Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Ponca Warrior Story

A Ponca Warrior Story....

What I tell you now was told to me by my relatives many years ago. There was a time when the warrior was the center of our tribal ways. It was said in the old days that in order to be a leader for the people, you had to be able to count to one hundred. I don't mean one, two, three. I mean the warrior would have to bring one hundred willow sticks, each one would represent a good deed or charitable gesture for the people. Can you imagine a society of leaders whose numbers were at one time in the hundreds, each one of them doing one hundred good things for the people? That is the way the Ponca lived before the time of Columbus, they were good to each other.

It is a tradition that has lived on, our values and cultural ways have withstood the test of time and has endured many hardships along the way. We need to always look to the future, we need to give those same values to our children by our own examples in life, showing them our traditional ways by living in them. How right and creditable is it then that this young Ponca boy in Delaware would want to emulate such traditions as this? We are indeed humbled and honored by his thought and gesture. When this food project is all said and done this young boy can count this project as one to his journey of one hundred good deeds. I myself only wish that it is the start of a way of life for him on his way to becoming a Hethuska member.

To me to be a Ponca Warrior is to try to have a way of life that puts the needs of the people first with humilty and compassion, having God, the Creator involved in all that you do. It is not just twice a year at a dance, it is a way of life and for many that is the way it is. Those are very important concepts and perspectives to our Native American way of life, spirituality, generousity and compassion. In every aspect of Ponca traditions, the Creator is involved in it and acknowledged. Today the Ponca Hethuska pray and dance every year and give away food and gifts to the people, keeping the traditions alive.

Traditional ways still alive

This summer has been a good one for me. I was honored to be able to witness the Dakota Wiping of the Tears Ceremony for a family in mourning, we had four sweats three at night and the last at sunrise. As I drove up to the lodge at 4:30 am. I found to my surprise and delight 6 young men watching the fire. These boys were in their late teens and early twenties laughing quitely about somebody or something, talking about sports and girlfriends the way young men do. But when the elders came out and it was time to go in, the mood of the young men changed they were serious and respectful. Two of the older boys started singing, I think they were brothers. They sang with perfect harmony their words were clear and heartfelt. Their father spoke to them in Dakota and they responded appropriately, even the youngest one who maybe was about thirteen knew what to do and did his part with dignity. We started the day in prayer in the afternoon we feasted and fed the poeple.The family gave a way many gifts, then we ended the ceremony with a celebration dance. I dressed in my ndn regalia and participated in the celebration supporting as best I could. I was so impressed and honored by this ceremony I cried. Later I told the young men that participated in the sweat that morning, one was grassdancing and the others were singing around the big drum, that I was proud of them. I told them that seeing them told me that our culture will live on through them. I told them that my heart was glad that our traditions will live on in the next generation. Earlier this summer I attended a sweatlodge ceremony were only the dakota language and songs were song the entire time. Even thou I am Omaha, my heart soared with compassion and prayers for the people, I cried with joy. I lefted there feeling drained and yet humbled and happy. I was happy and grateful because something sacred had been kepted alive. I was humbled because I was able to be apart of it.

We are living in a time when being ndn is hard and the people are suffering in many ways. Tears, broken hearts and disappointments have been the legacy for many years now. So many things are complicating our lives, clouding the way for us as ndns to live. Alcohol & drugs have had devistating effects on our people. The long term effect of poverty, lack of education, poor economic development and inadequate health care has limited our growth. More importantly we have lost a part of the spiritual connection to the Creator that our ancestors had. We live in a time when even our own tribal members express jealousy resentment and talk disrespectfully about each other. Many tribal councils govern our people like the white man governs his and we suffer from this. At times the leaders take care only of themselves and their own, leaving many out of the loop. Our young people suffer the most, our elders are leaving us in great numbers everyday and with them goes many of our ways, beliefs, customs and songs. Nonetheless their is hope, always their is hope.

This summer I attended several annual Pow-Wows, my own in WhiteEagle Okla the home of the Ponca. I was grateful to see so many songs that were sung for individual families, clans & societies, honoring veterans past and present. In Flandrue South Dakota I witnessed veterans being honored with song and prayers. Always there are prayers. Our traditions live on resilient, they endure and overcome every obsticle. Living in the white mans world and keeping an ndn heart and ndn eyes can be difficult but not impossible. Every Pow-Wow I attended there was prayer, for that I was grateful.

