"This is the real thing, isn't it?" Joseph said, reflecting on the purification rites and sweat lodge ceremony we had just completed. We had arrived at the sacred Sundance grounds that morning, after a week on the road between West Virginia and the town of Pinon, located on the Navajo reservation southwest of Four Corners. It was Monday, three days before the Sundance itself was to begin. (By Thursday we would witness one of the most sublime expressions of the Christian mysteries that one could experience as yet in our time):
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (not that Jerusalem over there in the East, but the Jerusalem of God's people, the Higher, Spiritual City wherein dwells Peace and Righteousness; the Great City, the Mother of us all, that spans the earth from the Rising of the Sun to the Going Down of the same).
And I will pour upon the house of DaViD, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications, AND THEY SHALL LOOK UPON ME WHOM THEY HAVE PIERCED, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn...(Zechariah 12:9,10).
I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave his life for me...(Galatians 2:20).
Many were already there, others were still arriving, from all directions. The temporary village was coming alive, preparations were underway. The stones (of fire) used in the lodges were already piled high at the perimeter of the sweat lodge circle. Next to the stones was an even higher mountain of firewood brought in by truck from California. The fire at the center of the circle had already been kindled, and would be maintained continuously, day and night, by a team of individuals chosen mostly from among those who had come as visitors from outside the Native American community. Each would take turns watching over the fire for the next seven days until the ceremonies were complete. It was a trusted position, and an honor to be asked, said several of the firekeepers. We were reminded of the ordinances at Leviticus 6:9-13. (I have already written something of the Sweat Lodge ceremony itself in a chapter entitled A Journey of Atonement, so I will not say much more about it here except that it is the same ordeal, and moreso).
Campsites and tents were appearing, creating the natural pattern of pathways and streets that would define the village throughout the week. The communal work was proceeding with loving efficiency. People moved about joyfully and quietly, some knowing what needed to be done, others eager and willing to do it. Structures were being assembled, electric wires layed out, trash gathered, and everywhere one looked people were busy helping each other. The arbor that surrounded the Sundance circle and the adjacent shelter that shielded the dancers during their rest periods, were being covered with fresh foliage brought in from the surrounding hillsides. The women gathered sage for the ceremonies. The family camped next to us, who invited us to their fire and to sit at their table each evening, gave us a loving bouquet of sage and sea-feathers to take with us when we left. It was wrapped in a string of tiny seashells that one of the mothers in their family clan had gathered along the Gulf of Mexico. This family, so typical of all the people who came together to participate in the Sundance, were truly the salt of God's earth.
Several of the women in this family were racially profiled by the Texas police as they made their way from their homes near the Gulf to the Sundance in Arizona. They were ordered to unload their vehicle, and were made to stand along the roadside in the broad daylight as the policemen amusingly went through their personal belongings. Indigenous peoples and others of color, migrants and long-haired people of various persuasion, are used to being treated in this manner. Several of us were profiled and pulled over by the California Highway Police several months earlier in the southern part of that state. The two patrolmen (beastly in nature is the only term I can use to describe them, perhaps just frightened and ignorant of the things that God is bringing to pass in the earth is a more compassionate description) screamed at us as they approached the car (a tactic used by the police and military to intimidate and subdue their objectives), and continued to do so in the most disrespectful way until they finally allowed us to continue our journey. The only thing they found to charge us with was improper use of seat belts. The Texas policemen said that they had reason (also purely unfounded) to believe that this family was carrying drugs or other controlled substances. We can be assured, given the nation's history--and the present climate of paranoia and fear (the emerging state of patriotic fascism) in America, coupled with the realization that law enforcement agencies across the country are being granted broad authority to violate peoples' spiritual and political rights--that the situation will only intensify. It was all written, however, and will prove to be America's (Babylon's) (Egypt's) (modern Atlantis's) downfall as the true human beings in this country come together in the center to rededicate themselves to God, and to form themselves at last as the one true spiritual nation that God has been creating in the earth all of these millennia, indeed, since the time of First Man and First Woman in the garden of Eden...
The Great Sundance, the Medicine Wheel and the Tree of Life...Hebrews 12.
The Tabernacle of the Sun...Psalm 19:4
It is a six-thousand year-old story (as the Turtle itself, it has been a moveable story), one that began at the roots of the Sacred Tree of Life on this continent, and one that will complete itself here in the birth of the True Spiritual Nation. The indigenous peoples of this continent, in one form or another, have been the stewards of this ancient story and of these universal mysteries:
In connection with this story, it is notable that among the Hopi Indians the tradition is told that their ancestors once lived in the underworld (the Lower world of the West)...till dissension arose between the good and the bad, the people of one heart and the people of two hearts. Machetto, their chief, counseled them to leave the underworld (to give up their lower states of consciousness), but there was no way out. THE CHIEF THEN CAUSED A TREE TO GROW UP AND PIERCE THE ROOF OF THE UNDERWORLD, AND THEN THE PEOPLE OF ONE HEART CLIMBED OUT...They sent out a message to the Temple of the Sun, asking the blessings of peace, good will and rain for the people of one heart. The messenger never returned, but today at the Hopi villages at sundown can be seen the old men of the tribe out on the housetops gazing toward the Sun, looking for the messenger. (Please consider Malachi, chapters 3 and 4. KJV). When he returns, their lands and ancient dwelling places will be restored to them. That is the tradition...The legend was learned by W. E. Rollins (along with two theories concerning the origin of the Egyptians): One is that they came from Asia; another that the racial cradle was in the upper Nile. Heeren, an Egyptologist, believed in the Indian origin of the Egyptians...Lost Cities of North & Central America, by David Hatcher Childress, p.320.
THE FIFTH WORLD OF THE NAVAJO and THE DESCENDING WORLDS OF THE TREE OF LIFE
(Please see Chapter 1, part 2)
The Navajo legends are not only the basis of the complex ceremonials, they are also the history of the Navajos, much as the Old Testament is both the Judaic religious base and the history of the ancient Jews. The New Testament is not only the history of the first Christians, it is the foundation of Christianity. Hence, the Legends are, in fact, the Navajo's version of his own history. The all-important Story of Creation, also called the Story of Emergence, is retold in its entirety, in the most sacred of all Navajo ceremonials, the Nine-day Blessing Way, much as a rabbi might instruct a Jewish child in the Books of Moses or a priest might read the story of Christ to his congregation...
The first part of the Navajo Story of Creation parallels the Biblical Book of Genesis in that it tells of the Creation of the world. In fact the Navajo concept of the world is not unlike the early Judaaic-Christian concept which described the earth as a land area floating in an immense ocean overspread by a solid domed heaven which fit like a great lid with its edges on the horizon, resting on supports in the water. Above the sky was still another similarly domed world. (As Paul has said: Seek those things which are above). The Navajo Story of Creation traces the evolution of life through Four such underworlds until the People emerged in this, the Fifth and present world. As the People passed through each of the four first world's, they went through a process of evolution, starting out as insects and finally becoming people as we know them today in the fourth world--with the explicit aid of the gods. Above this Fifth World there is yet another world where all things blend into one with the cosmos. The Book of the Navajo, by Raymond Friday Locke, pp.55,56.
One native man introduced himself as Tom. (We have learned that among Native Americans, Navajos have also acquired the use of European or English names with which they introduce themselves and do business with the world outside their own, concealing, as is also the custom, their own given, or War names received at birth. This custom expresses the deeper spiritual realization that every soul born into the earth has a true identity, one that is just as often concealed from the individual soul itself. Sometimes, however, a given, or even an acquired name, is a reflection of this true identity). He said that he (like Thomas, his acquired namesake) was a lecturer, and that he traveled from place to place speaking to others of the Navajo way of life. "We do not have a religion. White men have religion...one that he practices on a single day of the week, and strife with divisions," he said. "The Navajos, and other indigenous peoples, have a Way of Life," he went on to say, "Every thing we think and say, and do, every day of the week and at every hour of each day, is a reflection of our Way of Life." This, of course, is also the way with the true children of Light everywhere else throughout the earth, regardless of the tradition (or branch of the Tree) each has appeared from. (And though these sons and daughters of Light seem at present to be hardly more than an impotent, and voiceless remnant in the earth, their presence here and their work will soon be manifest).
Mormon doctrines aside, there has been contact between the adepts and shamans of this continent and those of the East three times, all prior to the European conquests of the last Five-hundred years. Each time there was an exchange of ideas and doctrines, uniting the two. (Every student of the Divine Mystery can see into the structural patterns of these ideas and realize that they are the same). The first was at the time of Eden, before the final wars and collapse of the Atlantean age. (Please open the Book of Genesis and understand the historical theories upon which this entire work is based, thus the words: As it was in the days of Noah). The next was at the time of the fabled kings, David and Solomon:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
THERE IS NO SPEECH NOR LANGUAGE, WHERE THEIR VOICE IS NOT HEARD.
THEIR LINE IS GONE OUT THROUGH ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE END OF THE WORLD. IN THEM HE HATH SET A TABERNACLE FOR THE SUN...(Psalm 19:1-6).
Solomon reigned in a peaceable time, and was honored; for God made all quiet round about him, that he might build an house in His Name, and prepare His sanctuary for ever.
How wise wast thou in thy youth, and as a flood, filled with understanding!
Thy soul covered the whole earth, and thou filledst it with dark parables.
Thy name went far unto the islands; and for thy peace thou wast beloved...(Ecclesiasticus 47:13-16).
