I remember sitting next to her at a public meeting focused on GRDA shortly after she was elected. What was she doing? She was busy taking notes, she was paying attention,knowing her tribe and the whole of the county named for her tribe would be impacted the things that were being said, affected into the decades to come.
Earlier this month she was surprised when presented with the MRCC Impact Award, though no one else should have been. Ethel embodies the essence of excellence and IMPACT. And when you are able to read the last stanza of May Angel's Phenomenal Woman:
Now your understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud...
...'Cause I'm a woman
You will, like me, agree, she does make you proud. This county raises, leaders, changers, workers who want the best. Her cousin, Charles Todd who preceded her as Chief had a vision for Main Street USA and built their tribe's first business, the Otter Stop. Now catty-cornered is Ethel's installment of the Otter Cove, the newest and most eye-appealing cafe on Route 66 as it goes through this county.
This week LEAD Agency witnessed the end of an era with the passing of Louis "Red" Mathia, who had been our Board President for nearly our whole existence. And where is the laid to rest? With the Ottawas at their cemetery. With the beginning of their new enterprise the Otter Cove, and with the internment of our leader, my thought are with the Odawa.
Just as we celebrate new beginning and the life of LEAD's leader, I am reminded of the struggle that lingers, often not spoken, but a resentment that festers that boils up to intolerance and leaks out so very rarely, but rubs raw a sore that we thought had scabbed and we thought had truly healed.
There is a rare but real phenomenon in Ottawa County and it is racism. We rarely hear of it, we don't want to believe we have it, but it can surface at times because it is still here, buried deeply in the hearts of people who have not let it go. As an "other" myself, I have felt it. But in my lifetime, I never want another human to experience that feeling. There have been harsh words spoken and directed at my and your Phenomenal Woman and I want you to each take time to understand for the most part we are a blended stock of people. Full of the essences of the ancestors who lived so that we might also live. That mural I saw all those years ago on the island of Guadalupe, "First we fight, but then we blend" happened, is still happening here in this county. Non-Indian moms have tribal-membered children. A widowed man will mourn the loss of his Cherokee wife.
This community gains from the blend we are. We are the product of the generations who preceded us. What connects us? Our sameness. My mentor, Paula Englander-Golden reflected with me how much we are the same, our parts, our features, our needs, all the same.
What can bring our community together? What are we seeing bring us together? The first ever initiative Petition circulated in the city of Miami, OK has brought all types of people to make a statement as they sign their names, they want Clean Water and a Healthy Tar Creek and what and who helped in one of the first major supports the initiative received? A Resolution for the Intertribal Council passed unanimously, and signed by no other than our phenomenal Ethel Cook.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim