“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
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
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
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.