Good Night, Uncle Douglas
They are burying Douglas White and Pine Ridge reservation tomorrow. The Oglalas who knew him and loved him gather tonight, in the snow, to remember him and pray him on his way. My brother, Duane, will drive the casket in the back of his pickup tomorrow, as they take him north of Manderson and bry him quietly in the earth he loved.

Doug was one of my teachers during the long torturous process of learning the materials for HUMMINGBIRD'S DAUGHTER. He was Duane's medicine man. And, in a way, he became my own.

If you want to know about Doug, read the small essay tucked into the back for the Hummingbir'ds paperback edition. That was Doug's medicine that stunned and shocked the curanderas in Cuernavaca--reaching out long-distance. No, Lakota people are not the same as Yaqui or Mayo people, but Doug taught me much about the matrix of sacredness I was entering to write that book.

I met Doug while visiting Duane at Pine Ridge. (You can find short fiction about all that in SIX KINDS OF SKY; Duane is the basis for Don Her Many Horses in the short story "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses" which you can find on NPR's Selected Shorts show.) I was learning fast that my meeting with medicine people would not be full of cosmic eye-gazing or clanking jewelry and flutes. That was tourist stuff. No, medicine had a far funkiier face. You fans will know this because you know Huila in the novel.

I knew Doug had great power, and had done many astounding things with Duane and other friends on the reservation. The day I met him, he banged up to Duan's house in abeater car. He was wearing jeans and might have had a straw cowboy hat. But he opened up his trunk and pulled out a deer head and offered to sell it to me for $15. Duane and I have laughed about this for years.

We corresponded regularly, and he advised me, and one day he decided he was my uncle and I was his nephew.

An example of his great wakan strength that I was telling Duane on the cell phone as he drove through the snow this afternoon: in Tucson, there was a woman living in the rooms next to mine. She was having serious troubles, Hell-troubles. Bad personal juju bringing down awfulness upon her. And worse, we were living in a scarily haunted house. You can believe that part or not. But things happened there every night and day. Once, I was hanging out with her in the basement of her place (the building was divided into three living units--mine was in the middle). There was no-one in the building but us. And a full tray of plates crashed to the floor above our heads and shattered quite loudly. We ran upstairs. Nothing. Next tood. Nothing. Next door again. Nothing again. All kitchens empty.

I told Doug she was in trouble, and he told me he would do a ceremony in her honor that Sunday. I never mentioned this to her. But when that Sunday came around, she stepped into my place and said the weirdest thing had just happened to her. She was lying in her basement bed, reading. And a white feather had somehow come out of the ceiling and drifted down to her chest.

Once again, Duane and I laughed. Go, Doug White.

He went to prison on terrible, trumped up charges. I can't go into them here. Only to say I know these charges to be false. The people who conspired against him have now confessed. But Uncle Douglas White, Oglala Lakota medicine man, died in prison. If there is any sin in this world, that is it.

The prison had respect for him. They sent his body home in a three piece suit. Back home, they put him in a traditional ribbon shirt.

So good-night, Uncle Doug. Many tears will fall for you these cold days. But I know what you taught me--in a world of medicine, the soul is not gone. Heck, you might show up in any one of our dreams tonight. I bet you're laughing.

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