The Phoenicians were sailing constantly across the Dark Atlantic in those times, from one continent to the other, just as a remnant of them were still making the voyage from Britain in the time of Christ. (Please read Lost Cities of North and Central America, by David Hatcher Childress). Thus the third point of contact was at the time of Christ itself, when the truly historical Quetzalcoatl walked the American continent. This teacher, whom the Western world knows as the Apostle Paul, came across the sea, "on eagle's wings" as it was, from the Serpent-continent of Europe. He came, along with others, connecting in his own thoughts, and in the life of the early church, all of the sacred and historical dimensions of the World Tree. He came learning, as well as teaching the precepts of the Solar Mysteries, the Great Lodge (Solomon's Temple) and the doctrines of True Peace among the inhabitants of the earth:
For the same cause did Paul in like manner receive the reward of his patience. Seven times he was in bonds; he was whipped, he was stoned; he preached both in the East and in the West: leaving behind him the glorious report of his faith.
And so having taught the whole world righteousness, and for that end travelled even to the utmost bounds of the West; he at last suffered martyrdom at the command of the governors...(1 Clement 3:13,14; Psalm 19:1-6).
These are the doctrines that the great sons of Darkness are violating in the earth at this time, and for which the nations are now being judged. These are the same doctrines, and the same spirit that the leaders of the Sacred Sundance Ceremonies are attempting to revive among the people, for which they, and the many others who have participated in them, are still willing to sacrifice and to suffer. These are among the true Christs in the earth in our time.
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever...(Daniel 12:3).
Chief Arvol Lookinghorse, of the Lakota Sioux, and his wife Paula, among the revered leaders of this year's ceremonies at Pinon, had just returned from Durbin, South Africa, where they once again labored to observe a World Peace and Prayer Day Ceremony, linking it, as they have before, to the day of the Summer Solstice observed by people everywhere throughout the world. Chief Lookinghorse is the nineteenth generation keeper of the Sacred Peace Pipe which was brought to the Plains Indians by the mysterious White Buffalo Calf Woman many years ago, along with the Seven Ordinances which were to govern its proper use. According to Sioux tradition the bowl of the Sacred Pipe represents the Earth, and the clay from which all the children of the Earth are created. It represents the Sacred Place from which all true offerings and sincere prayers originate. The stem of the Sacred Pipe represents the life of the Sacred Tree itself, the Central Pillar of the Sacred Oracles and the Axis Mundi of the entire Universe.
The Navajo know the White Buffalo Calf Woman by another name, Changing Woman, but She is still the same Divine Mother:
The Navajo legends are an oral history of the tribe that have been passed down from father to son, from generation to generation. There are variations in various versions of the legends as there must be in any oral history, but the variations are slight and the characteristics are always the same, though they are, as in the case of Ests'anatlehi (Changing Woman, also called Turquoise Woman) and her sister Yolkai' Ests'an (White Shell Woman), sometimes interchangeable. But this is an abstraction that is perfectly clear to the Navajo although perhaps difficult for whites to comprehend. The Book of The Navajo, p.56...
No, we know Her. She is Sophia from the beginning of Creation. (Open the Book of Proverbs). She is Eve (Ish'ah), the Mother of All Living. She is Sarah (Sarasvati) the Goddess of Wisdom. She is Isis, mother of the hawk-eyed Horus. She is Deborah of the Bee Hive, guardian of the meanings of the sacred number Six. She is Anna, of the Great Circle. She is Mary, the Waters of Life. She is the Magdalene, Thunder, Perfect Mind. She is Shekinah, the Feminine side of God. She is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold upon Her: and happy is every one that retaineth Her. (Proverbs 3:18). And we all saw her very clearly, Oldest Wise Woman, frail of body, strong of Spirit, whose dreams and visions are being fulfilled in the Sacred Sundance Ceremonies at Pinon, Arizona. We watched her as she moved about the village in the loving and respectful company of her sons, her daughters and her grandchildren. We watched, amazed and inspired, as she entered the sweat lodge with all her handmaidens. And we stood around her as she opened the ceremonies with her presence and her words, and as she blessed the ground in which the Sacred Tree was to be raised. We see Her everywhere and in everything.
We also recognise her in Louise Benally and the mother-elders, as well as in all the others who have been pulled into the swirl of oppressions and injustices unfolding not far from Pinon, near Big Mountain, Arizona:
Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS) is a group of individuals acting to support the sovereignty of the indigenous people affected by mining activities on Black mesa, who face forced relocation, environmental devastation, and cultural extinction at the hands of multi-national corporations, and the United States and Tribal governments.
LOUISE BENALLY'S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD
by Brenda Norrell
At the conclusion of the Big Mountain Sundance Sunday evening, Louise Benally sent a special message to the supporters from around the world for their prayers and courage. "I love you," said Benally.
Benally spent Wednesday night in the Keams Canyon jail with four other Navajo women, including two elders arrested by Hopi Police for criminal trespass for their presence at Benally's home where the Sundance was held. While the Navajo women were jailed, supporters quietly placed the Sundance Tree in place. "I just prayed the Tree would be in the ground," Benally said of her thoughts while in jail.
Supporters continued to arrive and were issued $500 per day citations for attending the Sundance. But the Sundance continued, surrounded by Hopi Police. Benally said the Sundance was a religious ceremony and prayer was their only defense. Referring to the Hopi Police, she said, "Only the guilty ones had weapons. They were terrorists."
"We are at peace with ourselves...We are praying and continuing our sacred traditions on our ancestral land," Benally said during the feast that concluded the Sundance.
BIG MOUNTAIN UNDER SEIGE
Statement by Leonard Benally, July 19, 2001
From the Southeastern foothills of Big Mountain: We wish to say our words to our Indigenous brothers and sisters and other concerned people. By now you have heard the news that we were recently under military seige (armed Hopi Rangers, armed Navajo Police, armed BIA police). They were there to stop our nation to nation ceremony (Sacred Sundance). The opposition was so heavy hardly anything moved in or out. We had to use the ancient roads because the borders were closed by road blocks full of armed police, Navajo and Hopi, both sides turning back people, supplies, water, food, medicine and doctors were even turned away for five days. For three days no one could go in or out. If you tried to come back in, you would get arrested or fined up to $1000 per day. Even hauling water could get you arrested.
They tried to stop the Sacred Sundance Tree (Cottonwood) but by the Sundance chief and the Sundancers and the local residents' choice and courage the beautiful Sacred Tree went in the ground. Yes, it is a war against the grandmothers here in America, and now the Tree stands tall and strong, and represents birthright to our sacred land. It also represents all indigenous peoples' right to pray, and it represents the respect for all indigenous ceremonies and beliefs. With dignity and strong prayers the Sacred Tree went up representing all humanity's equal rights and religious freedom rights, not only for one, not only for a few but for everybody.
Thank you to those brothers and sisters who had the courage to go through guns to come pray with us...
CHIEF ARVOL LOOKINGHORSE'S STATEMENT
I Chief Arvol Lookinghorse...would like to offer a statement concerning the violation against the Sacred Sundance Ceremony at Big Mountain, Arizona. The Sacred White Buffalo Calf Bundle that I care for consists of Seven Sacred Rights and one of them is the Sundance. Because of this responsibility, my work is toward world peace and global healing. As our ceremonies are connected to the Sacred Mother including her well-being preserved for generations to come, the Sacred Tree represents all life upon Mother earth. A very important protocol in putting up the Sacred Tree with its offerings of prayers for all life including health for our relatives, is that the ceremony and energy must not be broken or stopped. This ceremony has been with the Sacred Bundle for nineteen generations. We have shared this ceremony for health and well-being with other indigenous nations to bring spiritual awareness and strength back to nations. When I heard of the Hopi Nation's attitude and violations to a spiritual ceremony, I had to realize that it was not the Hopi Nation, but rather a group of people who have been affected by the "disease of the mind." This disease that has spread throughout Turtle Island to many honorable nations that have made decisions affecting relationships toward their 'brothers and sisters" of indigenous nations, including the violation toward our Mother Earth.
In my peace works I was honored to sit with many Hopi traditional elders, including the late Thomas Banyanca, who had the most deepest respect for all ceremonies, as we shared the Sacred C'anupa (pipe) together. We understood that our work and message was the same. His concern for his people violating their own culture and traditions was the same as mine. There are many other "traditional Hopi" who understand the proper protocol to ceremonies and would not think and do anything toward violating one another in interrupting a sacred rite. So this brings my thoughts to those who do not understand who they are as a Hopi, a person that holds a bloodline to their ancestors that walked in honor and ceremony. Many nations have these kind of people that are not aware of the blood (the history) that carry in their veins and responsibility to bring honor to their people by making wise decisions based on compassion, understanding and respect.
At Pinon (where there was no immediate struggle with the authorities and the corporations) the kitchen was being set up, tables cleaned, floors swept, wood chopped, a cookfire lit and the coffee on. An abundant donation of foodstuffs and supplies were on hand. A cylinder of propane appeared and soon afterwards large pots and cauldrons of delicious stew and vegetable soups were on the table. Then the older Navajo women appeared (giving Barbara and the other ladies who were turning out the meals for the first few days, and who organized the kitchen for the days ahead, a rest from their duties so that they could attend the ceremonies), and soon after that a steady stream of tortillas and fry bread was also on the menu. There was work to do that men did best, the heavy work and the lifting and such, and work that women did best. But it didn't matter. There were no rules, everyone crossed roles when they saw a need to or when they were asked to. The cement block and pine-pole building, set off some distance from the campsites and ceremonial grounds, became the joyful gathering place for workers, dancers, local indigenous people and visitors from afar, children and elders, the young and old. The conversation at the communal tables was always warm and friendly, sometimes serious and informative. A deep, quiet, abiding respect for everyone, and for all things and all ideas, was the unwritten and unspoken rule. The only interruption was the spontaneous laughter that so often seasoned the atmosphere.
