Manatakaô American Indian Council

 

 

ELDERS SPEAK

 

 

 

 

 

My Mother

By Grandmother L. Cota Nupah Makah

 

The early morning sky slips fingers of light through the old cotton wood trees, bits of this pale light filtering through the small window over my bed. The soft sounds of morning drifted up to my ears as I wiped away the webs of the dream time and entered the day time.

Conscious of my feet on the cool wood floors that smelled of pine oil, I walked to the window. Through the first morning light, I see the grasses of the prairie waving like fingers in the soft morning breeze.

 

Opening the window I feel the cool wet morning air on my face, it fills my room with the smell of damp pungent Earth and sweet prairie flowers.

 

Birds stir in the cotton woods, magpies and crows caw loudly for their morning scraps of bread. The heat hold silent on the hills, as if waiting for the sun to appear.

 

My eyes follow the lines of the hills and off in the distance I see my mother dancing in the grass. Her long skirt flows around her slim ankles as she spins, floating free of the Earth. She looks so small and child like dancing round and round, her arms held high over her head. The birds fly above her in their own dance calling to her, it is as if she and the birds are dancing and singing some ancient song. I hear her laugh that is so often silent, it spreads out like the sound of glass wind chimes. The tinkling sound of her laugh fills the air and I hear her singing I cannot hear the words but I hear her song.

 

I stand in my small room looking from this tiny narrow window at this strange woman who Creator has given me too. I realize in that minute that I really do not know her; there is a deeper part of her that no one will ever come to know.

 

I have seen in the old photo album a slender girl with dark hair and gray eyes slightly tilted at the corners. Is this really my Mother with the heart shaped face and high wide cheek bones and smooth tanned skin? This serious faced girl, really my Mother? The face looks back at me, the full lipped mouth pulled into a pout, as if to say she would rather be doing any thing other than having her picture taken, is my mother. I can only imagine her as she was growing up, I catch parts of her from some of the stories my Uncles tell of her wild adventures. She was always dreaming up something new to do, and often these adventures ended in a not so good way.

 

Dresses where seldom worn by my mother then, riding horses bare back was the style of the day. My Mother collected wild animals and birds which often caused problems in the house. I recall one story about her family of pet skunks she hid under her bed.

 

It was hard to ever see my mother as old; she never seemed to age in my eyes. Inside her there was always that quiet free spirited girl, peeking out from behind all the pain and suffering life had given.

 

I remember her strength and courage that to this day helps me walk through my own hard times. She taught us to be strong and to always face life with dignity as a human being.

 

There were nine children in her family, five boys and four girls, it was not easy in those times, living in the wilderness of Texas along the Brazos River. Education was little or none; yet their wilderness education was rich in culture and learning from nature. A feeling of belonging to a clan was strong in my motherís family. No matter what, they were there for each other, even until the day my mother passed into spirit this was the case.

 

That year my Mother died, I lost my Father and five uncles and aunts the feeling of being alone was over whelming. Within five months there was little left of her family in the way of leaders. My strong uncles who carried me on their shoulders and ran with me were all gone. The ones who teased me and pulled my braids had vanished like smoke. No more the camping, singing, and story telling by the fire on warm summer nights. No more whispering into the night with my cousins until we fell asleep.

 

We need this feeling of belonging, I miss that part of my life so far away now, with the remaining family scattered to the four winds. Only a few of us remain connected, the rest have drifted away on their own life adventure.

 

Hunting was a vital part of life in those days. My mother could hold her own in any shooting contest she was also skilled with bow and arrow and sling shot. It was my mother who made my first stone sling and helped me until I could at least hit a rabbit. We learned to not take more than we needed and to honor all life as sacred.

 

She taught us how to fish, and build shelters and to make a fire without matches. We camped along the Carson River, our nights spent sitting by the fire and listening to the stories my Mother told of her people. This will never leave my mind and keeps her with me always in spirit.

 

Sleeping under the stars at night, and memories of waking to the birds calling, are images planted deep in my dream time.

 

Those were some of my happiest days, even if we had little, and worked hard, we were rich in the things that no money or education can buy. We knew who we were and we knew our place on this Earth. The feeling of knowing who we were and the connection to the Earth was always there. It was woven in the stories and songs we sang at night, it was in the way we communicated without speaking.

 

To this day I will remember my mother as a young girl dancing in the grass. She still dances here in my heart with her bare feet, and long skirt, floating like a feather, surrounded by the birds she loved.

 

I pray for a time of peace in this world a time when the children remember and listen to the Elders around the fire once more.

 

Blessings Grandmother L. Cota Nupah Makah

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