Thursday

Native American Experience



1. Native American Christmas Story


Gather round children and let us teach you a song that helps us to remember the sacred things of our Grandfather and the reasons that He came to walk our Land, clothed in Red Dirt. We are excited to learn the things He accomplished for us, among us, and through us. We are most excited that all the ways we have walked before now pointed us to this moment, when we mere humans would be able to walk as sons and daughters of the Most Holy One.

Day #1

On the First day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me... an Eagle sitting on a cedar tree. Remember children, the eagle climbs the highest and takes our prayers to the High places, and the eagle is Jesus, the One who was able also to climb to the sky world.

Day #2

On the second day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me two wise owls Remember children that the owls represent both death and sacred messages from the Holy places… and in this song they represent the Old Testament and the New Laws that brought transformation and mercy.

Day #3

On the third day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me three sacred drums: for the drums beat out the sound of our Mother Earth while we pray to the Grandfather. As you hear them beat, hear the Word creating the earth and the heavens.

Day #4

On the fourth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me four talking feathers: for the feathers remind us that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were given the talking feather by the Grandfather Himself, to tell His story to us all.

Day #5

On the fifth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me five prayer bundles (leather pouches of sacred leaves and herbs to hold while you pray), for we must remember that the Law did not vanish, and though we live by grace, the Law of Nature is still to be followed, and we humbly submit it as we offer our prayers.

Day #6

On the sixth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me six hawks a laying (For we celebrate the creation of our mother earth, and thank Him for giving us all life, through our prayers, often using the feathers of this creature to smudge ourselves in preparation of that prayer time).

Day #7

On the seventh day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me seven stones for sweat lodge (For we must remember the gifts of the Spirit are seven fold, and we learn how to walk in these gifts through our awe and love of God, we do this praying in our lodges)

Day #8

On the eighth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me eight great buffalo. For we want to remember the beatitudes, the blessings of Jesus. The buffalo represent His provision for our health, our very existence, as did the blessings He invoked on the people, the meek, those who weep, and the poor.

Day #9

On the ninth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me nine precious elders. For as we sit at the feet of our elders we hear how we can walk in the fruits of the Holy Spirit. They have always taught these truths: we just didn't know that they were the same truths taught by the talking leaves the white men brought to us.

Day #10

On the tenth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me ten eagle dancers. For our eagle dancers sacrifice for the people during the Sun Dance, to protect the people, to keep the people in wholeness, just as the ten commandments were given to keep the people whole.

Day 11:

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me eleven braids of sweet grass sage. For as we light it and send the smell of sweet grass to the heavens, it invites those who dwell in the realm of the Grandfather to enter our world and help us. In this we remember the faithful disciples who stood ready to do His will and work.

Day 12:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me twelve drummers singing. For the sacred drums cannot help us to pray if they do not have four drummers each to beat out the heartbeat of the earth to our God; and when our people are on the drum, we call it singing, we call it praying, because it is much more than just drumming.

Merry Christmas to all my relations! Ho!
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2. The Vision Quest: Experience of Black Elk,
Lakota Sioux Warrior and Prophet



