John Fire

John Fire, Robert Martinez, 2018

John Lame Deer (March 17, 1903 – December 14, 1976), also known as John Fire, often participated in American Indian Movement events, including sit-ins at the Black Hills. This painting’s specific color palette was chosen to echo his name: Fire. I found the following quote of his particularly instructive:

Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we didn’t have any delinquents. Without a prison, there can’t be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white man arrived and I don’t know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society. ― John (Fire) Lame Deer

2 thoughts on “John Fire

  1. Great quote. It makes you question the meaning of “civilized” and you have to wonder who is civilized and who isn’t.

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