Letters to the Editor

Wa-No^-Bre: It doesn’t just mean ‘Let’s Eat’

Food is definitely a huge part of our culture. We love to eat. We are particular about what we eat too. Wa-No^-Bre (pronounced Wah-Nome-Bray) isn’t just the ringing of a bell or striking of a triangle hanging from a post on a ranch. No, Wa-No^-Bre is a call to the Wah-Zha-Zhi to come forward, gather and enter the serving area to among other things eat.

Wa-No^-Bre is the cooks working hard, not only on the day food is served, but days ahead in preparation; it is our committees who give time, with respect, to gather for days and cut that meat in advance for In-Lon-Schka and do this with prayer. Cooks prepare the food but eat only after everyone else has.

Over the centuries foods changed but not our traditions of respect and order. Our people have always lived a culture of order and with that specific ceremonies took place. War dances became the Hominy War Mothers Annual Veterans Day Dance. Clans and Bands gathered in a specific order; Hun-Kah and Tzi-Zho knew their place and order. Our ways were taught from the time a baby was placed on the board. Elders had a position of ultimate respect due them; for their wisdom for living and their teachings; for we are their students. Warriors have respect due them; for their bravery and cunning in protecting our tribe, families, elders and leaders. Our Chief and leaders are respected; for their guidance, decision making and communication responsibilities in dealing with other tribes and governments. Women respected; for carrying our future in their wombs, teaching and preserving our ways.

Today, our traditions of order are taught. Today, those traditions are changing. Each time we gather those traditions are changing. The respect we were ingrained with is diminished. Today when we gather little by little those traditions of order, traditions of respect for our Elders, Warriors and Women are diminished. Today, when Wa-No^-Bre is called out the unimaginable happens. During prayer, thanking Wa-Kon-Tah, people line up for food. Words reminding us, Elders are served first, go unheeded. Children and adults crowd out Elders, they sit next to unserved Elders, unable to walk, and begin eating! Are we teaching our ways of respect to our children? Are we explaining our ways to guests who don’t know our traditions?

Hominy War Mother’s Veterans Dance honored our Veteran’s and the granddaughter of an Osage Code Talker. The Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center was packed at supper time; people danced and celebrated.  However, it was disheartening to see so many stay for the food, but not after for the dance itself. Our way is to stay and honor the Head Man and Head Lady Dancers by dancing in support of them and our Veterans who fought for the Freedom to uphold our ways. This dance is not a feed. It is traditional food in celebration of, and offers refreshment for, dancers; drum; singers and those in attendance. This gathering is to share a meal in honor of our ancestors, families and Veterans living and passed.

Please, remember, Wa-No^-Bre doesn’t just mean “let’s eat.” It means stay a while and live our ways.

Miya McKim
Pawhuska, OK