Over the past week, I have had a number of people share with me some extraordinary events that have occurred between them and the animal kingdom, things that for the most part are not common everyday happenings or occurrences. Things that make us stop and pay attention. Reactions were varied for the people to the occurrences from, “I was so scared,” to “How cool was that.”
Myself I can not remember a time when I did not notice the world of creatures large and small around me… when most kids were riding bikes and playing with their friends, my parents would more than not, find me playing or napping with my dog in the sun or lying on the ground watching the little peeper toads as they flooded the lawn and begging my father to not cut the grass. As I got older the ventures went to snakes, turtles and whatever other cool creatures I could find in the wilds of my backyard in Detroit. Then I expanded into vacations to the lake… I would disappear for hours into the heart of the woods. (the days when that wasn’t a scary idea) listening to the Owls at nightfall or the Loons awakening in the mists of the morning along the lake front.
The thing is, I had that connection with the animal kingdom and to me it was simply part of who I was. Never thought twice about standing in front of the bears, or watching sitting watching wolves play in a field, or listening to the Coyotes sing and call back to one another during their hunts.
In today’s modern world, that is probably one of the primary reasons for me living where I do. The animals talk to us all if we will listen, they have much to share and teach. They will not, do not fear us unless we give them reason to. It is all about respect, honor and communication with each other. They are a necessary part of the eco system, even if often humans do not want to admit it. They were here before we were in most areas, and we have taken there woods, there forests away from them… much as humans often do. We want to dominate, to own, to rule over… For the animal kingdom it is about co-existence, the circle of life itself.
I was sharing a story with Wolfdancer this morning, and told her about a woman that recently encountered a wolf while she was in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The woman had told me how scared she had felt because she had always been told Wolves leave humans alone for the most part. She went on to tell me how she stopped and they sat just looking at each other for a short while, and then because she was so scared she stood up and waved her arms in the air and made all kinds of weird noises. I then asked her what the Wolf had done…she replied, “Nothing it just sat there looking at me.”
I laughed and as I told it so did Wolfdancer. She said the same that was in my heart, “The Wolf probably was sitting there thinking how crazy the human looked waving and yelling for no reason. If it had been me I would have just sat on the ground and enjoyed being in the presence of a wolf brother or sister.”
So the point of sharing some ponderings with you all today… is perhaps to awaken some kinship, some curiosity within each of you…maybe not for you to seek out a creature in the wild, but to be more observant of the ones that are in your life. To smile when that dragonfly lands on your hand, or to take a deep breathe in as the butterfly spreads its wings. When the songbird sings for you in the morning, listen to the glorious voice it is sharing…for it is singing of joy and happiness, it sings to tell the Creator God that it is thankful and loves its life. And when a creature walks on your path whether it is in realtime or dream state, don’t wave your arms about screaming at it, rather listen to the lessons it is sharing with you, and gently thank it for blessing your path this day. “For all things are Sacred”
Most of the Peoples Nations have stories about the ‘Sacred Pipe’. Many of you may think of it as a Peace Pipe. Hollywood has glamorized the pipe through old western movies. Yet they could not be farther from the truth.
Sacred Pipe is to the Native American People as the cross would be to Christian cultures. The pipe, in many forms is prevalent in most tribal cultures around the world. Every Nation has used the pipe in some form of ritual and have passed the stories of where the pipe came from. One of the more well known is the Lakota story of the White Buffalo Woman bringing and sharing wisdom’s with them.
It is not important how the pipe first arrived, or who it came to first. What is important is that the pipe is revered as a sacred item and was a gift handed to us by The Creator. The Sacred Pipe was brought to all people of this world, for we all must share this world, as one race …the Human race This story shows the importance once again of the Pipe as means to Prayer, Balance and healing.
At a time when the world was new, a tribe of red skinned people came to live on the lands around The Blue Smoke Mountains. This is a time animals of the world still spoke to all of us teaching us how to live and care for the land. These people were called “Ani Yun Wiya” or the One True People. In this tribe lived a brave warrior woman.
She was called ‘Arrow Woman’. As a young woman she was taught to use the bow, the spear and the knife. Even though it was a man’s job to hunt and fight, Arrow Woman could shoot straighter with the bow than any man. She could throw the knife so as split a branch no bigger than your thumb and she could throw the spear into eye of a hawk in flight. Because of all this, no one would tell her to act like a woman should within the tribe.
