I’m reading a book right now.

You know the interface design? A written work of ideas, printed to granular containers of text (called “pages”) with an intuitive navigation system.

Yet I am thinking in the back of my mind the recent discussions a bunch of us are having about the History of Hypertext led by Mike Caulfield and Ward Cunningham, examining it though the web/mind-bending concept of a Federated Wiki.

The second FedWiki Happening, not even happening yet, has already opened up reams of history and connected ideas I’ve not followed before. It got me going a bit nostalgic on HyperCard, not only a direct influence on Tim Berners-Lee’s first concepts for the web, but also, the first instantiation of what Ward built before the wiki. The first Wiki Wiki was a stack.

I’m reading a copy of a book Brian Lamb loaned to me– Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian. King has a serious and humorous approach to highlighting how Native American / First Nation people (or are not) portrayed in culture.

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

Reading this is great. I can do this without the internet, without electricity (if there is daylight), and anywhere I go. But because my mind seems hungry for the connections that cannot fit in the text, this is what happens.

On page 32 King has just been listing how Indians were part of the entertainment scene of the late 1800s, in things like Wild Bill Cody’s shows, and speculates that for people like Sitting Bull, Gabriel Dumont, Geronimo being in the show might have been a positive or an exploitive experience.

King writes:

The pageantry of the Wild West shows, along with four centuries of visual and written recordings of Native people, came together in the twentieth century’s most famous Indian image, James Earle Fraser’s 1915 sculpture The End of the Trail

I don’t know how many people know the sculpture itself or its story, but most everyone recognizes the image of a dejected Indian holding a spear while he slumps over his equally dejected horse. The idea seems to be that both rider and horse have run out of time and space and are poised on the edge of oblivion.

I don’t know the sculpture (or at least know it by name), but find it quickly

"End of the Trail (Wisconsin) September 2013 02" by Shawn Conrad

“End of the Trail (Wisconsin) September 2013 02” by Shawn Conrad

as well as more about James Earle Fraser who also designed the Indian / Buffalo Nickel.

I got the gist of what King is writing about in terms of this image, but I do not see it. But as an author, he does more than provide the encyclopedic information about a sculpture.

“But if you look at the sculpture a second time, you can easily reason that the horse is resisting. Its front legs are braced and its back legs are dug in. American expansion be damned. This pony is not about to go gentle into that good night. Such a reading might be expanded to re-imagine our doleful Indian as a tired Indian, who, at any moment, will wake up refreshed, lift up his spear, and ride off into the twenty-first century and beyond.”
King, pp 32-33

A few pages later King writes about Will Rogers; I had no idea Rogers was of Cherokee Indian descent as King writes. But I learn more, how Rogers failed as a cowboy in Argentina.

In writing about the ways Indians are shown on film, he tells me of an early 1990s movie Indian Chauncey Yellow Robe, who spoke clearly about the issue in the third conference of The Society of American Indians in 1913 (I could easily locate everal hyperlinks worth adding to this sentence. You try):

“‘We see the Indian,’ Yellow Robe Said. ‘He is pictured in the lowest degree of humanity. He is exhibited in every motion picture theater in the country. We see the Indian, in his full native costume, stamped on the five-dollar bills as a reminder of his savagery. We see a monument of the Indian in New York Harbor as a memorial of his vanishing race. The Indian wants no memorial monument, for he is not yet dead. The name of the North American Indian will not be forgotten as long as the rivers flow and the hills and mountain stand, and though we have progressed, we have not vanished.'”
— King p 36

King himself recognizes that there is a connected idea left hanging in text, what is this five dollar bill featuring an Indian. He writes of finding a fie dollar silver certificate in circulating from 1899 to 1914 (when the Indian was replaced by Lincoln). The Indian was a man named Running Antelope.

Wow. Found it at the World Banknotes and Coin site. It took me 45 seconds to find that.


But King adds of the back story, how the artists tried to insist that Running Antelope, a Lokata wear a Pawnee headdress, another tribe, and one mot friendly then with the Lakota. He says the artists of the five dollar bill did the “logical” thing, mashup them up, the 1899 equivalent of Photoshopping.

King writes about, besides Will Rogers, the only other Indian actor who has a Hollywood star, Jay Silverheels who my generation knows best from his role as Tonto to the Lone Ranger. The first Indian on tv I remember seeing was the one who cried in the Keep American Beautiful commercial.. except that Iron Eyes Cody was really an Italian actor named Espera Oscar de Corti from Louisiana.

And King writes to the conflict about the Tonto character, in many ways an accomplishment as Indian and Cowboy were partner, even though Tonto spoke in child like language and dressed like a cartoon indian. He talks about the idea of one day Tonto maybe just going off to do his own gig:

I’ll even admit that there are those of us who fantasized that Tonto would, one day, shoot the Ranger for cause and ride off into the sunset by himself.

Or, as Lyle Lovett imagines in his song “If I Had a Boat,” Tonto might tell the Ranger to kiss his ass as Tonto leaves the Wild West behind, buys a boat, and goes off on his own adventure.

Wait a minute. A Lyle Lovett song? If I am off on my Nicholas Car island, or away on my Internet Amish sabbatical, what if I do not know the song?

I’m not away. And so I hyper transport myself to

I can easily find the lyrics

The mystery masked man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
‘Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said kemo sabe
Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I’m going out to sea

And if I had a boat
I’d go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I’d ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat

The stuff on the internet help provide what cannot be wedged into a printed book. So here is the thing, a resource like Wikipedia, or Khan Academy videos, or an OER, provides a vast array of information. But it is not an education, it’s not an interpretation of the idea like King has done, whether he is “right” or “wrong” matters not.

But King is someone with lived experiences that helps me frame my own ideas, and not take them off the shelf like downloading an app.

I want both of these, the bags of gold of information and the ideas that put them into a context. Something like a book has, inherent in them, potential links reaching out to information beyond the original form. It invited me, if I am listening, to look to fill in what is not directly presented to me. It turns me from a passive reader into a bit of an information explorer.

But I do not need someone to build me a magical machine of hypertext. I do not need a new web tool or an app.

I have everything I need in a wide open searchable web.

I just have to do it, not expect it to be done for me.

It’s my personal hyperidea system.

I like it.

Top / featured image credits: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain image by Lennert B.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. “…to look to fill in what is not directly presented to me. It turns me from a passive reader into a bit of an information explorer.” A lovely definition of engaged learning and a great example of what we hope learners begin to do as they blog about what they’re thinking.

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