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lundi 23 mai 2016


I have had a long association with the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. In fact when I go there on my monthly visits, I live in a house within the reservation.
(this is where I stay when I am visiting the UmonHon)
Indians as they are referred to place an enormous importance on relationships and Margaret Mead one of the founders of American Cultural Anthropology was among the first to study the kinship system and all Native Kinship system use OMAHA KINSHIP system as a reference.
Those who contribute to the welfare of the tribe as a whole are appreciated more than those who place importance on their individual welfare. So it is amazing to be with a non-individualistic society surrounded by the most individualistic society of them all, the USA. Omaha have no problem with that, they use their cultural skills when appropriate and do not confuse the context when it is used. They do not blame the others for holding world views which are so totally opposed to theirs and coexist. In fact Omaha has no recorded history of warfare with the Immigrants from Europe.
I have strong connection to France and the French language, so do the Omaha, as French were the Europeans they encountered and to this day, the oral history record their encounter as being very friendly. The best photographic records of the Omaha were collected by Prince Maximillian Bonaparte and Omaha were present at the Paris Expo of 1895 when Tour Eiffel was inaugurated!
(UmonHon delegation to Paris. Years later I stood at this very same spot)
There are many individual Omaha who have “achieved” by the standards of the Non-Indians, such as University degrees and experience in the world of Business and Administration, while not forgetting their cultural connection to the Omaha polity. One such person is WS, who is currently the CEO of the tribe and well respected for her administrative ability and problem solving, she holds a MPH from University of Hawaii.
At the annual celebration on Full Moon Day in the month of August, Omaha Indians begin their Pow Wow, a four day ceremonial celebration of gratitude and thanks and joy and family unity. Dancers in full regalia dance for the duration of the ceremonies to the songs which have very ancient origins.
During one such Pow Wow, WS, the person described above, rose to make an announcement. My French and Jamaican families were present. She announced: All of us know that Dr.Y has been coming to our reservation for many years, come rain, come snow and he holds us in high esteem and does his best to better our health. I want everyone to know and acknowledge that from this day on, he will be my brother and I want you to treat him as such.
(view from the house in the reservation on a winters day)
I was not prepared for what was to follow over the coming months. People would introduce themselves to me using the Omaha Kinship system. I became uncle, brother to a whole group of people. More importantly, the feeling between me and members of the family changed dramatically. I realized that by becoming a member of the family I assume the responsibility of that relationship.
Each visit to the tribe began to take on an extra dimension, I was being integrated into their world view and that included my French and Jamaican families. My Mezhinga in Bruxelles surprised her teachers by saying: I am a little bit Omaha too!
(the picture taken at their out door wedding last year)
So, about a year ago, a young nursing graduate who had recently taken over the Diabetes Programme of the Tribe, introduced herself to me, I am you Grand Niece, our relationship had more than just the professional relationship. With the help of my Omaha sister WS and the enthusiasm of my niece and with help from other experienced members we quickly built a very good Diabetes Prevention and Treatment programme for the tribe.
(A Culturally oriented medical consultation at the Omaha Indian Special Clinic.Patient is the centre of attention, his family is present. With me are the Nurse Educator, the lady who would be travelling to Cambodia and the Nutritionist. Please note that all of us are looking at the patient and not at computer screens)
Among the things we discuss while I am with the tribe is about my travels and the state of health of various indigenous groups I work with. Of course I talk a lot about Cuba and when it comes to Diabetes Care, I cannot hide my admiration for the Peer to Peer Programme MoPoTsyo in Phnom Penh in Cambodia run by my good friend Maurits van Pelt. I dreamt of implementing some of his methods to the Indians, where the cohesion of the community would be a foundation for such a peer to peer education programme.
The young nurse and her husband who is an EMT and soon to be a Nurse as well, treat me with the deference accorded to me by the Omaha Kinship system. I feel very comfortable in their presence and their genuine care for my welfare, considering that I have to travel about 10 000 miles to be with them each month.
