Back in 08 after my Grandma Dod’s funeral, I remember watching one young lady wateca in awe. I even wrote about the experience in my column, knowing my Grandma Dod was probably laughing up there somewhere, when she wasn’t making Elvis sing her another song.
If you don’t know already, although as obsessed as I am with the art form, wateca is when you take food for later, leftovers. After high school I moved off the rez for about 16 years. So even though I grew up knowing what wateca was, I was far from being a pro at it. Moving home and hitting one family gathering showed me I suck big time at trying to wateca, people left me in the dust. They were pulling out moves I had never seen before and moving like I hadn’t seen them move in years or ever. I even saw one elderly lady come from under a table where the fry bread was. Scared the crap out of me because I was looking desperately for something to put the fry bread in. I am thoroughly convinced when it is time to wateca, people get skills like a ninja. And they are magic.
That’s all fine, I admire that skill. But when I saw someone wateca kool aid that took the cake, which by the way—she had the cake too, wrapped in her tinfoil, that I believe came from a dispenser in her bra, on one side. The other side had shopping bags or zip-lock bags, I’m sure. Seriously though, the real pros don’t even need to come prepared, they can wrap bread up in anything and wateca like a thief in the night. It’s an awesome thing to watch. My Grandma Dod wateca-ed chicken at my prom banquet, wrapping it in a napkin and stashed it in her purse and proceeded asking others if they were going to eat theirs. The horror of it at the time burned into my memory, but now I look back with awe at her bravery and skill.
I do believe the point of wateca is to take “just enough”, for later. Not to take all you can fit and go back for more. I believe according to the Seven Sacred Virtues of Lakota (and no wateca is NOT one) but clearly at least 4 of the 7 sacred virtues would strike down the way some people wateca.
And then there is the art of tiole. Tiole is when someone comes to visit you at dinner time. Long time ago a priest used to come to our house so much at dinner time we started calling him Father Tiole. The funny thing was, our family didn’t go to his church—or any church, he just loved the way we threw down at dinner time. Tiole is a good thing. Surely 4 or 5 of the 7 sacred virtues are pro-tiole. Feed the hungry, feed people, always offer. Offer coffee, never let anyone leave your home hungry. That is the way it is supposed to be.
But did you ever accidentally drop in on someone at dinnertime?
An accidental tiole, lol?
If the folks are old school, they will offer you a plate, offer you coffee, even give you their chair at the table.
But some of the newer generation are funny and act all somehow when you tiole. They will throw a cover on the pan that was just simmering a way on the stove. Open the window so the smell of dinner leaves, make small talk with you while looking at their watch, and their kids keep walking by because you know in their head they are thinking “I swear I thought it was dinnertime.”
You get the hint, decide to not intrude, and as you leave think—who raised them?
Because you know, if your elders caught you acting like that you would have either got a cuff upside the head or chewed out so bad, you would cry. Yes, Indian Grandmas can make you cry when they chew you out, but they will tell you DON’T YOU DARE CRY.
Don’t let this happen to our beautiful ways. Teach your children well so they know how to treat people when they grow up and how to act right.
And I still suck at both tiole and wateca, but there is still time. Someday, I will drop in to “visit” those I know don’t act funny and all somehow. And someday, I will be brave enough to not get punked while trying to wateca.
Remember the power of wateca is taking just enough. The power of tiole is to give and offer readily.