By Wednesday, however, the atmosphere became more solemn. There was still the conversation, the children and the laughter, and the joyful and orderly confusion, but this was also the day that almost the entire community would work together in both prayerful support and physical labor to bring the old Tree down from its place at the center of the ceremonial grounds, and to set the new Tree up. (The tradition insists that the Sundance ceremonies begin within twenty-four hours of this exchange). There is a cosmic abundance of symbolism in these rituals (the very same, in fact, as are found in the Passover and High Holy Day festivals of the Jews, the Easter and Pentecost rituals of Christianity and the Ramadan observances of Islam). The old Tree was set up a year ago, and has stood there against the desert sky the whole time as an offering. It has born on its sacred limbs, as the Earth completed one full circuit in space around its own source of Life and Light, the heartfelt prayers and petitions of the people...
Sunrise over the Arizona desert.
Thus the old Tree was the focus then, as the new Tree will be this year, and the sacred center around which the entire Sundance was performed. The old Tree was decorated, as the New Tree was again this year, with garlands of colorful cloth ties and prayer streamers, offerings of tobacco and other healing herbs, and then raised up by the people as a sign of their connection and their deep reverence for the mysteries of heaven and earth. The Sacred Tree is the connection between the two. The seven colors represent Heaven above, Earth below, the Four directions of time and space, as well as each of the directions of Human consciousness, and the Universe itself which both emanates from the Center and encompasses all. (At Pinon it seems that the first six are sufficient). As the old Tree is taken down it will represent the generations that have passed, and all the elders who have already passed on into the Spirit world. As the new Tree is set up it will represent the present generations and all of the ideas and thoughts that we carry with us today--old thoughts and new thoughts, old understandings and new understandings. As the Tree grows, and the Universe expands, so does the human mind grow and expand with them.
After the old Tree was laid to rest out on the desert, next to the others that went on before it (its broken sticks and branches reverently picked up and laid there with it), all the people headed in a joyful caravan of trucks and other vehicles from the Sundance grounds at Pinon, along the tribal road to Chinley and on into Canyon de Chelly where the new Tree would be selected, cut down, brought back and raised up. The Tree was found growing out of the base of a small cliff, on the other side of a dried out wash running through the canyon. The Navajo people have many memories of things that happened in this canyon. The death of Narbona comes readily to mind. Narbona was one of the chief men of the Navajos at the time the American government was making military and commercial incursions into this land, seeking to exploit it for what mineral and other natural resources it could find. Narbona, facing the cold reality of it all, was among those seeking a peaceful resolution to the troubles. The government had other things in mind, and other plans afoot: a design upon the land itself and the forced removal of the people themselves if necessary. It had even sent a certain Colonel Washington into Dinetah (a Navajo name for both the land and the way of life of the people), to carry it out. He was a ruthless veteran of the atrocities just recently committed at that time against the Cherokee people. In the ensuing deceptions being enforced upon the Navajo, confusion erupted over the terms of the treaty and the demands being made by the Americans, the Navajo resisted, and canon were fired at the people. According to the reports Narbona, the ageing headman, was hit four or five times...and then summarily and dishonorably scalped by the American troops. I thanked the present Navajo headmen in my thoughts, and the others who were there in the canyon this day, for not carrying a grudge and holding those things against the whites who were gathered along with them, partaking now in these sacred ceremonies. Nevertheless, as all the men lined up, each waiting to take a turn with the axe, each having received a blessing by the elder Lakota priest, David (Dave Chief), each surrounded by the prayers of all the others, the words would not stay out of my mind: Now is the axe laid to the root of the tree, and every tree that bringeth forth not good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire.
Nor could one fail to see the further imagery as the felled Tree was being carried across the dry river bed, through the small woods to the flat bed truck that would take it to the ceremonial grounds. As it was being hoisted onto the truck, wrestled into position, and then tied down, some of us mentioned to each other how closely this resembled some Christ-figure being tied down and carried to a place of execution. The stricken Tree had now taken on the aura of a sacrificial offering. A Native American man standing by, hearing the conversation, walked over and said: "Oh but you are quite right. In fact you have no idea how closely the stories in the Bible are being enacted in these ceremonies." The truth of what he said was clear to see as the Tree was raised up...
The Sacred Tree of Life
Through the fork in its limbs was tied a crossbeam of choke cherry branches, forming the cross, or the crucifix upon which the Universal Christ is offered for the transgressions of the whole world. And then from the upper limbs and branches of this Tree hung the ropes from which each of the Sundancers would pierce and suspend themselves over the next four days in both a deeply individual as well as communal reenactment of these historic mysteries. Neither was the Tree consecrated without the presence of two virginal young women, further symbolizing the purity of heart and mind that the people were bringing collectively to these sacred observances.
That evening, as darkness fell, the dancers--some gathered at the communal kitchen, some around their own campfires or at the campsites of others--solemnly and quietly enjoyed a last supper as it were, the last morsels of food, and the last taste of water (save for a small amount to sustain the body throughout the four days of sweat lodge ceremonies still to follow), that any of them would share again until the ceremonies were complete. It would be a complete fast until Sunset four days later, a (more than mere) ritual isolation from the physical world as each of the dancers began the inward journey to the spiritual world of the Tree of Life. (At the Sacred Mountains Sundance only Native people are permitted to participate in the Dance itself. This is understandable. I myself was more than happy, overjoyed and mystified, just to be there. It was less than a year ago that I had made a prayer while passing through South Dakota, asking simply to be invited somehow or somewhere to a Sundance ceremony. Events in the world unfolded, one new acquaintance led to another, an e-mail appears on the screen saying, "Yes, of course you are invited. Let us know when you will arrive." Thank you Chris, thank you Paula and Arvol, thank you Paul, Thank you Father, thank you Mother).
The call was heard throughout the camp. The dancers bid fond love and good-byes to their families and others about them and gathered behind, or rather inside the spiritual barriers that were erected around the ceremonial grounds. These barriers, comprised of circular arbors, wooden structures and imaginary lines, would divide sacred space from common space for the next four days, and only those partaking in the rituals were permitted to cross them. The sweat lodges were inside this space, and this evening, as it would be for the next four days, the sweat ceremony was for the dancers alone. Special prayers and preparations would be made this evening for the ordeals that lay ahead. Night fell upon the desert, quiet descended and one by one the campfires and lights went out...
Those who were awake with the dancers the next morning, before the break of dawn, experienced another magical blessing from the heavens. Arvol mentioned in his talk that afternoon that the Cloud people had been attending the ceremonies. Looking around as he spoke one could see them assembled everywhere above and around the circle. They were billowed up against the blue sky like ancient elders sitting around the Throne of God, attentive to the words, to Arvol's recognition of them, and to the prayers and chants of the people. They had been gathering around the ceremonies in a very mystical way for the previous several days. The people had been aware of them. Two days earlier they had swept the desert with a drenching, cleansing rain, settling the dust and sand, creating an aura of newness throughout the camp. Then as the Tree was being cut in the canyon the next day, they had come in and formed themselves in a great, dark mystical spiral pattern right over the ceremony. And then came another outpouring of rain as the Tree was being decorated and lifted into place. And now this morning, as the people awoke, above them in the sky, bending out of the heavens and touching down right over the Sundance grounds was a magnificent Double Rainbow. There was no mistaking the significance of it all. The heavens were in attendance.
Several moments later the second bow appeared as vivid as the first.
The mind was further elevated (caught up as the Hebrew scriptures say) as the Dance began that Thursday morning. Images of the whole universe and the direct and solemn relationship between man and God, heaven and earth, came into view. The pageant of sacred history itself unfolded before one's eyes, spiritual emotions overflowed and tears erupted at the sight of the dancers appearing from the arbor onto the Sundance ground. The drum-singers filled the air with their enchanting rhythms, setting the pace of the dancers' feet. Their wailing songs surrounded the circle like an invisible prayer wheel, blending the individual thoughts and prayers of all the people together into one harmonious whole...
"... The round form of the drum represents the whole universe, and its steady strong beat is the pulse, the heart, throbbing at the center of the universe. It is the voice of Wakan-Tanka, and this sound stirs us and helps us to understand the mystery and power of all things ..."
'The Sacred Pipe' by Joseph Epes Brown
The two elders, Paul Tohlakai and Dave Chief, led the way, followed by Chief Lookinghorse towering above all the rest in his regal headdress of Eagle feathers. Two lines of dancers appeared, the men first and the women after them. (Mira Omerzel, from Slovenia, commented that spiritual women never exhibit a strong need to be first. They know that the Universe itself is feminine, and that the gateway into this world is always through the Feminine Principle).
In rhythmic step (some in quarter-step and half-step) the dancers followed each other around the circle, stopping to form a double-line on the Western side of the Tree facing the Rising Sun. The dance had begun, and for the next four days, each morning and after each rest period until Sundown, the dancers would enter the circle this way, circumambulating clockwise around the Sacred Tree, until they had stood during each session, in prayer and adoration toward each of the Four directions. As the Hebrew priests were commanded to wear bells on their garments, signaling they had entered the sacred precinct with solemn intentions, so the participants in these rituals danced with small reed-like pitch-pipes (bone whistles) in their mouths, intoning the Great Spirit to recognize the ceremonies and the good intentions of their hearts. Likewise, as Moses sanctified the Tent of the Congregation, sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice seven times over the congregation and all the instruments of sacrifice, the Lakota priest waved a fond of Eagle feathers over each of the dancers, over each of the Four entrances leading into the circle, over all the ritual instruments, over the Tree and over the grounds, sanctifying the entire area and all the proceedings. Two imaginary lines were sent out from the Eastern gate to the distant horizon, marking off the pathway the spirits used to enter the ceremony. No one was to pass through these lines.
