AND RIGHTFUL OWNERS
(A Journey of Atonement)
It was startling. At Union Square that Sunday afternoon, over a month since September 11, there in the midst of an assembled crowd of observers, photographers and reporters, the very center of everyone's attention, was an American Indian man. (Russel Means said that American Indian is a proper term. He said that he has accepted its connotation, In-dios, "a people near to," or "of God." Names have been a little confusing for those of us who are trying to connect ourselves to the Whole, and to reverence everyone's own sense of themselves in the process. Until I am told otherwise I will use it. I have been told, so I do not sing This land is your land, this land is my land any longer). This man was chanting a song in his native tongue, to the beat of his drum and the rhythmic shaking of a ceremonial rattle . Many of us, feeling humbled in his presence, were being carried along on every note, and every beat, until he stopped. There was stillness. Then someone asked the meaning of his song. He replied in words such as these: "I am an original person. I am a true American. When they attack this nation they attack me." I was a little confused. What was he saying? "If they do not like this country," he continued, "let them get out of it. There are plenty of airplanes, let them take one. If they want to burn their draft cards, well let them go to another country." It became apparent that it was this man who was confused about many things, at least from my point of view. "I am the color of the earth," he said. "First they came and took away my land..." "Friend," I interrupted, "that's why many people burn their draft cards, because of what was done to your people, and your land." The idea fell on deaf ears. He replied, "When you attack George Bush, you attack me. This is a great nation. If you do not like it, or if you want to attack it, get out of it...or else you will have to deal with me." "Well, the white man is not the only one who is bewildered and confused about these events" I said to myself walking away.
In August, just before this fateful September, I had been invited by our friends, Tim and Maia, to come out and visit the San Francisco Bay area where they were now living. I had time before the High Holy Days, which I have been observing in New York City for the past several years. But what to make of such an adventure? I had not been across the country since returning from military service in 1967. Why not A Journey of Atonement, befitting the times and my own spiritual needs? Why not stop at many places along the way and ask God's forgiveness for the atrocities that have been committed, most perceivably at the hands of Europeans against all others on this continent, for all the blood that has been shed, people enslaved, and lands stolen. I threw some clothes and my books in the back of the station wagon and set out for West Virginia, the first stop.
It might be said that this spiritual journey began in the early 70s when our family came to these West Virginia hills from New York, in search of God, seeking community. There were many people leaving their old lifestyles in those times, and their old frames of mind. There was a revolution going on, all over the country, taking many forms, addressing many issues (race, war, power, wealth, poverty, gender, the environment, violence, oppression and injustice in all of its forms), the effects of which are still yet to be fully realized. And, of course, many things had come to pass in the world since then. Now here I was, over twenty five seemingly-bewildered years, and many hard-learned lessons later, back here staring across the Ohio River wondering which way to start off across this continent, to complete this American journey.
I had been to this place along the river many times since coming to live here, mostly with the grandchildren now, looking over to Ohio, watching the tugs and barges plying their way from Pittsburg, past Cincinnati to the Mississippi and back again. Rivers keep a record of time. You can sit along side of them and see into the past. We reminded ourselves often that the land we were looking at over there was at one time, not too many decades of years ago, not American soil. I wanted the children to know, and never to forget, that that land, called the Ohio Territory then, was stolen by force from its original inhabitants. We spoke at times of Chief Logan, a "friend," whose entire family was nevertheless murdered by American colonists ("There is not a drop of my blood running through the veins of any living being now," he said). And of Cornstork, and the defeat he and the Shawnee nation experienced along the river at Point Pleasant at the time of the American revolution. We had even visited that site, and the grave of Cornstork who was also murdered by colonists in an act of retribution. There is a very obscene monument erected there by the D.A.R., or some such organization, dedicated to the triumphant defeat of the savage Indians, making those territories safe for habitation. Perhaps it is not as obscene as the many other monuments that have been set up across the American political landscape. The one in the center of downtown Indianapolis is particularly incriminating, as is the memorial out there in Indiana to George Rogers Clark and his band of American renegades and cutthroats. I have taken the children to many of these places. We had also already visited many of the archaeological sites and remains of what was once a highly civilized and spiritual culture dwelling throughout the Ohio River Valley. We had already prayed on top of the mounds at Marietta and Moundsville, so I reasoned that I would not have to go in that direction this time. And we had already sat and held hands together in prayer at the Serpent Mound, right there in the spiral center of the Serpent's tail. (There was a very large gathering of people on this mound at the time of the Harmonic Convergance in 1987, but this time the park attendant threatened us with expulsion for being on the sacred mound itself. We apologized and got up). This mound was erected in the time of Christ, and could only have been built by those who knew the symbolisms in the books of Genesis and Revelation...
Seven turns from the spiral Mystery to the Great Event, (Revelation 12:1-4; 7-11).
We spoke of Tecumseh and his heroic, but fruitless efforts to keep the Americans from further encroachments into the Northwest Territories. We had visited Vincennes, the capital of those territories after Ohio had become a state, and had formed a prayer circle, two grandfathers and a joy of children, on the top of an old overgown and neglected mound we found there. I am sure the children do not remember the details or the names, but we compared William Henry Harrison, the governor of those territories, and who also became president, with Andrew Jackson who was also an Indian killer, and who, as president, was responsible for enforcing the Indian Removal Act, thus for the expulsion of the Cherokee people and others from their ancestral lands. It was he who set the people out upon the now-famous Trail of Tears.
