The email that prompted my essay, "Jack Marks is Dead? Oh Well."
An Open Letter
To The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post
In the Form of a Last Chapter on Jamake Highwater,
written as a Letter to the Contents of Box 34 in the Jamake Highwater Papers of the Manuscripts & Archives Division of the New York Public Library.
In obituary headlines for Jamake Highwater on June 10, 2001, The Los Angeles Times identified him as a "Native American writer," while The Washington Post was satisfied to extol him as an "American Indian Author."
To that point, The LA Times was able to adhere to its vaunted editorial style book for social sensitivity correctness in treatment of ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities within its pages.
However, both newspapers had it wrong. Mr. Highwater never possessed a single jot of Blackfeet, Cherokee, nor other tribal blood of American continental origin within his veins or lineage.
The Washington Post accepted Mr. Highwater's false 1942 year of birth in aging him at 59. The Times wrote: "Although his precise birth date is uncertain, he was believed to be 59."
Believed by whom? In the period The LA Times would have "the young Jamake" being "about age 7," the El Camino yearbook of North Hollywood High School was picturing him as senior Jack Markseven then appearing older than his classmates.
Certainly, he was not a mere 13 when he incorporated his San Francisco "Contemporary Dancers Guild" ["Company," "Foundation" and "School"] in California during March 1955, nor just 15 when he secured federal tax exempt status on March 8, 1957.
By the latter date, he had already cast his organization as a "World University" and "World Theatre of the Dance."
His 1955-56 lectures on "A History of Western Thought," "Science and the Modern World," "Literature," and six other listed topics, were not the product of a 14-year-old savant.
Nor was Mr. Marks merely juvenile truant of 17 in 1959, when California's U.S. Senator Clair Engle entered complaint with the U.S. Postal Service to halt his fraudulent promises "to confer .. American college" degrees upon students completing his courses.
Rather, in 1960, Mr. Marks was less than two years away from 30, and but one year away from his limited edition self-published first book. Indians occupied no place in that 1961 world 'history.'
Indians were still absent from a second book manuscript five years later. However, the content would be sold and resold as constructs of American Indian culture and thought in later Highwater writings.
Mr. Mark's "Indian" mother had not yet been born when, on December 20, 1968, Columbia Records in New York City issued a biography for J Marks to promote his LP album, "Rock and Other Four Letter Words."
She was given public birth in an interview for the Sunday News (NY) of July 13, 1969, as a "full-blooded Cherokee Indian," as yet unnamed. Obsequiously, Columbia Records named her "Marcia Highwater" in a 9-page J Marks biography the following year.
"Marcia Highwater" first came to life in 1970 as "a 15-year old Cherokee Indian girl." At that "age," she was "carried .. away" from her "Oklahoma reservation" by "Alexandre Markropoulos," who had "came to America" from his native Greece at "16 years" in "1924."
"Shortly thereafter J's mother and father were married," the 1970 biography states. "The family name was officially changed .. legally to Marks when J was 6. J has no first name."
The "Jamake" name materialized more slowly. It had not been used when he approached Eugene Fodor with an "idea" for a "new kind of travel book for the young." The result was Fodor's Europe Under 25 - 1972 with J. Marksthen no less than 40named as "Youth Editor."
Notably, the new name was introduced twice the following year.
An introductory date mark for Mick Jagger: The Singer, Not the Song reads: "J MARKS (Jamake) / Brussels, 1973." A back cover photo caption states: "J Marks is the pen name for Jamake Mamake Highwater."
Nothing, by claim or statement, in his book associates the selected name with Indians. His photo seeks to effect an Indian look.
However, in the March 1973 issue of Stereo Review, "Jamake Mamake Highwater" becomes the writer's byline.
In final lines of "American Indian Music," he suggests and assumes the voice of Indian people: "All this reminds Indians of an ancient axiom. An ear of corn, our forefathers told us, is very complicated. But for the corn plant, it is easy."
An endnote follows, informing readers that Mr. Highwater "is the son of a Cherokee mother and the author of the forthcoming Fodor's Guide to Indian America to be published in September .."
The Guide languished until 1975. When printed, Jamake and Marcia Highwater fully occupy its preface without identification of any particular tribe or tribes.
