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Native Indian Lore
Oklahoma-Texas Drought Circa 1924


“That was long time ago when I was a girl. It was even before I went to Chilocco.” Gramma talked to those who would listen. While she seemed to be looking off into another world at something only she could see we waited for her to continue.

“There were some of our families who lived way out away from the main tribe at WhiteEagle. Several of our family lived close to each other though. We had big families then. There was my mother, her sisters, and all the kids, too.

Gramma lived comfortably in a nice part of town directly across the street from where another Native American family had a home. Their children played on the lawn and Gramma enjoyed watching them. A girl with beautiful,  raven black hair, who was only maybe three years old, never failed to stop what she was doing, look toward Gramma and wave with a princess style gesture. It was always the high point of the day for the elderly woman. Gramma glanced over in that direction now as she spoke about the children of her family in another by gone place.  It was if she was truly visualizing her own childhood.

“The whole country was suffering, you know,”  Gramma continued. “Everything was all dried up. The corn, our gardens, and crops. It was a drought. The weather made it hard on everyone. There was no food for the animals. It was the same way in Texas, too. Those ranchers were having to sell out, lock, stock and barrel. Some of them took bankruptcy. There were others who had the federal government pay them for their starving cattle.

At the moment while everyone was seriously contemplating what the old woman had said her little black, Mexican hairless, dog came running across the slick floor. He was unable to keep traction while he scooted around a corner and all but slid through a sharp turn. Laughter broke the seriousness of the story telling.  Outside warm, fall breezes picked up into something more like swift winds. The rustling of the falling leaves seemed to punctuate the story somehow. They could feel the elements surrounding the Ponca tribe so long ago.

“We had a different government then. It was the Chief who lovingly cared for the people. They had such a depth of understanding for the circumstances of their folks. It seems like they just knew what to do. They all got together and discussed the problems their folks were having. The hunger was the main concern. It was different living on a reservation. Not much hunting that's for sure.”

“How are we going to see after our folks?”  One of them asked.

Another might clear their throat before they spoke.  “The way we have to do is like the White Man wants. He told us they would have food for us. You all remember that don't you?  Reservations weren't what we wanted. It was what they wanted. So now, it seems to me they have to find a way to feed us. Some of us will have to get a hold of them up there,  in Washington. Maybe write a letter or call on the telephone.”

“I believe this is what we have to do.”  The agreement was made between the men, who were the patriarchs of their own family.  Indeed, this is what they did.

Gramma squinched her eyes down  almost to slits while she related the rest of the story. “The federal government was sensitive to the people's plight. The cattle they had bought from the ranchers in Texas were shipped on the railway directly to the tribe. There were only thirty-five but the livestock were divided equally among the families. As the cattle stepped out of the cattle cars of the train they were slaughtered on the spot. The animals were butchered, cut in pieces so that all had a share. I was just a girl but I remember it well. My aunts and uncles help cut up the meat. When they took it home where they cut it into strips and hung it over racks to dry.”

“Times were hard, I guess.”  Gramma reflected. “But, it wasn't so bad to me. The Chief was there always worrying about everyone. Sometimes they would send a call out to come together at a place. The folks had to harness up the horses, load up all the kids in the wagon and go. Sometimes it would be for giving us seeds for our garden, or other times there  might be shovels and hoes we received. It sure was a different time then. We didn't have a bunch of offices, lots of employees, a gambling hall, all that, but we never were worried or afraid. Our Chief always was thinking and seeing to our needs. Times were different and I guess I really miss my old folks, my aunts, uncles, all them.”

At the very end of this sight is a picture of Native folks butchering cattle in the way told about in this story. Scroll all the way down: http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/forts/indians.html


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