Some of us had previously traveled all across Tennessee, the Virginias and southward through the Carolinas, and I had also asked God's forgiveness for all these sins, as well as for my own, from the top of Stone Mountain in Georgia. We didn't want the children to forget that the very side of the river we were sitting on was stolen land also. (That episode began with the very first colonists two hundred years earlier. Some reason that many of the native inhabitants were just as vicious with each other before the Europeans came as the Europeans were in turn to them. And while this is true in part, the atrocities were now being committed in the name of Christ. They were now being committed in clear violation of the very proscriptions against such things in the written word, and this is clearly forbidden). I had already visited and prayed at the site of Tippecanoe, so I did not need to go there again. I wanted to make the trip to California in five days if that were possible, and then, after the visit there, five days back in order to be in New York City for the Holy Days.
I set out across Kentucky to Louisville, and on up into Indiana at New Albany, heading for the house of two dear friends, Frank and Sonja, who lived just south of Terre Haute where I would pass the night before crossing over into Illinois the next day--remaining ever mindful of the history of this part of America, and how little trace there was of the people who first inhabited this region, except in the names. When asked for a definition of a modern housing development--you know the tractless wasteland of minnie mansions that are springing up all over America, and the temple-malls and miles of dealerships that attend them--someone said: "It is where you go in and cut down all the trees, and then name streets after them." The practice didn't begin with the developers. It began when the national roads were opened to the West, when the first settlers came into these areas driving the indigenous peoples before them, and then naming states and territories after those they had driven out. It is all quite evil. God hasn't forgotten it.
Our friends in Indiana had taken us on several occasions onto restricted coal company areas, to see--to stand there struck with amazement and deep, deep sorrow is more like it--as these massive coal drags (larger than one can imagine) worked non-stop in great sweeping circles 24 hours a day, ripping up the earth and leaving behind a man-made mountain of lifeless soil and a gaping wound that will not heal for a thousand years. In West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia they have devised an even more diabolical means at getting at the coal. They are not even embarrassed to call it by its name: mountain top removal. The words kept dancing through my mind: And now the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth. (Revelation 11:18).
Several months beforehand our friends had taken us over to St. Louis to see the eye of the needle, or the Gateway to the West as it is called. A great amount of the pioneering traffic westward passed through the St. Louis area in the nineteenth century, and Lewis and Clark set out from there on their voyage up the Missouri River searching for a land route to the Pacific Ocean. Many American Indians refer to this time in history as The Contact. For other tribes the Contact occured many years before when the Spanish came to the center of the continent in search of gold. They left not finding any the precious metals they had heard of. (Job, chapter 28). Those Spaniards had no idea of the true (future) treasure those Kansa were guarding. (There was a Divine plan afoot, one that is still unfolding...It is going to be a Great Jubilee). Some Paiute historians have more aptly called it the Intrusion. Others are more blunt and call it by its true name, genocide. In all cases the incursion was a long relentless process of exploration, commercial exploitation, military conquest and dispossession. Manifest Destiny was underway.
It was under Thomas Jefferson's administration that this expansion beyond the Mississippi got under way. It was he who officiated the Louisiana Purchase which granted to America the legal title of administration over a land that it had absolutely no right to purchase, and, of course, France had no right to sell, and who dispatched Lewis and Clark to find the Northwest passage through this land. Thus it is natural to find an imposing statue of Jefferson occuping the central rotundra of the museum (The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) dedicated to this era of American conquest. It is also here that the tour of the museum begins. The visitor, setting out with a very subliminal attachment to Jeffersonian principles, then proceeds to tour the historical exhibits that fan out and lead at last back to the statue again.
The first feature at the Museum of Westward Expansion, is the History Wall where one can follow in chronological order all of the main events of nineteenth century American history, beginning with the Land Act of 1800 which divided the Northwest Territory into what would later become the individual states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and and Illinois--1804, The Louisiana Territory Act which gave official notice of the United States government's intention to move Indians living east of the Mississippi to the west of the river. The Land Act which reduced the minimum cash payment for Western lands from $2.00 to $1.64 per acre. 1813, General William Harrison's victory signals collapse of Indian confederacy in Northwest. 1815, Treaty of Portage Des Sioux enables rapid settlement of the upper and western-most part of trans-Appalachia. 1816, First Seminole War ends in the defeat of the Florida Indians at the hands of Andrew Jackson. 1817, Alabama territory is formed, Mississippi admitted as a state--and ending in 1890 with the notations: "Sioux chief Sitting Bull is killed by soldiers in South Dakota during U.S. Army effort to curb influence of the Ghost Dance, a religious rite thought to be dangerous to the white population in the area; Two hundred (300) unarmed Sioux are massacred by U.S. Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek on December 29." These last events signaled the end of "armed" resistance on behalf of American Indians in this country, until the brief encounters in South Dakota between the resurgent American Indian Movement and federal officials in the early 1970s...
But the highlight of that visit were the mounds at Cahokia which were built a thousand years earlier across the river in what is now Illinoi (and then mysteriously abandoned, as all ancient sacred pyramid-places were). One can stand on what is now called Monks Mound and see the skyline of St. Louis, and the great arch. One can also look directly to the West (almost beyond the frame of this picture), and see the Wood Circle, or Woodhenge, which was also erected by this unknown people (obviously some of the ancestors of the central plains Indians), who also obviously knew something of their place in the center of God's great mystery--a mystery that the Europeans had long forgotten. ("He has lost his Instructions" said Matthew King one of the Lakota Wisdomkeepers), This people must have also known something of the times...
