Caesar Cloud is a “downtown Indian.” Splitting his time between his art studio in the warehouse district of Minneapolis and his cousin’s inner-city home, he has managed to hold on to his cultural identity. A gifted painter, Caesar’s art reflects his deep connection to his Ojibway spirit. Though alienated from his reservation community, Caesar has formed a strong sense of kinship within the city’s Native community. Together with his cousin, Sandy, her two children, and his younger brother, Shine, Caesar creatively integrates traditional ways into their modern, cement-covered world.
Shine treasures his brother’s knowledge of their heritage. A tribal outcast, because he is Two-Spirited (gay), Shine yearns for a closer connection to those ancestral ways, but feels robbed by time. He is living with AIDS.
As Shine’s condition worsens, Tommy GoldFeather, a slightly amusing, arrogant Native, comes to town seeking to persuade Caesar to use his gift for greater profit – paint portraits of mythical, romanticized Indians. Caesar has no trouble turning down GoldFeather’s offer.
Even though Caesar is fully aware of his brother’s inevitable journey into the next world, he seeks one last healing ceremony for Shine. But for Shine, the ceremony means preparation for his journey. He desires to have a traditional tribal burial. However, the Ojibway tribe refuses Shine’s request. When Caesar realizes this he withdraws into a dark place, overwhelmed by a sense of betrayal from his people and the culture he embraces. Suddenly, GoldFeather’s offer seems attractive. Caesar finds himself painting those romanticized Indian images.
Caesar Cloud is unable to deny his Ojibway spirit. He realizes he cannot change the reality of oppressive tribal politics. He knows his brother’s passing does not mean death in the Western respect. But Caesar also knows he must dig deeper to find a closer bond and a stronger connection to his indigenous self.
INDIGGING is an urban tale of the enduring spirit of Native people. In spite of tribal alienation, cultural disconnection and the everyday curses of city life, the indigenous spirit continues to haunt the “downtown Indian.” INDIGGING is also a human story of facing loss and surviving death.
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