In a recent news story, one of our staffers added this provocative line: “[Anne Strieber] has been given an ‘Indian name.’ Maybe one day she’ll tell it to you.” Ever since we posted this story, we’ve been besieged with mail asking for my Indian name, so I’ll tell it to you.
This was many years ago, when Whitley was researching a novel about a lost Indian tribe, which was never published, because Communion and other books about his real-life experiences got in the way of his fiction. We were living in New York at the time, within walking distance of the national headquarters for several tribes, so he would go over and sit around and talk with the people there.
He learned some interesting things. One of them is that Indians don’t refer to themselves by the PC term “Native Americans”–or at least these people didn’t. The term “Indian” was first used for the native peoples of the Americas because some of the Europeans who arrived didn’t realize this continent even existed, and thought they had sailed all the way to India (this may be an apocryphal story). Since each tribe has its own language in which they are “the people,” they consider the term “Native American” to be an example of politically correct apologetics. We can’t call them by their “real” names, so Indians are content to be called Indians. Since their languages have been lost to time, they can no longer call themselves by their real names, so they call themselves Indians too.
I was given my Indian name during a period of time when I was feeling totally eclipsed by the fame of Communion. Whenever I would accompany Whitley to a conference, people would run up to me and barrage me with questions about him and what was he really like and did he really have those experiences? (They often didn’t listen to the answers).
People constantly misjudged me, or based their judgements on what they assumed I was like, rather than really trying to get to know me. I remember one woman who rushed up to me when we were in a crowd at a conference (probably because she couldn’t get Whitley’s attention) and started gushing about what a wonderful person I was to be so strong and supportive of my husband. I thought to myself, “This woman knows absolutely nothing about me.” She was probably astonished when, instead of being flattered, I snapped at her, “I am NOT a candidate for sainthood!”
I started speaking up when we were together with other people, even sometimes interrupting Whitley. I pushed my own ideas and opinions forward, even though the person everybody really wanted to hear from was my husband.
An Indian we knew at the time gave me some wisdom about this. He said, “Women are supposed to be half, but you want to be three-quarters. Your Indian name is ‘Three-Quarters.'”
It made me realize that supporting my husband and making my own way in the world are separate tasks, and I don’t have to give up one in order to do the other.
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