From the center of the Wood Circle the administrators of this temple were able to record the passing of the seasons, the Equinoxes and Solstices, and, it is believed, the phases and intercalations of the Moon. In so doing they were able to align their own spiritual observances and rituals with the Mind of Creation itself. The Great Wooden Circle contained spaces for forty-eight poles, with one--the 49th, or central pillar--in the center. One can imagine the people observing and counting off forty-eight years of seasons, returning every 49th year to the central pole, and to the passing of another in the great sequence of years marking the passage of Jubilees. When the full amount of Jubilees transpired in the Earth (40 from the time of Christ to be exact), the world would be attended by such great signs and wonders as it presently is, when the old age would come to its conclusion and the New would be born. We can also imagine that the priests of Cahokia had instructions to abandon this site before the final ten Jubilees began to transpire (the final 10 X 49 years), so that when the Ravens (the sons of Darkness) came to these shores, and to this land, they would still be left in the dark as to the great historical meaning of these things. Cahokia is not situated directly at the center of the country, so it also seems that those who officiated here were keepers of the Great River Legend, the one that would flow out of Eden again at the end of days. (Revelation 22).
We had already offered our prayers at the summit of this mound, so it was decided to leave on a more northerly route from Indiana, across Illinois and Nebraska, toward the Sioux reservations in southcentral and western South Dakota. (I would stay off the Interstates wherever it was possible. One should not be proud of them. They are a collossal engineering and commercial metaphor for what America has become: diabollically unmindful of its own precious environment, its own spiritual surroundings, and--despite all of the technological and commercial motion in every direction--fast asleep. Yes, this was a journey through the great American Dreamscape. And I was part of the dream. I and my automobile were part of the disorder. But the even greater reality--the paradox as it is--is that it is only in such a place as America, and only under such historical conditions as these, that the spiritual mind can fully awaken).
I did not know what I would find on my journey through the reservations, or if I would even be allowed to pass through them without a reason for being there, I had no idea. I also had a suspicion that many indigenous peoples must look upon "outsiders" as myself with general disdain, or, at the very least, with general disinterest. After all, what benefit has such friendship with strangers proved so far? I did not want to seem like a tourist, but I guess that is what I was. Sunbear, an American Indian who had come over in a new-age kind of way to assist others on their journey back to a whole state of human consciousness, said of outside ideas, that if they didn't grow corn he wasn't interested in them. Well I had some good seed with me, some good medicine, but I did not know if anyone would be interested yet, if they could take any home. It is obvious to me now that I was still trying to heal myself. I was still trying to get the true gold to come to fruition in myself.
That process was actually unfolding in an interesting and significant way--and as a not-so-coincidental preparation for this journey as I look back on it--when a man named Scott Kelly, who we met on the street corner at Times Square, invited us to a sweat lodge ceremony his fellowship of friends were observing that previous Fall. Mike Duff and I came early as Scott suggested, in order to help set up the ceremony. We met the shaman woman who would lead the observances that day, who instructed us in the ways to carry each stone into the sacred circle, how to set them one on top of the other according to number, and how to build the fire that would bake these stones red hot, until they were ready to be brought into the sweat lodge after everyone was assembled there. She taught us how to cut prayer cloths, seven colors--one for the sky above, one for the earth below, one for each of the Four directions, and one for the Universe which encompasses all--and how to tie them together with offerings of tobacco and other herbs, to be brought into the lodge and left there as an offering of gratitude and a reminder of our most deepest thoughts and earnest petitions. The men in shorts (Lame Deer had something to say about this wearing of shorts), the women in light cotton dresses, some with colorful ceremonial symbols woven into them, entered the lodge in a clockwise direction, to meet the Light that always rises from the East--women first, men last. It is the way of Creation. (Lame Deer also spoke of the more proper direction for this ceremony--Westward. But there is a very true reason for facing the Rising Sun as well, particularly if one is observing this ceremony in the East).
The first set of burning stones were brought in, the flaps were shut and all exterior light was extinguished. It was indeed like returning to the womb of the Divine Mother, to be born anew. "Four sessions," she said. For many other reasons it was also fitting that there were only three sessions that day. The first began with the appropriate songs and prayers, and some teachings about the ceremony itself, and lasted about fifteen minutes. It was cleansing, but not yet the ordeal it was about to become. When the second set of stones was brought in, and after the lodge was closed to the outside again, all attention was turned now to Momageeshick, a wonderfully gentle Ojibway man who brought with him a great contentment, a faith in all things, and a lifetime of songs and prayers, and stories, but mostly on this day prophecies that he had learned from the elders of his people. As he spoke the heat began to rise. As he continued I began to learn the meaning of the sweat lodge. As he continued further I began to experience the mysterium of the lodge. I was, and I imagine all of us there together were experiencing the ordeal that begins to test one's ability to endure, not only physical but as the minutes and the words wore on a very certain level of psychological discomfort (well, perhaps not Momageeshick who must have been as at home in this lodge as he was in these words). The lungs have inhaled the fire, the sweat is pouring out, (as fear and anxiety must pour from the mind), and before long one is having the inevitable, and intended ritual encounter with the idea of death itself. One begins to long for just one breath of fresh air, for that light out there that will bring that cool breath of air, if only the door would open...if only someone would be the first to open it. The prophecies continued. The shaman woman would know when to open it, but when? This is not only a private ordeal but a communal one as well. The others were dimly present in the darkness, one must draw strength from them, each from the other. But to pass this ordeal one must at last recompose, listen to the words, concentrate on that light within, and draw assurance and courage from within themself. I believe this happened just before the flaps were opened and air poured in. Thaaank you. After a third, brief session everyone agreed that the sweat was complete. There was a communal circle right afterwards, in the outside air (outside of the womb), around which the shaman woman passed the sacred pipe from soul to soul. (Not the sacred pipe, but a sacred pipe). It was a wonderful and deeply personal experience. I felt that I had passed. One could not recite the words "Go the mass is over" yet, the meanings of that sacred ritual are yet to be fulfilled, but the lodge ceremony is a very meaningful passage leading to it. It is a baptism and a rebirth at the same time. Everything is connected...