A Vision Quest is an experience of deeper understanding of Nature and Spirit. It is a ceremony practiced by American Indians. To prepare for this "insight" one must first cleanse the body and mind by going through a Inipi or sweat lodge. Then with the help of a Holy Man, the quester is given instructions for fasting and prayer. Then the quester must go to a sacred place in the wilderness, usually on a holy mountain, and stay 2 or 3 days. During this time no food is eaten and one does not sleep but spends the time in deep prayer and observation. Many times, but not always, there is a vision. This vision is then shared with the Holy Man to help learn of its meaning. The vision often provides a direction for the coming life, and a new adult name for the quester. Sometimes the meaning is not shown for several years afterward.
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This is part of a vision quest I was told to share with all who may be interested.
Once, I went to pray at the top of the sacred mountain of my ancestors.
As I climbed to the top I heard voices singing as the wind blew the leaves.
At the top I saw, made from many stones, a large circle with a cross inside.
I knew from my teachings that this represented the circle of life and the four directions.
I sat down by the edge of this circle to pray.
I thought this is only a symbol of the universe.
"True," a very soft voice said.
"Look and you will see the Center of the Universe.
Look at every created thing."
As I looked around I saw that every created thing had a thread of smoke or light going from it.
The voice whispered, "This cord that every created thing has is what connects it to the Creator.
Without this cord it would not exist."
As I watched I saw that all these threads, coming from everything, went to the center of the circle where the four directions were one place (the center of the cross).
I saw that all these threads were tied together or joined here at this spot.
The voice spoke again, "This is the Center of the Universe. The place where all things join together and all things become one. The place where everything begins and ends. The place inside everything created."
That's when I understood that all of creation, the seen and the unseen, was all related.
The voice spoke one last time, "Yes, now you know the Center of the Universe."
I pray to the four directions.....hear me.
I pray to the West which gives us rest and reflection.
I thank you for these gifts for without them we could not live.
I pray to the North which gives us patience and purity.
I thank you for these gifts for without them we could not live.
I pray to the East which gives us energy and emotions.
I thank you for these gifts for without them we could not live.
I pray to the South which gives us discipline and direction.
I thank you for these gifts for without them we could not live.
Grandmother, share with me your wisdom, and I thank you for this gift.
Grandfather, share with me your strength, and I thank you for this gift.
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3. The Navaho's Harmony with Nature
(from Willa Cather's 'Death Comes for the Archbishop')
 
When they left the rock or tree or sand dune that had sheltered
them for the night, the Navajo was careful to obliterate every
trace of their temporary occupation.  He buried the embers of the
fire and the remnants of food, unpiled any stones he had piled
together, filled up the holes he had scooped in the sand.  Since
this was exactly Jacinto's procedure, Father Latour judged that,
just as it was the white man's way to assert himself in any
landscape, to change it, make it over a little (at least to leave
some mark of memorial of his sojourn), it was the Indian's way to
pass through a country without disturbing anything; to pass and
leave no trace, like fish through the water, or birds through the
air.

It was the Indian manner to vanish into the landscape, not to stand
out against it.  The Hopi villages that were set upon rock mesas
were made to look like the rock on which they sat, were imperceptible
at a distance.  The Navajo hogans, among the sand and willows, were
made of sand and willows.  None of the pueblos would at that time
admit glass windows into their dwellings.  The reflection of the sun
on the glazing was to them ugly and unnatural--even dangerous.
Moreover, these Indians disliked novelty and change.  They came and
went by the old paths worn into the rock by the feet of their
fathers, used the old natural stairway of stone to climb to their
mesa towns, carried water from the old springs, even after white men
had dug wells.

In the working of silver or drilling of turquoise the Indians had
exhaustless patience; upon their blankets and belts and ceremonial
robes they lavished their skill and pains.  But their conception
of decoration did not extend to the landscape.  They seemed to have
none of the European's desire to "master" nature, to arrange and
re-create.  They spent their ingenuity in the other direction;
in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found
themselves... It was as if the great country were asleep, and they 
wished to carry on their lives without awakening it; or as if the spirits 
of earth and air and water were things not to antagonize and arouse. 
When they hunted, it was with the same discretion; an Indian hunt was 
never a slaughter.  They ravaged neither the rivers nor the forest,
and if they irrigated, they took as little water as would serve their needs. 
The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not 
attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it.
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4. From A Soldier In Iraq


My wife is Native American, Iriquois and Cherokee. She is Christian. Some of her ancestors converted. Her grandmother, on the other hand, did not. My wife's grandmother used to, before we ate, pray to the spirit of whatever animal we were eating. She would give thanks to the animal for letting us kill and eat it. It was a very spiritual time, eating that was.

I grew up in a town where everyone hunted and fished. And every season, her grandmother would put a blessing on us that we would come out with good game.... Each time she did that, we came out with some of the biggest deer or fish we have ever hunted or caught before.

Which brings me to my next question: Who are we to say that animals don't have a spirit? They are born and die the same way we do. Just take a look around. Sharks, turtles, rats, and certain reptiles have been around for millions of years. So who is to say that we are the "superior" race? Not a person if you ask me. Until we have survived as long as some animal species, we have no right to say that we are advanced. Yes, we might have a larger brain or that we have opposable thumbs, but who says that is superior? I guess we will all have to wait until the next chapter in our life to find out. If there even is a next chapter.
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