How We Got the Fringe on the Heel of Our Moccasins
(Speaks in Language)
Good morning. My name is Sound of a Woman Working, and I’m also called Cougar Tracks. I am Yakama, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla and Grand Ronde. I am considered a storyteller by my people and my family. There’re many stories that I can tell that are not only traditional but also of events that have happened in our family’s lives that have been told to me by elders.
One of my favorite stories that I like to tell, especially to younger women, is the story of how we got the fringe on the heel of our moccasins. This story is from a long time ago when there was a village that was located way up high in the mountains, close to Pato, which is Mount Adams. There were three sisters. The older one considered herself to be very beautiful and very worthy, and over the time her younger sister, both of them had fallen in love. But they couldn’t marry until she got married.
She got courtiers who came to ask for her and in marriage. She refused them because they weren’t handsome enough or they weren’t good enough hunters, or good enough fishermen, or they weren’t considered wealthy enough, and she turned them all away. Her sisters were very upset and had been crying and praying for many months that somebody good enough would come along to marry her.
One year had passed and finally a gentleman came into the village, and all of the women just thought he was handsome and gorgeous, and everybody liked him and everybody thought that he was just the best thing. He wasn’t considered to be self-centered or too good for himself or for anybody else. He treated everybody with respect.
The oldest daughter had fallen in love with him. So she begged her dad to allow her to marry him, and because she considered him wealthy enough and a good enough hunter, and a good enough fisherman, and just good enough for her. So after begging and begging, her father finally gave in, and her mother finally gave in, and allowed her to get married.
When she got married he told her that she had to go live with him at his home. She agreed to go just so she could be with this man. They left and they walked for days and days and days. They finally came to the water’s edge. At the water’s edge he told her that her sisters had prayed for a man who was worthy enough for her to come into her life so she could be married and so that they could marry the men that they loved.
He told her how selfish she had been, and how self-centered she had been and egotistical and rude to everybody. As he was talking to her he had slowly started turning into this water monster. By the time he was talking to her he had turned into this hideous ugliest thing that she had ever seen. He told her he would be back for her in three days, that he was going to prepare their home, which was at the bottom of this water.
So she was crying and upset and realized how selfish she had been, and prayed and prayed and prayed. Finally the second day of her praying she could hear voices telling her to fix a pair of moccasins. She didn’t, couldn’t see them, and she couldn’t find them, but she could hear the voices. She decided that she would listen and for the first time in her life, she listened to somebody else besides herself, and made a pair of moccasins.
The voice told her to put fringe at the heel of her moccasins, and to cut them very fine, and to make them just as wide as her heel and so she did it and they said, on the third day when the monster comes, to pray and ask for help and, and to ask for forgiveness, and that she wouldn’t be who she used to be and that she could change.
When the water monster came to get her, she prayed and prayed and prayed. She was hoping and praying that she wouldn’t have to die, wouldn’t have to go to the water, and to be with the water monster. When the water monster pulled and pulled and pulled, and her feet stayed fast to the ground and she didn’t move. The water monster pulled and pulled and pulled, and she prayed and prayed and prayed. And he pulled, and she prayed. And she was crying.
Then all of a sudden the water monster decided that her medicine must be too strong and that she must have learned her lesson. He told her she’s learned her lesson; he will leave her and that she can go home, but that she has to remember that she is always married to the water monster and that she can marry no other. She begged forgiveness and said that she agreed, that she would marry nobody. He left her at the water shore and said she could go home.
When she looked down to see how these moccasins stayed on the ground without moving, she saw hundreds of these little ants. The little ants told her that she needed to remember that even as small as they were, that they were strong enough to beat the water monster, and that she needed to remember her words and because they would forever remember her words, and she would have to forever remember who they were and how small they were, and that they were able to help her. From that day forward there was fringe at the back of the moccasins that were cut into small pieces to remind us that, even the little things in life can help us.
