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The Ways of My Grandmothers
By Beverly Hungry Wolf
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Beverly Hungry Wolf
All right reserved.
Who My Grandmothers Are
My own grandma, AnadaAki, was born in a tipi during the eighteen eighties. She has come a long way to her present place in life, which includes being the family elder as well as being a devoted fan of the TV serial "As the World Turns." If you heard her British-accented voice calling out for someone to turn on the TV you would not imagine that she was raised in the household of one of the last great medicine men among the Bloods.
AnadaAki means Pretty Woman in our language. It is the name that she has carried longest. When she entered school she became known as Hilda Heavy Head, and when she married my grandfather she became Hilda Beebe. After my grandfather died, she remarried and became known as Hilda Strangling Wolf. To top off this name-changing, her real father's name was Joseph Trollinger, a German name which she never carried.
Grandma AnadaAki has spent a lot of her recent years in the home of my parents, although I think she would rather still have her own household. Because my father's mother died when when he was still a small boy, AnadaAki is the only one of my real grandmothers that I ever met. But among the Indian people relationships are much more generalized than amongmany others. For instance, all my female relatives of AnadaAki's age are my grandmothers, as well as some who are younger. Also, all the women of my tribe who lived long ago are spoken of as grandmothers. In addition, it is common for any old woman in the tribe, when speaking kindly, to call any young woman or girl "my grandaughter." So the title of my book actually refers to the ways of the women of my tribe, not just to the mothers of my parents.
AnadaAki's mother was named First-to-Kill by an old warrior who had once accomplished that distinction in battle. First-to-Kill had a brother named Sweetgrass, and the two were raised during the buffalo days. When she grew up she married Joe Trollinger, who had arrived among the Bloods from Germany. She became known as Lucy Trollinger and, with her husband, she helped run a restaurant and hotel on the wagon road between the Blood Reserve and the later city of Calgary, which was then a fort and trading post. The Bloods named her husband Last-to-Get-Angry, because his favorite expression was: "You got angry first, now I'm going to get angry." Travelers nicknamed him Rutabaga Joe because he had such a fondness for that vegetable.
Joe and Lucy had five children together, and four of them lived past the age of ninety. AnadaAki was the youngest, and the only one who didn't see her father. Her eldest sister was deaf and dumb, but when Lucy found out that Joe was going to take her to Germany for treatment she packed up all the kids and moved back among the Bloods. Shortly afterward she married a young warrior named Heavy Head, who took the kids as his own. He and Lucy had no more children, but AnadaAki was born shortly after they got together. In spite of her full Blood upbringing, I can say that my grandma definitely has ways and characteristics that are more commonly considered German than Blood. Blue eyes are another sign of her European ancestry.
When my grandma was about a year or two old, Heavy Head became one of the last Bloods to go through the ancient ritual of self-torture. He had gone to raid horses from an enemy tribe and gotten into a tough situation. In order to get help and courage, he made a vow to go through this ritual at the next Sun Dance ceremony, which is the main tribal event in our traditional life. In front of all the people, his chest was pierced in two places so that willow skewers could be inserted. To these were tied two long ropes, which hung down from the symbolic Center Pole in the sacred Sun Dance lodge. Heavy Head had to pull these ropes tight and dance until the skewers broke through his flesh and released him. The ceremony may sound cruel today, but my ancestors had a lot of faith and meaning for it in their nature-oriented life. A couple of years later the ceremony was forbidden by the government.
Heavy Head suffered from his Sun Dance wounds for some time. He went out into the hills so that he could cry and suffer alone, and out there he was given certain mystical powers to cure ailments with prayers, songs, and herbs. As he grew older he became the keeper of various tribal medicine bundles and a member of ancient societies. Among the Bloods a man does all these things in company with his wife -- his main one, if he should have two or more -- so my great-grandma, First-to-Kill, began to learn the songs and ceremonies of our sacred ways. Her life changed from helping one husband feed and house wagon-road travelers to helping another husband doctor the sick people and lead their religious ceremonies when they were well.
Grandma AnadaAki grew up hearing these old songs and watching the ceremonies. But her mother knew that the modern ways were coming to stay, so she made sure that her children got themselves educated. Grandma was sent to a special girls' school run by a British matron named Miss Wells. Unlike the missionary and boarding schools that were satisfied if their students learned a bit of the three Rs and a bit of farming, Miss Wells wanted her young students to learn how to become ladies in the proper British style of the day. She taught them fancy ways of cooking, dressing, and wearing their hair. She got them into habits like dainty tea drinking, careful table setting, and wearing brooches to close up the fronts of their blouses. She taught them not . . .
Excerpted from The Ways of My Grandmothers by Beverly Hungry Wolf Copyright © 2006 by Beverly Hungry Wolf. Excerpted by permission.
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