This year among the Omaha in Macy Nebr. the Strong Heart Society gathered for its annual sundance, all went well. The spiritual leaders said that it was the best dance that they have ever had in the past nineteen years. A couple of Ponca's showed up and brought their pipes and asked if they could dance and they were welcomed. Twenty dancers prayed and danced the Omaha Sundance from sun-up to sundown the people danced, prayed and shed blood and tears for the people. Many prayers and humbling gestures were made by fasting, offering of flesh, dragging of buffalo skulls, or hanging from the tree everyday the people cried and prayed. So many prayers for the people, for the sick, the hungry, the homeless, those that were less fortunate, the elders and ndns suffering in the inner cities, prayers for the people in harms way, prayers for the leaders of the world. Prayers for the people, for all of the people, all over the world, prayers of peace, good health and spirtual well being. We all need prayers, we all need to beleive that something greater put us all here on this earth.

I am glad to report that the Indian People of North America are still here and will be here in the future, praying for the people of the world, for the four legged, for the winged sky animals and the animals that swim in the waters, for all living things. In the end of time I know their will be an ndn with one pipe offering our prayers for the people. Our ancestors knew that the Creator was a living God and that same God lived within each of us. For them every breath was a prayer, we need to as ndn people embrace that concept again and give our lives up to Gods will.

Monday, September 20, 2004

White Eagle Boxing Club circa 2001

Boxing Program for At-Risk Youth

Alcohol & Drug Prevention Program for At Risk Youth using Sanctioned Competitive Amateur Boxing

This program is designed to assist the Native American Indian youth in making good, positive choices in life. The objective would be to develop the whole individual, making the person a winner in life not just in the ring, this aspect makes it more than just another boxing program. Using physical fitness and proper conditioning for competitive amateur boxing as the primary focus.

However influencing the growth of the young person in a positive way would be the overall goal, by addressing the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional values of each individual. The requirements on the youth are, that they must agree to be alcohol & drug free, willing to have an intimate relationship with the Creator on a daily basis and want to get into the best physical shape through exercise, plus they must be willing to stay in school and stay out of trouble.

It can be viewed as a Community Based Self Improvement Project and can be funded through several sources. Alcohol & Drug Intervention is one of the primary sources but Law Enforcement, Health & Wellness, Cultural Preservation as well as an Educational enhancement programs are other options. The need for positive intervention for disadvantaged at-risk youth is greater than ever and can be easily justified.


Boxing Club Rules & Brief Implementation Plan

Be willing to talk to the Creator everyday through prayer... Young people face problems and situations everyday that are sometimes complex and hard to understand. Spiritual awareness is essential and having the Creator in their lives everyday will be encouraged. For some youth it is not the inability to grasp a concept of a higher power, it is the lack of role models around them that do sincerely pray. We want them to come to firmly believe that only the Creator can effectively solve those problems they encounter on a day to day basis. Religious tolerance can come through understanding; we want to expose them to concepts and ideals concerning the different types of religions.

Do Not Use Alcohol or Drugs or smoke cigarettes…
Prevention through education and intervention would be the cornerstone of this program. Classroom training, speakers, movies/films anything we can use to provide information about this very serious issue could be used. We need to take every opportunity we can to make them aware of the true dangers, when they make the choice to abuse alcohol or use drugs. Moreover all trainers, coaches and staff should be alcohol & drug free, setting the example for the youth to follow.
Attend School Daily; try your best in class… The need for education is vital and will be stressed at every chance. If we can help identify problem areas in academics then we can also connect them with tutors and/or mentoring. The program can be a source to help solve problems the young people face. If we can help in career development we should. Having a third party release formed signed by the parents so the staff can be made aware of any deficiencies the participant might have in school could be helpful.

Come to the Gym Daily, get into the best shape you can through exercise… We want to expose them to as many different types of physical fitness that is possible, getting them into the best shape we can. Good health, top conditioning are prerequisites to a positive attitude about themselves and are absolutely essential in becoming a winning competitive amateur boxer. Simply put, in order to be a champion in the ring you have to be in top shape. Strict serious guidelines must be enforced for personal safety and liability, when using any boxing equipment and/or when training, Absolutely No Horseplay would be tolerated.

