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Jake George

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Native American Negotiations
By Jake George
Friday, February 10, 2006

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Comments on a business deal with a Cherokee friend

Indian Negotiations

An old friend and teacher stopped by my house last night. He entered and gave me a small bundle of sage. That simple act told me how the night was going to progress and it would be fun, at least for me, it would be. My friend Jim Gilliland is a master flute maker. He has been helping me to make my flutes better for the past ten years.

Whenever Jim comes by, I am like a child at Christmas. He brings a bag of his latest and favorite flutes and splays them out on the floor like Santa opening his sack. It takes me back to a child, with both hands opening and closing in anticipation. Feet softly peddling the floor like a tennis playing waiting for the first serve. I look over his creations, admiring the new ones and looking for an old friend in the pile.

The old friend is a cane flute in D#. Its sound is like nothing you have ever heard before and once you do you crave to hear it again. I first played this flute about seven years ago. Jim and I went together on a booth at the Officer’s Wives Club bazaar, held in an old hanger on Patrick AFB in Florida. I picked that flute out of a pile that he had bought to the bazaar in hopes of selling a few. The first note I played on it, the hair stood up on my neck, arms and head. Everyone in the hanger just stopped and turned to listen where the beautiful sound was coming from. The echo and reverberation in the hanger brought the flute to life and verified its soul. Between the two of us we played the flute all day and did not care a fig if we sold anything, just reveling in the sound of the flute echoing off the hanger walls.

It was in the pile of flutes and I picked it up and put it to my lips again. The hair once again stood up at attention in anticipation. In the past seven years, dozens of professional flute players have offered Jim sums of money for this flute. Jim will not sell it. It is a part of him and I enjoy playing it every time he comes to town.

Jim is in town for the winter and wanted to have a web site designed so, he can sell his flutes, as well as them being sold in every major Native American flute store in the country and South America. I am a web designer and have been for nine years. When Jim asked me about building a web site I told him to consider it done. It was my honor to make one for him after all he has taught me and the number of flutes he has gifted me over the past ten years. The sage bundle he gifted me when he walked in the door told me what kind of negotiation it was going to be on how to pay for my services for the design of his site.

It was going to be done in the old way. No contracts, no charts showing projected costs and profits. Just he and my family sitting around the dining room table, playing flutes and telling stories; families are asked about, photos of children and grandchildren passed back and forth. Catching up on what happened the past year since we have seen each other last. News from the reservations, who crossed over and who is up and coming in the flute playing world. We talked for almost three hours before he and I adjourned to my office and my computers. Jim pulled his lap top out of a plastic tub and set it up next to me on my desk. Old world and new, side by side, computers booted up while we talked about an art as old as time, flute music.

Jim told me what he wanted to see, while I showed him some ideas I had already come up with. Cost is rarely mentioned outright in the old way negotiations. I told him that I charged commercial customers thirty dollars and hour, ten hour minimum to build a site, not saying directly that is what I would charge him and he understood the comment. However, after I told him my commercial rates, I stated his money was no good in my house. After all he taught me, it was my honor to build his site for nothing other than the payment in knowledge he gave me.

It is kind of an unwritten rule that an offer and refusal needs to happen three times and three times only. Jim declined my offer saying it was too generous. I again told him that it was not generous but a repayment of a kindness to him for taking the time to teach me. He again declined on the same grounds, stating that I had to make some money to pay for the web service time. My third offer told him that I do receive a monthly maintenance fee from some of my customers who want me to keep track of their site. He countered with a dollar figure to monitor his web site for a period of one year. The deal was done and as good as if it were signed in front of lawyers and notarized.

We had pastries and a soft drink. It was now almost five hours after Jim arrived and well past midnight. While Jim was gathering up his flutes he asked my wife if she played flute. Jan replied that she had problems playing the larger flutes because her fingers were so short. Jim pulled a flute out of his pack, that was just my wife’s size. It was signed by Mary Youngblood. She is a Grammy award winning Native American flute player and my wife’s favorite flautist. He gifted it to her saying I was too generous. Jim also gifted a flute to my sister, earlier in the evening. Jim’s way of evening the deal in his eyes.

It was a negotiation done in the old ways. I am sure our ancestors smiled upon us for following the old ways while using the new to spread the word of such an ancient instrument as the cane flute.

       Web Site: Sage Words Services

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 3/27/2010
thought provoking read
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 2/11/2006

Fascinating story you have penned here; very well done! BRAVO!!

(((HUGS))) and love, your Texas friend, Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 2/11/2006
A shining commentary on the how the old ways are best. Honor means something to Native Americans. Very well written, I thank you.

(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.
Reviewed by Chrissy McVay 2/10/2006
Just another example of how wonderful and logical the Native American customs are.

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