My beloved and I are headed to Oklahoma and he will have his first opportunity to see my Osage relatives.
If it weren’t for my mother’s persistence, I might never have met the family members who set down roots in Osage communities like Fairfax and Gray Horse and Pawhuska and Hominy.
My mothers’ parents were part of the swell of American Indian families who were encouraged to seek refuge in large cities.
The urbanization of Native Americans–an almost forgotten chapter in the textbook of Indian affairs–gained momentum after World War II ended.
First daughter Wak-O-Apa (Megan) is studying this movement as part of her doctoral work in English literature at the University of Chicago.
Megan has shared with me photographs and sales-pitches aimed at American Indians, encouraging them to leave the rez for the promise of indoor plumbing and electric stoves.
While thousands of Indian families headed for cities like Los Angeles, Minneapolis and San Francisco, others remained home, including some of my relatives in Oklahoma.
Despite growing up far from Indian Country I have been welcomed by generous women like Aunt Judy and her daughter, Leaf, who always have a spare bed and dinner plate ready.
When my parents moved back to the United States after living overseas for three decades, my mother insisted on being within driving distance of the rez.
My parents bought property a few hours away in the Osage hills, and my mother spent weekends in Oklahoma learning traditional ways, such as finger-weaving.
During one of her sojourns to Pawhuska my mother met Aunt Judy. They bonded immediately.
From that day onward, my mother always had a bunk and a bite at Judy and Joe’s.
But it wasn’t just my mother.
We have eight children in the family and all of us–including our children and spouses and friends–have been adopted by Judy and Joe, and their daughter Leaf.
When Leaf invites us to share her camp during the June dances, she never knows how many of us will show up.
Her house is welcoming and warm. Just like her heart.
Day two of National Native American History Month