Thursday, November 5, 2009


Photo by John A. Anderson, from The Sioux of the Rosebud: A History in Pictures

Every summer when we went to the Ring Thunder Powwow on the Rosebud Reservation, there was a Giveaway. In Indian country, when you want to honor or remember someone, you sponsor a Giveaway. At Ring Thunder, the Giveaway usually began when two or three pick up trucks pulled into the ring loaded with goods. There would be pots, pans, storage containers and utensils for the kitchen; towels and wash cloths for the bathroom; and sheets, blankets and star quilts for the bedroom. Everyone present got something. Special friends of the one being honored or remembered got something special, like a hand sewn star quilt, and they were recognized as they came to the center of the ring to receive their gift. Those who were visitors were often astonished to receive gifts from people they had never met, in honor of someone they didn't know.

In traditional societies, Giveaways were a method for redistributing wealth and meeting human needs. There was no reason to identify someone as "poor" and establish some special program to help them. Rather, structured into the society, were methods of sharing the wealth.

The idea of Giveaway has been a blessing for me. You see, I have an addiction to books. Let me loose in a bookstore and I can fill a grocery cart in no time. (Fortunately, most bookstores don't have grocery carts.) I doubt that I will live long enough to read all the books I have right now. Still, the AAUW is sponsoring a used book sale next week that I will not be able to resist. The Public Library now holds TWO book sales every year. And we recently made a trip to Madison, WI, at least partly because we love a Half Price Books store there, as well as a huge used books section of Barnes & Noble.

When I left my last full time job, I didn't want to move all the books in my office. So I packed up a couple of boxes of those books I absolutely had to keep, and put all the others on three banquet tables for my first Giveaway. Within a week, they were all gone. Lots of friends and acquaintances were grateful and I was ecstatic.

Last November, I could hardly work in my home office, it felt so cluttered, with books. So we added a line to our annual Christmas party invitation. It read, "It is hoped everyone will select at least one book from the book Giveaway table." Then I proceeded to put some bookshelves on a long low table and pile it all high with books. Some who came misunderstood. They thought it was a book swap. But I screwed up my courage and made them take their books back home. None came in. Eventually, all of the books on the table went out.

I'm doing a book Giveaway again this year. I have to! Regretfully, I've not conquered my addiction. Maybe, if things don't improve soon, I'll start a book list on a blog and you can order by email.

Carl Kline

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