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Buffalo Spirit: Daisy Sewid-Smith In her own words

Daisy Sweid-Smith
Author: 
Windspeaker Staff
Volume: 
21
Issue: 
1
Year: 
2003

Page 34 on responsibility: One of things we're encountering today is the re-visionaries. Our own people are learning how to write, give interviews and also they've learned how powerful the media is, every aspect of the media. And they are doing re-visionary work of our history, so that is something that anyone who is seeking true historical facts of their culture must realize this. They must really try and learn their own history. . . on nobility: One of the things I was taught... all the old people told me. . . if you are of noble blood, you don't have to stand on top of a rooftop and shout, 'Look I am a princess, look, I am a chief's daughter, look, I am nobility. . .' you don't have to do it because you're upbringing and training will show, and people will know the minute they meet you, they will know what your training and what your rank is by the way you treat them. And nobility was always taught to be kind, even to strangers. on approval: Hmmm. . . our silence, which is something that again the untrained or the young people will not understand today, that disapproval in our custom and our tradition is to be silent. If you want to do something, and everybody's silent, or if you said something and what you said was not good, everybody would be silent. And if you know the traditions and customs, you would know that means disapproval. They did not like what you said. But if you said something that was good and correct and done something well, they'll let you know. They'll say, 'That is wonderful. I am so glad you said that, or I'm so glad you did that.' You will hear that. But silence has now been interpreted as the European silence, of approval. And that's what the untrained and young people now are thinking that that's what [silence] means, but it means the opposite among our people. And it's surprising that trained people. . . [we] can talk to each other just by facial expressions and our eyes or in our hands, without saying a word. It'll be just a mannerism, body language. . . And you see a lot of that when a person or untrained person says something that's so untraditional or not part of the custom. And you'll see a lot of the old people doing that. And their silence doesn't mean they approve, it means they disapprove. Otherwise they would have verbally told you they approve. So that's what misconceptions that are out there. on women: Ah, women. . . (laughing). And women find it strange for me to speak about women like this. Many of our women have completely broken protocol, taboo, custom, tradition. They will, like I said to you before I am uncomfortable speaking [before the chiefs], because that's the way we were trained. I was at my father's home when he used to call all the chiefs. . . what I call real chiefs in earlier times. . . I was just little girl when I used to help serve them. But I used to like to take my time because I wanted to listen to what they had to say. Because women weren't, not all women were allowed to attend these meetings. Only certain women. And they had to either have a potlatch position or they were very high ranking chiefs' wives. And even the women never spoke in those meetings unless they were asked to by the chiefs. And then, if a chief is speaking, a woman never interferes. If I'm talking with you and if a [chief] all of a sudden had something to say he will say something even before I am finished speaking and I have to stop speaking when he does this, because that's the way of our tradition or custom. . . that he must be heard. And many people, many women again, they have meetings before potlatch and only a handful of people are supposed to attend this potlatch. And only knowledgeable women are allowed to attend these potlatches. Now you have very aggressive women barging in and saying, 'This is my right. I have a right to be here,' and completely monopolize the meeting, shutting out the voices of the chiefs, and they do that in the big house, and they start to. . . th decision is no longer made by the chiefs, it's made by the women. In the early days I used to hear the old chiefs say, 'How dare so-and-so get up and speak at the potlatch last night. Doesn't she know that she is not allowed to speak?' And that's in the big house during a potlatch. And I heard this. . . and today they completely monopolize everything. They make the decisions. They decide how things are going to happen. . . I know what has to happen at the big house, but never once do I sit down when my brother is going to have a potlatch [and say] this is what is going to happen, this is what we're going to do and you guys have to do it because I say so. Never have I done that. I will say, 'What are we going to do? What dances are we going to show?' . . .even though I may have more knowledge than my brother, he must have a voice. . . and then we all decide as a family what will be shown and what will be said and what will be given and how we're doing to do it. But in many cases [today] the women have complete control, and control everything. And the old chiefs call that a shameful act and I've heard it over and over as I was growing up. on respect: I even had one feminist ask me did I not feel bad that the men controlled our traditions and culture. And I said, No, because there is a time that they will help support me. There is a time they will honor me. When it's their time, not your time. . . and you receive respect from men. But an aggressive, belligerent woman will never get that respect. Oh, they might get their way, but they will never get that respect from the chiefs because of that attitude. And as I said to that feminist, I love men. I loved my father and I love my husband. And it's from that training I was taught that you work with one another. You are your male partner's helpmate. And when you have that kind of respect for each other then the other partner doesn't become a footstool. So that was part of my training.

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