For years I used to take the Long Island Railroad Day Trip to the Shinnecock Nation PowWow in South Hampton, New York, to enjoy watching the Native American dancers perform while the hundreds of spectators gorged themselves on the fabulous food. The tribe built a giant stage shaped and decorated like a drum, whose top was actually made of grass and dirt, so they are literally dancing on the earth.
The last year I attended the festival, I had found a beautiful cotton printed with an American flag, which had a bald eagle with outstretched wings in the center, and made sure I brought it with me, I had learned long ago that when attending these events it was Indian custom to bring gifts, that they could exchange with other. As they began a dance for military vets, something made me get up with the idea of giving it to one of the dancers to use. When I arrived backstage, I saw a young man who was earnestly begging his elderly grandfather to get out onstage with the other dancers. “Please, it’s your right, and the dance is almost over.” “No. I’m not going.”
I walked up to them and said, “My father tells me our family has blackfoot indian roots, and he passed away this past year. He was a veteran of three wars. Would you take this scarf and dance with it to honor him?” They both looked at me, and the grandfather took the scarf and walked up the steps to the dance platform. When I reached my seat in front, I saw him dancing in the circle with the others, proudly waving the scarf. The dance was almost over so he wasn’t up there long. At the end of the dance I walked backstage again and thanked him for using the scarf. He tried to give it back to me, and I refused to take it, telling him it was my gift to him for honoring me, and I walked away.
Later that day, the young man found me in the crowd and thanked me for what I had done. He said his grandfather was still wearing the scarf, with pride…..