Community , Columns

The Memories that Hold Me

I was ready to spend most of the month of June in the Osage. Tickets purchased and plans made. I had friends going into the In-Lon-Schka at Grayhorse and at Pawhuska. There was the election, celebrating a graduation, Osage Tribal Princess Lainie Maker’s coronation and the first dance in the new arbor at Hominy. I made tentative dates to see friends, like you do when you come a distance and don’t want to miss anyone.

When I think about the In-Lon-Schka, I think about the bell that our Town Crier Ceasar Williams rings Thursday afternoon, the sounds of the drum and the bells, the lush rich colors. There’s the joy of seeing family and friends, honoring the Osages who’ve gone before, and all those in the community who make this happen. I was looking forward to the familiar songs while the heat presses in and sitting with friends to eat, but that isn’t what happened.

As I talked to friends who’d been to Grayhorse and Hominy this year, I was struck by how the In-Lon-Schka is part of each family’s history, how it changes over the years and how we catalogue things that happen. We remember what was happening the year it was so hot, the year a relative passed and we mourned.

I heard anecdotes from my friends about preparing meat gravy and comparing recipes. I could almost hear the ribbing, who makes it that way? About a mother/grandmother who was able to dress and dance all the sessions for the first time in years, free to enjoy herself. The photographs I saw contained that glow.

For another matriarch, things changed when one of her sons wasn’t present to help prepare camp. It changed the way this family usually sets up camp, but it allowed grandchildren to help clean silver and get clothes ready. Tasks were divided in a new way, and the menu was simplified a little. The most important thing, my friend said, was that everyone was nice to each other. She also talked about her joy at having relatives coming home. She went on to describe the deep feelings that come from being on your family’s home ground with the generations together.

This year the Pawhuska committee’s head cook Addie Hudgins had a surgery that prevented her from fulfilling her duties. She turned the responsibility over to her Number 2, Jeanna Red Eagle. For Addie, who admits to being a bit of a control freak, this was new. Addie doesn’t remember a time she didn’t cook. She says, “they say as soon as I could see over the table, I was setting the table.” With Jeanna fulfilling head cook duties in Pawhuska, Addie says she’ll go and boss her family camp a little. Although, she adds quickly, “They’ve done great while I was gone.”

Maybe one of the reasons we love the In-Lon-Schka is because Wah Zha Zhis come together and celebrate each other in ways that get obscured during the day to day business of life. As the years bring changes, we experience the dance differently. The In-Lon-Schka is a powerful and sensual experience that lays down memory, one year after another. The particular way we set the table, the specific foods we eat are special because they go way back. They’re ours. These are the memories that hold me.