You have heard of Christmas in July. Rebecca Hall had Mother’s Day in September.

Instead of Santa Clause, Eastern Shawnee Chief Glenna Wallace surprised Rebecca by investing her with a robe/shawl to honor her for all her years encouraging the art of her son, Doug Hall.

Wallace said it was recognition of Rebecca, as well as it being a second gift to Doug, who was indeed very pleased to see his mother so honored. 

Doug Hall’s paintings have long honored the Eastern Shawnee Woodland Indians. His paintings of tribal history and daily routines are nationally recognized by museums and galleries and individual collectors.

In return, this tribe, under the leadership of Chief Wallace, has honored Doug.

The first gift to Doug Hall was in 2014 when they surprised him with the investiture of a Pendleton blanket onto which the Eastern Shawnee emblem had been sewn. This is a very high honor and essentially means that by wrapping Doug in their blanket, he was enfolded into the tribe.

Their second gift to him on this occasion is a beautifully crafted walking stick by the noted potter and artist, Richard Zane Smith. Mother Nature had a part in this particular walking stick being formed by a honeysuckle vine tightening itself to a persimmon tree. This creates a beautiful winding effect, naturally carved.

Why all this attention to the Hall mother and son?

As part of the ribbon cutting and opening of the new Sycamore Tower at Indigo Sky on Friday, Sept. 29, a 9×12 foot mural of an Eastern Shawnee warrior painted by Doug Hall (and converted to ceramic tiles) is displayed in the connecting atrium between the two hotels.

To write that it is “displayed” does not begin to describe the impact of this looming figure aptly titled, “Battle Ready.”

Wallace asked Doug to tell the gathered guests the story of his skipping school and talking his older brother, Allen, into driving him to Kentucky to buy his first black powder flintlock rifle, which his brother had to purchase because Doug was only 15.

After the ceremony, everyone was invited into the new hotel for a beautiful, scrumptious gourmet buffet. We had arrived at 4 p.m. and we didn’t leave until 10 p.m. It was an evening to remember.

And for the Eastern Shawnee, this was a much better memory in their long history coming from Ohio in 1832.

REFLECTION IS IMPORTANT

After celebrating a happy and successful endeavor, one still finds oneself at home sitting in a chair on the porch under the moon in the September autumn quiet.

The question comes, “What has really happened? What has brought on all this fellowship and gaiety?”

Then the words of Chief Wallace come to mind.

She had related to us the forcing of the tribe off their lands in Ohio to be brought to Oklahoma, to be brought to the plains from their woodland environment for ages past.

She spoke of humiliating poverty for subsequent generations, even her own. She recalled childhood when the family ate off broken plates, each person eating with only one piece of silverware that was definitely not silver.

Her great-grandfather died in a chicken house because his homes had burned with no insurance coverage.

I sat there and thought about my own great-grandfathers who lived in Neosho in the mid-1800s. Ben Haas was a fur trader. Did he know Chief Glenna’s great-grandfather?

One of mine came from Germany and one came down from Canada. At the same time the Shawnee were brought to Oklahoma from Ohio, the Osage were taken off their lands, which were 30 miles inside the Missouri border. That would mean Neosho.

My grandma Haas told me she remembered the Indians camped in the south of Big Spring Park and the Neosho people at the north front where the “Big Spring” is. Was there interaction between people?

How do these dichotomies of fate happen? I don’t like the answers to those questions sometimes taught, sometimes not.

So I was very glad and happy for the Eastern Shawnee to have overcome such displacement and discomfort. I am happy for the Cherokee, too.

Perhaps News-Dispatch readers may recall the late NHS English teacher, Gary Sims. His grandmother had survived the Cherokee Trail of Tears from Georgia. He spoke to my junior high history classes about this and I sincerely hope my former students remember all he said.

I know I am not the only one who enjoys people overcoming adversity. To that end, I was very impressed with the company which did the design, build and construction for the Sycamore addition at Indigo Sky.

Their president, John Stewart, from their headquarters in LaGrange, Kentucky, spoke to us, too. He indicated that his firm, Encompass, was in business to make money, but not just that. They were committed to doing good where they could.

He then presented Chief Wallace with a check for $10,000 for needs of the Shawnee people. She later told me that all through the project they were always asking if they could help in some way. This included sending a chaplain to visit her great-grandson, Will Wallace, a five-year-old with a rare cancer and chemo side effects.

When I researched my book on the founder of LIFE magazine, I saw how corporations used to be what was called paternal. They cared for and took care of their employees and customers, too.

It is very encouraging and lovely to learn that a company such as Encompass is re-establishing that habit.

Doug Hall said Chief Wallace uses money for good. It was a good evening at Indigo Sky and I am glad I was there.

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