The dancers continued throughout the day, following the same rhythmic pattern, forming a circle and a square on the ground beneath them around the Sacred Tree. The beautiful ceremonial skirts and dresses, the front-cloths and shawls, headpieces and footwear that the dancers wore, added to the mystique. Unlike the Rainbow Gathering in Michigan we had just attended, where (an almost pagan) spirit of liberation filled the air, where clothing was ceremoniously disregarded by many of the observants (They were naked and they were not ashamed), the Sundance is held in a spirit of quiet, but pervading modesty. Though the men dance shirtless, they are covered from the waist down with ceremonial skirt and frontpiece. Some wore leggings and moccasins, others danced barefooted. While the color that strikes the eye is red, broken here and there by blue and white, one Mexican Indian man was dressed in a burlap skirt and anklets, somehow suggestive of those who were brought to the altars and offered in sacrifice to the Aztec gods before the Spaniards came (and then later, as ceremoniously dispatched by musket and canon, and by plague and disease to the Christian gods by the Spaniards themselves). The women dance fully clothed (an equally tantric sight to behold), their colorful dresses and shawls embroidered with mandalas, stars, and other individual symbols. Some wore necklaces and bracelets of turquoise stones, beads and shells, suggestive of the skill and craft indigenous peoples everywhere throughout the earth have mastered over time, weaving and stringing their own natural existences into the greater design of the Universe, and into the intricate pattern of the Circle of Life. Several carried fans, cooling their fellow dancers from the heat of the Sun as the day wore on.
The dancers were brought by twos and threes throughout the day to the entrance of the South gate by Paul, the Navajo chief and head of the Sacred Mountains Sundance, to exchange words and prayers with different women who were chosen from among the circle of observers and supporters, and then to the center of the circle where each, in silent meditation, touched their foreheads to the Sacred Tree before returning to their places in the line of dancers. The movement suggested the connections every spiritual adept must establish between themselves and the outside world, and the very act itself of bringing the heartfelt prayers and petitions of the people before the Throne of Grace. (We can see it in the pattern of the Temple plan that was handed down by God to Moses on the mount). I gave my petitions to two of the dancers--one male and other female--before they were sequestered inside the sacred precincts on Wednesday evening. (I also tied eight small pieces of chord to one of the upper branches of the Tree before it was raised, in order to think, not only on those things which are above throughout the coming year, but as a prayer for those things which are about to come).
Somewhere around the third or fourth session on that opening day, the speaker announced that this would be a piercing round. As the dancers appeared from beneath the arbor two men came forward (as others would during the days to come) and were accompanied by the Navajo chief to the center of the Circle. Suspended from the Sacred Tree were the ropes that each had tied to it the day before, and from which the two would be suspended throughout the daylight hours for the next three days. Others would follow them, day after day, until the fourth day when all who would be pierced had come forward. The chief made two sets of incisions in the chests of both, one set on the right and the other on the left, through which were passed a wooden dowl or a claw, or a hook, to which each rope would be looped and attached. As the dance continued, with added resolve now, and a heightened sense of ceremony, the two, dancing in place, moved away from the Tree until the weight of the extended lines began to pull on the flesh. Over the next four days the dancers would add their own weight, leaning taught on the lines as they danced, trancelike, eyes heavenward, thoughts breaking and penetrating the boundaries between this world and the Spirit world, carrying the prayers and petitions of the people across with them, until finally tearing loose from the long ordeal on the last day, ritually, as well as literally, shedding the blood of redemption for all the people. After Sundown on the Fourth day the dancers returned to the familiar world of family and friends, physical sustenance, and then after that to the routines of daily life. Each would be honored now among those who know them, and hear of them, and each would carry with them through life the unmistakable marks and scars of those who have made an offering of themselves on the Sacred Tree. (I noticed five sets of scars on one of the dancers, and I am sure there are others who wear more than that).
The sacred Sundance ceremonies at Pinon were, indeed "the real thing." They may not have reached the frenzied intensity of past rituals (as they have been portrayed in movies; and I am thankful that they were not attended by a fierce hatred of whites as some dances in the past must have been), but come very close, nevertheless, to the description of them in the book entitled: Lame Deer Seeker of Visions, by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes:
"So they made this dance, and slowly, generation after generation, added more meaning to it, added to its awesomeness. My father taught me, as he had been taught by his father, the learning and teaching going back to the beginning of time.
Wi wanyang wacipi--the sun dance--is our greatest feast which brings all the people together. I told you of hanblechia, the vision quest, one man alone by himself on an isolated hilltop, communicating with the mystery power. Well, the sun dance is all the people communicating with all the mystery powers. It is the hanblechia of the whole Sioux nation.
The sun dance is the most misunderstood of all our rites. Many white men think of it as an initiation into manhood, or a way to prove one's courage. But this is wrong. The sun dance is prayer and sacrifice. One does not take part in it voluntarily but as the result of a dream, or a vision.
The sun dance you are about to witness is sponsored by someone who dreamed that he must undergo this ordeal to bring his son back from Vietnam, to bring peace to the people of this world so that they can understand one another. We will dance for this.
The dance is not so severe now as it once was, but even today it asks much of a man. Even today a man may faint for lack of food and water. He may become so thirsty blowing on his eagle-bone whistle that his throat will be parched like a dry riverbed. He may be blind for a time staring at the sun so that his eyes see only glowing spirals of glaring whiteness. The pain in his flesh, where the eagle's claw is fastened in his breast, may become so great that a moment arrives when he will no longer feel it. It is at such moments, when he loses consciousness, when the sun burns itself into his mind, when his strength is gone and his legs buckle under him, that the visions occur--visions of becoming a medicine man, visions of the future." pp.188,189.
Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.
So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.
And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
And he said unto me, Son of man, go get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak my words unto them.
For thou are not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel.
Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee...(Ezekiel, chapter 3).
And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a Cloud: and a Rainbow was upon his head, and his Face was as it were the Sun, and his Feet as pillars of Fire...
And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey...
And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings...(Revelation 10:1, 8-11).
(All My Relations)
Navajo Sand Painting
By Paul Tohlakai, Sacred Mountains Foundation
If it is to be said that the Native Americans are spiritual, then their spirituality can only be described as their relationship to the natural world. This relationship begins with oneself, to others, the environment and ones view of the world and universe. This created a belief system through interpretations of Creation. Indigenous culture, or mother earth worship, thus evolved. Traditions or a Way of Life began...
Honour thy Father AND THY MOTHER: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee...(Exodus 20:12).
Native people in North America sought an ideal state of being based on the quality of interaction with the natural world. THIS HARMONY AND BALANCE inspired a spiritual consciousness for each act of life. They were one and the same. All manifestations of life, our environment resulting from the union of Father Sky and Mother Earth, were deemed sacred an fragile.
The Native American peoples have a long and historic relationship with the land that is now known as San Luis Valley and the surrounding San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. For local tribes of the Pueblo, Apache, Navajo (Dineh), Ute and others, it was a paradise for gathering food and medicinal plants, hunting, ceremonies, and other gatherings. It was a place to waken the creative mind, body, and spirit. Until they were dispossessed, the Native people maintained the area here as a place for peaceful contemplation and resolutions.
The mountains in particular were viewed with awe and mystery. The Mountains are sacred to indigenous people. Pilgrimages are still made to the Sacred Mountains for medicine bundle renewal, rain, medicinal herbs and ceremonies by various tribes.
Nearby Mount Blanca is one such mountain. To the Dineh it is called Sisnajinii, meaning "black sash trailing down." The sash is the range extending from Blanca northward to include Crestone community. It is the revered eastern mountain of the Dineh cosmos. Blanca and three other cardinal direction mountains are mentioned as the pillars holding up the sky-universe in the Navajo spiritual geography. Together they form the boundary for the Southwest Medicine Wheel.
The Dineh cosmology is further represented in the building of traditional hogan. The creation of the Father Sky and Mother Earth is represented in the Hogan. Sisnajinii represents the mind opening door of the Hogan, where offerings for renewal and growth are made each new day at dawn. In this sacred manner, we greet each new day and all our relations. The cycle of Life has no beginning and no end. Crestone Creations. (www.sacredmountainsfoundation.org)
The pilgrimage to the Sundance at Pinon this year was, again, more than memorable. For almost all it was a confirmation of the sanctity of Life; for many it was a return to a place of power, to prayers that were offered and committed to the branches of the Sacred Tree a year ago; for others a journey to a fuller and clearer sense of one's place in the greater pageant of history, and of those things that are unfolding in the world around us in our time. The whole of it is a preparation for the realization of those mysteries that were committed to this land and to the indigenous peoples of this land not only centuries ago but millennia ago...
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward (of the Land and the Earth, and of the mysteries of the Sacred Tree), whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath...(Luke 42-44)
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the nations...(Revelation 22:1,2).
A MESSAGE OF PEACE AND HEALING
CHIEF ARVOL LOOKINGHORSE
When I was twelve years old, words of prophecies were instilled in me by our Spiritual Elders of that time, concerning drastic changes that would come to all life upon Mother Earth. These changes are here with us today. I was told that a sign of these changes called the crossroads would come to pass when the spirit of the White Buffalo Calf Woman would once again stand upon Mother Earth, which I never believed that I would witness. The first white buffalo was born in 1994 and since then eight more have been born.
From our Sacred Altars I am devastated for my relatives to the four directions, how life of Peace and Harmony is in our hands for the future of our children and looks very bleak. I have witnessed the last stages of beautiful cultures and traditions that have maintained the connection to Mother Earth is now in the stages of dark times. The disease of the mind has caused much suffering to Mitakuye Oyasin (all our relations meaning ALL life).
Our ceremonies directed us to call upon many Nations to recognize the power and spiritual connection of the Sacred Sites that dwell every 100 miles upon Mother Earth in order to create an energy shift to bring back the balance of life. We now realize that it will take this kind monumental effort, along with prayers and belief to heal the Ozone layer that is depleting every moment causing these drastic changes toward all life, including the negative influences in our minds toward on another.
