Nation, Wezhinshte (Elk) Clan, HonGashenu
©1999 Wayne Tyndall
All rights reserved
My knowledge and experiences
as a member of the Umonhon Nation is comprehensive.
I grew up when the Umonhon were very poor
and undergoing much hardship. If the Umonhon
did not practice their culture and traditions, it would have been difficult
for them to survive.
The strong ability that the Umonhon Nation possessed to still believe in Waconda (the Great Unseen Power or Source of Mi) and to share
with each other was the underlying factor that sustained them in a most difficult
life they were forced to confront.
During my early life, there was still enough
of the old culture left that provided us with knowledge of native foods
that sustained us from hunger. I once recall someone telling me that they
were without food.
I replied, "There's food all around you;
let's pick this and that and have us a dinner."
There were only two kinds of things you
could eat living on the Umonhon Reservation.
Any particular food was either good to eat or it was bad to eat. Someone knew
what foods to eat. We were taught the difference in foods and what was not
food and acted accordingly.
The winters were severe and we lived usually
in tents or log cabins and anticipated the coming of spring when we could
be warmer and food became plentiful. Many of our tribal families lost loved
ones during the cold, harsh winters.
Enough of the old people were still around
when I was growing up and they shared much of their culture with me. These
teachings have helped me in later life to live an orderly life and have
concern for and understanding of the Umonhon
people. I appreciate all that I have been told and wish to pass these teachings
on to you for what they are worth. The whole life patterns of the Umonhon had a theme of spirituality underlying the reason
to live. With that philosophy, one finds each day a new beginning, a reason
to correct wrongs and live even if one is without material gain. it doesn't
take much to make an Umonhon happy, so
long as s/he is free to do what they like even if that is to sit along outside
with your thoughts taking you back in time.
My father's family were traditional and
lived according to the old social standards of the past. They basically kept
to themselves and ignored the outside world. According to their clan
Wezhinshte (Elk), Keepers of the Tent of War, other people
left them alone but did not disturb them for fear of the Thunder god who
was their protector. They still had remnants of sacred objects in the house
and one could not talk loudly or display anger in the presence of these sacred
objects. If the rules regarding these sacred objects were not followed, supernatural
harm could befall one or his/her family. These things happened enough times
that one had to believe in them.
I never understood at the time the meaning
of what all I was taught. It only seemed natural that we lived according
to tradition as it existed then. I did not like going to school and resented
the things they were teaching me. I rejected much of what I was being told
in school. Early on I had to learn how to pick out what I wanted to keep
in my mind and how to discard the rest. For this reason, I never planned
to attend college. But today I can see that it is very important for anyone
to learn all s/he can no matter what the subject matter may consist of, since
the person is old enough to make his/her decision on its contents. Children
are the ones who should be properly told the correct things early in life
so they will not be confounded later. Anyway, from all these teachings I was
taught, I was able to formulate my own philosophy in life that is compatible
with both worlds in which I must live.
Years later as I look back I can now see
where this traditional background I was fortunate enough to be a part of gave
me a tremendous insight into an understanding of being an Umonhon and how we as Umonhon must
take our sacred place in today's society. It is imperative that we learn
our old ways in order to pass these teachings on to our children. This process
was given to us way back when and it is our obligation as Umonhon to keep the teachings of our ancestors and pass
them on to our children. Waconda (the Great Unseen Power)
gave us a plan, a way of life, but it was disrupted by outsiders who only
thought they knew it all and we have resisted all we could but lost some
of our philosophy in the process. Today as you learn and read and study you
now have the tools and skills to regain that traditional philosophy that can
help you to become a good and happy person, spiritual in nature. When we
regain these things and live by them, our children will also have a better
life ahead. Today we are causing our children problems they are born into
by not leading them and teaching them in proper ways. Some of our old people
try to tell the children and young people things but are misleading them and
confounding them due to misinformation.
The old elders always said, "Speak with
authority. Always tell the truth and you have nothing to hide."
My work is to tell you about the proud
Umonhon and how they lived in harmony.
Today you hear and read much about tradition
and culture and old customs of Indian Nations. There's no tribe/band/Nation
today living that equals the extensive history and ethnology of the Umonhon Nation. What's important is that most of this
material has been recorded and left for us to live by. I can promise that
if you study these teachings with an open mind you will become a better Umonhon and live a happier life among the Great
For further reading
Introduction of the child to the cosmos
Consecration of Boys to Thunder God
Lament of the 'Mahas