(My grand niece acknowledging my desire for good food, organizes a lunch during my stay at the clinic and invites other workers. A Filipina married to an Omaha makes delicious Filipino cuisine)
I would tell them about Mexico where my good friend Dra Estela Rosales run a great holistic clinic; regale them with stories about Cuba and the high standards of health care and the free education given to thousands of poor students from foreign countries.
One day I asked them, would you like to come with me on one of my trips? They said YES eagerly. I asked them, where would you like to go? I frankly was hoping that they would express an interest in Mexico, a place which is easily accessible and not too far from home. To my surprise, she answered: My husband would really love to go to Cambodia and see the Peer to Peer Health care system! True to my word, I told them that I would make all the arrangements. As it is easier to fly to Malaysia and also the fact that I am far more familiar with Malaysia a country that I think fondly of, I decided to play host to them in Malaysia. I told them that I will not able to pay for their air fares (over 1000 dollars each) and hotel and sundry expenditures, but would make sure that their first ever international trip would be a memorable one. They agreed and within days, they had some communal activities to raise funds for their travel, and gave me the money for the airfare.
I had planned them to meet MunChing my close friend in KL and her husband, a Portuguese born in Mocambique, she is rather eclectic person and interested in Native Americans through her interest in the writings of Louise Erdrich (Ojibway). Arlene is the force behind a radio programme DURIAN ASEAN about everything that concerns the culture, politics, and future of the region. I wanted them to visit Malacca the historical city, meet my friends there including an erudite Chinese lady with huge interest in history. My good friend K, who worked for many years as FA for MH, now is at the Hilton Hotel where we would be staying in KL and promised that my friends would have a good stay. Everything in Malaysia fell into place. I also thought that it would be good for them to be alone for a couple of days and organized a two days stay at Taj Vivant in Langkawi Island. While they are away, my good friend from Bogor would come to visit for the day and also I can spend some time at the Cuban Embassy in KL.
In Cambodia we will spend time with Maurits and the Principal Peer Educator and after spending intense sessions, we would leave for Siem Reap where I plan to show them the marvelous Angkor archeological ruins.
Everything went according to the plan and just one thing tugged at my heart.
This is their first ever international trip, they are recently wed and looking forward to experiences which they couldn’t have without assistance from a Grand Oncle, which happens to be me!
The flight from Dallas to Hong Kong is an incredibly long flight, close to 16 hours in duration, one of the longest flights. Out of loyalty to American Airlines AA I had booked them on AA flights which turned out to be fortunate as I hold the top tier of Frequent Flier status with them.
Indians believe for something to become true, as in praying for someone else’s health, nothing would come out of it without sacrifice. What sacrifice could I do so that this young American Indian couple would have a memorable journey? I have already taken care of all the possibilities on the ground, but how about on the air.
I called this morning from Fort Cochin in India, the direct number to American Airlines in Dallas. A very pleasant lady answered, her name was Emma. I explained the situation, she was very touched by it and for a bit of “sacrifice” (the nature of which no one needs to know) she will upgrade them both on their long journey from Dallas to Hong Kong!
You cannot imagine how happy I felt, and I can imagine how they would feel when they hear the news when they wake up in their home in Rosalie, Nebraska!
12:25 PM

6:00 PM
Maurice Seat 6DBusiness
Ashleen Seat 6GBusiness
Not only them, but most of the Omaha we know.
I was doing my best to be a good RELATIVE.
Outside the sun was beginning to show its strength, I walked quickly to the working people café near the hotel where I am staying in Fort Cochin, India, Niyati Boutique Hotel. As I passed the oldest Catholic Church, now a Basilica, I turned towards it, thought of my sister and brother in Miami who are Catholics and said to myself.
I am grateful to the Great Spirit for allowing me to help my relatives!

(the oldest christian church in India, the Basilica in Fort Cochin)

(the sweat lodge, healing ceremonies are often held here. I plan to attend one after my return from Cambodia to offer my thanks)