Do Not Fight or get into trouble… Proper social behavior is going to be a must. Conflict resolution, self control and proper self discipline are all things the participants must be encouraged to strive for. We need to teach respect, respect for others and their opinions, but more importantly respect for themselves. We would want to build champions not bullies. We could take on different community projects from time to time, i.e. clean an elders yard, cut wood for elders, serve food at events, do something positive and helpful in our community. Helping with projects gives the participant a sense of self worth and self esteem allowing them to feel good about themselves.

Be willing to express yourself… The objective of this concept is to get them to open up and express their feelings or identify their concerns about problems they are facing today. The program can document, track and develop this information into a resource for other committees in the community to use. If we develop this right, we could create a web site and share with the Internet community who are dealing with similar issues. This could easily be one of the biggest assets of this program, dealing with problems that the Native American youth feel are important to them.

Friday, September 17, 2004

French Interview, gives hope for Indians

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with and talking to four very special people, three were from France the other from South Korea. For the past five years they have been traveling the world, taking photos, observing cultures recording and publishing several books along the way. Now they are on a new quest, this time in North America retracing by canoe no less the trek of Lewis & Clark up the Missouri river. They hope to have this experience published in France when completed. They are video taping this journey as well, meeting with the native people along the way. I was fortunate and honored to be one of their documented, they questioned me about my ancestry, my cultural beliefs, customs and values. They wanted to know how I felt about the impact that Lewis & Clark made and what did my ancestors think of it as well. I did the best I could to respond and I introduced them to an Omaha Tribal Council member to be interviewed.

I told them several stories that were told to me, then I gave them this example of what I felt about what Lewis & Clark meant to me and what I felt as to how my ancestors might have felt about this meeting. I said: " It would be like if I came to your house one early morning knocked on the door politely introduced myself and promptly told you that I just came by to look at my new house and to let you know where to now send your rent payments. Your response might be but we didn't sell our house and have no plans on doing so. I would say Oh but I didn't buy it from you I bought it from your neighbor on the other end of the block for a very good price I might add." that's how I would of looked at it and that's probably how my ancestors looked at it as well. Im sure they wondered, how can someone else that I don't know sell the land under my feet that my ancestors fought and died for, hunted gathered and lived on for hundred of years without my knowledge? Now I am invited to participate in a flag raising ceremony that proclaims ownership of the land and tells me that I now have a new grandfather to take care of me and my family. That I am to follow without questions, my new grandfathers wishes and wants in regards to the land and all the things that are on it. I told them that my ancestors gathered several times to ponder about this situation they now found themselves in. Prayer and ceremonies revealed to them the future in it was dark hard times and the elders shed tear for the people that were coming. They said it will be hard to be Indian one day and many of our ways will be lost and we as a people will suffer greatly.

Now today alcohol & drugs are smothering our communities, economic development and personal growth are almost non-existent on some reservations. Un-employment is higher than the national average on most reservations, all of the social ills like suicide we have the highest rate among teenagers, poor health care, not to mention political tribal infighting are prevalent as well. The dominant society limits its contact with us and governs us still today as incompetents. Nonetheless there is hope, we are a resilient people, our faith in the Creator prevails and allows us to endure these hardships. Our ancestors' were right about the future, but they left us a way to survive as well. Our traditional ways have kepted many good things for us as a people to hang onto. In fact their are people growing stronger in their faith because of these hardships. Satellite's and tepees for prayer meetings are going up all over Indian country, allowing for prayers and spiritual growth to continue. Our communities are still havens for our people, they go out to the white mans world but they come home in the end, so the people are still alive, the people are still praying.

If these four young explorers complete this task, I hope it will gain a new light for the native American Indian in regards to who we were but more importantly who we are today. Maybe we can even rekindle a new relationship with the country of France and the Omaha Indian in Nebraska. After all there are many who have French ancestory that are Native American Indian. If we look hard enough, I think we will find that we are more alike than we are different.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Virtual Classroom Field Trip with Lewis & Clark

The Lewis & Clark Corp of Discovery setup a virtual classroom, made up of middle school students from the Omaha Nation in Macy, Nebraska and middle school students in Clayton, Missouri. The students in Macy gave presentations on the Omaha language and the social hand game played by the Omahas. The Omaha tribe realized the importance of maintaining the language and promoting the culture. One effort in maintaining and preserving the culture is by offering an Omaha language class as part of the school's curriculum. The success of this effort is evident in the Omaha Nation student's ability to speak their language.

