May 13th, 2014 Last Updated on: May 13th, 2014
We've heard the story time and time again in Indian country: Stolen beadwork, stolen eagle feathers, even entire outfits stolen. Since my family just had this unfortunate experience, it must be a sign to talk about it.
In the old days, my tribes' warriors sometimes took the clothing and weapons of the enemies they killed. It was not stealing in the technical sense; it was to symbolize victory and to also inflict psychological damage on the bereaved when they recovered the bodies. My tribes' people were few and our enemies many, so the warrior way of life was necessary for our men who often gave their lives in defense of our people and our homeland.
After the reservation was allotted and our hunting lands replaced by non-native farms and businesses, my people began losing our language and traditions. It is most unfortunate that the traditions of generosity and sharing were lost. It was honorable to give to those in need for there was no social value in hoarding wealth and possessions. The chiefs in particular were obligated to provide for the poor, the orphans, and the elderly. Stealing was a serious crime because it connoted greed and deceit and neither were honorable traits. Thieves were punished by whippings and were made to repay their victims; the more serious offenders were banished.
Those of us who treasure the powwow ways know how much time, effort, and love go into the making of regalia. Many of us have spent countless hours doing this especially for our loved ones. It was heartbreaking for me to recently learn that one of my daughter's sets of beadwork that I had made appeared “for sale” on a Facebook site. She had loaned it to a friend for her daughter who wanted to dance. Sometime after that it was pawned at a local store. Thankfully my other daughter saw the posting and she was able to retrieve it.
It is indeed sad that my daughter's act of generosity turned into someone's opportunity to steal and profit. It makes us feel like we shouldn't be kind or generous to anyone and those are not the values we have been taught. I have loaned and given away many pieces of regalia to those in need to help them take part in powwows. My daughter was only doing what she had seen me do for her nearly 30 years of life. I will say many prayers for all of the people involved in this situation and hope that it will not happen again.
Thank you for letting me share this story. I feel better already. I pray that anyone who is in this situation will have the good fortune to have their belongings rightfully returned to them.
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