Terese Marie Mailhot: My father died at the Thunderbird Motel

Terese Marie Mailhot. Photo from Facebook

Writer Terese Marie Mailhot talks about her father:
My father died at the Thunderbird Motel on Flood Hope Road. According to documents, he was beaten over a cigarette or a prostitute. I prefer the cigarette. I considered it an Indian death myself, while walking along the country roads of my reservation. His death intruded, and I could not fathom being a good person when I came from such misery.

He was an anomaly, a drunk savant. He took his colors, brushes, and stool with him when he left. It was harvest and the corn stalks were gold and waving at me. I was constantly waiting, looking out and within. When he left, he was lanky with a paunch, and his hair was black and coarse. He was wearing a baseball t-shirt and jeans covered in rust-acrylic.

As an Indian woman, I resist the urge to bleed out on a page, to impart the story of my drunken father. It was dangerous to be alone with him, as it was dangerous to forgive him, as it was dangerous to say he was a monster. If he were a monster, that would make me part-monster, part-Indian. It’s my politic to write the humanity in my characters and to subvert the stereotypes. Isn’t that my duty as an Indian writer? But what part of him was subversion?

Our basement smelled like river-water and cedar-bough. He carved and painted endlessly in the corners of the room. I sat in his lap, watching him paint ornate Salish birds in striking red and black.

Get the Story:
Terese Marie Mailhot: My Father, the Drunk Savant (Indian Country Today 10/23)

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