Also participating in the demonstration were Dwight Howe, Doran Morris, and Pierre Merrick of the Omaha Nation. The history, traditions, culture, and contributions of the Omaha Nation was an important aspect of this endeavor. Their goal was to share information with the middle school students in Clayton, Missouri the geographical locations of the Omaha tribe, then and now; the lifestyle of the tribe at the time of the expedition 200 years ago; the political structure of the tribe then and now; actions of important Chiefs; agricultural practices of the tribe; the tribe's clan structure and social order; and the importance of the buffalo hunt to the tribe. The importance of keeping the language alive and functional was also discussed. The panel talked about the current government status and demographics of the Omaha Tribe in Macy, Nebraska.

I thought this was a very good way of reaching other students in another state. It helped to put a face on us as Indians and we were able to have direct dialogue via a satellite hook-up. Instead of just reading about the Omaha they got to see and hear from kids much like themselves and we as Omaha men were able to give our opinions and perspectives as to our history and cultural values. I am impressed with the Lewis & Clarks Corps of Discovery II project goals and objectives in regards to the Native American Indians' own history. They seem to really want to hear our side of the story as told by Indians about Indians. History has volumes of literature about the Native American Indian, unfortunately most of it has been written by non-Indians. All in all it was quite an enjoyable experience.

Click on the title to view the video.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Prejudice. Where does it come from?

I once did a paper at Haskell Jr. College about racism on or near Indian reservations. I came to the conclusion that is was a result in a large part by generational prejudice. Handed down from grandfather to father to son to grandson. Conversly on the Indians side it too is handed down with preconceived ideas about the white man, his motives and what he has done to our people, this perpetuates negative stereotypes from both perspectives.

I have seen records from the late 1800's that reflect time after time, misinformation, prevarications and outright lies when it came to the mineral resources, the land, its jurisdictional boundries or more importantly who owned it. The FBI and its first case was on Oklahoma Indian land investigating why so many Osage Indian children were being murdered or were missing. It was for their Osage headrights to the Indian allottments, they owned the land and there was oil under that land. Many Osage children where taken from their homes and placed in foster Boarding Homes which were run by a board of trustees who took guardianship over the Indian children, thus giving them legal right as stewards and legal guardians to handle the mineral resources. Many a white man's family today are quite wealthy because of incredulous acts of this nature. During the Indian wars even before that murders, and deceptions were all justified by whites for the killing of Indians and the swindling of their lands. In Minnesota there was the hanging of the 38 Santee Sioux Indians which is today the largest mass execution ever authorized by a President of the United States, Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota, Sand Creek and others, story after story of justified killings and out right murders, abductions and rapes.

My grandmother told of a time that her grandmother remembered along the banks of the Missouri river. The early French would entice the young Ponca girls to get into the small bull boats and take them back to the keel boat. The parents would be at the banks crying while their daughters were being defiled and raped. The same sort of thing happened when they were forced to relocate to Oklahoma from Nebraska, the women were seperated from the men and the young girls from the women. Being that the Indians were so conservative back then, these types of stories were seldom told to anyone outside the tribe. It was view as a shameful secret. Those sort of things were common all over Indian country and are still being told today, perpetuating the resentment and suspicion towards any whites coming onto the reservations and/or Indian communities.

