Bartlesville Indian Women’s Club Works to Fund Scholarship Program

Amanda Hagebush and son Ford Gilliland work on the serving line as Carmen Ketcher makes fry bread at the BIWC's Indian Taco Fundraiser at Sunfest June 3-5.

Amanda Hagebush and son Ford Gilliland work on the serving line as Carmen Ketcher makes fry bread at the BIWC’s Indian Taco Fundraiser at Sunfest June 3-5.

Press Release by Roseanne McKee prepared on behalf of BIWC

The Bartlesville Indian Women’s Club (IWC) held their annual Indian Taco fundraiser at SunFest at Sooner Park in Bartlesville June 3-5.

The event is very important to the club’s goal of helping educate Native American young people, said Sharon Armstrong, who chairs the Roberta Sanders Memorial Scholarship Fund Committee.

“Every function that we have that we make money, we give a third of that to our scholarships,” she explained.

Treasurer Connie Edwards and President Sandra Jamison were among those who ran the cash register. According to Edwards, this year they hope to serve more than 1,000 tacos.

“This year has been much better because the weather has been better. Friday night we didn’t have rain. The past two years we had lots of rain. [This year] we’ve had more people come out,” Armstrong said.

Edwards said, “[w]e’ve been selling Indian Tacos at SunFest since before our time; we’ve been doing this about 30 years.”

Carmen Ketcher said, “They used to have SunFest at Johnstone Park but then they moved it over here [to Sooner Park]. We looked in the minutes and it said, ‘no cutting onions on your lap,’” she said, laughing.

Ketcher has been volunteering at the Indian Taco Fundraiser from the beginning – for 30 years.

When she began she said, “I was just a young kid. I was a flunky and I did anything they wanted us to do. Let me tell you though, those ladies, if you didn’t make good fry bread, it’d come flying back to you. They’d throw it back at you.

“I knew how to make fry bread already from my mom, but only in small batches. We didn’t make it for thousands, so it was a new experience.”

Ketcher was a quick study, and has been one of the primary fry bread makers at the fundraiser for the past 16 years. When not making fry bread, “I’d be at the line, or chopping onions. We used to do all that at one time.”

Armstrong, who has been volunteering for many years, said “I’ve been doing the chili for probably the last six years. As the older people left, new people took up the duties. I don’t do fry bread, so I do the chili. We cook the beef ahead of time, add the chili powder and then freeze it.”

The fundraiser requires a lot of planning ahead. For volunteers, the Indian Taco fundraiser is a five-day commitment, Edwards said. “On Thursday, we go to storage and get everything, which takes about six hours.”

Edwards continued, “We have two refrigerators loaned to us free by Aaron’s rental center in Bartlesville. A third refrigerator was provided by Carmen Ketcher. We have five large electric roasters to hold the chili. We purchase lettuce and cheddar cheese already shredded, and tomatoes and onions, already diced, from Fresh Point of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Then we all just shop on the side. We go to Sam’s Club and haul it around.”

This year, 200 pounds of 80/20 ground beef were prepared for the meat portion of the Indian Taco. At this year’s event, “we’ve used 20 gallons of pinto beans and 250 pounds of self-rising flour for the fry bread. We purchase the ground beef from United Grocery. They are really good to us,” Edwards said. The pinto beans, tomato paste and flour are purchased locally from Watts Distribution.

“We have cans of evaporated skim milk on hand to make the fry bread because recipes vary. Carmen and I use water, but some of the members use milk,” Edwards explained.

In making the fry bread the consistency is important. “You can’t make the dough too thin or they won’t puff up right,” Edwards added.

Edwards has personally been volunteering at the event for 15 years. Her motivation is to fund the scholarships for Native American students.

This year the students who volunteered at the fundraiser were: Kolton Kittering, Michael McKee, Duel Brown, Brook True, Jaclyn True, Heather and Hailey True. These are past, present or future scholarship recipients, Edwards said. Her grandson, Ford Gilliland, and her daughter, Amanda Gilliland, worked on the serving line assembling the Indian Tacos.

Looking to the future, Ketcher said, “[w]e need young people to take over this responsibility. Participating in this event and being a member is an opportunity to learn something about their culture.”

To learn more about joining the Indian Women’s Club, contact Club President Sandra Jamison at 505-264-5411.

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