PAOLA — Grandma Edith was honored in front of the Miami County Museum as part of a celebration for Native American Month.
Edith Williams, known affectionately as Grandma Edith at Sunflower Elementary where she served as a foster grandmother, was presented with several proclamations, a pin from the city of Paola and flowers.
Miami County Commission Chairman Rob Roberts read a proclamation.
Paola Mayor Artie Stuteville also read a proclamation declaring Saturday, Nov. 7, as Edith Williams Day.
Stuteville spoke about the gift Grandma Edith has been for the community.
“As a Foster Grandparent, Grandma Edith has worked with many of our teachers,” Stuteville said. “We have a great Native American heritage here in Paola from our Park Square to our streets and our name.”
Grandma Edith was presented with a proclamation sent to her from a Choctaw tribe chief.
Grandma Edith went inside the Miami County Museum to visit with friends. She also took a tour of the Indian Room at the museum with Jolene Pennington.
She enjoyed touching the Buffalo hide in the room and looking up at the huge head on the wall.
Grandma Edith also touched one of her traditional dresses on display and took a peek inside a teepee.
While Pennington read about Grandma Edith’s life during the ceremony held outside, Williams wiped away a few tears.
Williams, 91, was born in Sunkist, Okla., on Feb. 18, 1928.
She was born into the Choctaw tribe. She had an older brother and sister. Her mother died when she was 3, and her Aunt Sissy Belvin raised her.
At the age of 7, Williams went to Wheelock Academy, an all-girls school for Native Americans. Williams had only spoken Choctaw but was now no longer allowed to speak her native language and expected to learn and speak only English.
Williams was sad and wanted to go home. Her older sister encouraged Williams, saying she would be OK and to make friends with other girls her age.
All of the younger girls in the Wheelock Academy lived in a large room lined with bunkbeds. Older girls were able to live in smaller quarters with only a few to a room.
Following eighth grade, Williams went to Haskell in Kansas. She started high school, with five other girls from Wheelock Academy, in September 1945.
English class at Haskell was hard, but the teacher, Ms. Crawgrass, was her favorite.
Williams’ favorite dish growing up was hominy with pork. It was nothing like hominy today.
She used an apparatus that would crank the dry corn before it was cooked with the pork.
Grandma Edith wore her traditional dress, a beautiful turquois. She has worn it to several tribal functions, including the Trail of Tears Walk in Tuskahoma.
Grandma Edith has served as a Foster Grandparent at Sunflower Elementary for 21 years. She also works at Lakemary. Williams said next year will be her last year at Sunflower Elementary, but she plans to continue to volunteer at Lakemary.