Rather, the author's play with the words "Anglo" and "Indian"amidst a litany of purported miseries, personal sufferings, and premature deathsconveys implication that mother and son are of the latter ilk. Who, pray, but Indians, could have such intimate familiarity with "endless cans of beer"?
His was, indeed, a very fluid "family" in the making.
Remarkably, "Marcia Highwater" had ceased to exist a year before publication of Fodor's Indian America. A purported "Affidavit of Marcia Marks" had been executed in 1974 to create a family tree and Indian lineage for "J. Marks" and "Jamake Highwater."
In it, instead of a "full-blooded Cherokee mother," Jamake was given a mom named "Amilia .. born about 1905." Amilia was the daughter of "Amanna, a Blackfoot Indian" and a French "trader named Jean Pierre Bonneville." The two had "married in 1902" and "settled in Anadarko, Oklahoma."
"In 1931," the affidavit asserts, "Amilia married a Cherokee Indian whose name was James or Jamie Highwater."
Specifically, "1947" is declared the "year" that Marcia and her "husband, Alexander Marks .. legally adopted Jamake Highwater." "His name was legally changed by this adoption to Marks," avowed the sworn statement.
In the 1975 Fodor "Preface," the adoptive father takes "a fistful of sleeping pills on a hot Sunday afternoon" and quickly expires. A nameless "father" had already "died."
It is in his "non-fiction" book, The Primal Mind (1981), that Cherokee "Jamie Highwater" is drawn from the 1974 notarized fiction for public identification. Unnamed, a "mother" is reconfirmed in "Blackfeet (Blood) ancestry."
The 1974 maternal forebears are unidentified also in The Primal Mind, but do receive mention: "my mother's mother and father apparently died of starvation."
In a taped and transcribed interview for publication by author Jane Katz on June 26, 1978, Jamake Highwater had volunteered additional biographic information:
"I was born in the early forties and was raised in northern Montana and southern Alberta, Canada," he lied. "I spent my first thirteen years among Blackfeet and Cree people."
Of course, there were more deaths: "My father was killed in a head-on collision. .. he was very drunk. My older brother was killed in Korea on his second day of combat."
When J. Marks had conceived himself as an Indian for the Sunday News of July 13, 1969, that sole "brother" was then living, thank you, as a happy "actor" in Hollywood.
The "Marcia Highwater" of Columbia Records and the Fodor's Guide had "lived" long enough to visit Jamake in New York at a precise moment ("6:19 A.M.") in an unremembered day and year (1972, by detail). She could not survive, however, the pesky "affidavit" renaming her "Amilia."
Incredibly, "Amilia" was never given a chance to "live"except in the sworn 1974 declaration.
A feature article in The Village Voice of May 3, 1983, would report: "While Highwater protects the privacy of his adoptive family (whose legal name was not 'Marks'), he has revealed a great deal about his mother Amana in The Primal Mind and various interviews and articles."
In fact, he had not revealed any maternal name in The Primal Mind's "Prelude."
However, his interviewers of that period were supplied cut sheets from Marquis' Who's Who in America (41st Ed., 1980-81) and Who's Who in the World (42nd Ed., 1982-83). These listed a mother named "Amana"the misspelled name of his 1974 "grandmother."
In a press release at end of 1964, the not-yet-Highwater had written: "In 1964 Marks was honored with a dozen awards and grants, not the least of which was his listing in Who's Who; quite an achievement for a young man just out of his twenties."
Attached were humor items for stock use by columnists or reporters who might promote or review his company's works.
One read: "J Marks, who directs the Contemporary Dancers now appearing at (theatre), called his mother excitedly and announced to her "I've been notified that I'm in Who's Who... 'That's nice, dear,' his mother said happily: 'when they find out, let me know.'"
There was evidently as much need for him to know who she was. He needed sometime to get it right. That was never his intent.
His "mother" was most suitably used in advancing his goals as a consummate confidence man.
In an article for Publishers Weekly in November 1978, writer Sarah Crichton was taken in by Mr. Highwater's con and a claim of an intense "hostility toward non-Indians" as "a child."
