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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 15

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 bombshell.

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.

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