Perhaps this is the proper place to respond to a recent article in the Navajo Times, (March 07, 2002), entitled:
NORTHERN CHEYENNE CALLS FOR PROTECTION OF SACRED CEREMONIES
PORTLAND, Ore__Concerned over the desecration of the Northern Cheyenne sun dance and sweat lodge, Bernard Red Cherries said it is now more important than ever to protect the sacred for future generations.
Red Cherries, Northern Cheyenne from Montana, is a sun dance/arrow priest and Elk Society headsman. "We ask the people who are abusing these ceremonies to take pity on us and leave our ways to us," he said.
The heart of the people lies in the language and the ceremonies, that is what the Cheyenne people believe, Red Cherries said. Red Cherries called on the legitimate spiritual leaders of the Cheyenne and Lakota nations to meet in mid-March at Bear Butte, S.D., to discuss the protection and preservation of the ancient ceremonies which are now being abused...
"The sweat lodge was given by the Creator; we have oral history as well as ceremonial proof and testimony, that it ascended from certain tribes," he said...The Plains ceremonies are imitated and exploited by non-native, and at times native, New-Age shamans who are self proclaimed priests or priestesses molding it to their wild agendas...I have heard of sweats termed as new moon sweats and solstice sweats, somewhere this nonsense must be challenged...I don't think our elders who fought so hard and paid the ultimate price with their blood and lives so that we could continue to carry on our ceremonies have ever heard of these types of sweats," he said..."We need to address this issue of abuse and attempt to quell this bastardization and exploitation of our sacred ways," he said..."The sweat lodge, being a central part of our ceremonies, being ceremonially taught and given by the ancient ones, needs to be protected..."
Among the considerations is whether those conducting the ceremonies should be fluent in the ancient language of the tribes. Also under consideration is whether leaders of the sun dance should be those who have pledged a sun dance and become sun dance priests.
In deference to Bernard Red Cherries' concern for the integrity of these ancient ceremonies we must first of all accede to him. We too are concerned for the integrity of the sacred. Stripped of his own sense of his own mysteries, the White man, hollow of heart and empty of song, seems now to be stealing rituals as he stole land, to make up for a lack of his own. May I suggest, however, that Red Cherries does not see the big picture...
The Great Sun Dance Circle
...He seems not to be able to sense the things that are happening in the Earth, how all things are reconnnecting. They are reconciling themselves (out of all the places to which they have been committed by the Great Spirit in ancient time) to their original meanings. Such meanings (of every ritual and every ceremony, from one end of the earth to the other) are discovered (or re-discovered as it is) on the Central Pillar and in the universal teachings of the Tree of Life. They are discovered in the great circle that spans the pages of history from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation, from the West back to the West again...
"Inyan Wasicun Waken--The Holy White Stone Man--that's what we call Moses. He appeals to us. He goes up all alone to the top of the mountain like an Indian, to have his vision, be all alone with his God, who talks to him through fire, bushes and rocks. Moses, coming back from the hill carrying stone tablets with things scratched on them--he would have made a good Indian medicine man." Lame Deer Seeker of Visions, by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, p. 103.
Heaven and Earth are reconnected along the Central Pillar of the Tree of Life, as well as all things East and West, and North and South. Red Cherries seems not to understand that the Sweat Lodge and the Sun Dance ceremonies, which the Plains Indians have been so faithfully practicing and preserving for all the world, belong to all who are called to them in our times--just as the ritual and sacrament of the Christian Mass has been handed down throughout the generations for all of those who are able to enter them. We have come to the time of the Evening Sacrifice, and this is the "future generation" that Red Cherries speaks of...
Message from the Hopi
- People of Peace
Posted: March, 2003
You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell them that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered: Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water? Know your garden. It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and so swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The Elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above water.
See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey, comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word 'struggle' from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.
The Elders Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation
We agree with Red Cherries' concern for the shallow and superficial way many New Age practitioners are presently observing these rituals, without regard for their most serious and sacred implications, but we also see that he is mistaking those who are taking these ceremonies seriously (and yes, redefining them in terms of present realizations), with those who are abusing them. He cannot see that a New Age is indeed in the process of being born, and that there are thousands upon thousands in the earth at this present time who are rising up out of every race of humankind, and out of every religious tradition, in order to facilitate that process. These have come into the Earth at this time to help God turn the Great Wheel of Life, out of the shadows through which it is presently passing into the Light of the coming Day.
Thus standing in that small circle of sweat-lodge initiates was not unlike being in the greater circle of those who assembled the year before at the Rainbow Family Gathering in the Allegheney National Forest. These thousands had come, as they have every year in July since the early 1970s, at different places throughout the country, to observe homecoming, a (not always) unimpeded opportunity to share ideas, and an annual celebration of life. They come to keep the ceremony alive, to observe that day in the near future when all of God's children would meet at the Center, and begin to be united in one Great Circle around the Sacred Tree. They came this year, as they have each year during the weeks and days leading up to the 4th of July, not to revel in the "American" state of mind but to reflect, and to observe on that day a time of fasting and silence until noon. Those who are taking the observance seriously come to make a collective atonement for the sins of their own people. (I pray that Red Cherries will open up the Circle of his own heart, to admit all who would come to him, for instruction; and that he himself appear on the day when the Great Circle is assembled in the center of this country, when all of God's children meet together at the Jubilee.
