“You shouldn’t play with your food.”

Since I was a kid, I spent time all over the rez during the summers. Some summers I spent with my Nana, some summers I spent with my Uncles and Aunts. And then some summers I spent with my parents traveling to reservations across Turtle Island. We always ate traditional foods and such, and as a child, I would sometimes refuse. I would occasionally push the food around with my fork to make it look like I ate, but I remember my Mom telling me, “Don’t play with your food.” It was a lesson that followed me in my adult years.

One of my college summers I spent in Nebraska for an internship. Quite honestly, I wasn’t doing much with the internship but it gave me a chance to chill with one of my bros. He was like a big brother and I think just about anybody who spent any amount of time with him has a story about his shenanigans. He always liked to be on the move, drive his war pony around and keep busy.

One day we were out and about and we met an older woman. She was super kind and inevitably invited us to her grandson’s 18th birthday. Keep in mind, we just met her that day. My bro said, “Sure, we’ll go.” And before I knew it, evening struck and we were talking with strangers outside a trailer house along the Missouri River. We ate, talked, played guitar and fished. It was a beautiful evening with some awesome Native people. We were swapping stories and toward the latter part of the night around the fire, a little German Shepherd puppy arrived. It was the cutest little dog. My bro saw the little puppy and started to pet him and wrestled the little dog with his hand. He was smiling and while keeping his eyes down fixated on the dog below he asked, “is this puppy for the birthday boy?” The rummage of party noise waned and the sound of night and moonlight replaced the talking. No one answered my buddy. He was still smiling but simultaneously looking around confused. Then his smiled turned into sole confusion.

I was also confused, did we do something? Both of our eyes wandered through the party, and eventually, the lady who extended the invitation walked in our direction. She motioned, and we learned in. She covered her mouth and in a slightly loud whisper said, “it’s for the sacrifice.” My bro who still was petting the puppy until the moment of her whisper immediately stopped and said, “oh.” We were a little taken back, or at least I was. I never heard of that, just because we don’t practice that in our tribe. When we left, I was still confused, but my buddy explained to me they were  Sioux and it was part of their traditions. I told my bro, “You shouldn’t play with your food.”

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