Mrs. Wapp was of the
Papago tribe if memory serves me. She was a little woman who held a
traditional Native American appearance. I don't think I ever saw her smile.
She always had a serious, no-nonsense way about her. She parted her hair
down the middle and pulled it severely into a knot at the back of her head.
This was almost a classic hair style with Native women. Even though she was
in the home economics rooms for some reason I was never assigned to her
class which, of course, made the room intriguing and interesting.
Large looms were
working and girls were always busy passing the shuttles back and forth over
the warp threads to create the most beautiful hand woven rugs anyone could
dream to own.
For all my life it
seems there is always someone pointing a camera at me. Certainly not
because I'm beautiful and I can't explain why. Maybe simply because I'm like
a sheep being led to the slaughter, uncomplaining.
A small group stood
beside her desk. There was the photographer from the newspaper called The
Traveler out of Arkansas City, Kansas. This was part of what Mr. Correll did
when he was superintendent. There was always some story going into the paper
about the school. Mrs. Wapp's weaving class had been chosen this time and
although I didn't study with her I was handy, going by the room, peeking
inside as usual, because of my curiosity. I was pulled into the room and
different people were hastily putting this garment or that one on me.
Mrs. Wapp was just as
busy pulling them off to substitute a correct piece for me. I didn't
understand then but I do now know she was trying to get the correct style
for my tribe on me. As I remember, she hurriedly found a vest with beadwork
embroidered on the front of it. I can't believe she knew my grandmother's
sister's clan with the floral patterns used by the medicine people. All I
knew was that the black background made the beautiful beadwork floral
pattern stand out. She was standing her ground with those around me who
were putting something on me incorrectly. It upset her and she wanted to
throw her hands up, but didn't. Ponca women do not wear vests but since the
photographer was so set on that she finally gave in and did throw her hands
out in a way to say, “I give up. Do as you like.”
Early on, each part of
a costume meant something and this was what Mrs. Wapp taught the children of
her Indian club. When I look at some of the old pictures of those kids in
ceremonial dress I realize Mrs. Wapp did very well even though she was
Papago and there were so many other tribes who had nothing in common with
each other when it came to their style for dress. I don't think she approved
of them using me when I was so light in color while others looked very much
Native American. But that was 1955. Today the traditions, dress, attitude of
the youth have all changed even though the Poncas are a tight conservative