It was morning when I passed out of Nebraska onto the Rosebud reservation in southern South Dakota. There was no one there checking papers. A sign instead said, "Welcome To The Land of The Sicangu Lakota Oyate The Burnt Thigh Nation." At first glance one might have reasoned that beyond that sign there was nothing there at all. But then one sees it. The earth is there, and the sky, and one's sense of always being in the center of the vast dome of heaven. It is like never leaving home uncovered. The sky is one vast yarmulka, one gets to put on a new one every morning and every night. But I would not get lost in liberal, or romantically religious notions here. This land was a place of confinement. This people once (owned of course is not the proper word) the entire state of South Dakota, and all the surrounding states as well, from one ocean to the other. And the confinement began to show as I proceeded onto the reservation.
Poor people have poor ways, someone once said. There seemed to be despair and poverty everywhere. The yards were strewn with trash, old cars, abandoned trailers and broken toys. I know that the light of hope burns everywhere, even in the darkest places, but it seemed almost to have been put out here. Perhaps the young mothers are keeping the flame, certainly many of the older people, and I am sure some of the men. (Yes, of course, many people are keeping it). I had terribly mixed emotions. Intentional poverty, or rather intentional simplicity is good. It is essential to the soul. What a wonderful place of pilgrimage this could be, a place of deep religious contemplation and renewal. But all of life itself is a pilgrimage. The people here were barely surviving, it was not intentional. But then again, was I allowing a false set of Western material values to cloud my view of things here? No, not entirely, there was squallar and desolation here. This was a beaten people. But then again, I thought, it was not too much unlike the conditions in which impoverished people everywhere lived, up in the hollars of Appalachia, in the inner cities and many other outlying and rural areas of America. My heart reached out to poverty everywhere, but most especially to poverty of mind and spirit. (I have since read Lame Deer Seeker of Visions by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Harvey Arden's Noble Red Man, Lakota Wisdom Keeper Matthew King, and another by Harvey Arden and Steve Wall entitled Travels in a Stone Canoe, The Return to the Wisdomkeepers. I would make them required reading in every school).
There were housing projects that reminded me of what some Jewish and Arab settlements in Palestine must look like (now here is a connection we shall explore at another place--the one that links the present plight of Palestinians in the East to the long-standing political and social conditions of Native Americans in the West), perhaps it was the sparseness of the surrounding landscape, but then the signs attached to the broken chain-link fences: "No Alcohol In The Housing Complex." This is not a particularly Jewish or Arab problem.
A local FM station was playing American hit tunes in between local announcements. There were lots of "meetings" going on it seemed. Now that is a liberal problem I thought. Actually I always thought I was one until I realized I wasn't being invited to those meetings. Liberals have lots of meetings, continuously affirming their values, one to the other, but never really investing themselves in them. So nothing ever changes. But that would require giving themselves fully over to the wiles of government, some form of government, and it is obvious what happens to liberals who go in that direction. They get eaten up. They trade a lot for a little. They lose their souls. They become what they are trying to change. It even seems that up until recently all of God's wars against America have erupted during so-called Liberal regimes. Liberals are not averse to killing and warfare, they just have different, well, more liberal and democratic reasons for waging it. They speak of peace, but they mean war. They speak of justice, but they do not mean that either. (But for some more obvious reasons God has saved those rich and powerful religious and conservative-nationalists for last. They are sincere in all of their evil ways).
The middle path is hard, it is the true path, it seems impractical, it demands that one remain separate from insincerity in all of its forms, from the irreligious ways of liberals and the religious ways of conservatives at the same time. It means remaining separate from the deceptions of government (every form of government) and its violent ways, even if it means foregoing some of the benefits that only government can bring. It leaves one alone with God, outside of the political order, sharing in the poverty and despair, and in prayer for the day when the true righteous order would appear. It certainly transcends the local politics of the reservation, which tends, it is apparent, to continuous, and perhaps at times even well-meaning, levels of dissention and dispute. It has all led to the present sorry state of affairs among Native Americans. (We need not mention here the unholy condition White America is in).
I was surprised to find the St. Francis Catholic Mission there on the reservation. Was this a papal outpost? Or were Francis and Clare to be found laboring here still among God's children despite the dictates of Rome and all of its past cruelties? Was this where the light was being tended? I offered my prayers inside the church, and then looked around for someone to talk to. What would we talk about? Catholics do not like to talk about transcendent matters. (They believe that Rome is the steward of such things). I never had a Catholic priest or nun stop and talk with me before. Oh there I was letting all of my own religious prejudices get in my own way. The office was locked.
I was surprised to see just how many small Christian missions there were on the reservations. There are small fellowships and meeting houses everywhere. Does anyone attend them? There are crosses on the roadsides (some of them in memory of fatalities), almost all of them decorated with flowers and prayer streamers. Everything seems so dislocated. Leaving the Rosebud, turning west on Rt. 18, toward Pine Ridge, one passes miles of abandoned homesteads, occasional livestock, more poverty, Vetal, a virtual ghost town. Two women on a more traditional Native American radio station were discussing the cause and effect of all these things--unemployment and poverty, alcoholism, neglect and abuse--on family life. One understands these issues. They are not confined to Native Americans. They touch the oppressed everywhere. And then all of a sudden fields of sunflowers growing like corn. You look to see if they are following the sun as it is said they do...
