October 2000, I was walking right in front of the White House as I was heading towards the Smithsonian National Mall, when I spied a teepee set up in a park just a few hundred meters from Pennsylvania Avenue.
I approached the camp, with slowly dying bonfire adding the finishing touches to an already surreal image.
From the teepee, there came out three men and a woman who were either Apache or Sioux (I have forgotten which), and we started a conversation about universal issues and knowledge that are inherent among Native Americans and Traditional Philippine Ethnic Groups.
As we talked, I felt a soft tap on my back and an even softer voice saying in a British accent “Excuse me sir. But is this your teepee?”
I turned around and there was this (literally) little old lady, dressed in smart conservative clothes. She was holding a camera, and glanced quickly to the side to acknowledge another old lady a few meters away. Apparently they were tourists, who just came from the White House tour, and were just as drawn to this unusual sight across the road.
“I said is this your teepee?” she piped once again.
A little flustered, I looked back at my new friends and they smiled back at me. I suddenly realized that they were all dressed in denim pants and jackets, with Adidas sneakers; while I was bedecked in a fine Ifugao woven tunic and my own antique native Philippine jewelry. One of the Native Americans acknowledged my realization, by saying “It’s your teepee Chief!”
With that as a cue, the other Native Americans started directing my stance in front of the teepee, while soft whiffs of the dying fire added to the effect. The little old lady gives her camera to her companion and starts to position herself by my side.
Before her companion could press the shutter button, a large wolfhound emerged from the teepee and saunters towards me and the little old lady. Roughly almost 4 ft in height, the great dog looks at me in the eyes; and with a nod of approval, he settles himself at my feet adding to more to the surreal image.
Now I look back and wonder . . .
Somewhere in the British Isles, in a little old lady’s photo album is a picture of her standing beside me, with a large dog, a tepee, and a camp fire that is labeled: “Authentic Native American with Teepee”
Written in 2009