|Every culture has a belief and fear of the
spirit world. This belief the Ponca's surely have. However, it isn't
alike to the culture of the European people. The Ponca people do not
believe the spirit who is bothersome is good. It is our belief that
these are not the "ghosts" of family who have died but in
reality are NUISANCES from the spirit world who barge in on peaceful
people creating a breakdown in peaceful living. The old ones taught that
these spirits were to be verbally reprimanded, aloud , as to their
being in the wrong world and should return to their own world. One was
to speak in a definite strong way in addressing the spirit. "Goo-D-Hah-Tha-Me-Ah!"
They might say, meaning, "Go on, get away from here."
There are many stories told as to things
happening as to what the whites call, "bumps in the night." To
name them all would be just a taking up of time. Different circumstances
surround events of particular times in folks lives.
One story was told to me and is worth
quoting by a Christian minister's wife who is full Ponca. She related to
me the incidents around the time before her father passed away. He was a
strong, good Christian man, but somehow there was a going back to his
old culture just before he died. She said he was bothered by THE LITTLE
PEOPLE. He would scold them for hanging on his coat, or getting in front
of him to try to trip him. "Once," She said, "He was
walking along taking a bowl of soup to the chair on the porch when he
kept turning around to swat at someone." He would say, "Get
away, get off." "I can't walk with you swinging on my
coat." She told me in such a sincere way I had not a doubt that she
was most truthful. This was coming from a woman who is highly respected
for her good works and is not prone to exaggerations or half truths. The
Ponca had a high degree of civilization as to ethical culture. How they
were ever called savages is a mystery to me.
Another legend is the story of the DEER
WOMAN, who is said to have been seen for as many times as there are
generations. Deer Woman is half woman and half deer. She floats along
back roads and looks to be a woman. However, when the unsuspecting
person is closer to her they see she, indeed, has not feet, but cloven
hooves. She is not friendly and has actually been accused of doing mean
things like kicking in windshields of cars or some such destruction.
There are no words spoken by her as I have been told. She is always
silent, only catching the persons attention for a moment, much like a
deer, and then as suddenly bounding away. Some were told that someone
spoke with her as if she were a woman, but she would not respond,
instead after a time she would reveal herself as she ran away from them.
The stories I have been told are always as the story was related to
them. I have never actually visited with anyone who have themselves seen
the Deer Woman.
Of course, again there are the stories of
the "LITTLE BROWN PEOPLE" They are so real one almost wants to
believe they were actually a race of people who lived in a hidden world,
who carefully concealed their homes, which were underground. I myself
have seen these little folk, and I wasn't in the middle of the night or
indulging in strong drink. The time was not so long ago and they were in
a fast food line just behind and beside me. It was strange to me that no
one else seemed to be interested in them. I found it extremely
fascinating that they were so really very tiny. The fact that they were
almost like miniature dolls, perfect in physically characteristics and
form and no way built any different from anyone else, except they were
so very small. One of my neighbors has read a lot of material on these
wee folk and he claims he also saw them one evening in the Wal-Mart
store. This man is so stable and well grounded he would have made
President Reagan seem frivolous. There is no way this man would be
joking or insincere about what he claims he saw.
The folks are strong in their beliefs as
to WARNINGS. Sometimes, I think these things are just natural phenomena
we as yet, do not understand, much like the way animals get away from an
earth quake zone before the quake actually happens. Scientists have
found that the ground actually sends out slight tremors or waves the
animal can feel. When the large Kaw dam was built here it was a shock to
see how many animals were disturbed and driven out of their habitat by
the encroaching bull dozers and heavy equipment. Because the Native
American was close to the elements and the happenings around them they
were especially sensitive to the animals and the fact that these animals
were sometimes disturbed, thus giving, "warning."
For my clan of the He-Sah-Dah, many
stories and beliefs surrounds their ability to know about the WEATHER.
There again, I believe it is something in our physical make up to make
us sensitive to barometric changes. Each clan had a way of treating the
world around them in order to protect themselves. It is told that if
water is thrown on a He-Sah-Dah it will rain soon. That wouldn't hold
true in our world of many spas, swimming pools, or necessarily moving
the water sprinkler in the yard. We once were buying a beautiful home
very close to a lake. It was a new housing development, decorated
beautifully. A huge American flag set close to our house and at the edge
of the lake. It was lighted at night and there could not have been a
more beautiful site with the reflection of the colors in the water. I
don't know if being that close to the water kept me feeling miserable
all the time or if there was something I was allergic to in the area. At
any rate, I could not live there.