When the Cascade Academy of Bend, OR, visited Tamástslikt, I found myself trying to explain the bygone custom of the whipman who disciplined the guilty and innocent alike. Sometimes the tradition of the whipman is as incomprehensible to me as it is to anyone. I was of the generation that could still get whipped but somehow missed out on ever getting whipped by the whipman. I am familiar with the custom of sending the kid outside to pick out his or her own willow switch. That was chilling because anticipation is far more tortuous than the actual whipping.
Tamástslikt exhibits feature the video in which Rod Cowapoo said, “if you cried out, the person next to you would get extra.” In trying to rationalize it for myself, I told the kids something like–of course the parents never wanted to strike the kids or treat them harshly, but they knew the world would be mean and tough, so they were trying to prepare their kids to meet the world head on while not breaking their spirit. Anyway that’s my understanding of the whip man, why corporeal punishment was delivered by a third party, not the parents. A Yakama friend told me one time everybody got whipped because of something she did, then later the kids got together and they all beat her up. Yet she told the story with a laugh because she was an extra feisty person. Then my mother and her cousin were teens when the cousin got whipped because someone smoked cigarettes in the July grounds restroom and it burnt down.
At the July grounds, they were always trying to make us kids run footraces. Then the chief would hand out dimes and quarters, which amounted to real money in those days. Early on, I could outrace all the boys. Then as they grew, I started coming in closer to last. Where’s the fun in that? I remember the old ladies held a walking contest, and Mollie Hayes would win. She was a great walker, indefatigable. But it wasn’t the kind of contest that had you on the edge of your chair. I remember the Patrick brothers talking about how they would roast frogs and eat them there, until the July grounds turned into a frog desert. Talk about unsupervised. Little did I realize how formative those early experiences were.
“Play is a serious and deep subject,” said Scott Eberle, vice president for play studies at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.
“Our good memories remind us that we have value, that we are happy (or, at least, can be), and that life does in fact have meaning. In ‘Once Upon a Time,’ I tried to convey much the same thing–that the time we spend playing as children can be crucial to our later ability to manage aspects of our adulthood successfully. A core of happiness forms in each of us during our early years and quite unknowingly becomes a pillar upon which we can later lean and from which we can draw considerable strength when the road gets a little rocky.” –Rick Sherin, Conservator, Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester, NY, as quoted in Edplay.com, April 2012.
Tamástslikt is still working on the children’s exhibits, Miyanashmaamí (children’s), getting them ready, some with audio, lights, labels, etc., so kids can have some fun and make some memories here.