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Paddle Your Own Canoe
Chapter 37

     Dee stood looking up at the very heavy carved rafters of the outdoor arbor on the grounds of the Fifth Street Park in town. A sizable cement slab was beneath her feet. Heavy square wood supports held the covering over their head.

      “I'll bet it cost a fortune to build this.”  Dee commented to her husband, Sam.

      “For sure.”  Sam answered after a pause. He knew her thinking and wasn't about to get into any building projects.

     “You have to admit it makes a wonderful place for families to gather.”

     “It is dry under here, it keeps the sun off our heads and the floor with a place for cooking at one side makes it a nice house like place.”

      Sam did agree on this point.

     Dee could remember coming to this old park since she was a child of six or seven.  They, as children, loved to splash in the small, shallow, wading pool which was centrally located where the old tree's branches hung over them. When the Polio epidemic caused it to be shut down the space was redesigned as a sort of hidden garden. The Canna Lilly planted around the inside edges of that sunken ground had only the tops showing from the street but when a child was inside the circle on the grass where the pool had been was altogether pleasant. Later on that was filled with nothing left to indicate anything had been there at all.

      The place today under this man-made arbor was for another purpose. Today,  tribal members and non-members were meeting to discuss issues concerning the blood quantum.  This simply meant that those below one fourth Ponca could not be counted as Ponca with a roll number as a Ponca. All the  in's and out' s,  of that circumstance was known by those of the tribe. They knew the non-members could not share in medical insurance, grants,  or education. Still Dee wanted to be totally informed and for that reason, non members were invited to share their thoughts and experiences. Little did she know the accounts given would touch her heart and bring tears to her eyes as it did.

       One of the maturing women stood up to tell how she had begged a former council, fifteen years ago,  to lower the blood quantum so her divorced daughter could be helped with education, child care and medical.

      “Fifteen years ago I pleaded with that council. What happened was that the Bureau of Indian Affairs held a vote. They did not advertise it at all, many did not even know it was being held. Still, we had a great number show up to vote, more than we've ever had. The polls were closed early, before everyone had a chance to vote. We lost by just a small number.  However, never was another vote held. That was fifteen years ago.”

       Another man, when asked his opinion, didn't even stand up. His attitude was one of disinterest and of faith lost.

      “It would have been wonderful if they included us then. Fifteen years ago I could have gone to school.”

      This is when tears flowed and pain seemed to flood in around her. There wasn't even anger in the man's voice and this was the hardest part to endure for Dee.

      The grandmother stood again to ask another young man how he felt. She explained that he had children in California he was not allowed to see. His wife kept the state of California on his heels for their child support with no promise of sharing the children's time with him. The man was severely handicapped and had trouble just surviving.

     “If this young man could use our courts he would be given the privilege of having his children. Our laws are in place for the rights of our people to have their American Indian children with them so they be able to learn of our ways.”  The grandmother explained.

      This young man did not stand up either but his voice was manly and strong. “I just ask that we be given a voice,” he said.

       There was total and complete silence with the group as they all hung their heads and looked to the ground.

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