With that concept in mind think of the white man today on or near an Indian reservation. If this sort of thing was true, of course the old grandpa would most likely say, in reference to the Indians, "They are liars and thieves and cannot be trusted, we bought this land far & square and we worked hard to get what we have." My dad said when he was young man right after the depressions, when he went to the Indian school and every year they would put red stuff in his hair to kill the lice and bugs. He said some people lived in tents year round and being outdoors all the time bugs would make there way into your hair. And in my generation there has been the obvious long term effects of the plague of alcohol and drugs. So, if a young white boy whose is ten years old today inquires about Indians because he is playing with one at school. His father could easily say, "They are drunks, liars and thieves, who are a violent, dirty & filty people that cannot be trusted nor should you play with them." Thus handing down that generational prejudice and keeping suspicion, resentment and fear alive for another generation.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Howe Family

submitted by Dwight Howe, Grandson of Oliver Howe

Name and birth date
Oratio (father) Howe Vermont * 2-13-1800
Polly (mother) Varga Pennsylvania 10-27-1806
*was told by my father Copenhagen Denmark was Oratio Howe’s birthplace, came to America as a stowaway when he was real young maybe 12 yrs old..

seven children of Oratio and Polly
Hiram F. Howe Pennsylvania 6-8-1831
Edward P. Howe Pennsylvania 7-30-1833
George W. Howe Pennsylvania 10-15-1835
Uriah Howe Pennsylvania 7-8-18836
Hannah Howe Pennsylvania 6-20-1841
Charles Howe Pennsylvania 10-1-1843
Francis Howe Pennsylvania 10-30-1845

George W. Howe Pennsylvania 10-15-1835
Lucille LeClair Nebraska 5-18-1845
twelve children of George and Lucille

Elizabeth Frazier Nebraska 11-9-1866
Alice Frazier Nebraska 3-26-1868
Hannah H. Frazier Nebraska 3-22-1869
Edward Howe Nebraska 1-27-1872
Alice Howe Nebraska 1-26-1874
Arnold Howe Nebraska 10-23-1875
Ida May Howe Nebraska 12-15-1877
Benjamin Howe Nebraska 4-21-1879
Oliver Howe Nebraska 7-19-1881
George W. Howe, Jr. Nebraska 4-16-1883
John Joseph Howe Nebraska 11-1-1885
Rebecca Ducker Nebraska 4-8-1887

MaryAnn Papin Frazier---Albert Frazier’s first wife 4-16-1864

Mary Ann was the daughter of Lucille LeClair Pappan whose mother was Ponca Indian Shots through the Breast, whose mother was White Woman, who was a captive as a young girl who ran away to back to the Ponca’s. At the time she was wearing a beautiful buckskin thus being named white woman. She returned back to the tribe at the same time as her father a chief was dying. The Poncas looked at that as being significant, I was told she was to become a Warrior Woman and held a leadership position among the Ponca.

Note: George Washington Howe born in 1835 in Vermont or Penn.. The 1880 Dakota Census (age 45) notes the Howes living at Running Water, Dakota Territory, that George was 43 and his occupation was farmer, and that he was born in Pennsylvania. George operated a trading post at Running Water on what is now the South Dakota side of the Missouri River. Later the Howes moved to the Nebraska side where George helped found the town of Niobrara. George was a young man who came to Nebr. Territory in 1852 on a surveying crew, married & lived among and fought along side of the Ponca, given an Indian name of Thum Bay Ska, Scar Hand. I was told he brought the first repeating rifles to the Ponca chiefs after killing two Sioux.

eight children of Oliver and Mattie Howe
Amelia Howe
Wiley John Howe
Male baby died at birth
Earl Sanford Howe
Blanche Marie Howe
Oliver Howe Jr.
Eugene Howe

Note: My Grandfather was Oliver Howe he died before I was born. He was a enrolled Northern Ponca from Niobrara Nebraska who later moved down to Oklahoma. I was told by my father Eugene Howe that he served in WW I and married my Grandmother Mattie Headman Howe. He courted her in the Ponca traditional way with gifts and a chaperone, he gave Matties father a horse and buggy as well. Since Headman was a Clan Chief, he gavehis daughter away in marriage with all the ceremonial rites and they were married for life. Oliver made his living as a farmer was known as an early riser who loved to hunt and fish and had a pleasant nature, he liked to tease and joke. Every year he would plant a huge garden and made and sold homebrew as well.