Ms. Crichton wrote: "This inevitable hostility was buttressed by a mother who was 'very antiwhite and very, very racist ..' A lot of her bitterness grew from the fact that her parents, like so many Indians, starved to death during the Depression. Her rage became even more severe when her eldest son, Jamake's brother, was killed his second day in the Korean war."
A full set of fictions had been converted to "fact." And a fictional "mother" had been libeled againto Mr. Highwater's delight and for his benefit.
In the 1964 "who's who" boast, he had nearly admitted having lived through the Great Depression himself. Only later did he find need to contrive a bio with only one set of grandparentsand that set "dying" before his moved-behind "birth."
The Depression, oddly, became an era of relief and recovery for many Indian tribes. But, if any Indian elder or elder couple died of starvation in that period, it would have been an event not lost yet to memory in any tribe. The tribe would know their names indelibly.
Recently, a top admiral was pushed to suicide in this nation by allegations of wearing medals unearned. The nation itself exhumed and removed a U.S. Ambassador from Arlington Cemetery for adding false feats to a military record.
Why, then, are Indians expected to not be offended when false claims of an unknown Indian Korean KIA is used to bolster the personal and private gains of an impostor posing as an Indian?
Look to our spokesman's presence and words at America's dedication of the National Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For all the wars and times which have followed, there is no tribe which would have rendered a fallen Indian soldier's fate unknown or untended by some continuing honor.
It would be great if, in all wars, none of us were obliged to sacrifice to death or injury and loss anything more than fictions or fictitious and non-existent "brothers", "fathers," "sons," "sisters," "mothers," or "daughters."
We do know where North Hollywood High School's Jack (J) Marks, AKA Jamake Highwater, was from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953. He was not in Korea! Thousands and thousands and thousands of men his same age were there. Sadly, more than 54,000 Americans died in that conflict. And not one was Jamake's brother.
Perhaps, Mr. Highwater's account of the teacher Alta Black, a real person, affords a best test of his "credibility" and his pervasive falsehoods in claim of an Indian ancestry.
In his June 26, 1978, recorded statements to author Jane Katz, Mr. Highwater stated, in his own words, the following:
"What were my doorways into Western culture? How did I get a Ph.D., and why did I want one? .. Well, its all because of a woman named Alta Black, my teacher and great friend from the time I was seven or eight. A white woman, she came West in a covered wagon. So outrageous for her time, she learned the Blackfeet language so she could teach Indian children. When I was eight, she gave me an old typewriter and a book and said I was to learn to type because I would be a writer.
I ran around with a bunch of Indian boys. I was a big kid, violent, sort of a gang leader. We beat up white kids who we felt insulted us. But Alta Black believed in me. She continued as my teacher through the sixth grade and tutored me when I entered the university at thirteen. I grew a mustache at thirteen and ran around in a trench coat. As my spiritual guide, she introduced me to the whole of Western culture. At the end, when she was dying of cancer, she wrote me her death song. She's gone now, but I'm not sure that Alta Black is dead." [Jane Katz, ed., This Song Remembers. Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston, 1980.]
In the May 1983 Village Voice interview and article, David Jackson had reported additional details from Mr. Highwater.
Mr. Jackson wrote: "Black was a daring woman who had come to Montana in a covered wagon. She was the wife of a military man in charge of the reservation in Glacier County, Montana, where Highwater was born in 1942."
Alta Black had not been dead at the time of the 1978 interview. She would die some days later in July 1978, just months short of her 90th birthday coming on October 13 that year.
On February 28, 1978, she had written Mr. Highwater from the hospital on stationery bearing her name, "Alta Harris Black," indicating that she likely had little time left on "this planet."
Mrs. Black was sending him copy of a letter of the same date addressed to his publisher, urging that the highest possible awards be sought for Highwater books. The business letter stationery was imprinted: "Mrs. Harry Lee Black."
Factually, Mrs. Black had been a public school teacher, primarily in Burbank schools. She had married Major Harry Lee Black, a Colorado native and college graduate, prior to arriving alone in Los Angeles to assume her teaching position in 1924 or 1925.
Major Black had continued in a job at their prior home in Culver, Indiana, but followed his wife to Los Angeles in 1926.
During World War I, Mr. Black had been a captain with the U.S. Third Army in France, and had received medals for heroism.
