Dhegiha history was made on August 2 and 3, 2011 at the Down Stream Casino, near Quapaw Oklahoma. The Dhegiha language family is the Ponca, Osage, Kaw, Omaha, and Quapaw tribes that separated many years ago. It was remarkable to hear the language similarities when spoken and stories of origins told of our existence. William “Bill” Lynn (Osage) master of ceremonies kept the conference appealing the entire conference. It was beyond belief when the language was understood by those attending and had the same meanings. Osage Language Director Herman “Mogri” Lookout invited all tribes together and was very happy with the response received. It was an emotional moment thinking of our ancestors smiling down upon us. A long time ago, they told us we would meet again. It was heart warming when Omaha Speaker, Alice Sauncoci stated, “Our people, along time ago, came from along ways over there to a river. Some of the people floated up river and some of the people floated down river. My grandmother told me…one day you will meet again. Today is the day; we meet again.”
The Osage Language program hosted the conference and the logo design was created by Jessica Rosemary Moore (Osage) whose interpretation of the design encompassed all 5 tribes’ origins and designs. The design creates ribbon work designs from the Ponca, Osage, Kaw, Omaha, and Quapaw tribes. The red and blue is incorporated of the Quapaw colors. It also represents earth and sky. It is also significant to represent the red worn by the first son/daughter and blue worn by the second child.
In the opening ceremonies Alfred Waters, his son Benjamin Waters (Ponca & Quapaw) Lenny Skye (Quapaw) and Trenton Stand (Quapaw) sang the Ponca flag song as the tribal flags were represented with the American flag. As the memorial song was sung, we thought of our native speakers whom are no longer with us. Some of the recent speakers of our programs were Harry Red Eagle, Jr. (Osage) and Donna Parker (Omaha).
Joseph Byrd (Quapaw), marketing manager, welcomed everyone to the Down Stream casino and encouraged everyone to go back home to their tribes and tell them what they heard and seen so this can possibly be one of the first of many conferences. Caesar Williams (Ponca) spoke and was appreciative to learn language techniques and take them back to his students in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Louis Headman (Ponca) spoke of his grand parents long ago and the relationship they had with our Osage elders. They knew each other a long time ago before the separation. They said, they would look for each other and they found each other in our present day homes. Ardina Moore (Quapaw) spoke and expressed her concern that students always seems to have something more important to do than attend class. Her theory is the children need to learn from the parents and grand parents at home so they have someone to support them and enforce the language. Pat Phillips (Omaha), accompanied by Omaha Council member Rodney Morris, representing the Macy Public Schools, stated, “Most of the children that come into our school system don’t know the language or the clan systems.” The children are familiar with English so they learn the Omaha words and then go the internet and find pictures to match their sentences.
Harvey Wells (Omaha speaker) shared many stories of the Omaha traditions and conveyed he was joyous and spoke highly of the Osage language department for bringing all the relatives together. He thanked the Quapaw people for the structure they provided the conference in. He was told that Dhegiha meant, “Children of the grandfather.”
The Osage Language Program has been involved in a lot of planning prior to the conference with a two day agenda full of speakers, presenters, a student panel, large and small group sessions, banquet and language social with games. As the conference came to a close future conferences were discussed. It was unanimous that the Dhegiha family will continue our efforts and work towards more conferences to help and uphold our languages. Omaha student Wynema Morris, who is very passionate about languages, elders, and history, would like the world to see from our tribal holistic view. As experts of our tribes we can teach our children and grand children what we have learned from our elders. With this approach we will develop a mission statement, visions, and goals. I will do my best to share the efforts as we joined together our common passion and love for our languages. I have had the privilege and honor to meet all the attendees of the conference. I would like to thank you all for your attendance and our staff for their support to make the conference an eventful one.
Tracey Moore, Coordinator Dhegiha Gathering