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American History
What is a Gentle Leader-Ponca


No different than any other race or culture the Native Americans are forever looking for an excuse to have a get together. At this particular time the occasion was to honor the son of a great writer who came on the scene during the days of the Oklahoma dust bowl days. Because he recorded the flight of the people to California along with their many trials and sufferings during those hard times he became  legendary and his stories are loved to this day. His son was visiting our brother for a time at his retreat along the shores of the 800 mile water line of the Kaw Lake at Ponca City, Oklahoma. As was necessary for these people to celebrate their visits and escapes from the constant place in the public eye had to be kept quiet. However, the man had agreed to allow the Ponca's to entertain him with one of their gatherings in his honor. Some of the towns people got wind of the event and they were anxious to meet this son of a famous man so they were there also.

One could see the Natives had outdone themselves on their preparations. There was the customary feast with great kettles of corn soup, beef soup cooked in large amounts of water so there would be broth for dunking the big pieces of the traditional fry bread, and the added "white man's dishes," of potato salad, potato chips, cakes, vegetables neatly set on trays and on and on.

The women were dressed in their finest casual dress of the day with only the shawls held on their arms in order to join the dancing. It was obvious they had risen to the occasion with careful make-up, hairstyles and extra dressy clothes.

There was the master of ceremonies directing the event and he was a special selection also. He was one of the nicest looking men of the tribe with an appearance to always speak of his careful selection of wardrobe. One never saw him without his clothes looking like they had just come off some ladies ironing board, pressed and very sharp in appearance. He walked and spoke with the ways of the older people, erect, unsmiling, serious, correct in every circumstance, only using careful controlled movements to observe every situation. If at his age he suffered any pain or agony from aging it was a certainty he would never divulge the infirmity, keeping his posture and stance as one of his forebears, solid.

He opened the gathering with all the dignity and style as a master of ceremonies matching any pageant. He briefly  introducing the honored guest, not lingering on a long and drawn out calling of attention to the man but as was customary a short almost matter of fact presentation of the gentleman and then he quickly moved on to the ceremonies of the evening wisely knowing this was the high point of the evening the people would enjoy.

As the drum beat began the dancers fell into place with the customary round dance, and soon the buffalo dance was brought into recognition by the drummers. In this dance the drum was a steady measured plodding striking beat in a slow cadence, heavy with spaces of time between each beat. The dancers would stand in one place, bending their knees, down and up, keeping rhythm with the drum. then a rolling beat of the drum to make it sound like the rolling hoof beats of the animals walking. At this time the dancers would change their position walking about here and there until the drum again resumed the steady measured beat and they would too once again continue with the keeping of time with the drum. The fringes on the shawls of the women would dance and flip in a pattern to remind one of the heavy fur of the buffalo from this particular step.

The next dance was what could be called a friendship dance. One could be sitting in a position as on looker when all at once a gift would be placed in your hand, or beside you. It could be an expensive gift such as a 400.00 blanket or a small gift of a basket of toiletries such as cologne, soap, handkerchiefs etc.  Or it could be money. Upon receiving the gift the person is expected to rise and dance with the person who gave the gift or in some cases with their whole family. It is a lovely way of saying to a friend, "I respect and admire you, and I want the whole group to know about it."

After the dancing was coming to a finish the master of ceremonies called the attention of the people toward the food now set up on long tables at one end of the room. Lines were formed and people began to move along in order to fill their plates but visiting and enjoying the association while they waited.

A little known event transpired and if anyone noticed they "didn't notice. One of the attractive married woman was returning to her chair with her food when she stopped abruptly. Under her chair was a bouquet of sweet smelling herbal flowers, called love medicine. The gentleman responsible for putting it there was setting beside her chair. As quickly and quietly as a "bouncer" in a tavern one of the older woman called the master of ceremonies attention to it. "Get him out of here, he is drunk," she told him, and gently, respectfully, but quickly the man was ushered out by two large men on each side of him. It was a quiet little scene and was taken care of so quickly the whole crowd probably, never saw what had happened.

One of the women from town was enjoying the food and as the coffee was passed soon after the cream and sugar was brought around by the girls serving the gathering. The dishes at a group like this were always of a heavy style, sometimes even the granite camp out dishes were used but here on the tray with the cream and sugar was this fine little silver spoon. Whether it stood out because it was up against the heavy dishes or maybe in its own right it was simply a beautiful delicate little piece of art work could be a matter to debate. At any rate the Natives all picked it up one by one used it, and placed it back on the tray. There was something about the little spoon that suggested maybe this wasn't exactly an accidental occurrence.

The lady from town looked at the little spoon and said, "Oh what a beautiful little spoon?"  and she kept it on her plate.

"I don't think I'd keep that spoon, " she was admonished.

"Oh, I'm not going to keep it, I'll just use it."

The festivities of the evening continued and as the evening wore on and the time arrived for the master of ceremonies to bid everyone good-night, he casually commented. "Oh yes, I have a little silver spoon that is missing. Would the person who has it bring it to me!"

Everyone around the lady from town had to smile as she for the first time had experience of the gentle discipline of the Ponca.


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