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Fringe

~ Corey Flood


I remember the first item I created

out of leather and the pride
and accomplishment I felt in

creating something from my

thoughts and hands. I have always

admired the craftsmanship of the Native
American people and the beauty each thing created without the
modern glues, paints or materials we have today. It took not only
knowledge of plant life and the earth, but also our animal relatives. To
be able to know which to combine for paints, glues, and materials is a
skill and knowledge I truly recognize and admire. I buy my leather from
a source that tans, dyes and ships the leather I want to my front door. I
don’t have to ready my bow, I don’t have to sharpen my arrows or lance.
I don’t have to mount my horse to seek wild game and I don’t have to
battle the weather or worry about it to obtain the hides I need. They
are delivered to my door with a swipe of a credit card and placing an
order over the internet. It’s an ease my warrior ancestors did not have,
and I’m sure with the warrior mentality installed in them they would
have preferred the thrill of the chase and confidence their skill
demanded. I think about these things as I open a box of beautiful,
tanned and dyed leather to begin a project that calls to me.


I have been blessed to have learned most of what I know from my
own personal trial and errors. I used to feel unloved and unworthy
because of the lack of attention from the man I wanted so badly to
learn from. I have learned and accepted the true gift that I was given
from his inattention and energy he gave to a man made substance. I
love the leathers I can order off the internet and the beautiful textures
of each. It never ceases to amaze me each time I make the first cut.
My senses are filled with an aroma that always stirs me. My mind
flashes to what it must have been like for my forefathers and the
strength and speed of their ponies beneath them as they not only
accomplished feeding their families, but also obtained the hides that
were always in much needed demand. I imagine the adrenaline and
combat mode they must have felt and almost feel unworthy to work on
a hide so easily obtained. We, as a people, may have technology and
education, but we have lost so much in true warrior ways and pride.
The ease in which we can purchase items have taken from us the
bravery and warrior mentality my ancestors had in either be skilled
enough to accomplish what they were trained at as a youth, or go
hungry and leave their families lacking and poor. In all ways I salute
the skill it took to make a strong bow, straight arrows, the knowledge
of how to train our horse relatives to move and respond from the touch
of a knee, and the courage to face life and death in the middle of a
buffalo herd where at the drop of a dime their life could end. I look at
this hide laid out on my table and reflect on these things, and feel love
and respect for the long lost warrior ways. I learn something new each
item I create. To me my skill will always be lacking because of the 
items I admire from the past. I have been fortunate enough to sell
some of my items and with each sale I have been awarded with advice
from my peers, and also given compliments, whether sincere or not,
and to be seen and heard was something as a young boy I so
desperately wanted. In life we find our way and I have found my way of
filling a void.


I never have a set idea in my mind of what an item will be or what
they will look like. I grab my scissors and it begins. The only tools I
use is a heavy sledge a brother friend gave me, another gift of the
best scissors I have ever had, and a sharpened screw driver I use for a
punch. I refuse to use anything more modern than what I have. I have
been given boxes of leather tools worth money and have gifted them to
others who are finding their way just like me. I am a creature of habit
and remain true to friends and also the gifts that have come e from them.
I am satisfied and that’s enough. I remember the first item I created. It
was a buffalo hide pipe bag. That creation came from a visit to Bear
Butte, and my lack of a pipe bag or pouch to store sage and sweet
grass in. I had never worked with leather before and the pipe bag
opened doors within me that had been waiting. I remember an old
braid of mine that I had saved and never thought anything about. I
saved it not knowing the reason why. I had some horsehair that a
friend gave me and I unbraided some of my old hair and mixed it with
the horsehair. The bag in my mind was the most beautiful creation ever.
I enjoy cutting fringe piece by piece. It’s a soothing and reflecting
event for me. I recall adding each one I cut to the bottom and sides of
the bag. It’s a wonderful event watching something from your mind
come to life, and be exposed to the eyes. As the bag came to life many
memories also played out like a movie. I remembered one of the few
times my father shared something significant with me. It was during
an eclipse of the sun. My father called me out to the front steps and
sat me down. I had seen his pipe before but never handled it. I
watched him fill the bowl and the soft prayers he said in Lakota filled
my ears, and I knew I would always remember him in a loving way
from this wonderful moment. We can choose to be bitter or sad. The
things I felt he lacked he gave to others. The things he gave me were
his and mine. The fleeting moments were more powerful than a
lifetime of words and gifts. I look back on those moments now in my
50s, and see and accept the love that he gave me was stronger and
more loving than any I wish I would have had. The pipe bag came to
life and was heavily fringed. I had a quilled medicine wheel that a very
strong, spiritual woman gifted me with. I had worked with her son who
was battling behavioral problems who I met while working with the
Ponca youth in Norfolk Ne. My life is full of gifts, at times I feel
unworthy to accept, time after time I have met people who have
changed me, another was a woman who was a sun dancer, after a
lengthy conversation her and I shared she gave me a buckskin 
wrapped item and told me to open it after she left. We had discussed
the significance of our relative the Eagle, as she walked away I
opened the buckskin and a beautiful eagle feather was inside. As I
finished the pipe bag I remember adding the medicine wheel and eagle
feather. To me, that first item was the most beautiful ever created by
me or anyone. I remember holding this wonderful smelling leather item
up and scanning it from top to bottom with my eyes. The moment was
almost like a sacred event. On this wonderful bag was moments from
my life that will always be a part of that item. That bag was the
special moments combined. The thoughts, the hurts, the feeling of
denial, the acknowledgement of how wrong I viewed the man who
brought my life to reality, and the earned honors from others in their
appreciation of who and what I was, that first pipe bag a record of my
personal war record of my life.

My story is mine. The crafting of leather I view as a beautiful,
unique learning tool that is a personal walk of self discovery. In each thing I create alone I learn something more about what it is that
makes me tick. It has taught me to see with honest eyes, the eyes I
see through when I look at my friends and loved ones items on the
regalia sites on the internet are full of love and appreciation for not
only the skill they have, but the most important of all- the immense
courage and belief in self to put your items on display for others to
view. It matters little what others say about what I create. It matters
most that I am willing to learn, and more importantly how I view
myself today, as opposed to the little boy with self esteem issues who
was sad for a great portion of his life. That first pipe bag who a very
special woman warrior now owns brought more to my life than any
therapist, or organized religion could have ever came close too.


In my life I have been given many things, the most important has
been the serenity and peace I have been given from each strand of
fringe I cut. I have learned that regardless of backward steps I am a
survivor, I am far from a weakling, I have walked through tragedy and
self imposed heart break, but in each strand comes a power I have
never found in any other way. There is no denying the wonderful,
powerful, undeniable love Tunkasila has for me and everyone else. He
has given me many things. He has healed me with long, straight fringe.
Toksa Ake, my relatives. Woppila Tanka for each who read these humble words.