Today is May the 4th. To those of us Native Nerds out there who follow the world of the Star Wars movie franchise, May 4th has become a day well worthy of #MayThe4thBeWithYou trending on social media.
So that said, my fellow Native Nerds - May the 4th Be With You, Native style!
This article was originally published in 2017... but a lot has happened for Star Wars since then - thus I made a few adjustments. That said, have you seen the latest trailer Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?
As a self-respecting Native Nerd, I am exceptionally proud of the fact that I have seen every single Star Wars movie more than a few times, and own a plethora of Star Wars paraphernalia (including the original Hans Solo figure - sans lightsabre) and once owned the original Star Wars comic book.
Sadly, like many comic book enthusiasts, a few boxes of my comics, complete with plastic covers and acid-free cardboard backings, made their way to a thrift store because they took up too much space in my parents’ garage. I still, to this day, occasionally feel the stomach-ache of that loss.
Before I go too far, RIP Peter Mayhew - The original one and only Chewbacca
Peter Mayhew died last week and had portrayed Chewbacca in every film from 1977 to the 2015 film The Force Awakens - he was a consultant due to ailing health in his last role. He died amidst family and friends at age 74. He was 7 feet 3 inches tall, and for his last role, fought back against being in a wheelchair, to get himself prepared to portray Chewbacca one last time. Blessings to you Peter.
For me, May 4th is the beginning of an awesome few days. We celebrate Star Wars on the fourth, the celebration of our Mexican Indigenous brothers and sisters on the Fifth, aka Cinco De Mayo, and my birthday is on May 6th.
Please also join Indian Country in promoting the awareness of MMIW
Also in the one year since I first wrote this article, we can now all work together to generate awareness for MMIW on National Awareness Day May 5th.
So how do we celebrate May Fourth in Indian Country? Simple...pretty much like everyone else. Perhaps we watch the movies (who doesn’t have at least one DVD of one of the Star Wars movies - or even VHS tapes?)
I remember watching the first Star Wars movie in the theatre. I remember those huge yellow letters scrolling away from me in my pre-teen years as the now all too familiar Star Wars theme played through massive speakers. I remember the blasts of the x-wing fighters and the pure beauty of the scenes fought on the Death Star. The ominous flowing black cape of Darth Vader, his explosive voice and sounds of his breathing through his mask.
As kids, we replayed these scenes ad infinitum.
One exciting memory for me was when I was in my mid-twenties and I was working on a movie set as a video assistant and began speaking with one of the x-wing fighter pilots who appeared in the original Star Wars. He explained how all of the pilots shot their scenes in the same x-wing cockpit and they collectively stated they needed something to occupy their hands to shoot the scenes. The film crew installed - of all things, a normal calculator with buttons on the side of the cockpit to occupy the actors’ hands.
I was aghast and thrilled. I had found out some insider information. Few in life could ever receive such a precious gift.
Here’s a quick story about a previous article I posted in Indian Country Today.
In 2016, I worked with a former correspondent to post a Native Humor piece entitled: Native Humor: The Rez Force Awakens – You Might Be a Star Wars NDN Jedi If.
I created the feature image of the article by combining a Darth Vader / Stormtroopers image, with an overlay of eagle feathers. On the ICT Facebook page, there was a comment similar to “Native people can just throw a feather on something and call it Native?”
I understand the sentiment. But the idea goes much deeper than people might expect - and in my view underlies the importance of regalia, feathers, ornamentation, etc.
You see, I didn’t just throw any feather onto the helmet of Darth Vader.
The eagle feather I used was a photograph I took of an eagle feather that was presented to me by a close family friend.
This family friend has just lost their son, Summer Sky. He was a beautiful young man with so much to give this world, but as a result of a very sad accident, he died. I helped the family as much as I could - as a result of my support in their time of loss, I was given one of the eagle feathers that had lain across Summer Sky’s chest before he was laid to rest.
I used this eagle feather as the image for Darth Vader’s feathers.
Everything in Indian Country in terms of regalia, ornamentation, decoration and more - has meaning. That is why we as Native care so much about appropriation.
So how is this connected to Star Wars?
Because Star Wars is so much more than just a bunch of robots, aliens and the dark or light side of the Force. It is about the beauty of imagination. It is evident that no matter how far your mind can go, it can be re-created for the benefit of accelerating the imaginations of other people in life.
Star Wars taught me that it was ok to dream big. I laughed, cried, and applauded like crazy during these movies. I have loved Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia (RIP Carrie Fisher) and so many others.
I have read the comics, listened to the records, watched the movies and have always dreamed with tremendous expectations and intrigue about the place that took place ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”
May the Fourth Be With You, Indian Country.