Monday, June 16, 2008

Thin Places on the Prairie

I felt it during the two birthday songs, that thinness, but it really hit me during the honor song for a member of the community who died this year. Each commemoration is done in the same way. The honoree and his or her family are called to the podium. The emcee tells about them, who they are, what they are like. In the case of the young man with the birthday, his twentieth, we were told his Lakota name and why he was given this name, because he watches for the birds and cares for them. The man who had died was an elder who had done many things for the community. For him the list of accomplishments was long and the accolades were many. The emcee had known him personally and spoke of him warmly and with great respect. The family carried pictures and some of his things, including his pipe and his eagle feather. Then the song begins with the drum, then the chant. The people stand and begin to come forward to greet the family who is starting to move in a slow circle. As they finish greeting them they join the line until the circle is full of dancers moving slowly, reverently in rhythm with the drum and the chant. More and more people keep coming, coming forward until the dancing circle in the arena is filled. I simply stood, overcome by all of it--the deep reverence for the lives expressed in the birthday dances as well as the honor dance for Mr. Wabasha, the community there present that said somehow, this is how we should be with one another, remembering, noticing, honoring, dancing for each other's lives. God smiles on this, I think.

There was also a young woman who was honored the same way. Her accomplishment was finishing college. We came in at the middle of his speech, and I couldn't see her from where I was standing when the emcee was talking about her. It sounded like she had overcome some obstacles to get to graduation, but I did hear the part that now she was working with youth in the tribe as a social worker to try to help them succeed. Then she stepped out. With her were her mother and grandmother and her little daughter in her arms. The four of them, all in dance regalia began the dance-walk and were soon greeted and joined and the circle grew. Yes, apparently, she had overcome some obstacles. And her community was honoring her, too.

L, I think had a good time at the Powwow. He saw some people he knew, a cousin, some family friends. He had fun looking at the booths and bought himself a t-shirt. We all ate frybread, and he had a bison Indian taco. He kept asking us if we liked the Powwow. We assured him we did. We were later getting back than planned so he and I will get together later this week to talk. I'm looking forward to that as it's always interesting to hear his take on things. As always, he brings me such gifts and blessings. God certainly knew what God was doing with that little prompting back in October, "Go back and see that guy in the jail, Kate, go back and see that guy."


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

"this is how we should be with one another, remembering, noticing, honoring, dancing for each other's lives. God smiles on this, I think."

Lovely and profound, Kate. Thank you.

And I am thinking of you today and the conversation that I know you are having after work. Hugs.

Jan said...

Thank you. You keep on writing so descriptively and movingly of what you see and experience. You help me to remember the thin places.

mompriest said...

Oh, I can just imagine the way the dancing fabulous, what a tradition! And, yes, so glad that L is in your life and you his...what a grace!