Manataka American Indian Council
Braiding of the Hair
By Grandmother Maka Nupa L Cota
The morning arrived sunny and bright as I hurried to load my Jeep. I packed my chair and other things including the drum and an over night bag.
Traveling over the river to Tina's that morning, I looked over the Gorham dam and saw two of the Eagles flying in the pale blue sky. Pulling off the road to watch, I saw the larger Eagle join the two younger ones. I am so happy that the Eagles are back in our area. Some days they even fly over my house and have been nesting in this area for about ten years now.
Aware of the time I headed out to Tina's fully knowing she would not be ready yet.
I followed them to the Powwow grounds in Ossippe NH where we set up our chairs and prepared for a good day of dancing.
I is a small gathering but always has good drums.. Joyce an old time friend who I have just reconnected with was to come and meet with me there too.
The day wore on with plenty of heat and sun that drained the water from your body.. I felt like I had just done a full lodge by the time Joyce came to sit with me.
Tina and the rest of the gang danced I sit this one out. After the trip to North Carolina my old leg was really in no shape for dancing.
About five I packed up my things and followed Joyce to her house about two miles away from the Powwow grounds.
I had planned to stay with her for the night. It was good to visit with her and her husband that evening. Joyce has two women who rent rooms from her and help around the house. I fully enjoyed the women they are so respectful and open to learning. We had a wonderful dinner settled back to talk a bit about our past.
We spoke of many good old times, and things that happened in the past. Remembering our friends who are in spirit was also good.
Few are alive now who remember the old times we spent in the late eighties and early nineties. I think they were there in spirit in that house full of spirits listening and enjoying the sharing.
We had a time to remembering last names must be the sign we are all getting older.
"Reservation Frank" came to the table as a person of interest. We all had some fond stories of him in our minds. For some reason his last name was blanked out.. It just about drove us crazy until today I finally remembered his last name.. "Keyes" now how easy was that?
It was late when I went up to bed in that old house. It was once an old farm then became a Bed and Breakfast called the Rose and Swan. During her search for a place to call her home and teaching center she was led to this house. It had been empty and waiting for her for over seven years. By some magic she managed to finance it and relocate. She has done some restoration on it but the land is beautiful located just in the foot hills of the White Mountains. On this land she has her healing place and a harbor for ceremony.
At this time in my life I need to pass over the ceremony to some younger women and just attend, not plan the events. Many elders make the mistake of hanging on to them too long and they pass in time.
The minute I saw the land and the house I knew it would be the home to the Strawberry Moon for many years to come.
Joyce who once lived in Maine and through some unfortunate events, lost her home and just about every thing she owned, ended up buying this property. Long story here about her finding an elder who actually helped her find the place. Her husband had worked in a big textile mill in Maine and like so many others lost his job due to the depressed state of business in Maine.
He thank heaven has found a good job in New Hampshire and seems to be happy.
During this time he joined a drum and learned the songs which he sings very well. Joyce is teaching and doing her spiritual work now; which I am happy to say is the way she was meant to be.
I spent the night making friends with the spirits who had passed through this house in the 200 years plus it has stood its grounds.
I woke up and packed my bags and pulled my bed up finding it strange to be the guest not the hostess for a change.
The stairs are steep and the railing low to the stairs. I wonder how tall people were in those days as these old houses have very low stair railings. The door knobs are also low on the doors which make me think they were not tall people.
Being careful to hang onto the rail I made my way down to the main floor and into the dining area. No one was there so I sit down in a comfortable chair and soaked up the feeling of the house. There is a very large open room for sitting just off the dining area and I could see for a little while many people setting there talking.
I saw a movement on the big wrap around porch just off the front of the house. It was Joyce and the two women that lived in the house.
I watched as they braided each others hair. My mind flew back to my own life on the reservation years ago. We use to wash our hair on Saturday morning with the soft soap Mother made for just the hair. We then rinsed the hair with rosemary and vinegar.
You would see all of us women sitting on the front porch steps combing our hair out in the sun.
It was the way we dried our hair then added the scented oils to make it shine.
My favorite was the bear grease and sweet grass oils.
I threw my memory back to the way my Grand Mother brushed her hair and I helped her braid it when she was older. She was a small woman with hair that fell to her hips. Even when she was older it was long and thick..
She taught me about the braid and why we wear it a certain way to tell about a woman.
A married women always wears her braid right down the middle of her head. It is hard to do this alone and a married woman has her husband to help her braid her hair. She also braids his hair and makes sure it is right down the middle of his head.
This way every one knows he is taken and his wife is caring for him as he cares for her too.
When a women is younger she does not wear braids, it is only when she is a woman her hair is braided in two braids by her Mother. If she is single they remain in two braids. When she is married then you have only one braid in the middle. If your widowed you cut off your braid and put it with your husband when he is buried. After it grows out then you have done your time of mourning you have one braid on the Left side of your head. If it is on the right side then that means your ready to consider a new person in your life, if not then you continue to wear it on the Left.
My own hair is long but thin and I braid it each day as I make my morning prayers. There are three parts to the braid to make it strong. The first is Love the second is Truth the last but not least is Peace.
The hair of the Grandmothers is always intertwined with the other Grandmothers in spirit. It is one long continuing rope of hair that holds the DNA of all the women of our family line and our clans.
Some in many cultures take a clipping of a persons hair that has passed to keep for this same reason. Some even have sown
it into needle work to keep that spirit alive.
I have seen some beautiful pieces of embroidery that have human hair in them.
My own traditions teach of the linking or our women through the sharing of the teachings. Each time we share our verbal teachings we have added yet another generation of the braids to our own, in this way we continue the knowledge and the wisdom of the elders.
The spirit line is a direct link to the spirit world, and where the heart of our culture and wisdom lays.
As I watch the women braiding their hair, I wonder if they know that some old elder is guiding them to this traditional way of keeping the spirit line flowing.
As the water flows so will the spirit line. Forever and ever so as above so as below.
Blessings Maka Nupa L Cota
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