Wendy's favorite quotes


"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."— Dr. Seuss

Sunday, January 27, 2019

My Home on the ShoBan Reservation

Fancy Feather Dancer
Hunter Osborne
I went to the 5th Annual American Falls High School Powwow yesterday and was wowed by the dancers' talent, the splendor of their regalia, and the kindness people showed me. It occurred to me that many of you have not had the chance we've had to experience things like powwows, and I thought you might like a look at ways that living here, surrounded by the Native American culture, has touched my family's lives.

I have lived on the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation for the last twenty years. My husband grew up here, and my children were born and raised here on the Rez. Native Americans are our neighbors, our customers, and our friends. In short, we're surrounded by good people, and we love it here.

At the bottom of this post, I share how the legends and beliefs are part of our lives, but first, the dancers! It's almost impossible to get a good picture with just my phone because it can't focus on everything at once. My favorite dance is the fancy feather dance in this video. 
The young man in this video is Wrendon Osborne, son of the Hunter & Karen Osborne (they served as the head man/lady dancer for our Pow-wow) and is an 8th grader attending William Thomas Middle School.
Traditional Crafts and Celebrations -
 5th AFHS Powwow
Levi Running Eagle & family
*  Powwows - The Shoshone-Bannock Indian festival is one of the biggest tribal celebrations with Native Americans of from many different nations participating. They have bareback Indian relay races, a parade, softball tournament, art show competitions, a pageant, crafts, excellent food, singing, and of course, dancing! The regalia these talented people wear is magnificent. Bells jingle around their ankles and hang from belts. Copenhagen tobacco lids rolled up into cones hang from jingle dresses as beautiful, musical decorations. Angora wool, porcupine hair, and a multitude of feathers make impressive headdresses. While you can buy traditional dress, usually a dancer's family helps them make their regalia. Special dances mean different things and young and old alike compete in many categories, but the round dance, also known as the friendship dance, is welcome to everyone. * The pictures with this post are from the 5th Annual AFHS Powwow which was a senior project for Levi Running Eagle who did an excellent job. (Note, I asked permission before taking pics of people not performing)

Shawl Dancer
--Storytime -- Once a cousin of mine from California (blond, long haired, lanky surfer dude) came with us to the Sho-Ban Festival. When I explained that everyone was welcome to dance the round dance, he grabbed my 4-year-old daughter's hand, ran right out in the middle of everyone, and started dancing his heart out. He had zero rhythm, flailing his arms and legs around all over the place. (Imagine Chicken Joe from Surf's Up dancing to drums) The crowd loved it. Everyone pointed and laughed--not mocking--just sharing the joy of the moment. When the song was over and my daughter and he came back all smiles, the people around us patted his shoulder and said he did great. It's one of my favorite memories.
Fancy Feather Dancer
Hunter Osborne

- Fancy Feather Dance (or fancy dance)- The dancers wear two bustles, one on their back and one on their waist, is believed to be originated from the Oklahoma tribes and has been one of the most popular dance styles across the plains.  It is flashy, colorful and very highly energetic! 
Grass Dancer 

- Stomp dancer- This picture (the boy and his dad) is of a grass dancer or stomp dancer, this style of dance does not consisted of bustles, besides the feathers that may be worn on the porcupine roach.  It consists of bright fringes primarily made from ribbons, yard or sometimes leather, or cloth.  It has been told that the origin of the dance is, prior to a celebration (Pow-Wow) the grass dancers would stomp down and bless the grass, flattening it for the celebration. 

Medicine Bags - Medicine bags are also believed to be a "Protection" of bad thoughts and evil.  It is not uncommon to have medicine bags blessed, and each medicine bag is made only for that particular individual, and may contain various items.


Fancy Feather Dancer
-- Storytime-- Once one of my children went up to a tall, muscular man in full regalia with the porcupine-mohawk head-roach, a tall splay of feathers sprouting from his shoulders, and another from his waist, ribbons, bells, everything--one of the coolest regalia I'd seen. My little daughter was awed by him and asked about the leather pouch hanging on his chest. He crouched down and explained that it was his special medicine bag--that the things inside were special and just for him. (of course she asked to see, but he gently explained that only he could look inside) He advised her to make her own medicine bag with her own special things. I bought her a beaded pouch at the powwow that night, and for weeks afterward, she ferreted shiny stones, beads, feathers and things into her little pouch. I will always be grateful for how kind he and others were to my children. **This interaction was inspiration for some of the conversations my character Sophie has in my novel, A Monster Like Me.

Seymore Eagle Speaker
(Traditional Dancer)
*   Drums around the Farm - about four times a year, we'll hear drums and singing. I'll often do extra farm work to keep busy outside just because I like the sound. One of our nearest neighbors takes turns with others to host a Native American religious prayer ceremony; so he cuts a perfect circle in his lawn and smooths the dirt. Then they erect a teepee over it and people gather to pray. Inside the teepee to pray to the holy sacrament, peyote, and sing and beat drums--all as part of their traditional prayer ceremony. I love it when he hosts the event because then we hear singing and drums inside our house. It's very cool.


