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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 10, 2002 - Issue 67


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Caddo Grandmothers Nurturing Tribe

By Ron Jackson The Oklahoman
Photo of LaRue Parker

BINGER -- Tribal politics have changed dramatically from those days when male Caddo elders conducted business under a big shade tree.

The tree remains standing. The men aren't -- at least not in the tribe's modern council chambers.

The men have scattered to the four winds, leaving the tribe in the hands of five elder women, or as they prefer to be known, the "Caddo grandmothers."

"I don't know why, but we just don't have very many men anymore," said Lacreda Weller Daugomah, tribal treasurer. "Now we have had a few men try to run for office in recent years, but when they have, the people elected us instead."

Vice Chairwoman Mary Lou Downing Davis can't explain the trend. She only can express her pleasure with the tribe's current state of affairs.

"I think this is totally unique," said Davis, who has served the tribe on and off since 1992. "I know some of the fellas were sitting back thinking we couldn't do it. They probably thought because we were all women, we would get in here and argue all the time.

"But we did it and did it well."

LaRue Martin Parker started the trend in 1998 when she was elected chairwoman. She was re-elected and has three years remaining on her recently expanded four-year term. Formerly, the tribe had two-year terms.

Parker is convinced the all- female presence in the council chambers has a positive impact on Caddo programs.

"Women tend to look at social problems in a different way than men," Parker said. "I think we look at things more compassionately."

Under the Caddo's female leadership, meals are delivered to elders each day by tribal employees who are encouraged to stay and visit. The tribe also recently christened its new police department with a ceremony for its first two officers.

Their duties require them to check on elders from time to time.

Education also has flourished. Two Headstart Programs have been created, and the tribe is involved in four educational co-ops with schools in Gracemont, Verdon and Binger.

"None of that existed before," Parker said. "We all have the same goal, to help the Caddo people. But that's really nothing new. Traditionally, our tribe has always really been matriarchal.

"The men were always out front, but the women were right behind them, usually as equals."

The women use their maiden names as part of their full name to maintain a link with their ancestors, as is the practice in the Caddo culture.

Joyce Hendrix Hinse understands the female's vital role in Caddo society, thanks in large part to her grandmother, Cornelia Sturm Walker.

"I remember holding my first grandchild, thinking I was not worthy to be a grandmother," Hinse said. "That's because I thought so much of my own grandmother. She was the oldest member of our family, and the one who kept us all together ... Every time there was a problem, she was always able to resolve the conflict."

Hinse hoped to give the Caddo people a similar gift when she ran for secretary in 1999. Her political ambitions blossomed when she decided to retire after 34 years of working for the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission as an inspector.

Her campaign slogan: "I've served the federal government for the past 34 years. Now I'm ready to serve the Caddo people."

Frances Cussen Kodaseet brought a similar amount of experience and motherly care into office.

Kodaseet worked 15 years for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. But like any loving grandmother, she stops to think of the entire family.

"I wish we had a male presence on the council," Kodaseet said. "You can always look at something from a different perspective, and a man would be able to give us that perspective."

That day won't come anytime soon even though some members will join the council this Saturday.

On that day, four new council members will be sworn into office. They are all women.

Binger, OK Map
Maps by Travel

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