I have been very moved by the participation of Nations sponsoring their own World Peace and Prayer Day ceremony at their Sacred Sites, which continues to grow in our Global community, since we began this ceremony in 1996 on Turtle Island (Americas), but more awareness needs to take place. This year is a continuing journey of this important event on June 21st, around the world to four continents of the four colors of relatives. We have always represented these colors in our sacred ceremonies. We begin this journey in Ireland and the following years of the June 21st ceremony will be in Africa, Australia, and Japan then back to Turtle Island (Americas) for a thank you ceremony. I pray that as we visit the different Nations on their Homelands, we will continue to awaken their spirituality and the importance of their Sacred Sites, in building our relationship toward healing our Sacred Mother Earth and bring back the dignity of respecting one another!
I, Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nation, humbly ask that the spirit of great Nations help us to heal our sacred Mother Earth (Unci Maka). I call upon other Spiritual Leaders and Ancient Storytellers to work together on this urgent effort!"
In the Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning!
Chief Arvol Looking Horse,
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
Sometime around 1975 or 76 a group of us connected to the old Save Our Mountains Coalition spent an day in Charleston, West Virginia, lobbying legislators, and that entire night outside on the capital steps, lifting up our voices, and holding signs protesting strip mining. (Who had even thought of such an atrocity as mountain top removal yet). We naively rejoiced as passing motorists honked their horns and flashed their lights in support. Those were hopeful times. The future state Attorney General brought us coffee and cakes in the morning. U.S. Representative/future Secretary of State Ken Heckler joined us in our efforts. We are all much older now and should be able to see that these efforts hardly made any difference at all, and some of us can understand why. We were trying to change the existing order of things, an order that is completely impervious to life, and to the cries of life, which in turn, however, had to come to its present state of darkness, so that it could be seen clearly for what it is and so that we could begin to understand why we must separate ourselves from it . It was not time yet. Only God can destroy what God has created (Revelation 18). Only God can stop what God has allowed. Twenty eight years later the signs still read:
STOP MOUNTAIN TOP REMOVAL
Communities are under threat from flooding and coal sludge impoundments!
BETTER LAWS AND ENFORCEMENT FOR THE VICTIMS OF COAL!
Join Us--Everyone Welcome
5 p.m. Monday June 23, 2003
Rally Outside the Office of Surface Mining
This event is part of a multi-group action, with protests in Lexington, KY & Southwestern, PA at the same time.
See www.ohvec.org for more details.
Does this mean that we should stop advocating for the earth, and for the environment we share with all living things (All our relations)? No. It is just that we should place our activism in its proper historical and spiritual (prophetic) perspective, and stand ready to be part of the real spiritual solution when it arrives. We attended this rally. Ex U.S. Representative and ex Secretary of State Ken Heckler was there as well. And a week before leaving West Virginia for the Sundance grounds in Arizona several of us found ourselves at the Fourth (Fifth) of July picnic near the top of Kayford Mountain, way up on Cabin Creek in Kanawha County. Larry Gibson and Vivian Stockman, two of the organizers of the rally in Charleston, are courageously holding out there against the entire coal industry, the state of West Virginia (whose governor and almost all its legislators, as well as the so-called "Environmental Protection Agency," are all in the tacit employ of giant coal and government interests), and, sadly enough, against almost all of the rank and file--neighbors and fellow workers who labor for the companies and obediently strip the coal--who are cunningly kept more concerned for their own personal and economic well-being than they are for the life of the sacred mountains or the spiritual quality of life for future generations. "COME SEE WHAT'S LEFT OF THE LORD'S CREATION AND CELEBRATE THE MOUNTAINS" says the invitation. One has only to walk the rest of the way up to the top of Kayford Mountain to see what's left, and to behold what tremendous evil man is capable of. In every direction one witness nothing but destruction and devastation...mountain tops denuded, stripped and removed. And while we are all guilty, the verse nevertheless continues to reverberate through the mind, and now even moreso:
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldst give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; AND SHOULDST DESTROY THEM THAT DESTROY THE EARTH...(Revelation 11:18).
In Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, hundreds of thousands of acres of forested mountaintops have been blasted away by coal companies. Over 700 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried under the rubble of our former mountaintops.
We met Harvard Ayers, North Carolina professor and publisher of Appalachian Voice, on Kayford Mountain that day. His publication represents that section of the American religious (intellectual) community that is equally part of the problem as well as part of the potentially emerging solution. The problem? Well there is the Nobel Peace Prize which is (quite fittingly) awarded to men of war, and there is the Templeton Prize:
MTN. NATIVE HOLMES ROLSTON III WINS TEMPLETON PRIZE
The mountains of western Virginia lay claim to a long list of prestigious and accomplished sons and daughters. While Thomas Jefferson (recall the Lewis and Clark expedition) may be among the most famous, scores of notable thinkers, innovators, and public servants trace there roots to these mountains. This spring the region added another distinguished descendant to its roster when Virginia native Holmes Rolston III received the prestigious Templeton Prize in honor of HIS 30 YEARS OF RESEARCH, WRITING, AND LECTURING ON THE RELIGIOUS IMPERATIVE TO RESPECT NATURE.
The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities...is valued at almost $1.2 million and is the world's largest monetary annual award given to an individual. The world's best-known religious prize, it is given each year to a living person to encourage and honor those who advance spiritual matters...A self-described "philosopher gone wild," 2003 Templeton Prize winner Rolston's many works have essentially established THE FIELD OF ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS. Now a University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State and a Presbyterian minister, Rolston is one of the world's leading advocates for protecting the Earth's biodiversity and ecology in recognition of the intrinsic value of creation. In philosophical circles, he is widely known as the "father of environmental ethics." In theological circles, he is known for his concept of a sacred, prolific, yet "cruciform" creation...
"Rolston, more than any other living person, has been the seminal thinker who makes possible a new rapprochement between biology and religion, joining theologians and biologists in their common respect/reverence for nature. In the ancient Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew people envisioned a promised land, flowing with milk and honey, but if and only if they resided in that land WITH JUSTICE AND LOVE rolling down like waters. Rolston has enlarged that vision a hundredfold, from locally to globally, placing on the agenda for Earth in the new millennium the vision of Earth as the promised planet."
In his news conference remarks, Rolston also cast the Earth's environmental needs IN TERMS OF JUSTICE. "Our planetary crisis is one of spiritual information: not so much sustainable development, certainly not escalating consumption, BUT USING THE EARTH WITH JUSTICE AND CHARITY. Science cannot take us there, religion perhaps can." Appalachian Voice.
The question, of course, is this (and please excuse our skepticism): are these words, and is this an ethic and an agenda that the likes of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Gail Norton could manipulate and endorse? Would Professor Rolston also accept an invitation to the White House, and an award from government and industry for his philosophical musings? Have the destructions abated during his tenure? Or have the destroyers simply become more ethical in their own wise use of the Earth?
BUSH NOMINATES UTAH GOVERNOR TO LEAD ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY
by Katharine Q. Seelye
WASHINGTON, Aug.11, 2003__President Bush today nominated Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, the three-term Republican governor of Utah, as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, TAPPING A VETERAN OF THE WEST'S VOLATILE LAND USE DEBATES.
THE NOMINATION DREW PRAISE FROM BUSINESS AND REPUBLICAN PARTY GROUPS and mixed reviews from environmental activists, who commended Mr. Leavitt for working for clean air in the Grand Canyon and faulted him FOR HELPING TO OPEN PUBLIC LANDS IN UTAH TO INDUSTRY AND ROAD BUILDING...
"I nominated Mike Leavitt because HE IS A TRUSTED FRIEND, A CAPABLE EXECUTIVE AND A MAN WHO UNDERSTANDS THE OBLIGATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP," Mr. Bush said. "MR. LEAVITT WILL COME TO THE E.P.A. WITH A STRONG ENVIRONMENTAL RECORD, A STRONG DESIRE TO IMPROVE WHAT HAS TAKEN PLACE IN THE LAST THREE DECADES."
BUSINESS INTERESTS PORTRAYED MR. LEAVITT AS A MODERATE CONSENSUS BUILDER, while environmental groups...said he supported DEVELOPMENT OVER CONSERVATION AND WAS A FRIEND OF OIL AND GAS INDUSTRIES.
Mr. Leavitt said he had " a very clear environmental philosophy," WHICH HE SAID WAS BASED ON BALANCE. "TO ME THERE IS AN INHERENT HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY TO CARE FOR THE EARTH," he said, as he stood by Mr. Bush's side. "BUT (there is always a "But"), THERE'S ALSO AN ECONOMIC IMPERATIVE THAT WE'RE DEALING WITH IN A GLOBAL ECONOMY TO DO IT LESS EXPENSIVELY."
The code words were flying back and forth here. Bush used the term "stewardship," not "protection." Mr. Leavitt is applauded for cleaning up tourist sites and scenic vistas. Such efforts translate into dollars, and have nothing to do with healing the wounds of Holy Mother Earth. Venture off the interstate, and walk over the ridges, and one can see what is really happening to the land out there. Nevertheless, the average American watching television and reading the journals is left sheepishly satisfied here that the president is indeed, truly concerned for the environment, but also for their jobs (and this is the message that resonates..."jobs"), and is doing all that he can to protect them both. Business and industry, of course, are more than satisfied. They got the message, nothing has changed, it is business as usual, and full speed ahead. Nevertheless:
RELIGIOUS LEADERS READ FROM "THE BOOK OF NATURE"
For centuries, people of faith have turned to the wilderness as a place of prayer and connection with the divine. In recent years there has been a dramatic resurgence of interest in the natural world among many religious groups. From the "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign, which turned attention to the pollution caused by our vehicles, to the efforts of the Catholic Church to reduce the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining, religious organizations are actively working to protect the natural world.
