Celebrating the next generation coming of age: a Delaware naming ceremony

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

By: Roseanne McKee

Paula Pechonick invited me to attend her granddaughter’s naming ceremony May 25 at the Fred Fall-Leaf Memorial campgrounds near Caney, Kan.

Delaware elder, Dee Ketchum, conducted the naming ceremony of his niece, Anna Pechonick, who is 14.

“We’re going to smoke the pipe with Anna. She can have the name just for her or she can release it. We’re acknowledging Anna and giving her a new beginning to life. Anna’s gone through some tough times,” Dee Ketchum said with a catch in his voice. “I know what she’s going through.”

“She can be whatever she wants to be at this point. She’s strong enough that she’s going to make the best of her world,” Ketchum said.

Ketchum handed his niece a long tobacco pipe to smoke and directed her exhale in all four directions.

“We are acknowledging the directions of our ancestors,” Ketchum said. “East because our creator is coming from the East. South because of the warm southern breeze, West because of good music from the West and North is weather, which we hope we don’t get.”

The name he announced for her was: Shi’ki Wesao tawes, which means ‘pretty yellow flower’ in the Delaware language.

Ketchum directed Anna Pechonick: “When you get done, touch the ground and it will all be good.”

Then addressing the friends and family who had gathered to bear witness to this event, Ketchum said, “We’re going to smoke her off and have a healing, and so whoever wants to smoke her off can do so.”

Instructing the crowd, he said, “be sure you touch her heart, as I do.”

A small metal container with a fire in it stood on the ground between Ketchum and Anna.

Ketchum used an eagle feather fan to spread smoke around Anna. Periodically more cedar was added to keep the fire going.

When he had finished, Ketchum said, “now it’s your job to pass this on to your family and to the future … because it’s your generation that will be passing it on. Take this new beginning in your life and become the person you want to be … bless you. May God bless you and keep you and cause his face to shine upon you in Jesus name, amen.”

Ketchum then circled Anna in a clockwise direction and stood in a line with several others.

One-by-one family members and friends smoked off Anna with the eagle feather fan. As they did so, they offered her words of blessing and advise in hushed tones that only she could hear. Each person then circled Anna in a clockwise direction. If anyone started off in a different direction, they were quickly redirected to follow the clockwise path around Anna.

When the ceremony concluded, guests were invited to a late-afternoon meal of salad, fry bread, corn bread, corn soup with pork and red beans.

The covered camp area held prep and fry stations with cabinets, a refrigerator, and two picnic tables. Nearby was a hand-washing station, and an outdoor cooking area.

The weather was warm and sunny with a breeze. Paula Pechonick sat with me as I consumed two helpings of the delicious food and she spoke to me about her tribe’s traditions.

Pechonick, who served as Chief of the Delaware Tribe from 2010 to 2014, explained that the tribe was originally called Lenape.

“I love Lenape myself, but we’ve been called Delaware since we came from the east coast,” Pechonick said.

However, because the tribe lived in the Delaware Valley, in an area claimed by Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, the tribe began to be called the Delaware.

According to Pechonick, Delaware children are named twice.

“Traditionally, the grandmother names the babies when they’re born.… Then, when they get older, they get a grown-up name.

“Those being named wear regalia if they have it. Traditional Lenape clothing has ribbon work. Anna’s ribbon work has oak leaves, turtles and red, black and white, which are the traditional Lenape colors.”

She shifted the topic to the history of the camp. “I’m the last adult survivor of the original camp,” Pechonick said.

She explained that this camp had been established by the Anna Anderson Davis, her great aunt, who was the sister of Pechonick’s grandmother, Minnie Willitts.

Anna Anderson Davis had two girls and five boys.

“My granddaughter, Anna, was named after Anna Anderson Davis,” Pechonick said.

“We started the Pow-wow and Anna had her boys help. She liked an old brush arbor, but it rained so much that they later added a tin roof,” Pechonick explained. “In addition, there was retractable roof over the cooking fire in case of rain.”

Pointing to the outdoor cooking area, Pechonick said, “Anna’s sons built the cooking fireplace. Everything in the camp has a story.”

She continued: “a grate was later added to the fireplace. The camp has enlarged over the years.”

Pechonick said that the picnic table had young Anna’s grandparents’ initials carved in it on one of the corners.

“I think it’s real sweet,” Pechonick said with a smile.

After the ceremony, Anna, who is a rising ninth grader at Dewey High School, said she felt, “overjoyed” and “marvelous.”

Anna’s mother, Jenifer Pechonick, said she felt blessed and then added, “Anna comes from a long line of strong women and she is growing up to be a fine one.”

Paula Pechonick chimed in: “she’s stronger than the two of us put together.”

“In years past, it was traditional for the pow wow committee to give food rations to each camp, but they stopped this in 1988. When I was Delaware Chief, I decided revived the tradition, using my own money for food,” Paula Pechonick said. “We didn’t have notes for how to do it, so I just went to the grocery store and bought in bulk, providing things like: beef roast, potatoes, carrots, bread, oil and self-rising flour.

“My kids all pitched in and helped. They stayed up all night to divide it up. I just went to sleep and when I got up at 5 a.m., they were around the table working,” Pechonick said laughing.

Every evening after dinner during the Delaware Pow-wow everyone gathers at the arena to dance, and so the annual Delaware Powwow is not only a time for families to spend time together, but also for the tribe as a whole.

“Starting 25 – 30 years ago, they have traditional Lenape dancing on Thursday night, such as the ‘Go Get ‘Em’ woman’s dance and the stomp dance, which is danced last,” Paula Pechonick explained.

Just before this column was submitted, I learned from her mother, Jenifer Pechonick, that during the Delaware Pow-wow, Anna Pechonick was chosen to serve as the 2019 Delaware Pow-wow Princess.

“Since Anna was a little girl, she has aspired to be princess of the Delaware Pow-wow. She has worked hard to be chosen. We are so proud of her and she is most deserving. We are delighted and honored that the committee asked Anna to represent the Pow-wow in this way,” Jenifer Pechonick said.

To learn more about the Delaware Tribe, which is headquartered in Bartlesville, visit their website at https://delawaretribe.org.

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