Grandfather Semu Huaute in Traditional Chumash regalia.
sunsets are almost always magnificent Disney-colored creations - each one
different from, but just as dazzling as the last one - if not more so. I'd often wonder if Mr. D got his sense of color from sitting on a deck not unlike
mine; a somewhat larger one perhaps, that overlooked a different, more pristine
beach than the one called Las Flores, which was also known as Dog Beach, and
for good reason.
It was the last of the beaches in transition. When I arrived, there were already a few edifices of glass and concrete existing side-by-side, in a kind of detente with mostly old wooden dwellings, many of whose owners were descendants of the folks who had built them back in the 40's and '50's. Some were working class people who lived in them year round rather than rent them out, had known nothing but beach life, and who put up with the nouveau beach-type owners who were mostly recent inductees into the Hollywood Heavy-Hitter class, some of whom seemed to flaunt their beach existence like a hard-earned medal.The modest two-story concrete building that I lived in, was a cross between the old and new Las Flores with un-ostentatious but more than adequate window acreage, that I had first visited when it was owned by actress Shelley Winters who had been a friend of my wife's. It was now owned by a couple of actors who lived down the beach. They bought it from Ms. Winters as an investment and split it into two separate apartments, just before I moved into the one on top, the one with the sundeck. Which I now sat on, drinking in the lush beauty of sky-meets-ocean and watching a pint-sized Caped-Crusader wielding a makeshift forerunner of Luke Skywalker's Lightsaber as he ran down Dog Beach accompanied by his two trusty canine companions "Ocean" and "Sand". Together, the threesome were no match for the mass of make-believe bad guys they vanquished along the way.
were upsides to my impending divorce. Not many. Okay, just one. And that one
was giving the Caped Crusader aka my 4-going-on-5 year-old son Michael the opportunity to experience magical Malibu in his
formative years. I've since been to many other sand and sea environments around
the world, but with the possible exception of the Island of Samothrace in the
Northern Aegean where my parents were born and where we still own a piece of
land that was part of my Mother's dowry, none have the other-worldly, mystical
essence that permeates every molecule of this little piece of heaven-on-earth.
We inherited Michael's two animal companions not long after our arrival on Las Flores. The first one, an almost-German-Shephard with a wonderfully friendly disposition, had been foisted on us by Nancy - a 19-year old New York transplant who lived in a little makeshift hut on the beach and earned her living cleaning homes, including ours. Years later, I would share her impeccable housekeeping services with another neighbor, in another part of Malibu, Bob Dylan. But we'd hardly met, when she insisted that this particular pup from the litter that her dog had just given birth to, was destined to be ours. We named him Sand, because that's where he was born and that was his color when he emerged. Sand was a talking dog. He only said one word, but in our book that still qualified him as such. The one word he spoke was "Hungree" which he'd articulate with amazing clarity when prompted to do so, or when he was - - which was all the time. Oh, how we loved that sound.
is also a proper word that describes the nature of our first sighting of the
fluffy little orange - colored girl dog, who was one of cuter examples of the
"something-or-other" breed and who instantly became the best of pals
with Sand and the kid and the guy Sand was hanging out with, when she decided
to join us. She literally emerged from the stretch of ocean in front of our
house one morning - so naming her was also a snap. We watched as Ocean artfully
jumped the last mini-wave, and immediately came straight to where Michael, Sand
and I were sitting, shaking herself dry as she did so. She plunked herself down
next to us, and never left. She had no collar, so we just ignored her at first,
figuring she'd leave and go back to her owner, when she got hungry. But she
never did. We eventually started feeding her, first outdoors and then in, and
that's what I was about to do, when the doorbell rang.
opened the front door which opened onto the Pacific Coast Highway and saw a
tall, dark-skinned man with shoulder-length white hair that framed a
masculinely-handsome face. He wore a rawhide cowboy hat lined with a strand of
Indian beading around its crown, a blue work shirt, a leather vest, Levi's and
cowboy boots. Behind him stood about five or six of what had to be young
Indians, with traditional-length long jetblack hair that hung loosely down
their backs. They ranged in age from late teens to mid- 20's, and all wore t-shirts,
swimming trunks and sneakers.
"Are you Bill Angelos?" said the man, in a deep almost-but-not-quite movie-Indian voice. I was.
"Are you in Show Business?" he asked. Good question, and a surprising one from the man standing in front of me at that point in my life, when in all honesty, I had one psychological foot in and one foot already out of the "business". I was about to answer with "Sort of..." when a giant semi came rolling down PCH. That was one drawback you learned to live with, that sometimes came with a PCH address - the noise of the semis; that a closed door pretty much silenced, so I invited the man and his young friends in and closed the door. He sat on the couch and I sat down next to him, while the others gathered on the floor, in a semi-circle around us.
