“When you’re in this house, where we live, you’re Wichita, but when you step out those doors, you’re just like everyone else.”
By Brooklyn Wayland
Anthony Galindo humbly walked in wearing worn tennis shoes that gave way to starched Wranglers, a navy button-up that was held together at the top by a beautiful, beaded bolo tie and a fedora decorated by pins and more beads. His brows were askew, grayed by time that had passed. His eyes were a deep brown, the kind of brown that almost seemed black.
At first glance, he was just an average middle-aged man. This wasn’t the truth. Galindo was a man living two separate lives. He was raised in a very traditional Wichita home where the culture was rich, but when he stepped out the door, he had to become something completely different: a non-native, suited for white society.
Brooklyn Wayland: Can you tell me about yourself?
Anthony Galindo: I was born in ‘61. I’m from Carnegie, and I’m half Wichita. I was raised by my grandparents; they were both Wichitas. I was one of the last to be raised in a traditional way, and very few can say the same. I was raised on my grandmother’s original allotment. She got allotted land in 1900. My grandpa; he was the last traditional drum chief. My grandma, she used herbs and plants to help heal people. My grandpa knew songs that healed people.
BW: What was it like to be raised by your grandparents with such a rich and deep understanding of the tribe and its culture?
AG: It was pretty much, well, I guess I could say hard. Because they were both into medicine, I had to live where you can’t run in the house, you can’t holler, you can’t throw things. I didn’t get to live the life of a typical child. Plus, there were no other children around me. I did have a first cousin, but he went to Vietnam in 1966. I had a sister too; they were actually all my cousins but my grandmother raised us to be like brother and sister. I was separated from them though. My grandmother raised us all. I was given to my grandparents; I actually had two other siblings that were older than me, but my mother had a nervous breakdown -in fact, while she was pregnant with me- so really I wasn’t wanted. My mother didn’t want me; that is kind of hard to say. She was gonna leave me at the hospital, but my grandfather stepped in. at that time, they were adopting Indian children out at an alarming rate, and he didn’t want that for me. Well, like I said it was relatively hard. This is how I was raised, and this is how I will raise my children: When you’re in this house, where we live, you’re Wichita, but when you step out those doors, you’re just like everyone else. We live two separate lives.
BW: What is one of the most significant memories of your grandparents you can recall?
AG: Well, English was forbidden in our home. My grandparents spoke to their children fluently in their language. My grandpa wanted me to learn, but my grandma didn’t want me to learn. They bickered about it. One day, my grandma told him it would be better for me if I didn’t learn, and that was the final straw. It was case closed. They still spoke it though, and they still lived their traditional way of life. They prayed. They prayed every day, every morning to the sun.
BW: I have heard Native Americans be called “the forgotten people”, do you agree? Tell me about it.
AG: I can see that. You know, I think we are the most misunderstood people on the planet.
BW: What would you say is a memory that you can pinpoint to creating that idea?
AG: I can go back and remember this one time -and this is the first time I can remember anything like this- my grandpa was talking to me, which he did pretty constantly, he said, “the government’s intent was to wipe us off the face of the earth. That was their intent.” He was telling me this, and I was just a little boy. That was the first memory I can remember. You know, it’s true. I remember the death of the Indian. I remember people spitting on us. It is hard to say in America that it still goes on, but it does. It’s real subtle.
BW: You talked a lot about this traditional way of life that you were raised in. Why do you think they clung to their traditional ways and traditional religion when it was so hard?
AG: Both my grandparents were educated at Riverside. My grandpa only went to the sixth grade; that is because his dad found out they were torturing him, and he held that against them. He never forgave after that happened to him, but he believed in the creator, especially when he wanted to know why. I do remember him asking where the creator when that was happening to him. Just as we would do today, asking “Why God?” He went through the trials and tribulations, and he held onto his traditions and beliefs through it all.
BW: Can you explain some more about the traditional religion of the Wichita people?
AG: It’s called Big Drum. The sun, it’s our gospel. Kind of like the Bible is to the Christian, the sun is to us. There’s also spirits: the dance spirit and the drum spirit. I have the dance spirit. There was division among our people, two factions; it was the traditionalists vs. the Christians. We keep looking ahead though. It is what our people do.
BW: You say your people look far ahead. What do you see when you look far ahead?
AG: You know, I knew this day would come when I would have to talk about this stuff, and I am thankful to the creator that he let me live this long to get to do it. We are just taught to look ahead; it’s better if you do. Ten years ago, I never would have done this, but here I am. I would say it is getting better, and it is going to get better.