Many of these religious leaders gathered in western North Carolina in May as part of "Opening the Book of Nature" (OBN). The OBN program organizes retreats across the country that offer members of local congregations the opportunity to spend a weekend in a remote setting to learn and discuss the theological view of care for the environment, while also experiencing and enjoying creation in a peaceful setting...
A primary goal of the OBN program, as explained by workshop participants Dean Ohlmann is to "reintroduce the church to a concept that has been lost: that God has given us two revelations. It goes way back to the founders of the early church...that God teaches us through two books: the book of God's word and the book of God's works. And since God is the author of both, there should be harmony.
Dean Ohlman believes that Christians need to be smarter about where they get their information. "If you allow industry, and industrial scientists, and those who have a vested interest in taking the products of the natural world and making money from them to tell you whether or not something is damaging to the environment, that's nonsense," Says Ohlman. "You need to find the best and most honest authorities."
Robert Godfried has a simple message: BE OPEN TO NEW INFORMATION AND NEW WAYS OF UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD AROUND YOU. "I JUST ENCOURAGE ALL OF US TO GO WITH OPENNESS AND A SENSE OF WONDER AT EVERYTHING GOD IS DOING, AND TO BE WILLING TO BE SURPRISED - IF WE'RE WILLING TO BE SURPRISED THEN GOD CAN USE US..." Appalachian Voice.
BIGGEST POWER FAILURE IN HISTORY LEAVES 50 MILLION AMERICANS -- AND MORE THAN HALF OF NEW YORK STATE -- WITHOUT POWER
AND THEN IT WAS DARK
The outage began shortly after 4 pm -- and early theory was that LIGHTNING took out a power relay near Niagra Falls -- and in an instant on a steaming August afternoon struck fear into anxious hearts of a terrorist attack.
In New York City, hundreds of thousands of people were trapped in subways and thousands more fled office towers into crowded streets. And for the second time in as many years, people streamed on foot over East River bridges toward their homes in a state of alarm. Across the region, roads clogged as quickly as power went out...
"One thing I can say for certain, this was NOT a terrorist attack," President George W. Bush told reporters last night four and a half hours after the outage hit. He spoke from San Diego, where he was raising money for a re-election campaign. Asked what caused it, he said, "We will find out why." Newsday, August 15, 2003.
Emily Smith drove down from upstate New York and picked me up in Huntington. It was my hope that a number of us could have made the journey to the Sundance this year. Things fell apart, situations changed (almost all of it to do with people's finances and their jobs--things that we must be liberated from if we are to pursue truly spiritual and enlightened lives). With a great sense of adventure the two of us set out, once again toward Indiana and Frank and Sonja's house near Terra Haute where we would spend the night. Emily had not gone this way before and was eager to visit the historical places and the natural and sacred sites that we had charted in front of us, places that I had already visited. Our pilgrimage would take us across Illinois to the pyramid mounds at Cahokia (please see A Journey of Atonement), and across the Mississippi to St. Louis...
I and a station wagon full of older grandchildren had visited there only the week before, after it became apparent that the ones who had (fast food) jobs would not be able to get the two weeks off that it would take to get to the Sundance and back without losing their jobs. (Oh that work ethic! Amalek is a powerful adversary). They could only get four days off, so we made the best of them and made a first-stages journey. On our way back we spent the night at Paul Salstrom's house at St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana...
St. Mary of the Woods
Paul is a history professor at the Catholic College there, and took all of us over to the campus that evening to visit the Mediterranean-style cathedral (think of old Mexico) and to walk the newly constructed labyrinth. Where does it lead? To Jerusalem of course. All roads lead to the center, to Jerusalem. (Please see The Labyrinth and Jerusalem). Fourteen year-old Jacob led us in a half-playful half-serious prayer around the bimah in the cathedral (perhaps his true spiritual self was trying to surface), and all of us, in the company of some Catholic sisters, solemnly and quietly walked every step of the labyrinth, both to the center and then back out again. One must always return from a spiritual journey, ready to show others the way.
Paul spent three years or more in a Federal prison for his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War. He was a hero to many of us who knew him, and who first met him back then. He went on a peace-walk across the country. In Huntington he and Mimi Ralston published a periodical called The Green Revolution (not to be confused with the government and agribusiness program of the same name). These were the heady counter-cultural days, a back-to-the-land movement was in full flower. Paul and others, having come over from the School of Living in Maryland, found there way by articles in Mother Earth, and by word of mouth, to the growing community at Myra, in Lincoln County. (The community has all but disappeared now). A practicing Quaker when I met him (he still lives a quiet monastic life), he was also initially responsible for opening up the realization for me that Buddhism and Christianity were wholly compatible and complimentary paths. Paul believed that change was possible then, as did so many others, and that an enlightened human spirit was capable in itself of initiating those changes...I think Paul has abandoned these humanistic notions, but along with them any immediate sense that change is coming at all, and has retreated instead to his articles and books, and his favorite subject, Appalachian Studies. My dear friend Paul has an Augustinian view of the world (the kingdom of God will come someday, maybe someday, out there at some future time, but not in our time). He is a scholastic, not an apocalyptic.
From St. Louis, Emily and I traveled northwestward along the Missouri River toward Nebraska, and from these great grasslands onto the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. We visited the museum and church at St. Francis, and went from there to Wounded Knee. Emily was deeply touched there, both culturally and spiritually. She made a connection with history during her walk around that historic site and our conversation with Gerald Elk. Gerald is a local historian and opened the pages of the books and records he had with him. We sat next to him as he lined out the events of the 1890 massacre for us, pointing to the places where Big Foot was shot and lay frozen on the ground, and where the others, including the women and children, were mowed down and left to die along the creek beds and ditches leading away from the hill where the tragic events began. He accompanied our thoughts from those events to the takeover of Wounded Knee in 1973, when a group of traditionalists staged what some have called the truly last resistance of Indigenous Nations on this continent against the conquering Americans. He spoke of how local Indian authorities tried to erase signs of this resistance by recently bulldozing and filling in the church basement that was left adjacent to the cemetery after the church itself burned down. The resisters held up in this church while the standoff between themselves and the government unfolded. He spoke of the many reasons for this resistance, and also how his people's health has been destroyed by the white man's commodities. We suffer from alcoholism and diabetes he said, and from poverty of mind and spirit. We told him that we were on our way to the Sundance at Pinon, where the Lakota Chief, Arvol Lookinghorse was presiding. "Arvol Lookinghorse," he said, "is a great man."
Emily remained alone with her own thoughts as we drove toward the Badlands, in silent reflection, tears welling up in her eyes as she opened up and touched that part of her own soul that understood all of this, and that was actually a part of all of this. It was evening when we arrived at Bear Butte. Do you see her? I asked. We (Bernard and Sirin and myself) were instructed to look for her on a previous visit to this sacred mountain. "Who?" Emily asked. Earth Mother giving birth to the world...
Divine Mother Earth, giving birth to the world.
"I see her!" Emily exclaimed. By the time we reached the summit the sun had just set, leaving behind it a brilliant array of colors spread across the Western sky, and above a bright nearly-full Moon to watch over us and attend our prayers. We went to the extreme Western slope of the mountain to give thanks and to pray for the birth of the world. We brought gifts with us and layed them on the ground, small shells and beads that we hoped to give to others when we arrived at the Sundance two days hence. When we arrived at Pinon we learned that Caroline and Paul Tohlakai were expecting a child within a month or so. And at the Blessing Ceremony for expecting mothers on the last day of the Dance three women, including Arvol's wife Paula, came to the Sacred Tree at the center of the Circle. We thought of all the children who are arriving in the world at this time--all the messiahs who are coming to help the Creator turn the Great Wheel. Emily had touched the Seventh Heaven, if only briefly, and carried a great sense of the Divine with her as we descended the mountain that night. We continued our journey southward through the sacred Black Hills (with a note of sorrow for the decadence and unmindfulness of the times that we witnessed at Deadwood), woke up in Wyoming, bathed in the cold rushing water of Sybille Creek, and found our way into Colorado before noon that day.
Colorado, needless to say, is beautiful and majestic. We stayed clear of the Interstates and the roads that lead through Denver, and headed for those routes that cut themselves straight through the heart of the state. There were tourists and play-vacationers everywhere, and so were we...or rather probably would be if life for us was otherwise and we could afford it. (I think I would skip the skiing though, and content myself with hiking and camping. I have never been to Disney World. It has to do with the ubiquitous and insidious cartoon culture that Americans have allowed themselves to become. Right Mindfulness is one of the Eight Sacred Precepts. The American people do not subscribe to them. They are suffering, instead, from a demonic need to be constantly entertained and a-mused. (I must admit, however, that I have ridden a roller coaster or two in my lifetime, but not the latest and the greatest). Americans are at the eve of destruction and they are still playing. We pilgrims discovered our way through the soul-inspiring San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains, and then westward towards the Four Corners area and our final destination, the Sacred Mountains Sundance at Pinon, Arizona.
We arrived at the Sundance grounds the next morning. The week's work was already in progress. We introduced ourselves to Paul and Caroline and the others who were there early, and found ways to fit into everyone's routines. The preparations were much like the previous year's, some new projects were underway, but the spiritual energy was the same. Tolerance, love and respect was still the rule. For three days, until others arrived and the main kitchen was repaired, Caroline (eight months with child) kept everyone nourished both body and soul under her tent, and around her table. People would come and go from their regular duties and join the others at Caroline's communal kitchen throughout the day, and pitch in with the cooking and cleaning up each evening. Carry and Victoria were there from Pa., Lynn and Kathleen from Mass. Trilight was there, keeping everyone in abstract fits of laughter. Bob Doyle, a lawyer-advocate for indigenous causes, was a comforting figure throughout the week. He shared a book of his poems with me. In it he wrote: "To Michael, We gather more than sage."
by Bob Doyle
Remembering Poppy (Bob's loving wife), after the birth of one of our eight children, Exhausted, drawn with pain as they wheeled her past me.
