michl.

He's a blues musician and a self-proclaimed "Isar" Indian. (The Isar is a river in Bavaria and the Tirol.)

Now, he would be an interesting an innocuous figure, of the rather crunchy, "Umweltfreundlich" variety; he's famous for the sentence: "One must be able to drink the water of our rivers at any and every point." He might be a bit eccentric, but I could excuse his eccentricity because I think pro-environmental beliefs are good and should be encouraged.

As I said, he would be an interesting but harmless figure, if he weren't completely bonkers. You see, he thinks he's an Indian.

He walks around Bavaria, dressed in skins and wearing moccasins, with three eagle feathers stuck in his hair, carrying a medicine bag and a knife for scalping.

From his website:
"As an adult Willy Michl finally realized his childhood yearning to help the Indians and be interested in their customs. In this way he became more and more of an Indian on the long search for the truth. For him the translation of the word "Indian" means first and foremost "original inhabitant," and the Indian life, which he cultivates in his private life, serves as a symbol for the fight against racism and oppression."

In his own words:
"With my appearance and behavior I show my solidarity with the original inhabitants of the western hemisphere and all hemispheres and show people, that I want to be equated with them... As an Indian I explain anew, there is nothing in my life that I regret and that I am an equally grateful for my 'victories and defeats.' I am not a self-declared Indian, as is often reported or parrotted, but rather the 'Rainbow Rider' captured me in my childhood, already at my birth, and strengthened me, so that I can do what I was born to do: deliver my blues songs!"

Completely and utterly mad.

Whether you call them Indians, Native Americans, American Indians, or just plain Natives, Willy Michl is not one of them.

I knew about the fascination many Germans have for American Indians, but things like this still surprise me. Surprise and disgust me. It's amazing to me that someone who wants to fight against racism can't see how absolutely racist his own actions are. Willy Michl makes a living by stereotyping and glossing over cultural differences, history and tradition to lump all Native Americans under one umbrella. He appropriates symbols from cultures which are not his own, strips them of their context and puts them to use for his own purpose, namely, selling CDs.

You don't get much more imperialist than that.

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