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Donna's Journal
2005, September 1


The river is like a speeding train, stopping for nothing or no one. Somehow it reminds us of our life that is moving along smoothly at the top but holds pushing, tearing force in its depths with spirits. “The water is beautiful to see but ominous, too,” someone commented. “Children! Children! Stay away from the ledge of the river. There are bits and chunks breaking off into the flood waters. Don't fall into the water. The spirits within are angry at this time.” Old-grandmother lifts her head and has glanced over to where children are standing too close to its edge. This seems to be the only warning those little ones needed and they immediately step back. Here was a picture of the elders of long ago who were valued right up until they went to their own happy hunting ground.

The campground at the pow-wow brings a brief relief to this woman who certainly is living and has lived through every-day sorrows from her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren's struggles to become a part of the pushing, tumbling need to eternally find a way for themselves. The expanse of blue skies that can be seen while they hold visions of wide pictures in their clouds along with blowing hot breezes from the natural world can only take her back to another time of so long ago when her family rested in like-manner at this same place.

The table has been heaped up with food just as it was when there were many women to prepare for the friends and extended family who might drop by for the courtesy of sharing a tid-bit of sustenance both for the system and for the mind as they visited and laughed in a light hearted way. Cousins who were called brother and sister pulled our hearts and remembrances to the days when their mother's, our aunt's, pulled the plain material world around them to a table much like this one where food and healthful laughter made us united, truthfully in close relationships. There was a joy but again a deep, sadness as we knew this was here and now and an ending to that world within this very generation. The days when the outsider's tools from around them were scorned faded away as surely as the old laws and customs were going down, maybe for the last time. The modern appliances of electric coffee pots instead of the large old granite one on the fire, a recreational vehicle, air-conditioned, fold-up tables covered with plastic table clothes, a shade over head of plastic instead of the willow branched arbor all were testimony to newer, easier life styles suited to our less strong bodies which have been caged in offices and soft work.

Breaking into the ebb and flow of this quiet place, suddenly without warning, a truck door slammed as close by as their elbow. The boy in the next camp was a child of this modern world of divorce and separation. His father, of another tribe, brought him along with his second wife and their children for a week-end at the Ponca pow-wow. When the boy slammed the door of the truck on his father's hand an explosion caused by pain as loud as the gunshot sound of the door had erupted. The discipline the man brought down on the boy was mostly vocal but; nevertheless, had been put in place by an adult, the father.

Those who were Ponca in our camp were suddenly silent. Persons younger than their Grandmother, all had their eyes on her. How would she respond to this breach in the laws of the Ponca? Their ways dictated that a man must never be the disciplinarian. “His strength and manliness were never to be used in a way to bring physical punishment to a child. The mother was the one to administer punishment and reproof to an erring child. Her kinder, less muscular strength along with the mother's love would temper the discipline. Her voice was soft and not loud or irritating. The mother's strength of character allowed her to be free from severity and violence even though there would certainly be firmness. Sometimes the intense gaze of her eyes upon the child was enough to correct them. Where in the far away laws was this tied in with Christian early teachings that said, The head of the Christ is God, the head of the man is Christ, man is head of the woman and, woman is head of the child. In other words, we must all answer to someone, the word head, implying thinking ability as tied in with love.

Grandmother was wise, her length of days and awareness of the in's and outs of the modern world must have been the things going through her mind. The sudden alert way she was looking out over the river made us know the circumstance was being thought through. It was an uncomfortable silence. No one wanted the progression of time to step into what might and could certainly come. One hundred years ago Grandmother did then surely simply motion or look to one of the Ponca men. He and his brothers had certainly stood in place together to bring any man to his knees for threatening a child. They all knew and remembered the realities of it even, if it was only a thread running through a lost culture. No one wanted this precious, peaceful event to be ruined, and everyone, breathed a sigh of relief when Grandmother said in her Native Ponca, “Poor man, his woman is gone, he has to do the correction himself.”

Only for a brief break into their reverie of more solid balance was the event allowed to bring the actuality of today's world into yesterday's place. In the wisdom of love's way the Ponca's culture was maintained even though it had been adulterated with other societies dictates.


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