I now solemnly swear that I never, for a moment, connected what was happening with what I was told would happen a few weeks before by White Cloud - or John, take your pick. In fact I had all but forgotten about that incident and I wouldn't recall it until later that night after I got into bed and thought about my visitors -- picturing again, in my mind's eye, how I sat in my living room - surrounded by them. My conclusion, once I heard what the surprise visit was about, was that it seemed like a perfectly reasonable development in anyone's life, who happened to live on that beach and happened to also be in Show Business. I certainly wasn't the only one who fit that description. And anyhow, what they had asked me to do, could in no way be construed as being on the level of importance that White Cloud (or John) intimated it would be, and why I couldn't say no to any request that any Indians who showed up in my life might make.
Still, why me?
Nancy's Rock-'n-Roll boyfriend Billy Richardson had told the Indian man about me. He was "into Indians" and in fact had asked me to manage the band he was forming that he planned to call "WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW." after the book of the same name. He'd also given me a copy of the book, the day he made the request. Its unusual cover had a color drawing of an Indian seated in contemplation, in black, non-space. It was about certain American Indian prophecies that related directly to the prophecies of other indigenous people around the world. The GREENPEACE movement would also name their sea-going vessel that chased illegal whalers "Rainbow Warrior", but Nancy's boyfriend had thought of using the name first, for his band-to-be.
Richardson knew of my relationship with Krishnamurti, and since the "Warriors" that the book spoke of were peaceful ones that prophecies said would become "the new teachers" who would introduce the new genrations of children around the world to their responsibilities toward the Planet they inhabited, he figured I'd buy into the idea of becoming the band's manager.
A lovely story, but still, "A manager of a Rock Band? What makes you think I'm qualified to do something like that?", I asked.
you're in Show Business."said Richardson, which at the
time he said it - a month or or so before I had left for Israel, was
probably closer to fact than the day the Indians showed up at my door and asked
me whether I was. That trip, and all that I had seen and done, had no doubt contributed to the further stirring up of a disenchantment with the Hollywood
scene that was going on inside me. A disenchantment that I could never pinpoint any real cause for. Looking back, maybe it was just like the song lyric said:"You've been too long in one town, and it's time time to go - time to go." Nevertheless, while I was still there, I didn't know anything about managing a Rock Band,
anymore than I knew anything about what this Indian man was about to ask of me.
His name was Semu Huaute and he was Chumash. He could tell from the look on my face that the word "Chumash" hadn't registered in my brain, and he wasn't surprised. Nowadays most people in Malibu know about the Chumash. Visitors can even buy a post card with a pretty picture of the area on it that explains that Malibu is a morphed version of the Chumash word "Maliwu" which means "Between the mountains and the ocean." But back in '73 few people knew about that stuff, or cared, because back then the Chumash people no longer existed. At least they weren't listed in any of the books in Washington D.C. that listed the names of Federally acknowledged Indian tribes. And if you weren't listed in one of those books, you didn't exist. That included the man sitting next to me on my couch. I wasn't sure about the guys sitting in a semi-circle in front of us.
explained that at one time all of the land from one end of Malibu to the other and beyond was Chumash land. What's more, Chumash country extended inland way past the mountains that lined PCH and seaward way out to what are now called the Channel islands, that parallel the Pacific Coast for miles and miles.
Some wise observer of the passing scene once remarked that: "History is written by the scribes of the conquerors". Semu could attest to that, since history books further degraded the Chumash by stating that when they did exist they were just one of the many tribal entities that were now referred to as "Mission Indians."
The Spanish Conquistadors and the missionaries who accompanied them had encountered these godless heathens on their expeditions northward, and decided to save their souls by first baptizing them with holy water into Christianity and then baptizing them again into the ways of civilization with the hellish fire of forced labor. They "recruited" all they could catch and subdue - men, women and children - into building the string of Missions that still exist and enjoy a thriving tourist business from San Diego all the way up the coast to Santa Barbara.
From the Columbia Encyclopedia:
Mission Indians, Native Americans of S and central California; so called because they were under the jurisdiction of some 21 Spanish missions that were established between 1769 and 1823. The major groups were the Chumash, Costanoan, Diegueño, Gabrieleno, Juaneño, and Luiseño. The first mission was established at San Diego. The native population was taught and forced to work at agriculture. The land and the herds of sheep were theoretically owned by the Native Americans themselves, but were held in trust by the Franciscan fathers.
Notice that the Chumash are the only group among those mentioned who still had their original non-Hispanic tribal name. We don't know what the original names of the other "recruits" were. As for the fate of those who weren't decimated by the forced labor, most were eventually assimilated into the dominant culture or killed off by hunger or bullets, once the Gold Rush set in motion the influx of first the thousands and then the millions who overran the land right up to its most western boundaries and "appropriated" what was left of what was once wholly "Indian Territory".
Regarding that land that supposedly was being "held by the Franciscan fathers" until the Indians became civilized enough to warrant their being given their land back to them .... It wasn't anyone's fault - so the status quo story went - that enough Indians never survived long enough to become civilized enough to be entrusted with their own land again by the good fathers of the Church. It wasn't until a few decades past the mid-point of the 20th Century that the status quo began to change. And Semu Huate was the first of his people who would succeed in unqoing the status. More about that later.