My response, unspoken, this is the last, the absolute last time she has to go through this, no more.
Smiling she spotted me standing there, hands hanging helpless at my side and she quietly said, "Isn't he beautiful? Did you see him yet, he's so handsome. We've got to have another."
And we did.
Now Sarah, our daughter, on the phone, groggy from the anesthesia, fresh from a Caesarian, happy with her first child, her daughter in her arms.
And I see the smile, and hear the communication
And know that I will never understand; even slightly, Childbirth or Motherhood--nor should I.
Annami was there from Belgium. What heart! What spirit! What joy! Her daughter Aileen will hopefully return with her next year. (Of course the world could be in dire crisis by then, making travel for some impossible). Pam went back and forth, this year as last, between her responsibilities at the Fire circle, the kitchen and her other duties, always busy, and always singularly mindful of the way things are supposed to be done. Matthew Crowley (Crow Lee), on his way to a Spirit Fire festival, spent the entire week in service to the Sundance and the work at hand. Hage, who flew in from South America, as did Yanis from Slovenia, tirelessly assisted Ron the head Fire Keeper throughout the week. All of these, from the early morning hours till late at night, were there selflessly laboring to assure that the stones of fire were always ready for the sweat lodges (the purification ceremonies) that were attended by the sundancers at the beginning and the end of every day. Gail was there with her beautifully troubled heart and her healing touch.
And who can fail to think of the Begay family and the other local and indigenous people who seemed to be everywhere, directing the work, doing the work, tying up all the loose ends, making things work. Edgar and Georgette and their family were there from the Farm in Massachusetts, lovingly mixing mortar and laying block, building a utility shed to house the generator. Mike, the chiropractor from California, as humbly adept at setting a cedarpole as straightening a vertebrae, and the others who provided hours of labor, Chris Lindstrom, David, Michael, Bo, Joseph, Dennis and all the other dancers and helpers who were there, and who came in over the several days leading up to the ceremonies, all of them gave completely of themselves. And the children, they provided the joyful noise, and almost the entire reason for it all. Emily began helping in the kitchen, and filling in wherever she was asked to, but followed her preferences as she could for the digging, the hammering and the outside work. It does indeed take an entire village.
We make mention of these things because it is the same kind of energy and devotion that will be required of the thousands who will gather together at the Center around the Great Tree, as the impending economic, social and spiritual crises intensify in this country and as that which is laboring to be born in the world is finally born. Hideaki Masago came all the way from Japan. With his kind and loving permission, we have included one of his drawings at the beginning of this chapter. His music is mystical and enchanting. It touches the heart and informs the soul. He gave us three of his own works to take home with us as gifts: Native Land, A Chaco Journey; Great Mystery and Planet Love. (www.awa-muse.com). He sent the words of a song that is sung each year by thousands in Japan:
Arvol Lookinghorse and his family arrived on the third day. A campsite was already prepared for them and for Dave Chief who is a devoted friend of the revered Lakota Chief and serves as priest during the sacred ceremonies. One would have to say that Paul Tohlakai is the High Priest, and the spiritual head of the Sacred Mountain Sundance, but neither of these three would ever concern themselves with such titles and descriptions. They are analogies that I have imposed, seeing the direct connections that exist between these ceremonies and the sacred Hebrew mysteries. What one can immediately sense, however, is that these three (along with those who are near to them in these ceremonies) are very close to the heart of the Creator. Each possesses an immense amount of spiritual integrity, as do all the other individuals who attended the ceremonies. One can trust their ways and is safe in their teachings. They bring the soul back to the ways of God.
Chief Lookinghorse said that a true spiritual warrior had no need at any time for any weapon but Truth and Love for the people. Nor must anyone ever use their words to humiliate or embarrass others, or to put ourselves above the people. Dave Chief said that one must always keep their word, and fulfill the vows and promises they have made to the Creator and to others. Paul Tohlakai said that all things must always be done in a good way, with all things in mind. These were among the many others teachings that everyone received, both around the circle and in the lodges.
The sweat lodges are almost the perfect place to begin (or perhaps to complete) the journey of spiritual purification. For the first three days (mornings and evenings) all are invited to partake in them. (During the last four days the lodges are attended by the Sundancers alone). Everyone has their own personal reasons for entering the sweat lodge, and most assuredly emerge with their very own sense of having endured an ordeal, and perhaps of having made a breakthrough into that place in their own heart and soul where the Divine itself resides. The lodge is all that has been said about it, and so much more. It is a trial of Fire (molten rock and intense heat). It is cleansing. It is cathartic. It is healing. It is death and resurrection. It is a return to the womb. For those who enter with the right spiritual intentions, it is rebirth.
On the first night, as Emily entered the women's lodge, I went to the lodge presided over by an experienced Sundancer named Dennis, a native man from San Diego. Dennis is a social worker among indigenous youth in that area. At Pinon he dances directly behind the three elders, and is a source of great encouragement and instruction to those who are dancing for the first times in their life. No one in the Indigenous Community need worry that the traditions are being watered down for tourists here. Whoa Ho! HO! Wah HO! I had learned from my few previous experiences in the lodge to center myself in the realization that this ordeal (like the ordeals of Life itself) would soon pass, and that before the night was over I would be standing once again under the canopy of God's Greater Lodge, under the starlit sky, breathing once again the cool refreshing air--in this case (the Prana) of God's beautiful Arizona desert. And so it did. "Thank you Dennis, Thank you Creator."
The women's lodge let out soon afterwards (Theirs is almost always longer each evening than the men's lodges, and perhaps it is because our mothers and sisters share more of themselves with each other, and have more to sing and pray about. It is a great blessing and an immense comfort, however, to come out first, and to have the opportunity to sit and listen to the songs that are still emanating from the women's lodge, to sense the enduring power and the magic of the Feminine principle, and the sacred balance that exists everywhere in the universe. I am certain, of course, that the women find equal comfort in the songs that also emanate from the men's lodges, and for all the same reasons). Emily appeared from among the women, and found her way to the nearby benches. I left her alone with her own thoughts. Perhaps fifteen minutes went by before I asked her how it was. "There are no words to describe the experience...It was just wonderful," she said. Emily was connecting to the mysteries of Creation.
Dennis told us as we were leaving the lodge the first night that this was only a taste of things to come. For some the purification rites must be first and foremost a physical ordeal. But as one gets older the focus shifts. (Of course the flesh is always in the way, but it is the mind that needs to be reconciled). The following evening as we lined up to attend the lodges, one had a choice to follow Dennis and others into that lodge, or to enter the lodge that the much older Dave Chief was presiding over. I reasoned to myself that I had already endured the one, and that it was not my body but my mind that I was trying to burn up. Dave Chief speaks long, but his words are wise. Thus I reasoned that his lodge would be a longer ordeal but perhaps not as physically excruciating, after all, the two of us were greyheads and there were certain things, I reasoned to myself, that surely we no longer had to prove to ourselves. The equation was correct, and the choice a great blessing. The door shut, the songs and prayers began, the drum joined in, the heat intensified, the sweat poured...but then the heat subsided, and the Chief's attention turned from ordeal to words. He spoke of divine things, of spiritual matters, of sacred precepts. The first session ended with a song, in a crescendo of wailing chants, pounding drum, and the cry went out, "MITAKUYE OYASIN" (All My Relations)! This was the signal for the outside attendants to open the door of the lodge. (Very prophetic).
More stones were brought in, the flaps closed, and the second session began as the first. Again Dave Chief brought the heat inside to a pitch, and again allowed it to subside. Then the old priest did something that was extremely significant (at least to me). He continued the remainder of the session with the door of the lodge opened. He let the light and the fresh air in to accompany the teachings and the instructions that followed. Then he invited each of the men in the lodge to share their own words, their prayers or a song, with all the others. And so it began, in a circle from the first to the last. I have been to several old-time Appalachian prayer meetings, and the testimonies, and the prayers poured out in those meetings were never more sincere, or moving, as the testimonies and the prayers that were made in the lodge that evening. The men spoke of serious spiritual matters, of their own personal afflictions, of loved ones lost and family members gone astray, of entire communities in disarray. Hearts were touched, tears were shed. It was an intense communal experience. By the time the words passed to me it seemed that all the thoughts of my heart (of my own afflictions) had already been so prayerfully expressed. What came to mind then was the sense of history that was unfolding here: "My (name-sake) people (the ancient Irish) lived on the other side of the great Sea. There was a time when we also knew the way to the sacred Tree of Life, and shared like ceremonies, and were, likewise, indigenous to the land we lived on. But that was long ago. In time we were driven off the land by others, and also found ourselves oppressed and dispossessed. When the way was opened, and the opportunity arrived, we came across the sea to this land. We came, however, with a sickness in our hearts and bitterness in our soul. When we got here it was with the unholy notion that we could make up for what we lost in one land by stealing it back in another, and from another people. Our religion failed us (as we failed ourselves). We were sold not only into the hands of our oppressors but we adopted their ways as well." I thanked everyone in the lodge for keeping these mysteries intact, and for helping make it possible for others of us to find our way back to them, back to the pathway of the Sun and to the Root of the Sacred Tree. Dave Chief had the sacred pipe brought into the lodge. As the smoke ascended, and as the pipe was passed from soul to soul, the songs, the teachings and the prayers of each of the men, were all bound together and offered as one to the Great Creator.
Tree Day was a solemn and ceremonial day, mixed with the same collective and joyous sense of orderly confusion and chaos as previous years. The Tree itself required some extra effort to bring out of its place in the canyon woods. As all things would have it though, by the time the tree was tied to the flatbed truck--after all the branches that snapped on their own, and the others that were purposely cut to get it through the thicket--and carried to the sundance grounds, it arrived in perfect form. When it was finally raised and set in place, there it stood with two main branches raised heavenward, a perfect image of the principles of balance that govern the universe. It stood there against the evening sky, decorated with the prayers and offerings of the people for the coming year...
