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The first night of the dance

We dance to celebrate the life of MatoSapa. So many showed to dance I could not count them and they kept coming. Following the dance we ate like kings on deer and vegetables. Everyone brought food and there was so much left over everyone took food home too. It was a celebration fitting for a man among men.

After diner many stayed and told stories or related times spent with Grandpa Mato. The one thing I took away was grandpa Mato invested himself to all he knew. Everyone felt as though he gave them a gift of his time, his words and his heart. That was a repeated message over and over through each story.

He touched many lives and shared much wisdom. He was funny, strong and serious. He was giving, helpful and charitable but proud not wanting to be a burden. No one would hear of his complaints though. From the local kids who came and carried or stacked his wood to those who stopped just for coffee and the peace of mind he is well.

I always knew him as a wonderful man and this day confirmed what I knew. He was and will be remembered as a great man who cared for others and loved his maker. He was a loving husband to a very head strong woman and raised two sons. My grandfather is his oldest.

He was married at 16 years of age and never graduated high school. He had a green thumb and knew the land and the animals in it. He was a good father and I knew him as a great grandfather and he really put the great in the name. I learned he built the cabin he died in. He was a very good hunter and wise well beyond his education.

So many stories were told and the love and admiration was very striking. Without sound I could hear the love in each word. Every single person talked about something Grandpa Mato taught them and every single story told of his giving and unselfish nature. I hope to learn more of the man I knew not even a third of his life in the days to come.

There will be two more days of dance and prayer, of feast and stories and of remembering the life of MatoSapa. I know he is with his wife and son both of whom he hasn’t seen in about four decades who was called home long before I was born. He is with his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. He is home with his heavenly father.

He was active to the day of his death still getting firewood and tending his home. That is the way I hope to go, old, healthy and at peace. For now I’ll close with my story I remember him telling.

When he was a younger man he went bear hunting. Now real men use a bow and arrow according to Grandpa Mato. It’s not fair if you can kill the animal from a mile away. yes he lvoed the hunt and on this day he came across what he thought to be a brown bear. He took careful aim and let the arrow fly. A moment after release he noticed it’s no brown bear it’s a grizzly.

He turned and ran as fast as he could when he saw the arrow had missed the mark. It didn’t stike the bears heart but instead pin cushioned it’s butt. As you can imagine that bear wasn’t to happy and began chasing him. In the rush to a large tree he dropped his bow but that didn’t matter. The tree he thought get to the big tree.

He raced and raced for what seemed like days and the bear wouldn’t stop. Finally he made it to the tree and he climbed it so fast he left his trousers on a low hanging branch. Well this would do for now the bear laid at the bottom of the tree chewing on grandpa Matos pants.

Hours past when my Great Grandmother came looking for her now late for dinner husband. When she found him she yelled to him “Enjoying the view because the full moon is out.” As she laughed and pointed at his lack of pants. He grumbled about not needing help and she said “Ok I will come back in the morning with the bears breakfast.”

I guess at this point Grandpa Mato swallowed his pride and asked his wife to rescue him. One shot in the air with a shotgun and the bear ran off. He didn’t live that down for some time how the great wife saved her poor hunter from becoming bear food. But he learned to laugh about it and would always speak of Great Grandmother with respect and love.

He would tell me I get my warrior heart and hard head from her. I wish I had gotten to know the woman who was so special she could keep up with the great man I knew in Grandpa Mato. She had to be equally as incredible.

I’ll write more in days to come. Today I remain in a glow from the celebration of grandpa Mato and his extraordinary life.

~Michelle Styles – March 18, 2014