Reservation rumors told of
so much that had happened in one decade. The television reported the
storming of one of the buildings in Washington D.C., and of how the
Indians entered. They, then, barricaded the place against entry from
anyone else. Gossip said that while in the building they were riffling
through papers only to find old treaties between the government and
tribes. These were the agreements made with the chiefs that had words to
speak of eternal housing, medical, and food in exchange for their land.
These treaties gave the modern Natives, suddenly, a powerful position with
where upon they could make demands.
The year 1973 was when
there was a highly publicized altercation between Native Americans and
government men who fought on the Pine Ridge reservation and it was the
second Wounded Knee incident. The first Wounded Knee massacre was in 1890.
This was just twenty years short of 100 years later when Martin Luther
King was killed in 1968. Again, these were the days of turmoil. Who knows
what or who was promoting these events even if the power came from the
Highest Source or from some opposite mean spirit? Who of us at the
grassroots level can really know?
Velma continually believed
in the system, though. It was her practice to take the fight to the courts
and in a soft revolution appeal to the people.
This democratic way she
learned as a girl at Chilocco Indian Boarding School and this was
ingrained into her consciousness along with her teaching at home of tribal
laws. The thinking woman would not take part in the radical warlike, ways
of some who were actively pursuing this course at the time. Her course was
snail-like but she also believed it was most effective and, indeed, it did
prove to be. Through her efforts and the management of the leaders of her
tribe a peaceful way toward progress could be seen. It was slower but, in
the long run, much more beneficial and productive.
“Who were the people on the
Ponca Tribal Council when these programs began to be available? And were
they the ones to bring these benefits to the people?” Velma was asked.
“The president of the
United States was the one who brought these things to the people.” Velma’s
quick and to the point reply settled, with one sentence, the issue over
who might be claiming the glory for trying to alleviate the suffering of
the people on reservations, nation wide.
“We had strong men on the
council who could see these common goods should come to their tribe and
they worked with the feds for these changes.” This little woman could
“tell it like it was.”
For whatever politics
involved it didn’t matter to Velma. She had a feeling for suffering on any
level whether it was with a Caucasian waitress working for tips or an
Indian child who was miserable from lack of warm, clean, adequate housing.
Like a true leader she worked one small project at a time and, when that
was finished, didn’t drop her progress but used it like a plan to involve
others for completing a greater puzzle. It was as if she could see in her
mind what was to happen. If the effort seemed too big and unbelievably
great it didn’t matter to her because she enlisted everyone around for
helping to carry out her plans. Important accomplishments made seemed like
a party and, of course, everyone loves to party. Wasn’t Wimpy’s a kind of
big party, every day? The work involved? No problem. Work was just a mean
to an end and was a pleasant exercise.