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August 16, 2020: Third day of quarantine

My temperature is 98.6 and I’m feeling fine. I was speaking with one of my health professional friends who works in the northeastern part of Oklahoma and does not want to be named. They said they are seeing two strands of the virus. The first strand is making people very, very ill. This is the strand that is deadliest to at-risk patients. The second strand of the virus is what appears to have infected me. Mild to no symptoms.

My contact tracers don’t know how I got infected because the people I listed as having contact with (which aren’t many) in the 72 hours prior to getting tested have all tested negative. So, it must have just been community spread? Whether I picked it up at the store, a touch keypad, or somewhere else. But I don’t go anywhere? I guess I’ll never know.

People within our community, both Osage and non-Osage, have messaged me to let me know they have also been sick with COVID-19 but did not want to tell anyone or publish it on their Facebook pages for fear of retribution at work or from the community. I am in a unique position to be able to express myself freely and have understanding and compassionate bosses. My editorial board, Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, Jerri Jean Branstetter and Tara Manthey, have all been great and have checked on me and messaged me helpful tips.

Last night I fell asleep reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” It’s been years since I’ve had time to read for pleasure. I know I should probably be reading something to do with the history of the Osage and our clans, but I just felt like having fun. My grandmother Beth Shaw was a librarian in Wichita, Kansas, and it had a profound impact on me growing up. When my mother and I went to go live with the Shaw’s in Wichita after my parents got married, Beth taught me how to read. I slept with her in bed almost every night, if not every night, and we read a book. She mostly read to me, but I would read along too. She always had the best books. I think the one that stands out the most in my mind was Charlotte’s Web.

That’s also where I developed my love for writing. She had an old typewriter I used, and I would write my own stories and plays. Little did I know that writing is most likely in my DNA.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I discovered what a good writer my grandfather George Shannon is. I just got off the phone with him. I was checking on him to see how he was feeling, and also to interview him for my book. He’s 85, he’ll be 86 in December and it’s amazing how well he is doing.

My grandfather is witty with a huge personality. I imagine he was the life of the party when he was younger because he can still make me laugh. And it’s not a polite laugh, I’m laughing until my cheeks hurt. He grew up in Hominy, except for a couple of years in Portland, Oregon. Osages, especially first-born sons and daughters are very close to their grandparents. The I^lompah and are always doted on like they’re the grandparent’s own children but spoiled in a way that the grandparents didn’t spoil their own children. That love is fierce, and I look forward to the day when I have my own grandchildren.

His grandfather was Robert Morrell, who was raised in Grayhorse but married Grace Penn and moved to Hominy where her family is from. I say the names of these villages and towns because Osages only have three remaining villages where our families come from. Pawhuska, Hominy and Grayhorse.

Speaking to my grandfather today, I asked him what his favorite Osage food is. Something I’ve asked him many times before, but today he remembered every detail of his aunts cooking when he was a young man.

Whether it was a family gathering or a meal after “meetin,” which is what Osages call a Native American Church meeting, they had cow gut. He can’t remember what it was called, but he thinks they may have called it “Osage bologna.” The way he described it, the preparation sounds more like sausage and how it is prepared. The Osage word for hot dog is Do^p.sheh. Maybe that's where that word originated? Anyway, he described how his mother and aunts made it and he said he hasn’t seen anyone make it since.

He said the cow’s gut is about 6 to 9 feet long. They would stretch it out and clean it by running scalding hot water through it. Next, they would stuff it with strips of meat from the cow’s hindquarter. About every 6 inches or so, they would twist it and tie it off with a piece of string. Next, they would boil it until all the meat was cooked inside. He said that after it was ready, they cut it at the places where it had been tied and it didn’t come open. He said they ate it like you would eat an ice cream cone, sucking in the juices of the meat and eating the meat and casing along the way. He said O.keetsa’s (other tribes) would stick their noses up and say “Osages eat cow gut.”

But, all he had to say about it was, “Ohhh, granddaughter. It was goooood.”