One day while on a hunt, Arrow Woman came upon the tracks of “Yona” the bear. She saw blood on the ground and knew him to be wounded, so she followed his tracks high into the mountains. Soon she came to a place that she did not know. It was at this place, a place known only to the animals that she finally saw “Yona” the bear. He had a deep gash in his side. As she watched him, he bowed down in prayer. She saw him bowing toward a large field of tall grass and speaking words that she had not heard before. Suddenly, the grass shimmered and became a lake. Arrow Woman saw “Yona” the bear, dive into the water. After a time he emerged from the water, his side was completely healed.
“Yona” the bear looked up and saw Arrow Woman walking towards her he spoke, “This is the sacred lake of the animals. It is called, ‘Atagahi’ and its location is known only to the animals. It is where we come for healing and strength. You are the first human to see the Sacred Lake. You must never tell your kind of it’s location for it is the home of ‘The Great Uktena’. After speaking to her “Yona” the Bear turned and walked into the woods and disappeared.
Arrow Woman sat and contemplated all that had occurred. Yet she was tired from following “Yona” all day and needed to rest a while. So she built a small fire next to the lake, and sitting down she began to prepare a meal that she had brought with her. She reached over and took a drink of the water from the lake as she did Arrow Woman felt instantly refreshed. Amazed, she felt strong as Yan’si the Buffalo, and as if she could run faster than Coga the Raven could fly. The woods were quiet, the Sacred Winds where sleeping, Father Sun was shining bright, the surface upon the lake was completely calm, Arrow Woman began to get sleepy.
It was at this time that ‘Uktena’ appeared to her. As a child she had been told of him yet no one in her tribe ever claimed to have seen him. High above the water he raised his great serpent’s head, the jewel in his forehead glistening. He began to move toward her. Arrow Woman grabbed up her spear and stood up to face the great creature coming to her, standing proud, showing no fear, the way any warrior should. She raised her spear and prepared to strike the huge beast.
Uktena stopped a short distance from her. He smiled at her, showing his fierce rows of teeth he began speaking to the brave woman on the bank of his lake, “Put down your weapons for I mean you no harm. I come only to teach.” Arrow Woman laid down her spear and began to relax, somehow knowing He spoke truly.
Uktena told her to sit and to listen. He then dipped his head below the surface and came back up a moment later. In his mouth he had a strangely crooked stick and a leather pouch. These things he laid on the ground in front of Arrow Woman. Then the teaching began.
“This that I have laid before you is the Sacred Pipe of The Creator. Pick up the pipe. The bowl is of the same red clay The Creator used to make your kind. The red clay is Woman kind and is from the Earth. Just as a woman bears the children and brings forth life, the bowl bears the sacred tobacco and brings forth smoke. The stem is Man. Rigid and strong the stem is from the plant kingdom and like a man it supports the bowl just as man supports his family.”
He then showed Arrow Woman how to join the bowl to the stem saying, ” Just as a man and a woman remain separate until joined in marriage so too are the bowl and stem separate. Never to be joined unless the pipe is used.” Uktena then showed her how place the sacred tobacco into the pipe and with an ember from the fire lit it so it burned slightly. He then spoke these words, “The smoke is the breath of The Creator, When you draw the smoke into your body, you will be cleansed and made whole. When the smoke leaves your mouth, it will rise to The Creator. Your prayers, your dreams, your hopes and desires will be taken to Him in the smoke. Also the truth in your soul will be shown to Him when you smoke the pipe. If you are not true, do not smoke the pipe. If your spirit is bad and you seek to deceive, do not smoke the pipe.”
Uktena continued his lesson well into the night teaching Arrow Woman all of the prayers used with the pipe and all of the reasons for using the pipe. He finished just as the moon was beginning her nightly journey across the sky in search of her true love. He told Arrow Woman to wrap the pipe in cloth, keeping the parts separate. With this done He told her that she would never again be able to find this place but to remember all that she had learned. He then returned to depths of the lake. Arrow Woman saw the water shimmer and become again the field of grass. She left, taking with her the pipe and her lessons and a wondrous tale. Ever since that time, the People have used the sacred pipe and never again has any man seen the sacred lake of Uktena.
