Sherman Alexie spoke at the Cabin’s Readings and Conversations program in Boise last evening. He is known for being a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Native American, poet, film-maker, and author of such novels as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He was entertaining, troubling, thoughtful, empathetic, misguided, and unstoppable (the people seated next to me wondered aloud if he would ever stop talking). He told stories, addressed current events, taunted liberal, shamed conservatives who had attempted to ban his book, and was the punchline of his jokes. He also took [expletive delete] liberties with his language.
A significant tipping point in Sherman’s life came at age 13 when he left to attend a high school off his reservation. Sherman reminded the audience that his most powerful discoveries and successes came because he walked away from his reservation seeking something else in the world. He now serves as one of the most powerful link for both the native american communities and those of anglo heritage. He refers to himself as a modern day Sacagawea.
The enduring image of the evening was Sherman walking across the stage, hands raised, middle fingers extended as he mockingly walked out of an imaginary cave and the warmth of its fire. The power of slipping the bonds of safe for the possibility of better was profound.
How often do we choose the safety of the tribe over the chance to seek new experiences? Sometimes, walking out of the cave is the most powerful act we can take.