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Paddle Your Own Canoe
Chapter 18


“Tonkawa pow-wow's comin' up.”  Dee's mother casually mentioned the up coming event.  She very often did this in an unconcerned way.  Lest anyone is fooled by her nonchalant way it has to be noted she probably had the whole plan already formed in her mind as to how she would direct everyone.

“Tonkawa's been good to me.  You know they all came out for my dance.”

Dee was listening quietly.  Many years ago she had learned to respect her mother's ways even though they were not truly her own ways. The daughter knew there was good in them.  She didn't cause conflict or dissension but remained quiet as her mother talked.

Usually the mother lifted her chin and looked off as if she was searching for something.  “You know Alicia  is Tonkawa.”

“I know.”  Dee answered.

“She was good to your daughter at the college.”

“I know.”  Dee was still not making any commitment.

“Just thought you would want to remember when it is. It's around July 4, somewhere in there.”

And there it was.  So neatly all arranged with these few words. Dee knew the ways and knew the responsibility of honoring outstanding people with a nice (expensive) gift as a way of recognizing what they had done.  So many situations could warrant giving a gift which was commonly called “give away.”

Maybe someone changed your tire for you out on the road. Maybe they came to your house and brought groceries in order to share a meal. Although this was hardly ever done anymore, occasionally, it was.  The act was always a wonderful expression of love, Dee always felt. Not too long ago this had happened to her and what a wonderful evening it was. Of course, these days'  folks always called ahead to make arrangements. In earlier days they simply dropped in on the family.

There are as many good deeds as are possible in the world of living in their small society.  During a social gathering it was her mother's way, actually the tribe's way,  to gift that person. The receiver of the gift would be called out of the crowd.  While they are making their way to the arena, the master of ceremonies tells about why the gift is being given. Sometimes, it was told how that person had made some accomplishment, how the giver was proud of them, or maybe the good deed was mentioned.

The gift sometimes,   is only money, but there is no wrong in this either. Money is always welcome, and here especially when it is least expected. Often hand made shawls are gifted. If the deed was very much appreciated, a Pendleton blanket could be forth coming from the person who was recipient of the act of good will.

Not only was the offering nice, but it was also a pleasant way to publicly recognize the good works practised by that person.

The “give aways” were usually practised between tribal members. However, as time moves forward to a greater and easier association between tribes all people from different tribes as well as other races are often recognized.

Really,  Dee always felt it was a much better form of “sacrifice” than the obligated forms of giving practised in some other cultures.  As the old one said, “it was something earned.”

The custom to was a soft way of teaching,  allowing their people to exercise a natural inclination for practising goodness. In the old days it was a way of teaching the young people also. Then, was when the youth were taught the crafts of their people according to each tribe.  In the Ponca tribe there are many rare pieces of art work created from the minds and fingers of craft workers. With their own hands and the love in their hearts they always have an object for “give away.”

Each piece of  regalia, beadwork, hair decorations, beaded belts, moccasins, shirts, skirts, ribbon work, were a creation.

Drum making never was lost as an art and some could  be converted as a piece of furniture acting as a coffee table on a stand.

Although weaving is mostly lost other than the coveted finger  woven belts which are so difficult to do, there still is an unbelievable ability to collect fabric, spreads, throws, shawl material which is to be fringed, and many other variation for material's  artful use.  For this reason there is the custom of giving fabric (or material).  Really, almost as a symbol or object signifying “material things.”

This gets into another part of the culture and it was a discipline. “Do not become so attached to your material things.  If necessary,  you must be able to  give them away.”

These habits of total cleansing and sacrifice of material objects are fast becoming set farther and farther back as we become more and more assimilated into the main stream. Probably, this is the reason Dee's mother clung to the ways.  To her they were valuable lessons.  And, really,   Dee did not disagree with her on this.

Many times as her own small family in a nomadic way  picked up to move to a  job or location for medical therapy for her disabled daughter the willingness to sacrifice material belongings gave them the ability to move forward without being tied to one place. This part of the culture was a blessing for them.


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