The Sacred Pipe is not a symbol of things that are sacred. The Pipe itself is sacred. Not everyone is called upon to be a pipe bearer. The person who carries the pipe and practices the pipe ceremonies and traditions has a great responsibility to his brothers and sisters, his land and country and to the Great Earth Mother.
The pipe bearer does not ‘own’ the pipe that they carry. They simply carry the pipe until the time comes for them to pass it to the next bearer. The pipe bearer is given certain powers of sight from the pipe as well as an ability to heal and purify. Should the bearer fall from grace and become a liar, thief, neglected their duties when asked, or become deceitful, the pipe would repossess these gifts and then the possibility of misfortune for the former bearer may exist.
I ask that today and all days ahead, that we hear the words of this Pipe story, that like the pipe we honor and respect ourselves, treating tradition and ceremony as Sacred. That we understand our responsibilities that we carry as we walk. Accepting the great gift Creator has asked us to care for…our human selves.
So my wish to you all today is that you have heard the words I shared today, and it helps you to stop and think, we are all sacred…we have all been given a great gift and responsibility. Our human self is like the pipe that was shared with the Ancestors in time long ago…but that to this day it is to be considered Sacred. So treat yourselves with honor… with respect… for like the pipe…we do not ‘own’ this human vessel that holds our soul. It simply carries us our soul until the time comes for us to journey to the next realm.
When the first man (a s ga ya) was created and a mate was shared with him, they lived together enjoying life and content with each other. After many seasons they began to change and often argued with each other. Finally the woman (a ge ya) left her husband and began walking east towards the Sunland (Nundagunyi).
The man decided to follow her trail, but was sad and lonely for he could not catch up with his wife as she continued ahead on her journey, never looking back. After awhile, the Creator took pity on him asking if he perhaps had lost his anger for her. The man replied he had indeed lost his anger. to which the Creator then asked if he would like to have her back again in his life. The answer came back a positive yes.
Soon the Creator looking down upon the woman, caused a patch of the finest ripe huckleberries to spring up along the path in front of her, but she passed by without paying any attention. He sat and gently thought what might catch her eye and soon placed a bush of blackberries on her path, still no response. So Creator continued placing other fruits, and then trees that were covered with beautiful berries beside the path to catch her attention, and still nothing happened.
Then suddenly she saw in front of her a patch of large ripe strawberries, the first ever known or seen. She stooped to gather a few to eat, as she picked them she turned her face to the west, and at once the memory of her husband came back to her and she found herself unable to continue her journey without him. She sat down and the longer she sat there, the stronger the desire to return to her husband. Gathering a bunch of the finest red strawberries she headed back towards her home and her husband. She soon met him on the path and they were both overjoyed at finding one another, apologizing and hugging each other until they gathered their things and headed back home.
A young girl, who was daughter to the chief sat crying. She cried because no one could give her what she wanted, a great shining fish. Neither her father, nor the wisest elders of the clan could give her the great shining fish, none of them had ever even seen such a fish. As his daughter continued to cry they soon discovered that she was making herself very ill, and soon because of it, the chief ordered a great council fire to be gathered.
All of the tribal elders and medicine people sat around the fire as the most respected of them began to speak. “The child cries for a thing which she has seen in her dream walks. Many fish have we in our great waters, but none resemble the one of which she speaks. This fish may prove to be good medicine for our tribe that is being sent by our Creator. He looked at those gathered around the fire, “Perhaps one of you may know where such a great gleaming strong fish with such medicine may be found.”
Only one of them stood turning to address his Chief and the council,”The Raven, who lives among the cedars, is my good friend. She is very wise and knows many things that the wisest among us know not. Allow me to return with her to this Council Fire, in order for her to share her wisdoms.”
They all agreed to this and the chief gave his permission. Soon the warrior gathered his things and traveled to the cedars to find his wise friend. Raven seated on his shoulder began to speak, but only the ones of true medicine could follow her words. “What the girl is asking for is the giant fish, known as Salmon. In this full moon, they can be found far from here at the mouth of a mighty river, which flows into the other side of the lakes here.. Because those of your clan are considered friends, I will fly swift and far to gather one of these fish and return it to your village.”
Before the counsel could thank her, the Raven was high in the air flying far and fast until her keen eyes saw far beneath her, many Salmon swimming together at the mouth of the river. The Raven dived quick as a hawk and, by chance caught the little son of the Salmon Chief in his talons. Rising high in the air, with the fish held firmly in her claws, the Raven flew toward the distant village of her friends.
