always good to be among family on the holidays. This year - this
Thanksgiving - it was important for me to be among those I love.
I needed to see that the family was together - at least to see that
the elders were still here.
holiday was especially warm for me because I realize and am thankful
for what my mother and aunt have given me.
mother, who has been ill for the past few years, was the center
of our celebration this year. She is doing well now, but she has
her good and bad days. That is what the doctors predicted. This
was one of those good times for her.
hair is nearly all white now. She walks only with help and gets
tired easily. Sometimes, she is confused. She lives with one of
my sisters, who takes good care of her. She can't live alone.
I watched my mother hugging the young ones - some of whom she didn't
recognize - I remembered Thanksgivings and other holidays where
she put together a good meal with little money and not much help.
She had 13 children; we are a large family. My father died some
35 years ago, so she was alone a good part of the time.
this celebration of thanks and with perhaps half the group missing,
there were about 50 people. There were drop-ins; some of the family
had to attend more than one Thanksgiving. So they ate lightly -
only the really tasty desserts, one said - then moved on to the
stay with my aunt when I'm home. She is my mother's younger sister.
She turned 80 this year. My mother will turn 87 in a couple of weeks.
My aunt has been fighting diabetes for 30 years, and it has taken
its toll on her body. She, too, cannot live alone. But although
she may be forgetful at times, she still is a good teacher. She
understands the culture, ceremonies and language. She has been my
mentor and teacher for many years.
we drove to Parshall, N.D., for the celebration of the wounded soldier
Delmar Crows Breast, I chatted with my sister. I didn't think my
aunt was paying attention to my ramblings, but she stopped me in
mid-sentence and corrected me. The subject was Native culture and
what I needed to do. She gave me strong and specific directions.
reminded me of her mother - my grandmother, Little Sioux. I remember
her well. She was a strong and wise woman. When she was the head
of the family, we all looked to her. She never wavered from her
role as a medicine woman and spiritual leader. She was born at a
time when women's strength was in their knowledge and ability to
debilitated my grandmother's body, too. When I can't find an answer
to a ceremonial or cultural question, I think about her and wish
that she had lived to an age where she could guide me. Then, I realize
that she did. She gave us five strong women to guide us, only three
of whom survive - my mother and two aunts, including the one I usually
aunt scolds herself because she doesn't always remember a word in
Sahnish or what to do next in a ceremony, but then there are times
when she remembers so clearly that it's as if my grandmother were
year, I see us moving closer to the day when my mother and aunt
won't be with us. I try to imagine what it will be like but quickly
discard the thought.
time will come, I know. Yet I learned this year - this holiday -
that they will always been with us, just like my grandmother, Little
Sioux. I hear her voice in the words of my mother and aunt. The
younger ones will hear my mother and aunt in our words one day.