jeudi 13 août 2015
A YOUNG INDIAN WOMAN GOES OFF TO UNIVERSITY BUT WITH MEMORIES OF HER PEOPLE
A YOUNG INDIAN WOMAN GOES OFF TO THE UNIVERSITY: FAMILY AND FRIENDS SAY FAREWELL
I attended a ceremony of farewell to a young Indian Woman who was going off to study at a University. Her mother organized a ceremony to wish her well.
These are descendants of some of the ancient inhabitants of this region.
And many of the old ceremonies and customs are followed to this day.
(a tribal ceremony in the 1940s)
The order and the manner the ceremony is conducted is so different from those of the European descendants in this land.
First the mother introduces the daughter, who is known to every one presents. There are no sentimental thoughts about missing them but a praise of what she has done so far in her life.
Then the mother invites a spiritual leader to pray and give words of advice to the young lady. He talks and tells her a bit about her people and also the importance of being a good relative to her people. He burns sage and blesses her and those present as well as the food. Thus the food becomes a medicine.
After that everyone is invited to eat.
Here also there is an order, the older people are served in their seats, and then a line forms for people to partake of the dinner. Today’s fare was a modern version of their food: Fry Bread, minced meat, tomatos and salad, a sort of chicken dumpling soup, fresh fruit.
After that the audience is invited to talk. I got up to say that I had known this young lady all her life and that her name is glorified being an American Indian as well as Sanskrit Indian!
One by one, many others talked some reminiscing and some giving advice and each time, hugs by everyone concerned. Others reverently sat and listened, children played noisily but it was not considered an intrusion. Older children and young adults listened to what is being said. There was a fair bit of laughter.
At the end of these, the young lady thanks every one for coming and gives presents to the people who prayed for her and also to some elder Indians. It is not she who is going away that gets the present but she is honoured by the presence of the people and gives them presents.
The leftover food is packaged and the elder or infirm person in the community is remembered and someone takes the food to them. Always there is plenty of food available.
Very quickly every one disperses towards their homes, and as everyone pitches in, the place is clean and rubbish dispensed and goodbyes said.
People leave with a good sense in their hearts.
I am lucky to be a participant and at the same time observer. I was the only non-Indian person present there but was treated just like everyone else, especially since everyone in the audience have known me or known about me and my association with this tribe.
I can summarize the evening thus:
Ancient concepts translated into modern times
Advice to younger ones, but not admonition
Equality with no social hierarchy
Solidarity and Cultural Identity
Children are present and they are not silenced, the older children listen to the talks and conversations without interrupting. The importance is always placed on the Other person rather than oneself even if one is speaking.
Thus I spent one evening in August in a remote Indian reservation in USA.