Kansas family breathes life into Indian traditions

By Joelyn Hansen
Beatrice, Nebraska (AP) 12-08

As the elders of the tribe have died, Duane and Melinda Scates have watched as the old traditions of their ancestors slowly disappear.

That’s why it has been their mission to teach those traditions to the younger generations.

“It’s like a small crusade to bring some of it back,” Duane Scates said.

The Scates and their 16-year-old daughter, Andrea, shared the traditions of the Ioway people recently as part of the Homestead National Monument of America Winter Festival at the Heritage Center near Beatrice.

The Scates family lives in White Cloud, Kan., where the Ioway Reservation for Kansas and Nebraska is situated.

As part of the Winter Festival event, the Scates family shared with visitors the traditions of hunting, foods, regalia and celebration used by the Ioway tribes and the Pottawattamie tribes.


Duane spoke of the symbolism of the eagle staff and the blessing proceedings used by the Ioway Tribes. He then blessed the grounds of the Heritage Center.

Symbolism is an important part of the Ioway culture, Duane said. The color of their flag and even the designs of their clothing are symbolic.

He also shared information about the different hunting practices of the Bear and Buffalo clans of the Ioway Tribe.

Melinda Scates then talked about the different foods eaten by the Ioway Tribe, which included a large amount of corn, wild rice, squash, berries and other seeds found on the prairie.

The preservation and preparation of the food, particularly corn, was often a long process and often required the help of everyone, she said. Food is an important part of their culture.

“No matter where you go ... if they invite you for a meal, you best eat,” she said.

Melinda uses many recipes passed onto her from her grandmothers, she said.

“I always loved to be in the kitchen,” she said. “I learned a lot.”

Andrea Scates, dressed in the traditional regalia of a shawl dancer, demonstrated a dance used at powwows. Her dress is handmade with intricate beading done by her father. She also wore a jingle dress, which weighs 30 to 40 pounds, to demonstrate another dance.

The regalia worn by the dancers is full of symbolism, too, Melinda said. It will have some type of symbol or pattern that reflects the family.

Andrea has danced at many powwows and even served twice as a powwow princess, an honor given to young girls who demonstrate great dancing ability. As the powwow princess, it is her duty to then represent her tribes at other tribal gatherings around the country.

At the end of the program, Duane sang some of the traditional songs of the Ioway Tribe. Song is an important part of his life and he has sung for many years, he said.

He now uses song to teach the younger generations the Ioway language, he said.

“The language is dying,” he said. “But, we’re bringing it back in song.”