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Old 07-09-2006, 03:51 PM   #1
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From the Daily Oklahoman:

From the Daily Oklahoman:
Gourd dancers uphold their tradition's purity

CARNEGIE -- For the first time ever, the Ahdokobo men danced together last week.
Shaking rattles on beaded sticks and draped in red and blue blankets, Allen Dale Ahdokobo and his three sons two-stepped side-by-side at the Kiowa Gourd Dance, a centuries-old ceremony that draws several hundred families to Carnegie Park for a three-day encampment each year around July 4.
This year's dance began Sunday and ended Tuesday night amid the occasional pop of an illicit firecracker or squeal of a Roman candle.
Within a circle of white canvas teepees, inside a square of willow-branch arbors, more than 100 members of the Kiowa Gourd Clan -- including new members Jacob Ahdokobo, 23; Rudolph Ahdokobo, 17; and Allen Ahdokobo Jr., 9 -- danced to gourd songs about Kiowa feats of bravery and heroism.
In the center of the makeshift arena, atop spears stuck into the ground, were some of the tribe's treasured artifacts: a bugle captured from a U.S. fort; a hooked staff belonging to the last great war chief; a war bonnet symbolizing the tribe's male leadership.
"Those are almost religious items to us," said Tim Tsoodle, one of the gourd clan's four head men. "They're kept by different families and they just come out this one time a year."
Perhaps because of the military artifacts, perhaps because dancers sometimes wear modern war medals and insignia, the gourd dance often is mistaken for a ceremony honoring military veterans, Tsoodle said.
"We honor vets, but that's not what it's about," Tsoodle said. The gourd dance means different things to different people, he said.
To head man Phil "Joe Fish" Dupoint, the dance is about spirituality.
"We've had a lot of problems within our tribe -- deaths, things like that. But the spirit of God has touched these people sitting around this arena, participating," Dupoint said from the microphone.
For Allen Dale Ahdokobo, the gourd dance is about continuity as another generation of his family joined the honorary clan.
"My father was part of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and his before him," Allen Dale Ahdokobo said. "I'm just so happy right now that they're a part of it," he said of his sons.
For James Hainta, resting a sore hip in the shade of his camp, the gourd dance is about the brotherhood binding today's dancers to each other and to their ancestors.
"When I go out there to dance ... it touches me so much tears come to my eyes. I cry. I see all the old ones. To this day I can see them. I feel them in there -- all these old people that went before me," Hainta said.
Legend says a lost warrior received the gourd dance as a gift from a red wolf -- who still is honored with wolf-like yips at the end of every gourd dance song.
The dance nearly died out in the 1920s as federal programs of allotment and assimilation dismantled tribal cohesion. A handful of Kiowa elders who remembered the old songs and traditions resurrected the society in the mid-1950s and revived the annual gourd dance in 1957.
"It more or less took off from there," said Bill Koomsa Jr., whose father was lead singer during the revival years. Today, two other groups with Kiowa members hold gourd dances around July 4 in Oklahoma -- one south of Carnegie and another near Lawton.
Tribes across the country also adopted the gourd dance, sometimes forgetting its Kiowa origins and rules, gourd clan members said.
"If you go to any of the other powwows, there will be a circle of women around that drum and there will be women dancing among the men. That's not right -- not proper," Tsoodle said. "Thankfully, here in Carnegie, in our little corner of the world, this is where the rules still apply."
The dance in Carnegie Park is the "grandaddy" of all the gourd dances, clan member Russell Tsoodle said.
"They often say 'often imitated but never duplicated' -- that's what this is, I guess," he said.
The gourd clan has about 300 members, including doctors, lawyers and Pulitzer Prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday. Membership is by invitation, usually to prominent men and tribal leaders, Tim Tsoodle said.
At 9, Allen Ahdokobo Jr. is one of the youngest clan members, although boys even younger participate without membership, Tsoodle said.
"We look for boys that are going to be useful and help us," he said.
The Ahdokobo brothers showed little interest in Kiowa culture until the family moved back to Mountain View, from New Mexico about two years ago, their mother, Susan Ahdokobo, said. She and her husband took the two youngest boys to the gourd dance that year, and they were hooked.
"The middle boy said, 'Mom, it makes you proud of something you didn't know you had,'" Susan Ahdokobo said.
Jacob Ahdokobo had never participated until his initiation this year, but he had a similar conversion experience.
"He wants to keep doing it," she said.
As the Ahdokobo men danced together in the arena, Hainta reflected on how the tradition stays alive as it passes through the generations.
"This is history going on right here," Hainta said. "We're still here. We're not going nowhere."
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Old 07-10-2006, 04:53 PM   #2
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Judy Gibbs Robinson, who did this article, commented that Indian people had criticized the Oklahoman newspaper for writing only negative Indian articles and articles about Red Earth.

I applaude her for going out and doing a positive article. I know she didn't get every word right (ie, two-step side-by-side, makeshift arena, etc.) but at least she took the time to report on something that has a lot of meaning to a lot of Indian people in Oklahoma.
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Old 07-10-2006, 05:08 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by WhoMe
Judy Gibbs Robinson, who did this article, commented that Indian people had criticized the Oklahoman newspaper for writing only negative Indian articles and articles about Red Earth.

I applaude her for going out and doing a positive article. I know she didn't get every word right (ie, two-step side-by-side, makeshift arena, etc.) but at least she took the time to report on something that has a lot of meaning to a lot of Indian people in Oklahoma.

I agree WhoMe, and she also talked to the right folks too. I've met Tim Tsoodle on several occassions while attending Black Leggins, gourd danced with him elsewhere too, he's a good man.
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Old 07-12-2006, 12:10 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by streamhawk
I agree WhoMe, and she also talked to the right folks too. I've met Tim Tsoodle on several occassions while attending Black Leggins, gourd danced with him elsewhere too, he's a good man.
The reporter and photographer also spent time interviewing Tim's father at his camp. Tim's father was the Kiowa director of the American Indian Exposition when the Kiowa gourd dance was revived.

She also interviewed Bill "Thuke" Koomsa, Jr. I spoke with Mr. Koomsa after the interview and he gave me a lot of information about his families involvement both in the past, as well as during the revival of the Kiowa gourd dance.

So, I agree that she did her homework and talked with several excellent sources.
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Old 07-12-2006, 01:29 PM   #5
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It's good the paper is trying to do the right thing since they are more or less right there in the heart of ndn country.

I knew that about Tim's father, more from putting two and two together rather than directly from Tim. I've been very fortunate in having the pleasure to meet several people who were either directly or indirectly (descendants) involved with the revival of both the Kiowa Gourd and the Black Leggins Society back in the mid 50's. Perhaps I know some of your people, I've met very few Kiowa that weren't in someway related to about every other Kiowa I've met.
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:58 AM   #6
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I attend alot of dances throughout the year. For me, Kiowa Gourd Clan ceremonial is the one I cannot miss. The singing there is always excellent. There are good drums out there, but when I'm at KGC, there is a musical quality to it. Its different.
The feeling I have when I'm dancing there is a spiritual feeling. Its hard to explain, but its from the heart. The enjoyment of seeing friends and making new ones, the reverence I feel for the elders and those who are no longer with us, it makes a person feel honored, to be among this great society. To be a member is an honor.
Walking by the camps, seeing the relatives all laughing and cooking and carrying on.... you wish you could stay a month.
On the last day, on the last song, as soon as the last beat ends...you think to yourself, "Well, only 362 days until Kiowa Gourd Clan ceremonial."
To all the members out there who may read this, A-Ho!!!
To all non-members who read this, A-Ho!!
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