And then there along this lonely road, near a little place named Batesland, there was what could only have been a Sun Dance Circle. I got out and stared at it from the road. I didn't know if I was allowed to enter others' sacred places without permission. It is the same way with the poor. You can not enter their hearts without permission, and that can only come from God. One must ask God to make a way. I took a photo, and wished that I could someday be invited to an authentic Sundance. Matthew King, a Lakota wise man, said that he was sorry for the White Man. "He's got no death song...He is always trying to borrow or steal other's." I have a song. I know that I am part of the Great Sundance but I would like to be invited someday to this one also. Many of us would. (Many Europeans--the white man--have given their lives for spiritual things and for true justice). We have been learning the words, you don't have to be able to pronounce them. (I learned on a subsequent trip through this territory that this particular circle, though it is ceremonial in its construction, is not a Sundance Circle. In order to be so it would have a Sacred Tree or pole in the center).
I passed the road leading 7 miles north to Wounded Knee to visit the town of Pine Ridge first. (On the way one notices that American Indians do not plant lawns around their houses. Every house is surrounded by bare earth. It could be the poverty but one senses that it could be in honor of the Earth itself--Herself. Neither is one attended by all the noise and fumes, nor the expense that comes with maintaining lawns). It does not take very long after arriving at the center of this very busy little town to sense something there, an unseen tension. You stand there wondering what it is, and soon you realize that it has something to do with authority. The heavy weight of the Pine Ridge Indian Agency, and its invisible overlord, the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, are felt everywhere. (One did not have to read any books on the subject to sense it). Without approving of armed resistence anywhere, for any reason, for so many higher reasons that are plain to those who understand them, one must still be pulled, philosophically and sentimentally, to the side of the traditionalists of the American Indian Movement in their historic conflict with the American governement. (Justice shalt thou perform). And this would include their ongoing conflict with those who represent the authority of American government among the Indian peoples--those Indian agencies who are funded ostensibly for almost the same reasons that towns and municipalities and police departments all throughout the country are, but covertly in these cases to keep a two-hundred year-old political lid on things and the White man's rule in place. This, of course, will be impossible when the spiritual lid comes off, and all the doors to the hidden world are opened. It will be a Jubilee. The only ones with guns then, the only criminals then, will be the American government and its agents. It could be a Jubilee for them too, if they would only take off those uniforms, throw away those badges, and put down those guns and observe it.
As with almost all other Native American historical places, the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre, and the immediately surrounding area where the standoff between Indian activists and the Federal government took place in 1973, is barren of any other attractions. You can not buy a coke or a hamburger there, and one could miss it passing by. It stands there alone, unimproved, and unattended by any except an unofficial handful of artists and craftspeople. Next to it are the ruins of a church, where part of the events of 1973 unfolded. There is a great respect for Time among American Indians. They do not fight with it, or try to improve on it. They allow it to have its way. There is a fading sign there which tells the story of Bigfoot and his followers who were all murdered there by the U. S. Army after returning from a long ordeal of resistence, of cold and hunger. And of Red Cloud and Sitting Bull, and of Crazy Horse, and of others who had placed a certain faith in the newly returned Ghost Dance ritual, and in the belief that if the people performed the Dance with a pure heart, returning to the old ways, that the Great Spirit would rise up and drive the White Man from these sacred lands, and perhaps from the entire continent itself. It was a great Hope, born of great tragic and historical circumstances that had grown beyond the people's ability to control, or even understand. There was also a great amount of Christian mysticism involved in this Dance. This was a Holy Ghost Dance. It was not a mistake, it was part of the great prophetic pattern. The Mystery of Iniquity was not complete yet. If the Ancient One did not go on and allow the 20th century to unfold as it has we would not have gotten to see evil in its most splendid and most powerful form as we see it today.
As Frank Fools Crow prayed here at the 1983 tenth anniversary observance of the American Indian Movement resistance at Wounded Knee, an Eagle appeared in the sky overhead. It was a sign to everyone gathered below that the Great Spirit was attending to the prayers of His and Her people. Eeeeahhh, Eeeeahhh, Soon, soon.
The hardscrabble path leading up the hill to the cemetary and the now-famous brick-and-wrought iron arch, is bare earth. The simple memorial and the other graves to be found there share the site with several small trees and such small patches of grass as can find a way to grow there. (On the subsequent trip through this land that I mentioned, we met a young man named War Lance Broken Rope. He was on his way to Rapid City and caught a ride with us. When we stopped to visit the cemetary again Wahokiza, as he was also called, went on up to the top of the hill where I found him clearing and tending a small overgrown gravesite--of his two-year old little sister who had died several years earlier. He sadly mentioned that she was one of the last ones to be buried on this hill--an honour, he said, but one in which his mother could not bring herself to share. She was still brokenhearted over the death of her little daughter and could not yet find the strength to visit here. We left this man at his mother's house in Rapid City with a promise to write and send a copy of some of the photos that our friend Sirin had taken along the way). I had come specifically to this place (on the first occasion) to pray, to ask forgiveness. There was a connection between this place and the barren, almost forgotten state of my own soul.
