Today after school I took the kids to the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site. Starting today, they are having "Stories Of The Elders" at 3:30. They will offer this series next Wednesday, February 20th and also the next Wednesday, February 27th.
This week, Emma Lou Standing Water Brewer shared a part of her story with us. She brought her buckskin dress that her mother had made for her when she was 12, as well as her red hawk tail feather fan, belt, moccasins, and leggings. She told us the story of going with her mother and the dress maker to pick out the buckskin and beads for her dress. Her mother had wrapped in a hanky 40 elk teeth that she wanted sewn on the dress. The teeth were handed down several generations and were very old. Emma Lou had lost a tooth from her dress and went to find another to replace it, only to be told she couldn't legally buy real elk teeth, only plastic. She also told about going to try to find bone shells to fix her necklace and being told no one sold real bone shells anymore. It was pretty sad to see such an important part of their heritage being so regulated by government. I guess that is the modern plight of Native American people. The dress took 2 years to make. The beadwork was so very intricate and she explained how every color and bead pattern was something special to the Cheyenne people as well as the lady who made the dress.
She told us her native name, and shared several stories about her grandmother. One was about how her grandmother would tell stories that would start out with, "Back when the animals could talk...." and then she would tell a story that centered around a mischievous coyote or bear. She also told Emma Lou that at night, she needed to be sure and brush her daughters hair before bed and braid it every night. That was a good time to tell your daughter how special she is, how God loved her, and how important she was to the tribe. Her grandmother said no girl should go to bed with unbraided hair.
I wish more people in our community would take time to appreciate the rich native culture around us. My family settled this land over 100 years ago, and I am told my great-great and great grandfather had very meaningful and respectful relationships with the many native Cheyenne people that lived in the area. My PawPaw used to tell me about how as a small boy, he remembered looking out his home that was 5 miles east of Roll and seeing wild buffaloes wallowing in their mud pits in the distance. This is not just the heritage of Native American people. This is the heritage of all of us that live here. We can not undo the past, but we can respect the present and future and make sure good relationships are still being cultivated between people in our area.
All four of my children enjoyed sitting on the buffalo skin rug by the pretend fire and listening to Mrs. Brewer tell her story. I look forward to taking the kids back next week.
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