Years ago when we started teaching at Peach Springs, the teachers in the lounge began at once filling me in about what terrible students the obstreperous, gasoline sniffing, hairspray drinking Hualapai were, with horror stories of drunken mothers backing over their own children and kids watching their stumbling drunk father bleed to death from stepping on a whiskey bottle.
What I found were lots of damned good artists. Where there might be one or two kids who draw well in a class of twenty to twenty-five Anglo students, fully one third of these Hualapai kids were good at drawing, complete with a sense of perspective and depth. And I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine slow wits doing that well with a pencil.
One day, I had a particularly quiet Zoology class. I walked all through the classroom, handing out papers, lecturing and answering questions. They nearly all were taking notes. When we finished up, perhaps five minutes before the hour and I suddenly realized that the class of sober faces sparkled with eyes of merriment, the room erupted with a roar of laughter, for they had kept a baby absolutely quiet all hour, passing it from student to student behind my back!