Salmon Scouts that were leaping high from the water in great flashing arcs, saw the direction that the Raven was flying. A school of Salmon, led by their chief soon began to swim rapidly in pursuit. As quickly as the fish swam, the fast-flying raven reached the village far ahead of them where Raven placed the great fish before the little daughter of the chief, she smiled, and cried no more.
Then the Raven told the clan that many Salmon would be sure to swim into the river to the village in pursuit, to try and rescue the young Salmon which he had caught. They all decided to have the people of the clan to weave a huge net. This they did quickly so that when the Salmon came, all of the fish were caught in it. To hold them prisoner, a long, strong leather thong was passed through their gills. One end of the thong was tied to a big rock and the other end was fastened to this great totem pole, which then grew as a tall cedar.
Ever since, it has been called the ‘Nhe-is-bik’, or tethering pole. On this pole – a totem pole – there was carved a mighty Thunderbird, an Indian Chief, a Raven and a Salmon, carved in that order from the top of the great cedar pole. Year after year, from that time, the Salmon have passed on that side of the river and continue to this day. They are held as sacred with the people and the story continues to be shared.
So I was reading something that someone posted last night and i sort of wanted to respond to some of it here …
Often times when we loose loved ones, as time goes on (especially if it was sudden, a child or young person) people find it difficult to listen, to talk or communicate about it . They act uncomfortable when a parent, a sibling brings the name up or tries to discuss the feelings of the emotional roller coaster they are on. What they fail to recognize, is death is a part of life… and talking about emotions, and allowing people to communicate about those emotions… is very healing for everyone. It is the Core reason we can perhaps understand not so much why it happens at times, but the fact that it does indeed happen for all of us at some point or another.
That by listening and responding in positive ways..we are also honoring the loved one that left the physical. They are not gone from our lives…for there is no death… they have moves to the next part of their journey… the grief, the mourning the loss… is left for those of us that are still walking this world.
So be gentler with people, don’t be scared to talk about it…it is not a disease… it is part of all of our lives… At the same time, help them walk back into life. Do not be the constant reminder of “Oh I am so sorry for your Loss” , and posting and putting up things on social media that keeps it fresh as a negative thing. Help them walk back into life…help them remember the wonderful memories… the positive impacts the stories have made on your own lives…perhaps the fact that something that was said or done, even inspired you to do something positive…
Our loved ones may have left us on earth physically…but they are around us each and every moment motivating, guiding, inspiring, watching over us. For that I have seen, bore witness to and completely understand. Help by listening, by encouraging… by sharing positives… Don’t ask people how they do it… tell them how much you love them and be there for them when they need you to be, Unconditionally…
As an artist and photographer I often find myself out in nature, it has been this way since I was very young and will probably be so until I leave this earth. One of my favorite flowers since I was a child has been the small bright red/orange flower called Indian Paintbrush. So today I would like to share with you a story that my Grandfather who could always be found out in his flower garden when I was young, shared with me.
Long ago there was a young Indian Boy who was born crippled. He longed to play as young boys should, yet he could not. His legs did not work the way the other young boys of his age did. He could not ride the beautiful horses of the fields, nor could he run in the meadows with his Sisters and brothers.
His spirit was low. He felt useless as he watched his family go through their daily chores, unable to help. And he felt even more of a burden for they had to assist him with so many things he could not accomplish by himself. Soon with determination, he learned to fish if someone could carry him to the river. He also began to help his Mother grind the corn into flour. But he wanted to do more, much more.
One day in the late summer sun, his Mother decided that the family should go on a picnic. As they sat smelling the sweetgrass, listening to the winged ones, and watching the clouds dance in the sky, the young brave prayed to the Creator.
“Father,” he prayed. “Please show me how to be useful to my people. I cannot hunt for game or plant corn to feed them. I don’t do enough to help them. Please show me the path I am to walk.” He patiently waited to be shown an answer, yet none came. He was again saddened fearing that Creator felt he was not worthy of an honorable path.
After some time had passed, his Mother watched her son, and her heart hurt for this gentle boy. Hoping to change his mood she decided to return to the meadow to connect with the Great Mother in hopes something would change for her young Son.
