“Chelsea! Do you remember
the year we fed so many people at the pow-wow?” Dee was grinning from ear
“Do I.” Chelsea looked at
her friend out of the sides of her eyes.
“I think we fed everyone in
“No, I don't think so.”
Dee was still grinning. “I think we fed everyone on the south side of
Two or three days before
the pow-wow the grounds had been nothing more than that, only a wooded
space. The area rested at a drop off from the road to the lower timbers
setting beside the river, Salt Fork. The smattering of housing of the
Ponca tribe of White Eagle, Oklahoma was almost as if cloistered by that
identity to be called “reservation lands.” For more than one hundred
years the tribe had used this area, first as a place to live in their
tee-pees and then as a place where they came yearly for the pow-wow. Each
family returned year after year to the same place and there seemed to be
an unwritten marking of their own camping spot. According to the giant
old trees who were the real elders their mother could remember this or
“I remember one year when
Martha's grandfather was struck by lighting over under that tree.” “He
was smoking a cigar.” Their mother often made a statement like this.
Everyone's attention was caught and it was as if they saw the man standing
beneath the tree, cigar in hand even though it had been almost a hundred
years before when it happened.
How a space thirty foot by
forty feet was transformed into a kitchen and living area, beds included
was always incredible to Dee. The pow wow only lasted four or five days
at the maximum but everything to make a living space was moved there. A
refrigerator for the keeping of meats and other perishables was present.
Tables and chairs ran along one end with enough space to seat a large
Small tents held nothing
more than bedding and too afforded some privacy for the women dancers who
dressed for the ceremonies. Usually, the men dressed out in the open
because they were just adding regalia over their shirts and trousers.
Some people pulled
expensive motor homes up beside their campgrounds and this is where they
slept at night. These recreational homes held the supplies and a
refrigerator they needed also, and there was the added benefit of having a
This was the year they
worked at the pow wow as Dee's grandmother's sisters might have done,
which meant the cooking was to go on all day. As soon as one group of
people finished another group appeared and they were served.
Those aunts of their
mother were given the mark on their forehead as to what the white world
called, daughter's of the chief. It wasn't because they were special but
these duties were what set them apart. “They earned their respect,” was
the statement made.
It wasn't only that they
cooked and provided meals it was the fact they had grown much of the food
themselves. That alone was a noteworthy accomplishment and was part of
how “they earned their respect.”
Chelsea laughed out loud as
her friend related this history to her. “I'm here to tell you they did.
I've never worked so hard in my life. It was so hot I had to get in the
car once for the air conditioning. I wonder what in the world they did?”
“Well they had the
distinction of camping close to the river. You know why, now. Mother
said they waded in with their clothes on to sit in the shallow slow moving
“Hmm.” Chelsea grinned.
“Wish I had thought of that.”
“Oh well. We are too
Anglicized now. No way am I going to go get in that river water.”
As the women laughed
together about their absorbing through practice some of their Native
American history they also knew that if nothing else the experience was to
“So what are you going to
do for the pow wow this year?” Dee had to ask.
“I'm going to go down and
have breakfast with some of our less than “royal” folks. It is much more
fun and definitely more sane. Certainly less exhausting.” Chelsea looked
off into the distance with not one shred of a guilty conscience.
“The blood has totally run
out.” Dee light heartedly chided her friend who was also a relative.