(Due to the generosity of God's people we (the Gberries and Sacred Road staff along with many teenagers from White Swan) were able to deliver gifts, Walmart gift cards, blankets and quilts, food, and a variety of other Christmas goodies to about 60 homes (approximately 230 people) this year! Amazing in light of the "struggling economy"!) ~Chris
One elder we visited, shared stories with us for over and hour and a half. She stays pretty busy, but had come home to an empty house that evening and was happy to see us. Her home was roofed and painted by a team last summer and we have been close since then.
“I don’t know if you realize what you are doing through your Christmas feast" she told us. She talked about how full the longhouse was that night. (We fed well over 425 people.) The elder said she saw families there from all parts of the reservation. "They came from Satus, from Wapato, from Toppenish, from Brownstown, and of course from White Swan." She told us a story of how things were just before she came along and had continued until she was a little girl. When the longhouse in White Swan was an old building, and when so many of the men and young men were off at war; the women would gather up their children in the winter and go to the longhouse. They would take whatever food they had, some bedding, and go to stay there together. There was a potbelly stove on the east end and one on the west end of the "home". The women would spread out in the room, put their provisions together and cook their meals together. While they stayed together, the older women would teach songs and stories to the children. They sang and talked together. Even when the war was over, gatherings like these would continue; but while this elder was a little girl, the gathering stopped. At the Christmas feast, she saw families gathered together, filling the building to eat together. The families represented families she had gathered with there when she was a little girl. According to her, not since then had families come like this from all parts of the reservation.
The Christmas feast is a big gathering. We are celebrating and inviting families to join in the celebration. The community is coming out to enjoy the celebration, a celebration of Christ’s birth. One of the Indian women who sat next to this elder at the Christmas feast was a visitor to the Yakama reservation. At the end of the meal, the visitor turned to the elder and said, “Do you do this every year?” The elder hesitated a moment and responded that they have a church group that uses the longhouse each week for Bible Study and hosts the Christmas feast each year. She explained that the church group has helpers from all over and especially from While Swan. The woman was astonished at this use of the longhouse home. She couldn’t understand why the longhouse elders would let those of a different religion come in and use the "home".
Our friend was happy to tell us this story during our visit to her house, she looked at Chris and me and said that we serve the same Creator. The visitor who sat next to her at the feast told her that "they sure do things differently there at the White Swan longhouse". She implied that her tribe would never do such a thing. Our friend simply replied, "I know you wouldn't."