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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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Skye's the Limit for Young Dancer


by Chris Jones The Oklahoman


Skye Gizhek Wapskineh snuggles close to her grandmother, the woman she knows and loves as a mother. Skye, 5, is a jingle dancer, and she turns to her grandmother, Shirley, to make sure she is explaining her dress correctly.

The gold rose signifies the design of her tribe, the Prairie Band Potawatomi, and the dress is called regalia or Indian clothes. It is not a costume.

Shirley Wapskineh listens and smiles as her granddaughter talks about dancing.

Skye is polite, confident and comfortable around adults. She proudly says she has danced at powwows since she was a baby.

She will compete at the Red Earth Festival on June 4-6.

Skye says the gold rose dress is pretty, but she said she has a pink dress, too. Pink is her favorite color. She shares photos of both dresses and one of her as an infant. Skye attended her first powwow when she was 12 days old, and she knows the ways of her tribe.

"Sometimes I cry when I'm scared, but I'm not scared or shy about dancing," Skye said. "I always dance on my tip toes, and I'm a good dancer because I dance almost every weekend in the arena.

"I wear leggings and moccasins, and my mom makes a hair braid for me, and she wraps it. Each jingle on my dress makes a sound, and I like that sound."

Skye is a prekindergarten student in the Ruth Droppins Head Start program in Oklahoma City. She is the youngest of Shirley Wapskineh's 12 grandchildren and has been with her since she was 9 days old.

The effects from having a drug-addicted mother gave Skye a difficult start in life, and for a while she was a shaky, underweight baby. But nothing of her past struggles is evident now.

Shirley Wapskineh remembers the day she took responsibility for her granddaughter. It was sudden and unexpected, and she had nothing for the child but love. She quickly gathered diapers, clothes, bottles, a bed and a car seat.

And she gathered her thoughts, too. She didn't have the energy she once had, and she worked full time as American Indian adviser in the Oklahoma City school system. She cried, and she worried about the unhealthy baby who didn't even weigh 5 pounds.

"She has changed my life from thinking about myself so much, and I accept that things don't have to be perfect," Shirley Wapskineh said. "I always worked for perfection before I took Skye. I retired last year, and someone told me that I could be living a life of leisure and that I could sleep late and go anywhere I wanted. I just don't think about this. I love her."

She said she wants Skye to have self-esteem and be proud of her American Indian heritage. She teaches her to live and learn a balance of both cultures.

"It seems like we are losing our culture and traditions because the tribes aren't teaching their young," Shirley Wapskineh said. "I think today we see children losing their respect for their elders. I don't think children have enough quiet time. They think they have to be doing something all the time."

Skye is a happy little girl learning to appreciate her culture while enjoying the same things most young girls enjoy. She likes to watch cartoons, and she said she likes kittens and puppies. She helps her grandmother with household chores and does good deeds for her neighbors. She said she brings them macaroni and cheese, fry bread or Indian tacos.

"I like to swing high up to the trees," Skye said. "I like to use my manners, and when I grow up I wish to be a cowgirl, and I'll wear pink lipstick and a pink shirt. I want a pet horse and a horse farm with lots of horses."

And there is one more thing.

"When I grow up, I want to be a basketball player," Skye said.

Her grandmother listens quietly. She is proud of the little girl who recently received her Indian name, Zi Bi Qua, meaning River Woman, a strong person who withstands the smooth or strong currents of life just as the river flows.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

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