This quilt auction is to benefit the Food Pantry of the Isabel Community in the Cheyenne River Reservation in north central South Dakota. The Isabel community is a reservation town of about 250 people. The name of the project, Okiciyap, comes from the Lakota language meaning “We Help”.
The first European to describe the Plains Indians was the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541 while he was searching for the Quivera, fabled city of gold. He described their semi-nomadic way of life, following the buffalo who provided the original inhabitants with most everything they needed.
The first Europeans to spend much time with the native inhabitants of the plains were the fur traders and trappers, whose lives where not that dissimilar from the original inhabitants. But that was just the beginning.
As the Europeans, of which I am one, came in greater and greater numbers, and there was more and more contact with the first inhabitants, diseases began to spread through the native populations. Diseases for which the native inhabitants had no resistance. Massive epidemics more than decimated many tribes.
The Declaration of Independence, and resulting war, made little difference to the native population. What caused more problems was the continuing arrival of more and more people, creating the need for more lands to be opened up for settlement by the Europeans.
In March (this very month), 1824, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established as a division of the War Department, which had been handling Indian affairs since 1789. This alone gives a good idea of how the native population was viewed. When the Department of the Interior was established in 1849, the BIA became part of it.
In 1830, the Indian Removal Act saw the beginning of the forced relocation of most Native Americans in the southeast to the new “Indian Territory” of Oklahoma. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans had been removed from their homelands opening 25 million acres for settlement by the European majority. The Trail of Tears is the name given to this forced relocation because of the many Native Americans who died while being forced to march hundreds of miles to a land they knew nothing about, far from their ancestral homes.
The BIA is still part of the Bureau of the Interior and holds nearly 56 million acres of land in trust for 566 Indian tribes and Alaskan Natives. The BIA also runs Indian schools and Indian child welfare, provides funding for police forces, tribal courts, reservation road building and other operations in cooperation with tribal governments. Where once Indian employees were rare, they now make up the vast majority of the bureau's workforce, which is headed by Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echohawk, a Pawnee.
This is a small, very small, background history of the relations between two cultures. Far too much of it has been violent and troubled. The Okiciyap Quilt is part of another aspect of the relations between the two cultures, a symbol of what we have in common: the concept of helping. Both cultures, at their best, believe strongly in helping each other.
I did two of the quilt blocks. I am proud they are being used in the quilt. I did Water Bird (which I thought was Darting Bird, but much the same) using fabric I had designed myself.
We are, all of us, proud to help each other. That is what this quilt is about. Helping. That is the reason for the name Okiciyap: We Help. The Okiciyap Quilt Auction donation/proceeds will go to the Okiciyap Food Pantry
The auction begins Wednesday March 27th. I hope many of us will take part in the auction that will raise money for a very worthy cause.