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NCO gathering hosts hands-on workshops to make moccasins and fringe shawls

PETALUMA, Calif. – For more than 30 people at the Aug. 12 Northern California Osage gathering, the meeting presented an opportunity to discuss and hear about Osage culture – a break from West Coast chatter items such as vehicle traffic and the cost of living.

The NCO meeting attendees heard presentations on the Osage Nation Museum, food sovereignty issues regarding corn seeds, and tips on how to make moccasins and fringe women’s shawls. Employees from the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center led afternoon workshops for those attendees interested in making the Osage clothing items.

WCC workers Jennifer Tiger and John HorseChief facilitated the workshops offering hands-on advice in making the moccasins and fringed shawls using fabric and sewing items they brought from Oklahoma. Tiger, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area on and off, took note of the different locations where attendees traveled from to Petaluma – approximately 40 minutes north of downtown San Francisco off U.S. Highway 101.

“As Osages, we are all living in the diaspora. Osages made their way from southern California and Oregon and the South Bay like Los Gatos, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz – (that) tells us something about wanting to be connected culturally if they are willing to drive that far. We should be doing more for our further away people.”

NCO Executive Committee member Keir Johnson-Reyes applauded the presentations because not all Californians who are Osage are able to travel back to Oklahoma to experience the culture discussions and to see the sights and activities mentioned. “Focusing on cultural aspects tie us together as Osages. Our Nation, while based in Oklahoma, has a membership that spans the globe. It is important to maintain meaningful connection with and contribute to our home and people in Oklahoma, yet we can feel Osage unity by participating in cultural activities anywhere.”

HorseChief said he enjoyed interacting with the attendees as he helped them make the moccasins. “I had a good time as an attendee because the presenters were interesting. As a facilitator, I had a great time because the attendees were nice, attentive and hungry to learn about Wah-Zh-Zhi culture. I believe these cultural exchange trips are beneficial to the Nation in a long-term value because the next chief, doctor, lawyer or Laker could be from California and that person may be able to lift up the Nation, but only if they have a cultural connection.”

Johnson-Reyes delivered a presentation discussing food sovereignty issues using his expertise as a corn grower as an example. He told the attendees the Nation is hosting a first-of-its-kind Southern Plains gathering for corn growers called Braiding the Sacred, which is scheduled Nov. 3-5 within the Osage Nation. Johnson-Reyes, who helped plan the event, said the gathering will bring together traditional corn growers from tribes across the region to discuss traditional food preservation efforts.

As a participant, Johnson-Reyes found the workshops beneficial. “I have made baby moccasins before, but not Osage-style ones. I intend to go in at Pawhuska (In-Lon-Schka ceremonial dances) soon, so learning the steps to make a pair of moccasins is especially important to me. I took away the practical steps in making an Osage man’s moccasin … John led such a great workshop, his patience and upbeat personality really helped make some of us first time Osage moccasin makers feel comfortable.”

As for future NCO gatherings, NCO Executive Committee member Karen Elliott said a 2018 gathering will be planned and said she’s heard suggestions for possibly making the gathering a two-day camp out event. She also said “next year is an election year and we could offer both culture and a little exposure to those running for Congress” as well as Executive Branch offices and the Osage Minerals Council.


By

Benny Polacca


Original Publish Date: 2017-09-14 00:00:00

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Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org
Benny Polacca started at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter and has covered various stories and events impacting the Osage Nation and Osage people. Polacca is part of the News team awarded the Native American Journalist Association’s Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 and other NAJA Media Awards and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter awards for news coverage and photography. Polacca is an Arizona State University graduate and participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. He previously worked at The Forum newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. region as the weeknight reporter.
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