Think of the power of honoring others

By Toni House
Special to News From Indian Country October 2011

Many times life is not planned out and many may not realize how our actions impact our surrounding environments. Native American tradition recognizes how all things are related through honoring and give-away.  Often times, people are not gifted with the whole story, and on rare occasion part of it is granted some time later.

From 1998 to 2000, the Oneida recreation center collaborated with other Indigenous Nations to create a mountain bike series for their combined youth. These included the Blackfeet Nation of Browning, Montana and the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations (MHA Nation), also known as the Three Affiliate Tribes of North Dakota. The Oneidas hosted the first race, the MHA Nation hosted the second, and the Blackfeet Nation hosted the concluding event. Each nation purchased mountain bikes and equipment for racing, hosted a mountain bike race in their hometown, and sent youth representatives to compete at each race.

This collaborative event introduced my son, Cole House, at the age of 10 to mountain bike racing. Prior to this, he actively participated in BMX racing. BMX is an off-road type of racing, which derived from motor-cross racing, but on pedal bikes. In order to be successful in BMX racing, the cyclist must develop and master many cycling techniques.

BMX racing gave Cole a strong foundation for the various types of cycling that he has competed in throughout his young cycling career. Cole was small for his age throughout most of his adolescence. This contributed to his compatibility with cycling, seeing that many successful cyclists tend to be small in stature.

In Cole’s first mountain bike race, he made it to the podium by finishing with a top placing within his age group. When he raced the first of the Indigenous mountain bike series in Oneida, he took second to a 16-year old named Smokey Myrick from the MHA Nation.

The MHA Nation in New Town, North Dakota hosted the following mountain-bike race for this series. Tragically, the young man who had placed first in the Oneida race had been killed in a car accident prior to the MHA Nation competition. Cole ended up the overall winner of the race. Later that evening my husband called to tell me about the race. My heart just sank with the news he shared with me on this day.

Some time prior to this mountain bike series, Cole had broken his leg in a BMX race. At the following race his teammates gave him their winnings to honor him. I remember being flooded with emotion because I was so taken by the thoughtfulness of these boys.

When Cole won his race in New Town, North Dakota, he honored the Myrick family in the same way by giving them his trophy in memory of Smokey.

It moves me still today, to think of the power of honoring others who have had misfortune in the sport, or life in this case. The family of Smokey returned Cole’s gesture by giving him an Iroquois Turtle Blanket by Pendleton and a hundred dollars. One of the highest honors for men according to the MHA Nation tradition is to receive a Pendleton blanket. Our family was honored and humbled through this admirable honoring.

In the Oneida tradition, we have been given four ways of giving thanks to the Creator.  These four ways are performed in unison twice a year, at the Harvest and Midwinter Ceremonies. One of these is the Peach Stone game, which is done to entertain the Creator. This game requires each side of the house, which is determined by clans, to bet their most valuable possession. On the morning of the ceremony, runners from each side of the house are selected to go from house to house collecting each clan member’s bet. Before the game begins, each item of one side of the house is matched up with an item from the other side. Whichever side wins the game, wins their item back, along with the item that was matched from the other side.

Some years later, Cole came to me before the Peach Stone game and said the only valuable thing he had to bet was the Pendleton that was given to him by the family of Smokey Myrick. This was the first time in my years of motherhood that I wanted to tell him not to bet his most valuable possession. All while my children were growing up, I always encouraged them to bet their best. At this point, I told him that he would have to decide for himself, and walked away to allow him to make the decision on his own. Later, on our way to ceremony, I asked him what he bet, and he told me his Pendleton. I was proud of my son for doing this, but I felt a great loss because it meant so much to all of us. I knew then that I shouldn’t have felt this way, but I did.

Needless to say, our clan lost the game and Cole’s blanket was no longer his possession. Very soon after, my brother called me. He asked me if I knew Joe Myrick and I said no. When he told me where he was from, I recalled Cole’s biking experience. I then related to my brother what the Myrick family had done for Cole when he was there. Next, he told me how he had recently ran into Joe and he had asked if he knew Cole House. My brother informed him that Cole was his nephew, named after his brother Coleman, as my brother Coleman preferred to be called Cole. I responded by saying, “That’s weird.” I remember thinking what a small world Indian Country is.

My brother continued by saying, “It gets even weirder.” Then, the phone went dead. I was on my cell phone where the reception was not very good so my phone continued to lose reception every time my brother tried to call me back to relate the rest of the story. With great anticipation to hear the rest, I ran outside, where the reception was good to call my brother and he was then able to complete his story.

Apparently, my brother had met Joe some time ago and Joe had asked him if he knew Coleman, our brother.  As it turned out, Joe and our brother Coleman had gone to boarding school together in Flandreau, South Dakota. Unfortunately, by the time of this meeting, our brother had died, but their friendship was established through this meeting. Upon hearing this news, I was instantly healed from the loss of the blanket and realized the blessing and meeting was significantly more meaningful than just the blanket.

My brother passed on while I was carrying my first child. At my brother Coleman’s wake, I confided in my older brother that if I had a son, I would name him after our brother. Fortunately, I was blessed with a son and gave him the name my brother preferred to be called, Cole.

All while we were growing up, Coleman always wanted to be a racer. Today, my son who carries my brother’s favored name is now a professional cyclist who is fulfilled by his love of racing.

The power of honoring goes so much further than one would realize. It touches, heals, and develops people and relationships in so many more ways than we know. Sometimes, it may just take some time to realize what can be bestowed among us through honor, and other times we may never know how honor has influenced others.

Cole House is a professional road-cyclist who is currently racing for The Real Team. He continues to mountain bike race during his off time from road racing. The purpose of this article was to share some of Cole’s developmental experiences on his path to becoming a professional cyclist.

For more information about Cole or any questions, comments, or suggestions please contact Toni House at mailto: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.