Vol. LII No. 12
December 2017

Tribes celebrate traditions at Cultural Center gathering

SULPHUR, Okla. – “It’s squirrel gravy like your great-grandmother used to make,” said renowned Chickasaw bowyer Wayne Walker as he ladled his recipe into a small sampling bowl.

“I’m not sure my great-grandmother ever made this,” the recipient said.

“Yes she did. She just didn’t tell you what it was,” Mr. Walker replied with a chuckle.

Hundreds of visitors passed through the Chickasaw Cultural Center’s Traditional Village Nov. 4, sampling Native American food, crafts, dances, games and culture.

The Chickasaw Nation celebrated its seventh annual Multi-Tribal Day Nov. 4.

A dozen tribes participated. They introduced their cultures, traditions and heritage to those eager to learn. There were any number of activities, ancient games, the aroma of food simmering over open fires, dances, elaborate tribal regalia and craftsmanship.

Chickasaw elder Rosie Postoak stirred an iron pot of pashofa – cooked over an open flame as centuries ago – allowing patrons to taste the dish.

Pashofa is a staple food made of cracked hominy and pork. It has sustained Chickasaws for countless generations.

Nearby, Chickasaw Cara Fox and Choctaw Sherri Eads served fry bread and salt meat (preserved pork).

“It is difficult for people to turn down fry bread,” Ms. Fox said smiling. Hers was a busy table and she greeted each patron with a smile and explained the history of fry bread to those who inquired.

A favorite among attendees was Cvse, a soup made from pumpkin. Seminole Nation citizen Janet Johnson prepared the soup along with Ecko (corn soup) and Cvtvhakv (blue bread).

“It was fantastic and the kids could not get enough,” Chickasaw Gwen Postoak said. One grandchild, Daxton Coleman, loved the pumpkin soup, Mrs. Postoak said, as she enticed him to consume the remainder of a pashofa sample. Mrs. Postoak and her husband, Tim, are introducing 18-month-old Daxton to his Chickasaw heritage.

At the stomp dance circle, Chickasaw and Choctaw stomp dancers engaged others to enjoy traditional dances with them while demonstrating dances unique to each culture.

Attendees videoed the activity on cell phones and snapped photographs. Dancers ventured into the large crowd to ask patrons to dance. Youngsters were particularly interested in joining the activities.

Aztec dancers, representing the Indigenous Cultures Institute, awed patrons with traditional regalia and feathered headdress, feather hand fans and beaded attire. The group launched into its respective dances with frenzied footwork and coyoleras, leg shakers made from ayoyote seed pods.

The leggings have been used for centuries by the Aztec, a tribe indigenous to Mexico and loosely related to the Mayans.

Chickasaw women were asked about their leggings. Several wore traditional box turtle shell shakers, while others kept rhythm with leggings of modern milk cans. Patrons learned the shakers can also be made of deer hooves. When the box turtle became endangered, milk cans were adopted by Chickasaws because they closely resembles the sound created by turtle shells filled with smooth river rock.

Tribes represented at Multi-Tribal Day included Chickasaw, Choctaw, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Aztec, Kiowa, Comanche, Anadarko, Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, Seminole, Otoe-Missouria, Navajo and Riverside Indian School Plains Dancers.