I had been studying the history of the Ghost Dance Movement for several months prior, and before reaching California had planned to find my way over to the Paiute reservation in Nevada where it began. One should always try to complete every circle, and connect every beginning to its ends. Maia said that I should not complete this journey without also taking a pilgrimage to the sacred mountain on the other side of Rapid City near Sturgis, South Dakota.
The trip across the Badlands was kind of perplexing. Much of the natural landscape resembled exactly what so many environmentalists in other places were fighting to prevent, the effects of bad reclamation. This whole area looked as if it had also been stripped, perhaps thousands of years ago and then left to itself, without the means to heal itself. This was a subject to pray about. What is the difference between God's good handiwork and man's evil deeds, if they both achieve the same results? But then, isn't this like asking a great artist why he or she left a part of their painting undone? And then going ahead and trying to undo the rest of the painting in the artist's place, when we thought the artist wasn't looking? Those who strip mine the earth for profit are ripping up farmlands and forests, habitable eco-systems and esthetic landscapes. Does anyone think that the artist is not going to return to Their own studio and see what the bad children have done? This particular child stopped and took a cool bath in a river that crossed Rt.44 between the reservation and Rabo City. And I thanked and praised the Great Artist for painting it there.
I passed by Rushmore intentionally, with a heart for the mountain itself and all the stones and surrounding hills, but with great sorrow for what was done there, for how the place was descerated with images of violent men, conquerors and land stealers. (Great White Chiefs some have called them. Devils is the word the sacred Scripture uses to describes them). There is another set of images like it, blasted into the side of Stone Mountain, Georgia. Even the image of Crazy Horse being carved into another rockface in the Black Hills is a desecration. I know for certain that he would not have approved of it. (Lame Deer and Erdoes have said exactly the same in their chapter on this subject). The son of one of Rushmore's chief sculptors is presently determined to erect a 36-foot high equestrian statue of Don Juan de Onate, one the Spain's cruellest conquistadores, in the center of El Paso, Texas. This son of Spanish nobles left a trail of tortured and murdered (disciplined) Indians behind him as he followed the Camino Real, or Royal Road, out of Mexico into the southwest over 400 years ago. "To Mr. Houser (the sculpter), comments about Indian butchers sound like a lot of new-age babble. 'If monuments were erected only to honor saints', he said, 'there would be no monuments to Jefferson or Lincoln. There would be no Mount Rushmore or Vietnam Memorial, (Now that is true)...Whether they like it or not...we are going to give El Paso a gorgeous statue.'" If I were the American people I would be paying a lot of attention to the words in Leviticus 26. I would take those words serious. I would believe God meant them.
It was late in the afternoon when I arrived at Bear Butte. I had no idea of how revered the site was until I began my own ascent to the summit. The people called it Mato Paha, the Bear Mountain. It was believed by the elders that this was one of the places in the world where Heaven and Earth spoke to one another. There was a great assembly of tribal leaders here in 1857. They had come from every direction to learn what to do about the White Man's entry into the land. Thousands upon thousands, including whites, have come to the Mountain since then, seeking answers, offering thanks, some just curious. On that second trip through here that I mentioned, the young man who rode with us up to Rapid City said, "Now don't forget to see her." "Who?" we asked. "The woman giving birth," he said. "Earth Mother." "Look hard, you will see her."...
And there She was. We payed homage.
As it happened I was alone on the mountain this day. There was a family camped in a tepee below at the base. Setting out, one is immediately reminded of all those who have been there before them. Almost every tree and shrub along the path is ribboned with streamers and pouches. One reaches out to touch them, to connect, to be part of the collective experience of this mountain. The path winds upwards, back and forth, until at last one is near the summit. It is almost two miles to the top. Reaching it, among the trees and the rocks, one finds more streamers, embedded staffs, tent poles, blankets, stone circles, gifts and offerings. The sky to day is clear, one can see far off in all directions. The breeze is gentle, it is warm. It is a perfect day for a conversation. The sun is beginning its descent in the West. Forgive us Father, forgive me...
"One thing for sure, they never conquered my dad! Some of our young guys came to see him when he got ill, and they asked him."What are we going to do when you're gone and all the other Elders are gone?' He told them, 'Keep the Treaty going'--meaning the fight for the Black Hills. 'Carry it on. Carry the Treaty. Carry the Pipe. Carry your people. You've got Lakota blood in your veins. As long as that blood flows through your veins you will know what to do. You are the Elders now.'
"You know, most of their lives he and Chief Fools Crow worked together. Whenever the people needed them they were there, the two of them. Their lives were intertwined. (Now the two of them were gone)...
'A few weeks back I climbed Bear Butte. I wanted to talk to my Dad. So much is going on these days, so many troubles, and there's no one like him around to talk to anymore. I wanted to ask him what I was supposed to do. So I went up on the mountain all by myself like he used to do.
'I prayed for a vision. Then I saw him. The sun was going down, and I could see him standing on the little peak across from the top of Bear Butte. He just stood there looking at me...I don't think he was mad at me. He knows I'm doing my best, just like he always taught me. I think its the Black Hills he's mad about. He's still waiting for us to get them back. He won't rest until that happens--and neither will I.'" Lavon King, the daughter of Matthew King, Lakota Wise Man. (Noble Red Man, by Harvey Arden).