La Flesche Family

Margarite La Flesche’s father was Frank La Flesche, his father was Cary LaFlesche, his father was Joseph La Fleshe, Jr., or Iron Eyes his father was Joseph La Fleshe (1822-1889) who was a french fur trader from Canada. Joseph La Flesche Jr or (IstaMaza - Iron Eyes), who was the last hereditary Chief of the UMONHON (Omaha) under the age-old rites and rituals, was the adopted son of Big Elk who gave him that right as Chief of the Omaha's. Cary’s sister was Dr. Susan La Fleshe who was the first Indian woman to become a physican, another sister Suzette LaFleshe (Bright Eyes) served as an interpreter and teacher for the Omaha, she wrote several books that were published as well.. Cary's older brother was Dr. Francis LaFleshe was educated in the East who later wrote several books, one book was the 27th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1905, another was called the "Middle Five" life at a mission boarding school. The Omaha never waged war against the U.S., Iron Eyes was considered a progressive by many in the tribe. As Chief of the Omahas Iron Eyes wanted them to adopt the ways of the white man and encouraged them to educate their children in the dominant society's ways sending his own kids to schools in the east. He was quoted as saying "I have been to where the white man lives and at night the lights where they live, they are as many as the stars in the sky. They are coming this way like a flood and there is no stopping it. We must learn and adapt if we are to survive as a people." One of the most notable things he accomplished while he was the Omaha chief was that he banned the use and trading of any and all alcohol, for several decades this law was obeyed and anyone who violated it was whipped.
Note: My mother is Margarite La Flesche she is the Great Grand Daughter of Iron Eyes a Chief of the Omaha's. She had two other children that I know of, I am the youngest My sister is Christine Springer who married Frank Sansoci over twenty years ago they have one daughter Teresa Sonsoci she has two daughters. My older brothers name is Leland La Flesche, he was a Springer as well but took his mothers last name Both of them were raised by their grandmothers as well.

Headman Family

Eugene Howe, youngest son of Mattie Headman Howe, daughter of HeadMan, a heriditary Chief of the Poncas, son of We'ga sapi. His father was Tai ke waho. Mattie was one of five children of Headman, he had a son Kenneth, four daughters Lula, Mattie, Agnes & Nellie. Although Mattie was a daughter of a chief she was very conservative in her social standing, even thou she had certain rights within the tribe. She did not take an active part in the tribal social dances and was considered shy. When her son Earl Howe came home from the navy after WWII, the tribe honored him at a pow-wow, her younger sister danced by his side for her. She was very quite yet was the leader of the family for many years, holding a monthly gathering at her house for all her relatives. She married Oliver Howe a Northen Ponca observing the Ponca traditions of courting and gifting the brides parents. When they were married it was for life, even after his death for over twenty years, she never remarried. She gave birth to seven children, two died as infants while raising four boys and one girl in a small two room house on the Ponca Indian Reservation in Oklahoma. She helped raise several of her grandchildren as well, Dwight being the last one, in fact she was his legal guardian. Mattie Headman Howe died in 1968.

Lewis & Clark

Dwight will be at Kaw Point in Kansas City from Monday, June 28-30 delivering a presentation along with his brother, Pierre Merrick, on the Ponca and Omaha Culture, a sometimes forgotten aspect of the Lewis & Clark legacy. The focus of their presentations relates the history of the Ponca and Omaha and their place in today's society.

Kansas City Star - American Indian voices will be heard

By BRIAN BURNES The Kansas City Star

There's more than one side to the Lewis and Clark story.

With that in mind, the Kansas City bicentennial expedition commemoration, which begins Saturday morning with an opening ceremony at Berkley Riverfront Park, will include members of at least eight regional American Indian tribes who will participate in a Native American flag processional.

Leaders of the Kaw and Osage tribes, both of which once included the Kansas City area within their historic homelands, will speak.

Among those invited to attend are the governors of Missouri and Kansas.

Forums like this do not come along often for American Indian tribes, said Amy Mossett, a Mandan-Hidatsa tribal historian from North Dakota who is a member of the Circle of Tribal Advisors, an advisory board to the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

“For the tribes, this is a brief window of opportunity,” said Mossett, who has traveled the country advising tribes on the bicentennial. “I have asked the tribe members that if they have perhaps five days during this three-year commemoration, what would be their most important message?”

The “Journey Fourth” commemoration this weekend is the sixth “signature,” or sanctioned, Lewis and Clark bicentennial event, and many tribes so far have participated, Mossett said.

“The basic message presented so far is, ‘We are still here; we have survived everything; and our cultures are still intact,' ” she said.

