On July 17, 2001, the TV program
ran a segment on Sherman Alexie. During the interview, Alexie states how he rejects the term "Native American" because that can be anyone born here. He prefers to be called an Indian. The segment shows him on tour where we see his humor and anger; he talks to the public using poignant comedy. He has a new collection of short stories. Alexie also discusses the problem with sports mascots using Indian themes, not because it's Indian, but rather because the mascots use sacred Indian religious symbols. He says we wouldn't have a priest throwing out communion wafers to the crowd or have a rabbi chanting. The program then briefly lists his works. Alexie talks about how he writes about everyday Indians who are also American. He says he likes to write about, "the kind of Indian I am, who is just as influenced by the Brady Bunch as I am by my tribal traditions, who spends as much time going to the movies as I do going to ceremonies." We visit the Spokane Indian Reservation where Alexie grew up and where his family still lives. He then moves on and discusses his life, and the alcoholism that plagued his family and, for a time, himself. We learn that many of his stories are based on his actual life. For instance, he used to watch John Wayne movies and root for Wayne, because he didn't recognize the Indians on TV. He likens those TV Indians to sociopaths with war paint. He knew he had to get off the reservation to make something of himself. He went to a white school in the next town 20 miles away. He compares the reservation and the town's relationship to that of a township and Johannesburg. Alexie was captain of the basketball team, the Indians, and was very popular.
Alexie says he tries to shatter Hollywood's version of Indians. He wanted to include the "diversity of Indian personalities" in his work. He also discusses the movie
. The characters in the movie are based on his own family. His dad would leave for days to drink. Alexie said he literally would cry until he got sick when his dad left, until he was about 12 or 13 years old. In the interview we begin to see the scars left from his childhood and his life. He discusses his childhood with his mother. The conversation is very honest. His mom was at first upset with his using true stories in his fiction, but she realizes that the writing was a source of healing for him and a way to keep him sober. Alexie professes that he tries to be a role model for young Indians. He says he "didn't want to be another public figure Indian who would break the hearts of other Indian kids by being drunk." He tours and speaks to Indian children about staying sober. If you can get your hands on this 11-12 minute segment, definitely do.