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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 28

Velma’s World, 2007 - The world is a different one

A restlessness like leaves in a windstorm settles upon the spirit of Velma these days. She had advised her daughter about the theme for the post office mural. “Paint something for the children,” she said. And then she kept asking, “You know you need to write some of the experiences I have had? So many changes, so many changes have come to us.”

It was true. In the year 2007 the world is a different one for the Native American. Education, jobs, and housing create a beginning of a new world for them. Gone are the days when a person could put their hand through the cracks in the boards of the walls in their house. Indoor plumbing in modern, clean houses make life so much more pleasant. Their problems now, though, are the same as their non-Indian neighbors. Divorce, materialism, drug abuse with some children and a host of other conditions are theirs to live through. This is not to say that all experience these things but, on the whole, no one is able to say they are free from the crisis that can come upon them in the modern world. A terrible car crash to orphan children just as in the Anglo world might happen. Some struggle daily to keep up with their jobs. There are other plagues now and they inflict damage on all worlds. One of the maladies is diabetes which is no respecter of race but is endured by all. Yet another, might suffer from cancer. These are the negatives.

At the other end of the spectrum are the accomplishments. It is possible now to speak of a Native American person for being a Senator, a lawyer, a doctor, artist, script writer, the owner of their own productive businesses and, in fact, too many success stories to list. Of course, some of other tribal members have become independently wealthy from the casinos on their lands. The rumor is that some tribes pay each person as much as 4000.00, every month.

In place, the school systems at Ponca City, Oklahoma have a Native American advisor in each school with a descendant of a chief who is over all these. There is still the J.O.M. program which is used by the tribe. This only allows help to go down to children who are 1/4th Indian, one of the things Leonard Big Goose criticized. To cover this lack of compassion the Title Seven program was introduced. This is to provide for any child, no matter how small the degree of Indian blood, so in this way, there is a provision for all who might be of several races. This is a more humane and possible provision for children who need enrichment in their lives. Still, the theme of Native American culture is practiced with speakers, Native crafts, and any other means to encourage and with financial help given to these students who are in need. All of the instructors have Native American blood and are tutored through conferences, educating them to be able to pass something of the spirit of feeling pride in being Indian to their students.

Velma is modest when she speaks about these attainments so many of Native American blood made, and she is quick to point out the achievements came from a united effort from higher up and from her peers. Many whose efforts were practiced in a quiet, unpretentious way to help, in fact, were not Native American, at all.

At 94 Velma seems to have partially accepted having finished much of her work. She helped as much as possible to record these events worked through in her Ponca tribe so future generations might continue in their quest for a better world. Somehow this has given her peace, if but momentarily. The frustrations and anger at being aged, of course, cannot be understood, unless, a person themselves experiences it. By the time that comes to anyone, it is too late to help those who have gone ahead in death. The Native American seems to have a better understanding and control of this dilemma and, indeed, have been taught to treat their elders with great respect as if they know to appreciate the giving ways of these old ones, when they were in their strength and youthfulness. If anyone could understand depression then they might be able to see the suffering of these aging people who are in probably the most depressed state of their life, more than they have ever known. Their body is weakened to the point that they cannot practice their crafts. Often the knowledge they possess, cannot be easily called up. Even simple tasks that were once so easily performed elude them. Their love and duty to their family cannot be carried out because of the hindrances of a weakened mental, emotional and physical state.

These are the times grandchildren seem to be of greater solace to the old ones. No demands are put upon the aging other than their unconditional love and tolerance for any disparages coming from that elderly one. There is the possibility of working with their diet to include foods that are high in the B vitamins and vegetable protein. What usually happens here is that the elderly person soon begins to feel better and thinks they are well. They go back into their own environment and back to a diet practiced before and in a little while are again in the same place they were with depression. This yo-yo like state is difficult for grown children. They want to do the best they can to accept the hardships of life and death but these are the modern days when the pressures of jobs, schooling children, meeting economic conditions sometimes, are a miserable substitute for peaceful living as their ancestors may have had in caring for their elders.

“Do whatever your Mama asks of you,” one Native American friend advised.

Lee, who was Velma’s opposite, was the epitome of self-control probably learned from his growing up in an Osage encampment whereas Velma and her mother, essentially, grew up in boarding schools of their conquerors. He often said he made no agreement with the old adversary and they did not even know what he meant until Velma’s age was upon her.

“I would like you to meet my wife, Velma. She is Native American and we are proud of that.” Lee told an invisible person with whom he visited while he was nearing death.

He asked his children as he was leaving that they take care of their mother and it only now makes them know he was preparing these adult sons and daughters years in advance, for the trials they would have. How well he knew his wife.

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