Jingle Dress

*  Trading - Several times a year --especially during corn season-- folks will stop by with handmade, beaded jewelry to sell or trade for fresh produce. The beadwork is A-MAZE-ING. It takes real patience and skill to turn leather pieces into beautiful works of art. Last year, a gal traded a beautiful bone necklace and my daughter loves it with a capital L. When I asked some neighbors what they thought would be cool to have portrayed in a book with a 12-yr-old Shoshone girl character, they said beading and dancing for sure. ** In my new book, Wishes and Wings, (coming Jan 2020) one of the main characters, Kimana, does beadwork to raise money for her regalia--a very common practice here as regalia dress can be quite expensive.

Funerals - Our farm is quite active with helping the community, and one of
the ways we can give back is to give them last-year's straw for funerals. The tradition is that the loved one will lay on ice in a tent for several days. (Sometimes a teepee, sometimes a normal tent) The direction the deceased faces is important and the long observance gives family and friends a chance to say goodbye. But when the weather turns cold, chill wind blows under the tent and they need straw as a wind block. Not everyone does this kind of funeral. It's up to the family to decide how to honor their loved ones.

Local legends are Awesome: My kids have grown up with stories of water babies, coyote, wolf, owls, and more. It's not all myth and legend here. It's real to some of our neighbors and sometimes feels real to us too.

*  Water Babies -- Our friends describe them as water spirits who can mimic the sound of babies or
women crying to lure people into the water. The advice is to be respectful and give offerings if a water baby frequents the canals by your house.

-- StoryTime-- Being young and stupid kids, we once drove to bridge here at night and rolled down the windows to see if we could hear any water babies. There were no other cars or anyone that we could see. We listened to the water lapping at the bridge below, and then--I kid you not--the most blood-curdling scream I've ever heard blasted from what sounded like right beside the car. It was like a woman had her face right next to the open window and screamed like a banshee. We saw no one. But the screaming was almost right on top of us. It scared the driver so bad, she stomped on the gas (which flooded and almost stalled the engine) and we raced away, never-ever to return at night again. 
   We tried to come up with some logical explanations for what we experienced, like, maybe the water made a weird suction sound on the bridge, or maybe a panther screamed nearby, or maybe some teens were hiding and wanted to scare us. None of that really explained what we heard. Another inexplicable detail: most of us in the car heard the scream at the exact same time and reacted accordingly, but two didn't hear a thing. Regardless, I'm content to never, ever go back and try again. I still get goosebumps when I talk about it. 

*   Owls - Are believed to be messengers of bad news and can be the harbinger of death so it's considered bad luck to hear them hoot, and especially bad to have them land on your house. One of our neighbors came home to find an owl sitting on their roof and the father wouldn't let his family enter the house again until after he'd cleansed the house with sage smudge sticks.

--storytime-- we have huge tall trees around our house that owls love. Once during corn season, a pair of them were roosting in a tree by our corn stand and were hooting like crazy back and forth. An Elder customer pulled pulled me aside and advised I go check all my kids right away because the owls were restless which means someone might die.  Happily, the kids were fine, but I did keep them closer the rest of the day.

*   Spirits - Spirits are believed to be quite active in many areas of the reservation.

 --Storytime-- One of the roads here is Cemetery road, which has a --you guessed it-- cemetery. When I was in high school, I was visiting one of my best friends who lived on Cemetery and I suggested going for a night walk over to a different friend's place not too far away. He refused and said, "If you walk Cemetary at night, you'll hear footsteps behind you. The spirits follow you at night."  Since then, I've asked other friends if they'd heard of it, and most have heard of it, though not everyone believes it.

*   Coyote - with a capital C, as in The Coyote. But we usually only hear people talk about him after something malfunctioned on a day when the person happened to see a coyote. It seems the trickster is around, but subtly and on the sly.



Young Fancy Dancer
Cambri Buckskin
My friend Tonia
Diversity is the norm: Besides Shoshone-Bannock, Navajo, and other tribal members who stop by, we also have a lot of folks with hispanic heritage. I speak Spanish, so I love visiting with everyone. When my kids were younger, they would talk about this great new friend they met, or so & so they played with, and when I'd ask which kid it was, they would say something like, "The boy with the blue shirt," and not use skin tone to describe them. Friends are just friends. Our neighbors are just neighbors. We are all people. 


The CUTEST dancer
I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea. It's not surprising that Native American characters and ideas sometimes end up in my stories because my life is enriched by the people all around me, and Native Americans make up a huge part of my world.
    If you ever have the opportunity to go to a powwow, do it! If you ever are driving through Fort Hall, or any other reservation, stop! Go to the stores, explore the museums, talk to the people, and experience what you can.
   Kindness and compassion is universal to all nationalities and cultures. Offer a smile, be respectful, and don't be afraid to say hello. You just might make a new friend.
**HUGE thanks to Georgette Running Eagle for proofreading this post for me. You're the best!

Here's the littles doing dance in the "Tiny-Tots" category. SO DANG CUTE!



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