He arrived in Los Angeles to become commandant of the Urban Military Academy, "a boarding and day school exclusively for young boys between the ages of six and fifteen"then, "the only private school for boys in the City."
About 1932, Major Black joined with a Mr. E.L. Foxe in founding the Black-Foxe Military Institute, patterned after the Academy. Foxe was president, and Major Black served as superintendent into the 1940s and World War II.
Mrs. Black remained a city school teacher from 1925 onward, until her retirement. Major Black worked briefly for the Federal Works Agency in Washington, D.C., during the Depression, but mainly stayed with his Institute.
As for his role during World War II, Major Harry Lee Black had served as a supervisor at the Japanese Assembly Center in Merced (part of America's fear-ridden program interning resident-aliens and citizens alike.)
Over their first twenty years in LA, the childless Black family changed residence from Cypress Avenue, to Juanita, then to North Hobart Boulevard in adjunct to the young boys school.
The Black-Foxe Military Institute became permanently settled at 637 North Wilcox Avenue. By 1945, Harry Lee and Alta Harris Black had taken up residence at 335 Kenwood in Burbank. When the Major died on February 10, 1951, that remained their home address.
Alta Black had become widow at age 63. Mr. Black had succumbed to a fatal heart attack while driving near Sacramento. He was then employed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
There had been an Indian man, Marceline Mamake, who had been friend to Major Black and the Black-Foxe Military Institute on North Wilcox. He was a chiefs-line member of the prominent Papago Indian Mamake family in Mission San Xavier, Arizona.
Mr. Mamake (1907-1983) had moved to California in the 1930s to serve the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, an order which had "founded the first parish schools, academies, orphanages, hospitals, and Indian schools" in Arizona Territory. He married in Los Angeles and remained there with the Carondelet.
In addition to Social Security, the Depression gave impetus to establishment of the Teachers' Retirement System in some western States. No one has written of how many teachers had 'starved to death' in that pre-War period. Probably none or not many.
When Jack Marks arrived as J Marks in San Francisco in 1954, he soon had draw upon Alta Black's insurance, Social Security and other retirement income to underwrite his struggling Guild, abortive School and infamous Dance Company.
He did not fabricate the false life history for his aging patron, until she was on her deathbed and could not see it in print. Dustjacket info in her last letters was used to further his frauds.
He dedicated his last book as J Marks, Mick Jagger, to Alta Blackbut likely encouraged her not to read it. At least, not beyond the dedication.
It is filled with the foulest racial and racist pejoratives, made only worse by the foulest pretensions at wit.
Marks' two pages of obscene degradations of Stevie Wonder alone were enough to warrant hiding behind some false race and name identifications. In truth, the language was not appropriate to any race of people.
Should 'Highwater' be studied, or still made "required reading," in any classrooms in this land? Perhaps, but ideally only in pornography coursesor where the author might be dissected in the nature of a self-wrought Gregor Samsa.
His The Primal Mind is little more than his pornographic Jagger, stripped down for a general audience. Therein is a truth to his prolific output.
Mr. Highwater wrote the same book a dozen or more times. He did little more than repackage it repeatedly. But, he had the good fortune of finding successively better editors.
What better illustration is there than the evolved workings of his "universe?"
In the early Highwater manifestation, he wrote: "American Indians .. believe in .. a bi-verse, but not the uni-verse of Western civilization." For The Primal Mind, it read: "Indians do not believe in a 'universe,' but in a 'multi-verse.'
What is it we believe in: a "bi-verse" or a "multi-verse?" Are we condemned to accept only the choice between the latter's chaos, or the former's confusion?
Personally, I'm unfamiliar with "bi-verse." I was introduced to dialectic form of the other terms, however, when the Quinault Nation allowed me to commercially hunt and dig bivalves on their beachesso long as I attended college in the early 1960's.
There, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, in lecture, referenced a New York debate whether or not institutions of higher learning might better be fashioned as "multiversities" to replace "universities" of old.
The were no "Wow's" among listeners to signal profoundness of revelation. We sat there, un-transformed.
Should we not have realized that, by stated concept alone, there was no one who could have been 'more Indian' or 'more primal'and, thus, none who could have 'suffered more'than that Mr. Rockefeller standing before us?