Inclusivity amid assimilation

On Saturday in Berkley Riverfront Park, American Indian artisans will be present in the Native American Arts and Crafts Tent. Cultural presentations will be delivered by American Indian tribal representatives in the Tent of Many Voices, the portable auditorium operated by the National Park Service that will be stationed at Kaw Point, in Kansas City, Kan., through Sunday.

Behind this pageantry and cultural instruction lies a shared desire on two parties. First, there is the wish of organizers of “Heart of America: A Journey Fourth” to be inclusive. For years they have been careful to describe the events in Kansas City, Leavenworth and Atchison not as a celebration of the expedition but a commemoration.

But there was also the wish of American Indian tribes who perceived the bicentennial as a historic chance to tell their stories — not only to the rest of America but to their own younger members, as well.

“This is offering an opportunity to educate our young people in tribal history,” said Betty Durkee, historic preservation director for the Kaw tribe, today based in northern Oklahoma. “Because tribes were moved and members assimilated over 150 years, much of the culture has been lost.”

“We need to make way for our children,” added Dwight Howe, an Omaha and Ponca from South Dakota who was delivering cultural presentations this week in the Tent of Many Voices. “They need to know what happened from a Native American perspective.”

American Indian involvement is wired into the commemoration financing. Each “signature” event receives money from the National Park Service, and one of the criteria for the grants is significant American Indian involvement.

Still, executing such involvement has proved complicated on occasion.

Last autumn, leaders of Shawnee groups in Oklahoma announced they were not attending a “signature” event in Louisville, Ky., in part because of a misunderstanding over why a separate Shawnee group in Ohio had been invited long before.

Ultimately Shawnee representatives from both states attended.

In St. Charles, Mo., in May, another protocol issue surfaced. Among the various historical re-enactors on site in the city's Frontier Park were several who were not American Indians but were nevertheless portraying them.

These re-enactors were careful to explain they were portraying white men who had been abducted long before and had been reared according to Indian tribal culture.

Still, their presence concerned Leonard Maker, an Osage elder who was presenting programs nearby in the Tent of Many Voices.

“That's an issue with us,” Maker said. “Why can't we tell our own story?”

One of the same re-enactors also interacted with members of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, the official Lewis and Clark bicentennial re-enactors, during a mock court-martial proceeding. Larry McClain, the expedition's executive director, said that the interaction had not been planned and that the expedition works hard to respect the wishes of the Circle of Tribal Advisors, which has developed a list of protocol guidelines.

“That wasn't a scripted or scheduled thing,” McClain said. “We are very careful about that. There are a lot of people out there who are into Native American history, culture and spirituality. While that is wonderful, you will find people who will take it to extremes and who want to portray themselves as Native Americans.

“And you either are or you are not.”

Helping handbook

Such issues are not restricted to re-enactors. Chris Howell, a Pawnee who is chairman of the Native American subcommittee of the Kansas Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission, often receives requests for guidance from teachers considering theatrical plays or pageants featuring American Indian characters.

Howell always advises against non-American Indians portraying American Indians.

“If they have a native child who would like to do that, that is one thing, as long as the dialogue isn't demeaning,” Howell said. “But the particular issue of having one ethnic group portray another is really something we need to rethink. That just does not go over very well with many tribal folks.”

It is such issues that helped convince Howell and others to produce a “Native American Resource Handbook.” Part of state grant funds received by the Kansas bicentennial commission was dedicated to its production. State officials took about 1,500 copies to the first Lewis and Clark “signature” event, in Virginia, in 2003.

“We made a real splash with that,” Howell said.

The success of the handbook convinced Howell and others to expand it, sell advertising and order a press run of 38,000. Today the free handbook includes histories of those tribes either in residence in Kansas or those who had significant histories in the state.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Berkley Park Kansas

July 3rd & 4th Dwight & Pierre will have cultural demonstrations all day as part of the Lewis & Clark Event in Kansas City.

Leavenworth Kansas

July 2, 2004

Dwight Howe & Pierre Merrick will be part of a Flag Presentation Cermony at Landing Park in Leavenworth Kansas. They will be singing the Omaha Flag Song and a Veterans Honor Song.