In the mid-'80's I was asked to research and write the scripts for a
four-part documentary series that can now be viewed in California museums on
the history of the California Indians. I asked that my name be removed from the
series credits, after the producers - by Federal order - had removed every
mention of the word "genocide" from my scripts. And they did.
So what did Semu want?
said he was born into a family of "Medicine people", that is, a
family of Indian shamans and healers, who had maintained their traditional ways
of "living with the land". They had preserved much of the
knowledge their family had acquired over thousands of years of living on that
particular area of land, about the inherent attributes of its animals, plants
and herbs which when extracted and properly prepared and applied, facilitated
the natural healing of many physical and psychological illnesses.
It's difficult for those of us whose descendants emigrated mostly from European towns and cities, to emotionally comprehend what Semu was telling me. It took me a few years to capture the essence of it myself - if only intellectually - until Hopiland swallowed me whole. Only then did I begin to actually feel what he was talking about. Maybe these quotes from two gentlemen who wrote extensively about their American Indian experiences, will help shed some light on why what Semu was relating to me, was so important to him and and all Indian people.
"Native experiences of place are infused with mythic themes. These express events of sacred time which are real now as in anytime. They are experienced through each landmark of each people's immediate environment... ...Thus it gives meaning to the life of a man who cannot conceive of himself apart from the land." -- Joseph Epes Brown - "BLACK ELK"
What these quotes imply, would become even clearer to me, many years after I
was no longer directly involved with Indians. It was during one of Professor
David Bohm's Ojai Seminars on Consciousness that I first heard the term
"Participatory Thought". It's an aspect of consciousness that was
much more prevalent throughout all civilizations in previous eras, but has
since increasingly diminished over time, as our minds have become more
"word conscious". Australian Aboriginal people refer to it as "Dreamtime" and many are still able to connect with
it, at will; and by so doing, they re-acclimate their entire beings and can survive
under even the harshest of environmental conditions. Some consider "Dreamtime" the real time. More about that later,
told me he had secured a small piece of land in Box Canyon which is
located on the outskirts of Los Angeles where the old Hollywood
westerns used to be filmed. He had set up an encampment which he called RED WIND and was picking up homeless and otherwise confused Indian kids from the streets of downtown Los Angeles and bringing them out there. Most had come from Reservations where they couldn't earn a living. He was providing them with at least temporary shelter and food, while at the same time getting them off hard drugs and alcohol by putting them back in touch with "the old ways". Those ways were as simple as nightly singing and drumming, at first, but they were working.
He planned to invite other Indian elders out to RED WIND to assist in the teaching process and perhaps further create an environment that would allow the kids to get back in touch with their Indianness, and a way of perceiving life that their existence as "Urban Indians" had cut them off from.
To me, what he was doing, sounded like nothing less than an an attempt to re-awaken those kids spiritually. I took a chance and asked him if I was right in what I thought he was trying to do. Semu nodded, explaining further that similar movements were being initiated on many Reservations across the country since the late '60's. Some even included programs for preserving Tribal languages and Oral histories, both of which had suffered greatly over centuries of abuse and neglect among many of the Tribes, but were miraculously still alive. Moreover, the confrontation that had taken place earlier that year at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, had its roots in a similar kind of spiritual re-awakening which had given birth to the American Indian Movement.
"That sounds wonderful." I said, really meaning it, and thinking I'd be happy to write out a check to this man to help him in his inspiring endeavor. But he didn't want a check from me, and told me so, adding what he did want. "I want you to help us put on a Concert - a fund raising Concert."
Why was it that people figured being in Show Business meant you were like some kind of Show Biz Swiss Army knife? "I wish I could help", I said, "but I don't know a thing about putting on Concerts. "
"Have you ever managed a Rock Band before? ", countered Semu. Oh-Oh! ... Nancy's boyfriend again. "But I haven't said I'd do that either."
"You will." said Semu, in a tone that sounded more like a prediction than an order. "And the Warriors of the Rainbow will be in the Concert you'll help us put on." Silence from me, as Semu stood up and his companions followed suit. "I'll send a couple of these guys to come by and bring you out to RED WIND on Saturday. I heard myself saying "I'd like that", as I shook each one's hand goodbye at the door, and they each told me their first names as they walked back out to Pacific Coast Highway.
"What time, Saturday? " I yelled, so I could be heard over the traffic's din. "Daytime!" yelled back Semu, smiling and climbing into the driver's seat of the Ford pickup that was parked in front of my Mercedes, while the others piled into the truck's open bed. "Early!" yelled the one who'd told me his name was "Wolf". And the truckful of Indians pulled out and went tooling down PCH.
PS: It was Wolf who, as I now recall, didn't look a bit like his present day CNN namesake, that would soon also be my guide on my first trip "from Hollywood to Hopiland."