Well, none at least, until "Jamake Highwater" could come along.
As J Marks, he had called himself "magician." He was a second-rate charlatan, at best.
His life was a chosen kaleidoscope of designer lies and personal deceits, joined with stereotypical racial props to sustain his illusions for others. He would select that instrument purposefully, because even spelling it breaks the rules.
Marks' rock album for Columbia Records had brought to mind a fictional Franz Lisztthe one agreeing to help capture Claude Rains' filmic "Phantom of the Opera." Conscience-bound, Liszt exclaimed: "Some of the greatest crimes are committed in the name of music!"
To the spellbound disciples of Jamake Highwater, there could be no offense in anything that he did: "even if he murdered four people and crucified 35 others."
Those were the words of a world renowned anthropologist who defended Mr. Highwater in The Philadelphia Daily News of November 4, 1991. When the social scientist died later in the decade, one thinks, the cause should have been sheer embarrassment.
What level of public and private flatteries, or conceits, have caused otherwise rational people to mistake, what Herman Melville called, "an Indian-hater par excellence" as being the foremost "authority on Indians" and "the Indians' most articulate spokesman."
One needs only read his 1975-77 Song from the Earth closely to know that Jamake Highwater was such an "Indian hater." Read on, from book to book, through the 1992 Kill Hole .
No, he was not the "diluted Indian-hater" known to most our experienceand for which Melville drew distinction in The Confidence Man. Mr. Highwater was of a variety "peeping out but once an age," Melville writes, "in the highest view."
"How evident that in strict speech there can be no biography of an Indian-hater par excellence, any more than there can be one of a swordfish, or other deep-sea denizen; or, which is still less imaginable, one of a dead man. The career of an Indian-hater par excellence had the impenetrability of the fate of a lost steamer. Doubtless, events, terrible ones, have happened, must have happened; but the powers that be in nature have taken order that they shall never become news." [Melville, 1857.]
One goes beyond the "diluted" kind, when "he adds his private passion," opined Melville's narrator, when:
"we have then the stock out of which is formed, if formed at all, the Indian-hater par excellence. ** With .. solemnity .. he commits himself to the forest primeval; there, so long as life shall be his, to act upon a calm, cloistered scheme of strategical, implacable, and lonesome vengeance."
Mr. Highwater has arranged that 'facts' of his life shall never become known. A closest approximation of his own 'truth' is to be embargoed from his public estate for some fifty years.
In his kaleidoscope for age, he has slouched reluctantly toward his actual year and day of birth, while attempting simultaneously to preserve in place his other plastic shards of fictions.
When School Library Journal questioned Mr. Highwater about his "heritage" and "age, " he relied upon his New York lawyer's reproduction of the 1974 affidavit as ancestry proof.
Relative to the "birth date .. February 14, 1942," Highwater told SLJ editor Bertha M. Cheatham, solemnly: "the right yearthe date is an estimate."
Seven year later, Mr. Highwater produced his driver's license and passport for The Philadelphia Daily News, both bearing the February 14, 1942 birthdate. That article says: "He explains that when officials asked him to 'pick a date,' he obliged."
The reporter, Mark de la Vina, had already secured concession from Jamake Highwater that a much earlier birthdate was required to give any credence to a claimed crossing of paths with famed author Susan Sontag, a 1948 graduate of North Hollywood High.
"Highwater has said he is unable to estimate his age because he was adopted," de la Vina wrote. "He guesses that Sontag, who was born in 1933, was '4 or 5 years older than me'."
Might it be fact that, instead, he was '4 or 5 years older than she?'
As Jamake Highwater has fed more and more of his personal papers and life's works into repository at the New York Public Library, he has become progressively older and olderat both ends of lifeon their internet site. One end stopped on June 3.
That library archives carries a first and second "Biographical Note." One places his birth as "circa", or about, "1930."
The second Note states: "The year of Jamake Highwater's birth is unknown, but was probably between 1930 and 1933."
It adds, parenthetically: "(A more exact date is unavailable, as Highwater, who was adopted as a child, has evidently not had access himself to accurate information concerning the date or place of his birth.)"
