Wateca: Lakota word for leftovers.
verb: -the act of gathering leftovers in a fast and furious manner after any feast.
noun: -often the subject is someone’s leftovers, in a some kind of way. Example: She just likes my wateca, she can have him.
adjective: description of a something used. Example: So many people owned that car, its pure wateca-ed out.
Ok, so all those descriptions are not really legit. I’m exaggerating a little. I decided to write about wateca to my benefit. People would hide and wateca on the sly around me, like ninjas. Like my grandma who came crawling from under a table to get to the frybread, except, I was right there, frybread in hand. Ninjas, I tell you.
I had always complained and maybe even whined a little bit, that I missed out on learning the Art of Wateca because I left the rez as soon as I turned 18 and moved back at age 34. I would go to feasts and wonder why all the relatives who had been giving hugs so easily during the dinner and smiling would suddenly get a glazed look, cold front, and the hugs were no more. No one talked to each other except to holler at a kid “Eeez hurry! Go get that ice cream bucket!” And next thing I know the Wateca War is on. And I’m left trying to hurry and eat what’s on my plate so I can join in and wateca like my people, and as my Grandpa Sid says…for the people.
However, from not being trained properly, I am often left with only a piece of frybread to take home, if I’m lucky. I used to unsica myself and think poor me…I will never learn to wateca like the rez chick I am. Not amongst my relatives. Not amongst my friends. Basically, I suck at it. Only the first year after I wrote The Art of Wateca in the local paper, the next year I was able to get what I wanted, because everyone was scared to wateca in front of me. My grandpa Sid scolded me for throwing him under the bus in the paper. “Niece,” he said, because he will never admit he is my grandpa, Indian way. “I want to be able to relax around you, so don’t put me in the paper, I only took that much soup…for the people.”
The year after that, the wateca war came back with a flurry of tinfoil and cool whip bowls. And I was back to looking like a whipped pup with my one piece of frybread. When I wrote The Legend of the Wateca Warrior Princess, everyone stepped lightly around me once more, and I was able to leave the next feast with my dignity and a bowl of soup to go with my frybread.
The other day I went out to eat with my son, brother, & mother. We went to Famous Dave’s. Had to support a Native owned business, plus my son and I never been there. We ordered a family meal that was delicious. I asked for boxes to take home the leftover. I separated the corn and beans, the cornbread in one box and all the meat in another. Then I gathered up the condiments we didn’t use, even a few sugars, and the mints and wetnaps nobody used. I took all those home and put them in the kitchen drawer where I store condiments. There is tartar sauce, malt vingar, hot sauce, soy sauce, butter, honey, 3 different kinds of jelly, peanut butter, sugars, salt, pepper, hot mustard, regular mustard, ketchup, mayo, salad dressings, barbecue sauces, etc. in there. In fact there is also napkins and plastic ware in there. What do you know…neat little, tidy packages of wateca.
And it hit me, I was not the Condiment Queen I had formerly claimed to be. I left the rez, moved back, left again and thought that whole time I had no wateca skills. But all my life, I had my cache of condiments, whether that be in my purse or in a drawer in whatever kitchen I habitat.
In many little ways and my own little way, I was a Wateca Queen all this time. (Until I go home and get smoked by my Auntie Ruthie, that is.)
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