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Paddle Your Own Canoe
Chapter 12

“Chelsea!  Do you remember the year we fed so many people at the pow-wow?”  Dee was grinning from ear to ear.

“Do I.”  Chelsea looked at her friend out of the sides of her eyes.

“I think we fed everyone in the tribe.”

“No, I don't think so.”  Dee was still grinning. “I think we fed everyone on the south side of Ponca City.”

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 that incident.

“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 group easily.

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 bathroom.

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 water.”

“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 be unforgettable.

“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.

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