Monday, December 5, 2016

The Ballad of Doksa and Oskate

Minot, North Dakota is cold. When my family lived there, we had a block heater installed in our Mazda 323. A block heater is an electric appliance that keeps your engine oil warmish. It comes with a little electrical plug.  Every night we pulled our car into the garage and plugged in its heater. One
 morning when the engine turned over, the drive shaft sheared. That's how cold it is in North Dakota. The car was under warranty, but the same thing had happened to so many other vehicles, it took two weeks for our car to get fixed.
From Minot, we moved to Oswego on the Fort Peck Reservation in North Eastern Montana. We had a house there but no garage. We plugged the car in, put blankets over its hood and got up every four hours to run it.

One brutal winter, everyone in the house got sick but me. We'd been to the IHS clinic, and strep cultures had been taken. A couple days later, the phone rang and IHS told me that everyone tested positive and needed to come back in for treatment.

I went out to warm up the car, but apparently the block heater hadn't kept it warm enough. It wouldn't turn over. I made a little fire in a metal bowl and slid the bowl under the oil pan. I waited 5 minutes and tried to start the car. I waited 10 minutes. I waited 15. I waited 20. Finally the car was warm enough to turn, but I'd worn out the battery.

I went to the neighbor's and asked if she could give us a jump.

"My husband took our good car to work," she said, "All I've got here is an old Oldsmobile 88. We haven't driven for a couple of months. I don't even know if it has gas." She pointed to a car shaped pile of snow in her yard. "I guess I can try and start it."

We both laughed pretty hard when it started right up.

Later we bought that car even though it was a most hideous pink. When she gave me the title, I said,

"Hey this says the car is gold! Why did you paint it pink?"

"We didn't. When Mount Saint Helen's erupted, the car got coated in ash and the paint changed!"

We took a can of spray paint and colored it matte black. The finishing touch was the vanity plate, "Doksa". Doksa means "creator willing". When we drove in that 1978 Oldsmobile 88, we'd get where we wanted to go, Doksa - creator willing.

Our Mazda 323 got smooshed in an accident and was replaced with a black Chrysler Lebaron with the license plate Oskate. The Lebaron was our pow wow car. Some people call pow wow's "Wacipi" - meaning dance. The older word, "oskate" means celebrate or play.

Pretty soon we weren't the only ones on the reservation calling our cars by name. Once my sister-in-law was driving Doksa and ran out of gas by the railroad tracks. She walked the rest of the way home. Later a police officer showed up at her door and said, "Hey, somebody's gotta move Doksa."

I thought of Oskate and Doksa today as the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would not be granting an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The word to describe the Oceti Sakowin camp is "Oskate". Play, water protectors. Celebrate this win.

The word to describe my family is "Doksa". Creator willing, we will be there soon.

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