Pow Wow!

Some of my classmates were Native American and I loved that. I had come from apartheid South Africa where we were strictly segregated and I loved meeting and learning from other people. Melvin Mithlo filled me in and pumped me for what I knew about the Zulu people back home. He even learned a few Zulu words.

He was chairman of the school’s American Indian society and invited me to a Pow Wow one night. Here’s a teepee in the Apache showgrounds.

Apache showgrounds

At school the American Indian society presented me with beautiful gifts. Debbie Pahdapony Grey does the honours:

Native Americans Honor Me_cr.jpg

Oklahoma was Indian Territory before we whites went back on our word and stole it from them. There’s a lot of sad Indian history about. Read something about it here.

For more, read Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn, who has revealed the very ugly, savage treatment of the indigenous Americans in his book The Barbarous Years. We settlers were certainly not honourable, wherever we went. We lied and cheated more as a rule than an exception.

European settler colonial projects unleashed massively destructive forces on Native peoples and communities all around the world. These include violence resulting directly from settler expansion, inter-tribal violence was frequently aggravated by colonial intrusions, enslavement, trickery, lying, disease, alcohol, loss of land and resources, forced removals, and assaults on tribal religion, culture, and language. More here

Here Melvin Mithlo readies Joe Pedrano for an event. That’s Joe in the top pic with his head gear on.

Melvin Mithlo dresses Joe Pedrano

There’s a museum at Fort Sill north of Lawton, not far south of Apache. Famous Apache chief Geronimo died here, 23 years after being taken captive. His Apaches were about the last of the indigenous tribes to be defeated, in 1886.

Brief History

Earliest Period – 1830
The tribes usually described as indigenous to Oklahoma at the time of European contact include the Wichitas, Caddos, Plains Apaches* (currently the Apache Tribe), and the Quapaws. Following European arrival in America and consequent changes, Osages, Pawnees, Kiowas and Comanches migrated into Oklahoma, displacing most of the earlier peoples. Anglo-American pressures in the Trans Apalachian West forced native peoples across the Mississippi River; many – including Delawares, Shawnees and Kickapoos – found refuge or economic opportunities in present Oklahoma before 1830. However, some of those tribes split in the process.

*Naisha-traditional reference to the Plains Apache

1830 – 1862
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 culminated federal policy aimed at forcing all Eastern Indians west of the Mississippi River. The Choctaws, Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws and Seminoles–the “Five Civilized Tribes”– purchased present Oklahoma from the federal government, while other immigrant tribes were resettled on reservations in the unorganized territories of Kansas and Nebraska. Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 precipitated further Anglo-American settlement of these territories, setting off a second wave of removals into present Oklahoma, which became known as “Indian Territory.” In 1859, with the state of Texas threatening genocide toward Indians, several tribes found refuge in the Leased District in western Indian Territory.

1865 – 1892
The Civil War (1861-1865) temporarily curtailed frontier settlement and removals, but postwar railroad building across the Great Plains renewed Anglo-American homesteading of Kansas and Nebraska. To protect the newcomers and provide safe passage to the developing West, the federal government in 1867 once again removed the Eastern immigrant Indians form Kansas and Nebraska reservations and relocated them on Indian Territory lands recently ceded by the Five Civilized Tribes. The same year, the Medicine Lodge Council attempted to gather the Plains tribes onto western Indian Territory reservations. Resistance among some resulted in periodic warfare until 1874. Meanwhile, the last of the Kansas and Nebraska tribes were resettled in present Oklahoma. Geronimo’s Apache followers, the last to be defeated, in 1886, were established near Fort Sill as prisoners of war.

‘My’ Famous Tornado

In Apache Oklahoma in 1973 I lived with the charismatic funeral home owner, fire chief, ambulance driver, hearse driver and tornado alert man, Robert L Crews III. In the funeral home. While I was there we sounded the siren for tornadoes twice and watched them approach. Once we even went down into the basement as it came so close. But both times it went back up into the clouds – didn’t touch ground. The clouds on one of those days:

ApacheOK73 (7).JPG
Apache storm

In May we heard of the Union City disaster. We drove there to look-see. The image that stuck the most in my mind was the main street with many buildings completely gone. One shop had some shelves still standing – with product on the shelves – but the roof and walls were gone.


Union City tornado

I found this recently:
Union City Tornado Makes History
NSSL revisits its past as it celebrates 40 years with NOAA – by Rachel Shortt


On May 24, 1973, a tornado rated F4 struck the Union City area and was the first tornado widely documented by science as part of storm chasing field research. NSSL out of Norman, Oklahoma placed numerous storm chasers around it to capture the life cycle on film. As the devastating tornado tore through the small town of Union City, no one knew the tremendous impact it would have on the development of weather radar. Researchers from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory now look back on that day as a significant event in the history of severe weather research and forecasting.

Union City Tornado

And I was (sorta) there!

For a human interest story, see the New York Times article written in 1993 on the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

The science paper written on the storm.

A new Okie with a Fringe on Top

I was made an honorary Okie here:

Honorary Okie at the Capitol, Oklahoma City

I got a certificate to prove it. It was full of Okie congressman’s Now Hear Ye’s, Whereas’s, Wherefores and Wherebys. It wasn’t a green card.

Before I left SA I was at Gailian and John Murray – on hearing where I was off to – had chirped “Oh! Oklahoma? So Kosie with a fringe on top!”

Here’s my fringe and a surrey with a fringe:

"Kosie with a fringe on top"

Old-style Selfies

Found some old pics from Apache Oklahoma back in 1973.

Dragging Main with my Olympus camera – and taking original 1973 selfies!

Dragging Main with my Olympus camera
Then also a self portrait at the Swanda home – my last hosts in Oklahoma – Their farm was called “The Swandarosa”(kidding!! But can you hear the theme tune?
ApacheOK73 (8)

One thing you would NOT have caught us doing was using a selfie stick!!

Old selfie stick

Waddaya mean you’ve never heard of Chuck Berry?!

Jim Stanton was aghast! He had just invited me along to a rock concert in Oklahoma City and I had immediately accepted. Now he was exclaiming: Don’t say that! Don’t say you don’t know who Chuck Berry is!

My motto in Apache was I only say yes to all invitations to travel. Only YES! Yes please! I only have one short year; Gotta go everywhere! Gotta dodge school!

His follow-up questions had forced me to admit my ignorance. But I was willing to learn, I had a ball and I have been a Chuck Berry fan ever since!

What I didn’t tell Jim is I had even less heard of Bo Diddley! He featured with Chuck and they rocked up a storm. “My ding-a-ling” was really big just then! OK, that didn’t sound right, but anyway . . knowwaddimean. . .

He played all his hits, including “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybelline,” “Nadine,” “No Particular Place to Go,” “Reelin’ and Rockin’,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Surfin’ U.S.A,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” . . .

That was 1973. Recently I saw a 2014 pic of Jim on the internets. That’s him in the red T.

Hi Jim! Never forgotten! Thought of you again when Chuck died aged 90 this year – 2017.


Some Chuck Berry:
– “People don’t want to see seventeen pieces in neckties. They wanna see some jeans, some gettin’ down and some wigglin’.”
– “I love poetry. I love rhyming. Do you know, there are poets who don’t rhyme? Shakespeare did not rhyme most of the time and that’s why I don’t like him.”
– “It amazes me when I hear people say ‘I want to go out and find out who I am’. I always knew who I was. I was going to be famous if it killed me.”
– “I would sing the blues if I had the blues.”

In 1963, Bo Diddley starred in a UK concert tour with the Everly Brothers and Little Richard. The supporting act was a little up-and-coming outfit called The Rolling Stones.