You All Know Mathee - There
was a rustling in the room.
O.I.O had chosen well when
they asked Velma to work for them. She was a good person to be a liaison
between the two cultures, the Native American and Non-Indians. When she
walked into the meeting with the men on the board for installing rural
water, there were many she knew. Some, she had served in the café, others
she knew, because of her dealings with leases on land and some from
attending school functions with her children. The quick thinking woman had
a way of remembering some pertinent information about an individual.
“Bob! What are you doing
here? I’ll bet you don’t even have your wheat-harvest finished!” Or maybe
she might chide someone new to the community. “You better not get mixed up
with these guys. You just don’t know what can happen to you!” Someone else
she could point out and say, “Jim! Go on home! Your wife has supper on the
table!” It was all just the good-natured way they all had in joking with
each other. Velma went to school with them as a girl, and grew up in the
same community. She well knew their ways and they knew her. School ground
squabbles, classroom competition and social activities were all a part and
parcel of their lives.
When she stood up to
present her problem during the meeting Velma’s demeanor changed. She
addressed the men who were on the board for rural water with the respect
they demanded. The men were quiet in their anticipation for why this woman
was attending their meeting. Everyone knew about the entry into their
world of outside forces. Some were not in favor of anything that might be
different. They made comments and complaints about it amongst themselves
and used reasoning to fit any dissatisfaction they felt.
“I’m here to speak for a
friend of mine. I think you all know Mathee.”
Velma dropped her
There was a rustling about
the room as the men shifted their weight in the chairs, scuffed their feet
on the floor or even changed positions to cross arms across their chest.
They knew Mathee, that was certain. She was a little Indian woman but
swung a big stick as far as standing her grounds was concerned. The men
also knew of her husband’s accident and that was a delicate subject, too.
Yes, they knew Mah-Thee.
She was the little Ponca woman who had the courage of a chain saw. She was
the one who had pounded on the doors of one of the buildings in
Washington, D.C. to make her tribe’s needs known, even though she had to
sell meat pies and fry bread in a public park on her way home to pay for
her gasoline. Oh yes, they knew Mah-Thee. The town’s mayor at one time
told his secretary, “Give her whatever she wants, I don’t want any trouble
with her.” People giggled to themselves but deep in their heart they had a
respect for this woman who was so sick and tired of having to live in
poverty that she was willing to break out of it in any way she had to do.
Velma now, had their full
attention which is only the first step in negotiations.