Hollyanna Pinkham, Tima-l sound of a woman working / k’oyama teemux,cougar tracks, is an enrolled member of the Yakama tribe. The seated territory originally covered 12.8 million acres of land. Still a seated territory today the reservation sits on 1.2 million acres in south central Washington. She is a descendant of the Kiyuse, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes and lives near Wapato, Washington. Her grandmother, on her mother’s side of family, is a descendent of Bad Bear Claw who was a famous warrior of the Cayuse. Her grandfather, on her father’s side, is a descendent of the Twisted Hair Band who went to war during the Nez Perce war and also battled with Chief Joseph.
Hollyanna is a coordinator for Native Vote for the Yakama tribe. She is the president of the Speely`mi Indian Art Maker. Her artwork is featured in the books “Sapat q’ayn: Twentieth Century Nez Perce Artists” P. Minthorn and “Pow-Wow” Ben Marra and is currently featured in the “Faces from the Land” Exhibit by Ben Marra.
She attended the first gathering of Nez Perce artists at the Spalding Museum. She is director of public relations for the Office of Native Cancer Survivorship and is also on the board of directors. Hollyanna herself is a two-time cancer survivor. She is an adult advisor for a group of high school students who are involved with the Relay on the Reservation and the Run for Life. She belongs to the Eagle’s Nest which is an organization that provides help to anyone who seeks to learn to sing, dance, make moccasins, regalia, beadwork or anything. She also teaches Indian language. Young children are the main audiences although she has given presentations to colleges in the past.
Traditionally considered a medicine person (not a medicine woman), Hollyanna doesn’t think of herself like that, but thinks of self as a singer. She has a medicinal song that has been said to have helped people. Hollyanna considers herself still in the learning stage, but she has knowledge of medicine plants and survival skills. She participates in fasting ceremonies that last on the average of 3 days and nights, long house ceremonies, medicine dance ceremonies, Sundance, winter dances and pow wows where she dances and dresses in the traditional way. Her family has traveled to Crow for generations to participate in Sundance. Her job working for the tribe involves a tremendous amount of research. She has been fortunate to travel to Washington D.C. and see archived historical documents that most people will never get to see. Hollyanna’s learning history not only from our point of view, but also the governments’. She’s also an artist and makes old time double horn Indian saddles, plateau style, from scratch. She does her own hunting, cures her own wood, carves trees herself, makes rawhide out of deer and elk puts it together to make a saddle. When it comes to storytelling Hollyanna includes a wide variety. She has funny stories, traditional, contemporary and legends. The legend of the Big Woman and the star constellation, Orion, are some of her frequently requested stories. A tribal history story explains how the Snoqualmie Pass came to be. One of her own personal stories is very enlightening. She decided to fix a saddle that had been in the family for generations. Gazing at the saddle she visioned pictures of family members who at one time or another had sat in the saddle. She got her tools out and meticulously made the repairs and in so doing taught herself to make saddles from scratch. In Hollyanna’s early adolescense she spent summers with her uncle on horseback up in the mountains usually during the huckleberry season. She kept ahead of her uncle. She would hide in the bushes until her uncle came by and jump up growling and yelling BEAR. This continued throughout the day. Somewhere along the trail she lost track of her uncle and concluded that he was now if front of her. In the corner of her eye she saw a bush move. She thought, ah, it must be my uncle trying to scare me now. She decided that the next time the bush moved she would jump in and tackle her uncle. The bush moved, she jumped in, growled and yelled BEAR. BEAR not uncle was there. Not only was there one big bear, there was a second smaller bear. Hollyanna ran screaming and yelling until she caught up with her uncle who was not impressed until he saw and heard the bear. He fired a warning shot to scare the bears away.
She believes you have to know where you come from, who you are and have a clear understanding of how things were done and why. Keep trudging forward and focus on the positive. Treat people better than they treat you. If you have to stand up for yourself – do it. She is hopeful. She is a cancer survivor.
2730 Lateral B Road
Wapato, WA 98951 509-865-5121