Monday, November 3, 2008

Do You Know What Month It Is?

November is Native American Indian Month.

We observed this occasion in Grand Style: we attended a Powwow at the invitation of the Native American Social Club Association (NASCA) on the campus of the Tecumseh State Correctional Facility near our home.

Our Indian hosts were as gracious as ever, if not moreso. We were greeted warmly as we arrived. We were offered hot chocolate and soda until it seemed to drizzle out our ears, and the men seemed genuinely grateful we chose to spend Saturday evening with them.

There was the traditional drum, of course. My son, who is of Cheyenne and Danish descent, was honored to sit with the drummers for the entire Powwow! He thoroughly enjoyed his time with the men and although he knew some of the fellows, he made new friends around the drum.

One lone dancer wore regalia. Sometimes I grieve that the inmates are not allowed the regalia from their own tribes...it must feel to them like being a priest and not wearing a collar. But the dancer who did have regalia had a bustle and a headdress. There were shiny silver earrings with beadwork on them dangling from both his pierced ears. He also had bright blue mocassins, which had been made for him by the artistic hands of an Indian brother. That artist was not dancing that night, for he is in mourning. The dancer also carried the Dance Stick and the Feathers. He wore colorful beaded wrist bands and his knees were covered with bells which jangled as he danced and moved. He danced with passion from the beginning drumbeats to the last.

The Master of Ceremonies announced there would be a dance to honor the women of the group. Each woman was to choose a partner with whom to dance. I chose a tall man with long dark hair and a brightly colored shirt with the club's logo on it. He seemed embarrassed and told me that he really could not dance. I laughed and responded, "Hey! I'm PINK; what would I know about how to do heya?" He grinned and took my hand. We stepped into the dance circle with the others. The dancer who wore the regalia held his Dance Stick over each woman and danced near to us as the song was drummed. It was a high honor for each female there, to be recognized as a woman, as a guest, as a dancer.

At the appointed time, the guests were invited to the buffet table. The men in charge of serving the food had carefully and patiently opened individual packets of chips and placed bean dip and cheese spread over the middle of each. They looked like square plates from a fancy-schmancy eatery, replete with tri-fold paper towels from a dispenser. There was a host for each guest to fetch soda, spoons, more napkins--whatever was necessary for the perfect dining experience. Just in case we'd not had our fill, someone came around to hand out individual packets of peanuts! Our hosts lingered to chat as we ate together. It would have been difficult to distinguish who enjoyed themselves more-the hosts or the guests.

The hour approached when the party had to end. The announcement came that there would be one more song. The entire company of people drew close to the drum for the Freedom Song. The drum was louder than it had been all night and the singing was not only louder, but was also higher pitched. The passion and love and energy that filled that gymnasium could have lit the whole of New York City for a week!

As the drumming and singing filled the air, the Dancer handed me the Dance Stick! I wasn't sure what it meant, really, but I knew I had received a great honor. Tears stung my eyes and dripped down my cheeks. The Dancer smiled at me and nodded. I smiled back but I could barely see for the tears. They were tears of joy. Later I learned that the feathers in the Dance Stick had belonged to the Dancer's ancestors. He had honored his ancestors and me by allowing me to hold the Dance Stick at the high point of the Freedom Song! With that information, my heart melted.

There were goodbye handshakes and hugs and last minute thank yous. Then we walked out of that environment into a still and starlit night. The air was cool and the wind had been hushed. Hearts had been healed that night. Honor had been given and received. Love was all around. It was palpable.

Here's hoping you can observe Native American Indian Month with joy and passion. If you are looking for some way to make it meaningful you could view an Indian art exhibit. Give yourself the treat of visiting the website of one of the most amazing artists on earth. You will be honored for your effort. This site features the pointillistic impressions of portrait artist, Ralph P. Brown, a Mohawk Indian: Mirrored Windows .

Connie Baum

8 comments:

  1. Next time for the title name it TISSUE ALERT!

    You have me paid back now!

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  2. Oh, Connie, while reading I was transported there and could feel the drumbeat. Your writing only gets better and better. Thank you for your sharings.

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  3. What a wonderful description - you took us there with you and our friends. And yes, let's remember some of the forgotten minority - our Native brothers and sisters who were here on this land before us. Thanks for loving these men, Connie. I know they love you.

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  4. great blog! thanks for the message on twitter! my blog is http://kyfarmlife.blogspot.com come by and say hello!

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. Hi Connie, What a wonderful description! Have you ever considered writing a book? Also thanks for giving me the author's name, Dr. Sherry Rogers. I love her books. Janet

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  7. Connie, I had no idea that it was Native American Indian Month until I read your post.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences at the Powwow. It's an inside look into an experience that many may not get to be a part of.

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