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Ponca City, Oklahoma
by Donna Jones-Flood
"Late Again," she muttered to herself as the
car rolled to a stop, parked now, " against
the grain" to where the other small group of
cars were parallel to each other. When the
woman pushed out into the early autumn
morning there was a chill in the air as if to
make itself known by an unwelcome poking
of its finger through the light fabric of her
jacket. A small price to pay for the
opportunity of being here in this place and
time. The almost lonely looking group of
people, made to seem so, by their being
overwhelmed by a great sky and an outside
expanse; these stood in a tight little circle
with the speaker already in place. However,
she knew too, this ten, fifteen people were
only a grain of sand to the population. To
glance toward them gave the opportunity to
also see the new park, barely finished on
time for unveiling the marble markers of the
five tribes, Native American leaders from the
surrounding areas. Just a short time ago a
part of this land had been tall weeds, and
There was no over growth now. The early morning light spread a soft glow over the carefully landscaped terrain which was even sprouting new grass. No suggestion remained of the workers who had labored to set these wide walkways. There wasn't even a moment to stand telling of the one's who came here after hours from their own businesses to set the circular shaped quiet place for each tribe to be honored. These workers doing the toil from a labor of love of community, family and desire to save these shafts of light reaching from another age, shot like a lance to this place, set here in stone and granite, picturing these mighty leaders in a shadowy artwork on granite which could disappear when the stone was wet with rain.
As if to speak to her of the family's recent loss of one who was of the rain band, mist was rising from the newly created bodies of water. There could be no healing and no acceptance for his travail but, still, she reached out her hand toward the mist and pulled it to the corner of her eye so it could join its own kind there.
Quickly she walked up a gentle rise toward those standing at a distance. Slipping into a place at the back she was greeted by a number of the folks with whom she had set in meetings. These were all the workers and the doers who had made the project complete up to its phase two. Really, she felt a little out of place with her only contribution being that of "cheer leading," and or advocate for what her intuition told this descendant of the Native Americans, was, without doubt, a noble project.
The speaker was an attorney, striking in his good looks, obviously going to his Native heritage. The aging woman's mind slipped back some forty years earlier when this man's father, delivered a speech at her high school graduation from what was then known as Chilocco Indian School.
This was before the politically correct rhetoric began and her folks were still known as Indians. She was acquainted too, with the attorney's mother who was a beautiful woman of the Cherokee tribe, striking in her civilized manner and inherited wealth of cultural dignity. In fact, almost all these about her were people she knew with about as much closeness as anyone she knew. Artist's ways and home responsibilities allowed little time for socializing. Certainly, if time permitted, these were the people she could enjoy.
After the brief speech they began their walk following the meandering trail. Past the Tonkawa's circle, to the circle of the Otoe, to the Osage. There was an old large tree saved from the bulldozers at this point. Its old turning branches were dark and reaching low toward the ground at some places. There was a natural arch where it was told a wedding had taken place already.
Each circle had been marked with different soft earth colors and the emblems which properly represented segments of that tribes symbols. The geometric designs were as always a wonder as to the achievement of such a mastering of a mathematical study. Nevertheless, here they were and this too was preserved. The thought and the wondering presenting, "from where did these people hail?" Actually, it was a mastery far surpassing those of ancient history as to the Egyptians, Greeks or Romans. Their geometry, of course, was used for buildings and such, but was not set into their every day living and garments to this point. The tile of the floors in ancient Pompeii held murals set with almost geometric patterns but they were of something, a scene, a person, an object. This was just geometry alone.
The tribes history was told from voice boxes with some narrators holding rich accents showing a bridge from one language to another.
The markers for the Kaw tribe and for the Ponca tribe were the last to be visited, which then led them to the central figure of the very large statue of Chief Standing Bear.
The statue of Standing Bear was created by an artist of Navajo blood. Standing Bear was a Ponca chief. However, this is the beauty of the feat. Melted in this massive character is the new era and this feeling is , probably, in the vibrancy of the park.
Indeed, we have come into a new era. The park is of a different time and place with memories, true, of another space but; today, these tribes are coming together, melting together, just as the people of the country have done. This melting is caught here, just as an artist, if fortunate, catches a brief revelation others have missed.
When a speech had been given by a Sioux man at one of the preliminary meetings, a Ponca man shook his hand at the end of it. The Ponca man said, "there was a time; if a Ponca man came upon a Sioux man, one of them would not walk away. Today, I shake your hand, and I tell you, I enjoyed your speech."
Phase three is in a working stage now, and this will be the building of a museum in order to house the artifacts still available, left from the ancestors of another time.
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