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American History
William Clark and the Gives Waters
by Donna Flood


The heat of the August day in Oklahoma seemed to drum its finger on the hood of their car as they huddled inside with the air conditioner holding the leering monster momentarily away from them. No matter, as they would soon step out of their car the thing alive would slap at them, almost as if to remind them of its presence.

John Gives Waters had invited them to a family gathering which was something they could not avoid attending because it wasn't what that family practiced as a common thing, for giving a special invitation to persons out of their family for their annual celebration and social event. they were rather like honored guests and it would have been insulting to the family not to attend.

The gently moving but till strong breezes at this lush green campground greeted them when the stepped from the car and the beast of heat had been foiled because here instead of the burning blast was the touch of warm welcoming winds. Long black ribbons of hair flowed around the faces of the young woman and their regalia's were dancing and flipping with festive abandon, pulled at and twisted by the playful wind who now seemed as sweet and fun loving as a young boy.

There was a large rawhide drum resting in the center of the circle for the ceremonial. The long beater sticks rested across it also. They were like a thing of artwork and each drummer decorated his own with lovely patterns of rich colored beads. The end of the stick was wrapped and padded with a soft piece of white tanned buckskin. The padding of the stick created a sound distinctive for the plains peoples songs.

The booming voice of the master of ceremonies was calling the people to the circle via the electronic microphone he held in his hand. his black hat holding a narrow bright beaded band rested lightly on the back of his head and the strength of his voice along with his strong Native heritage in his appearance gave him command of the gathering. as children to the piper the drummers began to take their seats in a circle around the drum. They began their call to the people with a soft almost whispering drum beat, slow and deliberate. In an explanation the master of ceremonies pointed out that this was the opening song, a prayer song, respectful and in memory of all the folks who had gone before them. As the drummers began their song in the Native language, although, the words were foreign the feeling, the essence of the song as not. It was an expression to move one to the feelings of the people who were remembering their people of another time.

The master of ceremonies called the head dancer, John Gives Waters to take the lead in opening the dance. All eyes were caught to the man who stepped into the circle. Only a few moments ago he had been a business man, owner of his own business out of Dallas, Texas. Now, he had stepped back into another era. He wore leather leggins of a bright color, almost yellow orange. His bustle was of a black feather circle. His shirt was of the same fabric and color as his trousers. His long hair was caught and held with a scissor tale bird feather. He held the traditional decorated fan in his hand as his slow movement lead him to the center of the circle to dance slowly around the drummers.

John Gives Waters, by every appearance was Native.  It was a joy to hear him speak because his voice and his language, though English, was that of the old people. He would begin his words, maybe saying, "you know," and then pause until he had your attention by your gesture or quick glance toward him, "you know," he would continue, "things are not like they used to be with our folks."  There would be another long pause, until he was sure he had your attention. "Our folks," he would begin the next sentence with the words of the last sentence, just as the old folks did in their teaching, with oral traditions. "Our folks have lost so many of their old way." He would start by forming a circle of thought to drive a rhetoric professor crazy. " Get to the point, get to the point,"  the professor would say.

Yet, what a strange thing about the Native and we will quietly remember too the  old ones who went before.  John's ancestor was William Clark, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, 1809. William Clark would have enjoyed immensely  his  descendant, apparently Native in every way, capable of  performing the duties of a business man in Dallas, Texas and  holding the genes of a Scot.


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