Adulthood: ‘O ‘e oi heg sapokam himthag, “Follow the Good Way”

There comes a time in the lives of O’otham when it is time to choose a career path and deal with other life-changing events.   


As we grew up under the supervision of our parents and “Kekel” (Elders), we each learned the life skills that would carry us forward into adulthood.  

Some of our older relatives had joined “Shontal hi.” (Armed Services) and after boot camp, they shipped to different military bases around the world.  Before they left the country, they came home on leave.  They were someone to see as they came home in their military dress uniforms.  They left home as teenagers, and returned as “Shontal” (Soldiers).  


Dependent on the time-frame, a special Sunday service planned, and the entire village attended services for our Shonthal.  The Pastor and Kekel of the village gave encouraging sermons to our Shonthal. One phrase often stated was “O e’ oi heg sapokam himthag.” (Follow the good way).  

The speeches directed to all young men and women gathered in the congregation. After Sunday services a large potluck celebrated their honor in serving their country and representing the Community.  Our Shonthal deployed to their duty stations and served until their enlistments were up.  


One other phrase often heard was, “Shelma ‘o chikpannath.” (To work straight all the time.) The remark directed to family members who went directly into the workforce, or enrolled in college.  Some of our relatives enrolled in agriculture business courses at the nearby colleges while they worked the fields during the weekend, as they would one day take over the family farms.  At some point in our lives we become the talk of the village as we “Ha honth” (A man takes a wife), and “Ha kuñth” (A woman takes a husband).  The entire village attended many marriage ceremonies and witnessed the joining of sweethearts as husband and wife.  The receptions were for invited guests, and the younger kids went home after the ceremony, eager to get out of the Sunday clothes.  At some point later, we welcomed new members into the family.  There are two phrases reserved for the mothers and fathers of the newborn child. “Maḍ’aj.” (She has a child), and “Alithag’aj.” (He has a child.). The terms of relationship for the mother and father are very specific and personal.  As the new families increased in numbers so did the responsibilities of both parents.  Now the cycle of family life had begun over again with the “vechich hemachkam” (next generations).  


Times have certainly changed from the times of our parents and grandparents.  However, many lifeways remain the same, we as parents strive to encourage our children to continue their higher education and remain firmly rooted in their O’otham Himthag (People’s Way of Life).  We encourage you to learn these phrases and use them with your family members.  Speak with a Kekel or speaker in your family and learn how to pronounce the phrases, as they might be slightly different between villages. This month’s word match will test your knowledge of phrases used to address the next stages of life as adults, fathers, mothers, and providers of families.