When they arrived, they found something new among the tall sweetgrass. Growing in the clearing exactly where the Young Brave had called to Creator for a sign, grew a beautiful and unusual small red flower.
Turning his Mother he looked at her puzzled, “What kind of flower is this Mother?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen a flower like this before,” as she looked out in amazement at the field splashed with little flecks of red dancing in the gentle breeze. Be fore the day was done they gathered some of the flowers and took them back to the village, certain that one of their Elders would be able to tell them what it was. Still, no one recognized the flower at all.
Excited they returned to the meadow, and they looked out at the field and saw that the number of flowers had doubled. “They are so beautiful!” cried the young brave. “I just wish we knew what they were called.”
As the seasons passed, the Young Brave made many trips to the meadow. Each time he went, more of the red flowers could be found. One day, he decided to draw a picture of the flower in hopes of capturing its beauty. He carefully sketched the plant and found that he had captured its shape and detail. But he was not happy with the drawings.
As he sat there pondering what to do, a deer wandered into the meadow. It grazed on the sweetgrass occasionally looking up at the Young Brave as he kept drawing.
“What’s wrong Young One?” the deer asked. “Why do you look so sad?”
“I cannot capture the true color of this flower in my drawing. It is so beautiful, but the dye I make from our berries is too purple, and when I mix water with the red earth for paint, the color is too brown.”
“Why do you not just use the flower? Wouldn’t it make the red color for you?”
The Brave looked up at the deer in astonishment, “I never thought of that.” He reached down and picked up the flower, dipped it into the water and brushed it across his paper. To his amazement, what it left behind was the perfect shade of red coloring.
The brave took his picture back to the village and presented it to the Chief. It was perfect. They asked him how he get the coloring so perfect. “I used this,” and he showed them one of the flowers. “It’s like a paintbrush.”
“Then that is what we will call it,” the Chief declared. “It shall be The Red Indian Paintbrush.”
From that time on, it was called Indian Paintbrush, and only that. The Young Brave had found his path, becoming a remarkable craftsman, painting pictures, pottery, and other items and selling them to help his people attain the things they needed to flourish within the village. Donating the profits to those less fortunate than him, For he had come to realize that although he had no legs, he was still useful.
The Creator had indeed answered his prayers with a simple red flower called “Indian Paintbrush”
In the beginning there was only blackness, no one could see anything. People kept walking into each other and stumbling around blindly. Soon they gathered to discuss the problem, “What we all need is to be able to see.” They all agreed but were not sure what to do, they needed to find light.
Fox said he knew others on the other side of the world who had plenty of light, but they were too greedy to share it with anyone. Possum said he would be glad to steal a little of it. “I have a bushy tail, I could hide the light inside all that fur.” It was agreed and decided he could try to get some light for them all, so he set out for the other side of the world. There he found the sun hanging in a tree and lighting everything up. He quietly crept over to the sun taking from it a tiny piece of light and stuffing it into his tail. But the light was too hot and it burned all his fur. Soon the people discovered his theft and took back the light, and ever since, Possum’s tail has been bald.
“I will try,” said Buzzard. “I know better than to hide a piece of stolen light in my tail, I will place it on the top of my head.” He flew to the other side of the world and swooped straight into the sun seizing it with his claws. He then placed it on his head, where it proceeded to burn all his head feathers off. The people seeing him on fire and trying to steal what was theirs, grabbed the sun away from him, and ever since that time Buzzard’s head has remained bald.
Grandmother Spider said, “I will try!” So she set about the task of making a thick walled pot out of clay. Next she spun a web reaching all the way to the other side of the world. The fact that Grandmother Spider was so small, none of the people in the village of the sun even saw her coming. Quickly Grandmother Spider snatched up the sun and placed it in the bowl of clay carrying it back home along one of the strong strands of her web. Now her side of the world had light, and everyone rejoiced.
Grandmother Spider brought not only the sun to the Cherokee, but fire with it and she taught the Cherokee people the art of making pottery.
“I am Dedicated to Educating and sharing the Native culture with the World. It is not enough merely to teach the ways of our Elders. We must honor those traditions by sharing and educating the World. Inspiring others …Inspiring our Youth. Through the Music… the Arts…the stories…” Mitakuye O’yasin ~bear Medicinewalker
“Join Me as I continue the Sacred Hoop Project into this Year 2016…the year of Truths!”