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Cootch

April Newsletter, 2019   Rick McPherson

 

 

As soon as we passed Hood River, in the Columbia River Gorge, the clouds cleared, the rain stopped and the sun shone brightly on the water.  I was thinking of the contrast from the winter months when the weather had been so brutal and had closed the access to the Celilo Indian Village.   Now, spring had arrived.  I rolled down my window on the Peterbilt and inhaled the fresh clean air.  I pulled off the Interstate and headed for the Village. 

 

We had a good group turn out to help unload the truck.  One of the Natives climbed inside, stuck out his hand and said, “My name is Jim Bill.  But, you can call me, Cootch.  That’s my Indian name.  My grandfather gave me that name.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Cootch.  Thanks for the help.”  I replied. 

 

We worked hard and emptied the truck.  Karen and Fred Whitford, descendants of the Chief, were thrilled with the load of groceries, clothes, pet food and household supplies.  Karen led the prayer time and said, “My tears are tears of happiness, God.  Thank you for blessing my people!” 

 

I came back to thank Cootch for his help and asked him about his name and its meaning because I had never met a Cootch before.  It means, “I will greet you in a good way and make sure you have a place to sit,” he said.  Again, he told me that his grandfather had named him.  I was impressed and asked about the phrase, “…a place to sit…”  I knew that sitting was an honor in the Native culture.  The Elders sit.  You sit in a talking circle.  You respect people and abide the obligations of civility and good manners.  Having a place to sit is an honor.  So, you greet people in a good way and honor them, were the meaning of his name.  I was even more impressed.  Pretty smart grandfather, right?

 

As we were leaving I heard a banging on the driver’s door and looked down to see Cootch.  He had a banana box full of groceries under one arm and held his other clinched hand up to me.  In his hand was a knife.  He nodded and said, “For you.”

 

I took it and said nothing.  I was speechless.  The knife, a lock-blade hunter, was engraved with a beautiful Bull Elk.  It was a gift, from Cootch.  I finally stammered, “Thank you, but I can’t…”

 

“For you,” Cootch, repeated.

 

I knew to refuse the gift would be an insult.

 


 

The knife, pictured here, will always remind me of him.  It will remind me to greet people in a good way and honor them with civility and good manners.  It will remind me of a smart grandfather who taught many people a life lesson simply by giving his grandson a name with meaning.    What a reminder!

*****

Many, if not most, who read this newsletter will never see an Indian Reservation. You will never know a Cootch.  You will not experience what I do.  But, you are a part of this ministry and a vital ingredient to enable us to reach and serve the Native American culture with the message of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness.  So, thank you for your generous support, prayers and love!

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