(There are criticisms of this and other Sundance
ceremonies across the country, from inside the Native American community itself.
Besides the charges surrounding the Big Mountain Sundance ceremonies (which
have now moved to another nearby location on Navajo land), other complaints
from the Four Corners area are that these ceremonies are not indigenous to the
Navajo and Hopi peoples, and have no meaningful place among them. And in their
being opened to non-Indians they signal a more dangerous and far-reaching movement
away from Native American spirituality itself:
is the one thing that must not be stolen
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
It seems to me that the spirituality (religion) of so many Indian tribes has become diluted by overexposure and by flagrant abuse by wannabes, false shamans and New Agers. There is also the problem of one tribe after another adopting the ceremonial practices of other tribes. One of the most sacred ceremonies of the Lakota and other tribes of the Northern Plains is the Sundance. The Navajo are now conducting a Sundance at Big Mountain, a section of land once held by the Navajo that was partitioned by the federal government and returned to the Hopi Nation.The Sundance was never a Navajo ceremony. Why they would want to usurp and claim one of the most sacred ceremonies of the tribes of the Northern Plains is puzzling.
Of course, the abuse of the Sundance began amongst the Sioux people themselves when some Lakota, claiming to be medicine men, opened up the ceremony to outsiders, mostly non-Indians and started to charge money to the attendees.
A true Sundance is held in private for tribal members only. No non-Indians or non-members are permitted to attend. The Sundance held at Porcupine on the Pine Ridge Reservation and conducted by Rick Two Dogs, a most respected spiritual leader, is closed to the public. Armed guards are posted at the only entrance to the Sundance Grounds and each individual entering the Grounds must produce evidence of identity. There are no exceptions. If you are not a member of the tribe you are turned away. There are also no charges.
The same can be said of the most guarded ceremonies of some of the Pueblo people of New Mexico and the Hopi of Arizona. Perhaps these tribes may put on a show of a ceremony for the general public during the tourist season, but the true and sacred ceremonies are always held in secret, outside of the prying eyes of the non-member and non-Indian.
There are many Indians who do not like to see public displays of their spirituality. I always use 'spirituality' to describe the sacred rites of an Indian tribe because to use the word 'religion' would not be correct. A religion is structured as an organized faith that is practiced within the pages of a written document such as a Bible or Quran. The 'spirituality' of the Indian nations is one of absolute freedom that has no dogmatic guidelines.
By public display I mean those times when the prayers of the Indian spiritual leader are performed in front of a mixed audience. Other Indians have told me that they are embarrassed when a spiritual leader prays in his or her own language to an audience of non-Indians incapable of understanding what he is saying. For the most part the audience stands in reverence with heads bowed and hands clasped in front of them. In the old days the Lakota never stood with head bowed when they prayed. The stood with arms outstretched and heads held high as they prayed to the sky where Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit) dwelled.
It seems that Indians cannot have a convention without calling upon a local medicine man to say a prayer in a language none of them understand. The prayer is always said from the rostrum before the start of the convention. Sometimes the prayer is longer than the keynote address that is about to follow. This causes the non-Indian audience to shift from foot to foot in an effort to remain respectful. I've even heard non-Indian audiences applaud after the medicineman completes his prayer.
Jolly good show, old bean! And that is what it turns out to be oftentimes, just a good show for an audience wanting to have 'Indian experience.'The next convention I stage will be held differently. I will ask that the Indian people gather in a private place where they can share a prayer with a Holy Man prior to going to the convention floor. In this way our spirituality is kept to ourselves and not put on public display.
There are those elders who are bothered by all of this public display of spirituality also. I have heard them say, 'The white man took everything that once belonged to us and now they want to take our spirituality.' Of course, this is always followed by, 'This is the one thing we have left and it is the one thing that we must keep for ourselves only.'
In a way, I feel sorry for those Indian people who have embraced the religion of the invaders. How can they worship a God that was brought over from another world? There are those who say we all worship the same God so what difference does it make what our religion is? I believe an impartial observer of the Hindu, Muslim, Jew, and Christian would find that hard to swallow. If they worship the same God then why are they killing each other because of their religious differences? Embracing the religion of the white man did not save the lives of those Indians slaughtered in the name of the new God they had just embraced.
The spirituality of the Indian people should once more be taken to a secret place. There should be no more of this 'Indians on parade' mentality to start a convention. If the true spirituality of the Lakota, Hopi, Pueblo, Blackfeet, Crow, Navajo, Inupiat or of any other Indian nation of the Western Hemisphere is to mean anything to the Indian people themselves, it must be taken back from those who stole it, abused it, and made fun of it. Indian spirituality is not a commodity that can be bought or sold. It is not something that can be brought out into the light like a flag only when it needs to be waved. Nor is it something that can be imitated by pretenders. It is something that is deep, profound, sensual, mysterious, ancient and unfathomable. It is the one thing we still own that cannot be given away, shared, or taken from us. Once our spirituality is gone, we no longer exist as a distinct people.
(c) 2002 Lakota Journal July 26-Aug 2,2002
Of course one could be intimidated by these charges, especially if they are non-Indian. But there is something bigger than all of us unfolding in the world, and some have sensed it. Some have gotten a glimpse of the greater picture and are courageously recreating it in the consciousness of others throughout Mother Earth:
"Tell me now Oldest Mother, why did the Old Man, the Lord of the Lightning, let the white man take our lands?
Sit and be still (said Old Eyes of Fire), for I shall tell you what you need to find your vision.
Eyes of Fire made circles in the dust with her stick and then drew a big Circle that surrounded all the little circles. These little circles, she said, are all the little nations and all the little religions of the world, but the Big Circle is the One Big Nation and the One Big Religion that encloses them all, and means them all, and knows them all just as a mother quail draws her chicks under her spread wings and loves them all as a mother should.
Long ago, all our people were united in love and knowledge. The Wise Old Chiefs and the Wise Old Women taught the children how to grow up and be good and to love one another. All the land belonged to all the people and all the children felt that every man or woman was a father and a mother...
But tell me Oldest Mother, why did the Spirit of the Earth let the white man take our people's land?
All these things have I told you so that you will understand, she replied. The Wise Old Ones told me long ago why the white man was sent. The Heart of All Being sent them because the white man comes from a land where only white men lived and it was necessary for them to come to this place where they would learn about other races and learn to live with them, and that one day, when the Indians got the old Spirit back again, and would teach the white man how to really love one another and how to love all mankind. Now because the Indians were humbled and made poor by the white man's conquest, they have been cleansed of all selfish pride. They are ready for a Great Awakening, and they will awaken others." Warriors of the Rainbow, Strange and Prophetic Dreams of the Indian People, by William Willoya and Vinson Brown.
WHITE BUFFALO TEACHINGS
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
Special Edition for World Peace & Prayer Day 2001
Before my father, I-yus-i-c'u-pi, went to the Spirit World, he shared with me his concern over the generation's lack of respect for the Sacred Sites and ceremonies. Throughout my life, I witnessed the misuse and abuse of these Sacred Sites and ceremonies, which cause imbalance in all relationships of Spirit upon Mother Earth. Therefore later in life, I am committed in my work toward Peace to help establish a global consciousness of the importance of Sacred Sites in restoring the positive energy needed to heal our Mother Earth and her Grandchildren....
My father, Stanley Looking Horse, journeyed with our family almost every year to honour the Sacred Sites. I remember once, when I was twelve, visiting the Sacred Site of Standing Rock, which is located in the center of the Fort Yates community. I remember all the cars driving by with their drivers peering out at us in curiosity, wondering what we were doing there. My father was filling his C' anupa (a Sacred Pipe) and I was smudging with sage and helping prepare for the ceremony. It made me feel uneasy at the time, as many of our ways were outlawed back then, but I knew I had to be strong, because I had a responsibility and respect for ceremonies. Some of us have no choice.
Back then very few people kept the ceremonies, as they were hidden and forbidden, so we had to post security because it was as viewed illegal. We didn't gain our religious rites until the Freedom of Religion Act was passed by congress in 1978. We had to prepare very carefully before the ceremonies would happen; the protocols were very strict with our Elders back then. I remember people, mostly Elders, coming for ceremony and camping for four days prior to ceremony. From them, I learned the meanings of the sacredness of the number Four, and why we open our hands up Four times to accept the C'nupa, the Sacred Pipe--each movement a sign of acceptance and understanding of the full meaning of Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations)...
Because of these memories, my work toward understanding Peace and Prayer has taken many different forms. I never knew where the responsibility would lead, not just with my own people, but with the Global Community at large, to whom I have been directed to reach out, as I am doing today--with that understanding that this journey is still directly on behalf of the survival of my own People.
According to Lakota, Dakota & Nakota Star Knowledge, June 21st was one of the times that our Ancestors knew as a day to unite and pray. It was known that the spiritual energy at that time of Summer Solstice flowed through an open door from the Creator...
For thousands of years our Ancestors have celebrated the Summer Solstice as a time to honour and become One with all life on this Sacred Mother Earth, giving thanks and bringing Peace and Harmony to All our Relations.
On the occasion of this Sixth Annual World peace & Prayer Day...we invite members of the Global Community to join us in creating local Peace and Prayer Day gatherings at their own sacred sites and places around the world, and continue in the years ahead to bring this act of Global Healing to All peoples and Nations.
I am not saying to walk exactly as we walk in our culture, or to hold ceremonies exactly as we hold them. I encourage the Nations to pray in their own ways, and to revive their own ancient traditions of love and respect, which are the foundation stones of All Indigenous cultures. Compiled and arranged by Harvey Arden and Paula Horn (H'e Sapa winyun, Black Hills Woman).