It continues: "When he was about five years old, he became the foster son of a Southern California couple, Marcia and Alexander Marks, who later adopted him."
The "adoption," if ever it occurred, had been fixed permanently by the purported affidavitcirculated in highly redacted form by Highwater's Oakland, New York, and Seattle attorneysas occurring in the year "1947."
Thus, his life-saving "adoption," variously, occurred when he was "five or six" (YOB: 1942; Who's Who, and countless interviews); "9 or 10" (1937 or 1938; Philadelphia Daily News, 1991); or "14, 15, 16 or 17" (NY Public Library, 2000-2001).
Another document, disclaimed by Mr. Highwater, but residing at Series 5, Box 34 in his archival papers, gives an "exact date" of March 12, 1928. That would place his 'age of adoption' at 18 or 19.
Oddly, Mr. Highwater repeatedly tripped up his identity and age claims with his vociferous insistence at placing himself in the formative life and mind of author Susan Sontag.
In a book published in 2000, Mr. Highwater complains that Ms. Sontag "slammed the great gate of life" in the faces of former friends. [Rollyson and Paddock. Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon.]
Mr. Highwater took his revenge against Ms. Sontag there, perhaps for having treated him as 'a Harold Schartzberg' in her life. For more than 50 years, she never answered Highwater letters.
Apparently for having offended him before dying in 1967, poor victim Harold was 'outed' and savaged by Marks as the pathetic "drag queen, Rita"skewered with a sick hilarityin 1973. Her sexual abuse, humiliations and indignities go on for book length.
In the Rollyson-Paddock text, one finds Jamake Highwaternot there giving up his "Blackfeet" language to enter the first grade, butstanding against "Sue" by spurning the influences of a "Russian Jew" civics teacher who "boldly discussed the basics of Marxism."
Another North Hollywood High teacherfailing to recognize the young Highwater as being '4 or 5 years younger' than Ms. Sontagtakes "Jack and Sue" aside, alone together, "to confide" that the teacher is "lesbian." "Exhilarated," it established his "maturity."
And by the wayHighwater can't pass up reportingthe other teacher, the Jew, was "rumored" to have "been a German U-boat commander," a Nazi. He was hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee and drummed out of the school.
All that at North Hollywood High? And, his Alta Black too?
Meanwhilesays the book, last yearMarks immersed Sontag in his readings: "to cure Sue of her excessive reliance on logic." . It doesn't report Ms. Sontag's response to The Philadelphia Daily News question regarding his 1991 claim of being her "very close friend."
She had known "a Jack Marks" in high school. But, Ms. Sontag pointedly declared, "my very limited knowledge of the man who calls himself Jamake Highwater, who I do not know, gives me no reason to believe anything he says."
Yet, others were only too eager "to believe."
Why were autocratic funding masters of major foundations in the 80s and 90snot those of the 50s and 60s, who had denounced J Marks' false claims of their supportso insistent upon finding in Jamake Highwater their own "Maquotkeetal" of the Hart Crane poem, "Powhatan's Daughter?"
They did not, could not, see the "snake that lives before," but persistently cried out to him with their money: "Lie to us,dance us back the tribal morn!"
As he shed his guises and disguises, he cast none of his "shams and shirks" aside.
An Indian veteran of the theatre arts, as well as of the Indian political world, quickly detected cause for exchanging his 'first birth' Cherokee 'background' for the preferred Blackfeet 'garb.'
Fodor's researchers discovered that Blackfeet included Piegan and Blood. In San Francisco, J Marks had been obsessed with the "Bad Blood" cycle of French symbolist Arthur Rimbaud. "Pagan blood returns!" was invocation for Jamake Highwater to assume that cloak.
The forced transition fell in line with his frequent recourse to transliterations in language (and transpositions in dates).
He never carried the name which would have been given him among the Blood of Canada in 1978. Rather, he judged it deficient. He changed "Boy" to "Son" and sought shamelessly to capitalize upon his own embellishment.
On May 19, 1983, Blood elder Ed Calf Robe stated:
"They .. asked if I would give this man Highwater a name. I never met him before. .. He claimed he was an Indian but he's not from around here. .. He's not a Blood that I know of. I gave him the name of Eagle Boy at the Indian Awareness week .. He gave me his book and wrote to me, but I get lots of letters and have trouble answering them."
