Before the Thursday afternoon session of the Grayhorse Inlonshka, I stood in my friend Terry Mason Moore’s house in Fairfax with my arms raised, while she pulled at the tie circling my waist to hold a broadcloth skirt in place. “Hold it here,” she said.
I was a little anxious, but also excited. I haven’t worn a broadcloth skirt before. I worried I’d melt in the heat. I remembered my cousins talking about dancing in Hominy and being wringing wet afterward. It’s not that I mind sweating, but I didn’t want to look like a bedraggled rat. Oklahoma Osages have the talent of being hot and looking beautiful at the same time.
I stood in moccasins and a new tank top and short leggings I’d bought when I remembered we’d be dressing outside, while Terry adjusted. Then, she showed me how to hold the finger-woven belt in place.
There’s a good feeling in having help getting your clothes properly settled, of women working and laughing together. Carol Arata dressed with us, while Terry showed us the technique she and her sister Tammy Mason Lux have developed to get their skirts on straight when they’re alone. Dressing sounds like a small thing, but it’s a big part of our Inlonshka and our culture, and no detail is too small.
A lot of work happens around the arbor to make each session flow seamlessly into the next. Clothes are sewn, camps set up, meals prepared and served. Yet, there’s a feeling that time slows down in this place separate from the everyday world.
I’m grateful to family and friends who welcomed me and shared Osage generosity, including the Mary Osage Green camp, Archie Mason, and Shaw/Pipestem camps. I’m also grateful to my Osage language class friends and teacher Tracey Moore—yes! to our conversation in Osage—and to those friends who talked to me about my writing. That was a surprise and a gift.
I’m one of few in my family dancing, so it was good to be under the arbor with Clark Batson and Traci Phillips. We’re from families who were disconnected from the tribe by violence. My great-great-grandmother was taken by the Cherokees, and, of course, she wasn’t alone. One hundred women and children were taken in those battles around Claremore Mound. She came back to the Osage late in her life and connected with her brother at Grayhorse. I wish I could have heard their reunion, seen their interactions.
Finally, there are good books coming out of Oklahoma Indian Country. I’ve written about Osage author Chelsea T. Hicks’ A Calm and Normal Heart, out in June from Unnamed Press, which is getting attention in Native literary circles and prompting conversation among Osages. For those Osages who are also Cherokee, as I am, check out Cherokee Andrea L. Rogers’ Man-Made Monsters, a YA story collection coming from Levine Querido in early October. Each story features a Cherokee version of a classic monster appearing in the Cherokee world and starts with beautiful art by Cherokee artist Jeff Edwards incorporating the Cherokee syllabary. Rogers says that readers can learn up to sixty Cherokee words. Reinforcing our sovereignty, while reading scary stories is the self-care we need during these stressful times.