A Personal Perspective on the Lewis & Clark Journey 2004

For the past four years I have been involved with the legacy of Lewis & Clark. I have been participating with two Lewis & Clark State Parks, one in Onawa, Iowa and the other in Ponca, Nebraska. I have been advising them because of either the visible lack of Native American Indian involvement or obvious lack of cultural sensativity.

In Onawa, Iowa they have a Lewis & Clark Festival, I believe it is their 11th annual. Although the crews at Onawa mean well, they continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes in regards to the Native American Indian. The Omaha Tribe is the closest of four tribes in the Nebraska, unfortunately they have little or no involvement with the Park as a whole. We have tried to share our thoughts & concerns with very little impact. The park says it is because of lack of financial resources, thats why they have such a poor portrayal of the American Indian. During their fesitval year after year they make every effort to be historically correct when it comes to Lewis & Clark right down to the hat and shoes.  On the other hand when portraying the Native American Indian, little effort is made to have them involved.  The involvement that is Indian is generic and stereotipical, some women wear buckskins and broadcloth dresses wearing war paint and feathers.  Vendors exploit the crafts, even food vendors get into the act, all at the expense of the Native American Indian.  It is no wonder why most local indians do not get involved with them. The real irony is that this park could be highlighting and promoting the fact that two of the Corps of Discovery members on Lewis & Clarks crew were half Omaha Indian, Pierre Cruzatte and Fancois Labiche.

There is very little involvement in Ponca, Nebraska even thou there are two tribes close by, the Santee Sioux and the Northern Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.  When they did get monies they purchased artifacts with no counsel, one of the things they purchased was a Peace Pipe.... This is probably one of the last things they should of had on their inventory if they at all.  The Pipe to tribes of the plains is sacred and is full of tradition, ceremony and is a religion unto itself.  It can be a way of life for those who believe in it.  It is something very intimate, personal, spiritual and profound.  It is something that is hard to explain and should be displayed with the deepest respect if displayed at all.   

The next thing was a leather War Shirt another tourist favorite; unfortunately it perpetuates negative stereotypes that all Indians waged war and that they are all violent, barbaric and cruel in nature.  These sort of statements have a duel effect both for the general public and the young Indian as well.  It sends a negative image for the youth with Native American Indian heritage.  It can confuse our youth to think that we are violent and cruel when in fact true native cultures are based on prayer, compassion, humilty, sincerity and generosity. 

Part of the problem I believe it is the park's inability to effectively communicate with these tribes either on a one on one basis and/or government to government, conversely the tribes themselves have failed to see the importance of postive public relationships. The parks lack knowledge of our culture; lack the fundamental understanding of our values, beliefs and/or traditions. The parks have been reluctant to create close relationships primarily because of pre-conceived ideals they have about Indians in general. Funding for projects have been limited but when obtained not used as effectively as they could be. Festivals that allow negative steroetypes create year after year a wall of resentment and suspicion from the local tribes.  Tribes look at the Park Service as one group representing Lewis & Clark legacy, failing to realize that the States and Federal Park projects are funded differently and all have their own plan of operation and  separate agendas/goals. To make matters worse most of the small town parks are in great need of economic development  "Tourism" and unfortunately care little about the message they send in regards to the native peoples of the area both historically and/or contemporarily.

I point these things out, urging different organizations to take the time to gain an understanding of the spirituality and diversity of Native American Indian people. The Native American Indian is complex yet compassionate, humble, generous and resilient in nature. I always try to convey a sense of who we are as a people both in a historical perspective and in the contempory settings today. The more we understand about each other from both sides, the Indian and non-Indian, hopefully the more tolerance we will have for each other while making a better life for the future generations.

The Lewis & Clark Tent of Many Voices a project of the National Park Service has it hands full. As they go upstream and retrace the trek, they want to hear the Indians story from the Indian perspective, they want Indian involvement and they are trying their best to be culturally sensative and respectful to the Tribes and/or Tribal members.  It is just that there has been years of exclusion, explotation, insensativity and obvious contempt in some cases.  For the native people to really get involved it will take prayer, perserverance, honesty and tolerance.  As Indians and non-Indians we need to co-exist, history cannot be changed, but we do have a say in regards to the future. Together we can make a difference and in time that too will become a part of history.