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August 17, 2020: Fourth day of quarantine

My temperature is 98.7. I think it might be safe to say I am asymptomatic. However, I don’t know that my husband or six kids are asymptomatic, so I will remain vigilant in my quarantine.

I received news today that both my grandpa George Shannon and his wife Elnora tested negative for the virus. That is a huge relief. They’re both 85 years old and we can’t mess around with the possibility they might have COVID-19.

I was cleaning out my closet this morning and got lost in my Osage clothes. I was running my fingers over my brass pins, looking at my brooches, laying out my back ribbons and trying on my beads. So much beauty, strength and power in those clothes. All morning I just thought about E.lonshka and how much it means to us and how much I miss it. I know we’ll dance again but I can see why Hominy wants to dance. Since I am Grayhorse District, and we have officially canceled our dance for this year, I wish the Zo^ZoLi^ people well and I wish them a good dance. Truly. My grandpa is an advisor for Hominy, and he has a song there, and my late uncle Allen Shannon was Drumkeeper. Even though I’m not technically Hominy District, they hold a place in my heart.

I don’t necessarily miss any one aspect of the dance; I miss the whole thing. I think with every age we have a favorite aspect of the dance we are drawn to. When I was young, I just wanted to dance as hard as I could and feel my shawl and belt swing and sway. I didn’t care what anybody said, and I got in trouble for it too. I can still remember my grandpa Jerry Shaw telling me to cool it with my belt. I think I just danced harder. I would leave that arbor drenched in sweat, just happy. I mean, we dance in June and we’re covered in broadcloth from head-to-toe. If you’re not sweating, you’re not dancing hard enough.

As I got older, I was fascinated with the order of it. I paid attention to the movements of everyone under the arbor, from all three districts. I listened when the head committeeman spoke and I paid attention to the whip men, both out of curiosity and out of fear, probably. When I became a mother, dancing wasn’t so important anymore. Now, I live to see my sons’ dance. I remember craning my neck to see where my sons were sitting, seeing their eagle feathers sticking up by all the men’s shoulders. Watching them take their first steps and dancing around the drum.

Since I was feeling a little low this morning and having a little Wahzhazhe pity party, I really wanted to hug my husband and my kids. I am now experiencing the similar thread I’ve been hearing and reading about since this pandemic began – loneliness. Although I am a creature who likes to have her alone time to think and write, I need my husband and my children. I heard him coming up the stairs this morning and I rushed to the door, put my mask on and peeked out at him. He didn’t see me. He was walking to our 13-year-old’s room to finish putting up sheetrock, he’s redoing his ceiling. He was going about his business, being handsome and tall, Shawnee and Delaware. He had his tool belt on and his work clothes. He’s such a hard worker and always takes care of us. I felt like crying but instead, I shut the door quietly.

I am so very thankful for all the calls, texts and messages I’ve received from friends, family and colleagues from across Indian Country.

Luella Brien, Apsáalooke and editor for the Big Horn County News, sent me zinc, mentholatum and bear root for tea. Susan Bayro, Osage, left a care package on my front porch filled with spa-like items, a box of cookies, water and a mug that says, “Why Hello There Gorgeous.” Kelly Patterson left us a huge amount of ready-to-eat watermelon, which my boys devoured in an hour. My parents smoked some bologna and sausage and brought it over, along with baked beans, chips and bread. We all ate ourselves sick. My brother Bates calls me daily and recently made public that he and his longtime companion Robynn Rulo are expecting! I have another nephew or niece on the way. I already bought a used high chair so we can babysit baby. We don’t have any girls in our family so I’m really hoping and praying for a niece!

It’s also nearing the end of the month so that means it’s deadline yime for the Osage News. We’ll be busy compiling stories, writing stories, and putting the September edition together.

Take care and stay well!

— Shannon Shaw Duty: 'Quarantine adventures' (day 1 and 2)

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Shannon Shaw Duty, Osage, is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s in Journalism and a master’s in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with her husband and six children.