For years afterwards, Mr. Highwater continued to plead that the impromptu ceremony of 1978 be completed and given effect. The University of Lethbridge in Alberta did not inform him about the constraining doubts of elder Ed Calf Robe.
In latter 1983, an 'Awareness Week' sponsor politely wrote:
"Dear Jamake: Calf Robe .. has not forgotten your song, it just has not presented itself to him yet. As soon as it does, he will send it to you. .. these things must come in their own time, but he asked me to assure you that he has not forgotten."
There the matter ended. The sacred song would never come in Jamake Highwater's lifetime. He died without it: nameless.
But what of the names, "Highwater" and "Markropoulos," which had come forth in 1970 in the PR machinery of Columbia Records. Both were personally reaffirmed by the author himself in an article for the Journal of the Institute for American Indian Law in 1980.
The first name is rare. It is a name never entered upon rolls of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for census or membership, and is absent from all tribal enrollments.
Present Highwaters in the nation remain without telephone service, or all remain unlisted. In the century just ended, more than 65 million names were entered into a master Social Security Death Index. Among them: not one "Highwater."
The double "r's" of the Greek name render it near non-existent in America, outside of Mr. Highwater's writings. Otherwise, here and in Greece, "Makropoulos" and "Markopoulos" each abound and are common.
As effective passport into Indian communities, Mr. Highwater used "good- standing" membership cards from Indian organizations. Before venturing among the Blood of Canada, he fraudulently secured an NCAI card on January 9, 1978, proclaiming himself to be "Blackfeet/Cherokee."
The late Joe DeLaCruz (1937-2000), 1984 President of National Congress of American Indians, the largest and oldest national Indian organizationand only true union of tribal nationsin the land, exposed the fraud and wrote of Jamake Highwater:
"This person is not an Indian, has no personal or professional experience or academic expertise regarding Indians, has falsely held himself forth as an Indian and an Indian expert, has claimed academic credentials he does not possess and has published under his own name extremely derivative materials from the works of others. Importantly, this person has invented and repeated stereotypic and biased information about Indians."
In that same period, I was asked to examine his works and to make search for his well-hidden identity.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found that nearly four pages of my own writings, word for word, had appeared in his 'first' "Highwater book"without attribution in part, and with wrongful attribution in the remainder.
Although "fair use" might have been argued, he rested falsely on "Fodor's fault" instead. I knew who had handed him my writings in the offices of the BIA (situated not far from the YMCA).
It was difficult to follow his personal penchant for going "back and forth in time." His works, however, were easy. Heavily filled with aphorisms and epigrams from the ages, or other authors' minds, one could readily follow the Highwater single "verse," or line.
His intent was to end at point of beginning. His first chapters were repeated in the language of his last. So, too, the fictions in his obituarypublished June 10, 2001.
As I received the e-mails carrying their announcement earlier this month, I shared the mixed feelings of others.
Could I ignore all the public dissembling which had followed his repeated words: "I will tell them, Marcia Highwater." Or, Nanautzin's: "All this I shall tell."
When asked if I weren't one of several who had been "killed" in poor disguise of slightly-altered name in a 1992 Highwater novel, I could only answer, "probably," and add: "But I believe earnestly in the possibility of bi-obituaries."
And I could recall Jamake Highwater's words to the publishing world in its trade paper Weekly, where frauds were encouraged in the blinding prospect of lucrative shared earnings.
He then said: "I suffered a great deal during my life for being an Indian. If it's buying me beers now, I don't think that's too much to ask, is it?"
Another defender e-mailed me to say: "I know you join me in mourning his passing."
Yes. But my own frail health cannot afford such indulgence for very long, perhaps not more than a moment.
"Haven't we suffered enough, lo, these so many years?" I ask.
"Wouldn't it be better to just go out and buy a beer?"
"I'll pay for it myself."
"And, maybe I should set one up for Harold Schartzberg."
"Here's one each for Dave Marsh, Renee Renouf, and Paine Knickerbocker."
"And another for the great Quinault leader, Joe DeLaCruz."
Assiniboine & Sioux