While I was away this past weekend, I was chatting with some other moms who had also left their little ones under the loving care of their husbands. We were all sharing times when, as kids ourselves, we had been left with our fathers while our mothers were away. These were beautiful memories of ice cream for breakfast with a wink to seal the secret. It was hard for me to think of any time that my mother had actually gone away without us. After reflecting on these stories shared, I realized that I had beautiful memories with my father — and Indian Princesses.
This was a program, not unlike Girl Scouts, perhaps, but just for dads and daughters. We belonged to a tribe. We met together monthly, did art projects in family basements, learned respectfully about Native American culture and engaged in projects that developed our character.
But the best part was going away on a Longhouse for the weekend. This was a weekend where our tribe joined with the other tribes of our nation, away at a YMCA camp. Imagine a dozen dads and daughters sprawled on bunk beds, hoarding junk food and stoking camp fires. Of course there were all sorts of outdoor activities and plenty of good natured tribal competetion. The capstone of the whole weekend was the Tribal Council. After sharing songs and skits with the other tribes in our nation each tribe would be sent off in search of Tribal Council. This quest was marked by six points along the way where we had to state one of the six “aims” of Indian Princesses. The older princesses would step up and strongly declare these as the younger princesses struggled to remember the correct words. The Tribal Council was always a show — my dad, “Chief Firemaker,” was long remembered for a stunt involving lit kerosene-soaked toilet paper rolls traveling down a wire from high up in a tree, where they landed in a fire pit ready to roar into flames.
Of course the memories don’t end there. These times away from mom allowed for expereriences with my dad that I would not have had otherwise. Singing silly songs marching arm in arm through the woods. Crazy car rides, late nights around campfires in hushed tones. Mom was always around at home, and mostly in charge, so this time carved out for just my dad, my sister and I was special, and necessary. My relationship is thicker with my dad because of this.
It saddens my heart that, in the area where I live at least, this program doesn’t exist in the same way. In our culture of uber-political-correctness Indian Princesses (and the corresponding boys program, Indian Guides) were changed to Adventure Guides and Princesses. I can’t imagine a monthly meeting without collecting wampum, or a longhouse weekend away without the challenge of the six aims. Especially in our culture, saturated with pink princesses, I am thankful that I experienced a different type of princess life. This program instilled a respect in me for Native American culture, and I’m thankful for the time that my dad invested in it, and in me. I am hopeful that one day when my daughter grows a bit older my husband will similarly invest in her, and they will create their own memories, without me, sealed with a wink.