I woke up the next morning in Wyoming. Like the Badlands this area of the state was treeless and barren in all directions. But what was it about this place? That feeling was back. Only now there were images from the movie Spartacus flashing through my mind--of conditions that existed in the distant provinces under the rule of Rome. Something was similar here. What were these people doing here? Why would anyone want to come here to live? To this tractless place? To spend their life working, for who? for what? Wasn't this the home state of Dick Cheney? one of the two reigning American Caesars? Then it hit me. This was a slave colony, a labor camp. No, there wasn't anyone wearing chains, at least not the kind you could see. Everyone was free to come and go--each had their own pickup truck--but it was certain that very few would wander too far from their job. That was it! They were here for the money. They were mesmerized by the thought of money and for the purely superficial things that money can buy. No, it was bigger than that, bigger than each of these subject workers could possibly realize. They were only being kept content with money and things. But it was really about coal and oil, it was about energy, about the exploitation of the natural world. It was about power, Teapot Domes, now Enron, military contracts, war and global domination. These men had come into these territories as conquerors, or so it seemed, but they were slaves in fact to their own ambitions, and the most ruthless among them have risen to the top.
Rt. 59 to Casper; Rts. 220 and 287 passed Independence Rock toward Lander, following the Pioneer Trail. Many lives were lost crossing this barren land on the way to the good life in Oregon and California. Rt. 28 to Rock Springs, and I-80 to Salt Lake City. The Mormons came through here on their way to Utah. Now this is an entire story in itself, and one should read it from every angle: from the perspectives of those who uphold Mormon beliefs, and from those who view it as a, or perhaps, the great American Cult. Atlantis and the Western Eden, true Zion, hidden treasures, Rosicrucian tablets, lost tribes, and the mysteries of Islam, all reimagined and reforged, as it were, with the stamp of the American Manifest Destiny. Joeph Smith even entertained notions of becoming a candidate for the presidency of the United States (the great American Caliph), in order to extend his theocratic vision across the whole continent. Objective truth must be able to stand against every criticism. The Mormon story shall in fact tell itself, in all of its historical as well as psychological details, as the mysteries of God are revealed in our time. This much is plain to see: driving through Salt Lake City one immediately notices that the Mormon Temple sits lower than the State Capital and not the other way around. Ba'al resides there, as he does in Washington, D.C. I did not stop there but went on into Nevada. I was in search of the prophet Wovoka, and the origins of the modern Ghost Dance movement.
I reached the town of Schurz, Nevada, the seat of the Walker River Paiute Reservation, sometime around noon the next day, and asked around for the tribal offices. I met Victor Williams and told him of my interest in Wovoka. He showed me to the tribal council office where the head of the council provided me with a history of the Paiutes written by one of the elders of the tribe. I thanked him and immediately found a place to read the book, outside under the shade of a tree. "I was afraid you had left," Victor Williams said, finding me there. "Would you like to visit Wovoka's gravesite?" he asked. "Would I!" Victor took me down several back streets to the town cemetery. "He is in here somewhere," Victor said, as he started up and down the lines of graves looking for him. I was surprised to notice the patriotic symbols, flags and stones engraved with the military records of some who were buried there. And then I thought of all the attention that was recently being paid to the Navaho "code talkers" who served in the Second World War. I understood the complexities of it all, and knew that contentment and acceptance of one's situation in life is a sign of great godliness, but still wondered how a people, as oppressed and displaced as Native Americans were, and are, could be induced at the same time to fight and kill for those who have conquered and oppressed them. It is an age-old story, and a very powerful oppression. And I suppose that some felt more oppressed than others. The Navahos, unlike others, were at least confined to parts of their own ancestral lands. The Walker River council likewise speaks in glowing terms of its local enviornmental training program, funded through the grants it receives from the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program, an arm of FEMA, all of which has been made necessary as a result of the conditions described on a Paiute website as follows:
The Walker River Paiute Tribe is impacted by a full-range of environmental issues, including contamination related to military and mining activities...Walker River Reservation is located between two major Department of Defense (DOD) installations and a number of mining operations. On a daily basis trucks and rail transport live military ordanance and chemical weaponry through the reservation. Also gold and copper mining operations transport cyanide and other chemicals used for processing through the reservation...
"Here he is," Victor shouted from several rows away. One could see that Wovoka's gravesite was being visited on a regular basis. There were many offerings placed around the stone. The idea must still be alive in the hopes of at least some of the people. The stone said:
WOVOKA 1858-1932 Indian Messiah and Prophet. Founder of the Ghost Dance. His teachings of Hope, Good Will and Promise of Life After Death will live as long as Man inhabits the Earth.
I had purchased a small drum at Wounded Knee and placed it on the gravestone. "Would it be disrespectful to take a photograph?" I asked. Victor thought for a moment, "I don't think so" he said. "In any case, I am on the tribal council. You have asked my permission. So I say, Go ahead." On our little trip back to town Victor told me of the work he is doing there among the young people, and of the concerns he has for their future. He has been away to school, and has returned. He and his wife have a new child.
Traveling south out of Schurz toward the California border, I found myself among the starkly beautiful surroundings of Wilson Canyon, and the gently flowing river much too inviting not to find a place to strip down and wade on into. One could not keep themselves from thanking the Creators for such places on the Earth as this, and for such moments as this...
South from here, passed Topaz Lake, I was surprised to find myself at the California border already, and then wholly accidentally--(of course there are no accidents in life. God was about to treat me to another natural wonder)--on Rt.89N leading upwards through a valley...simply gorgeous...beautiful ...WOAH!..BREATHTAKING! I had come out of the valley on top of the Sierra Nevada mountains...
These belong to God, to the Sky, and to all the creatures who live here.
The journey could not have been complete without seeing this, this Face of God. There are no words. Just awe. (Pass through here friends, but apply neither ownership nor axe...without asking the council that is). One is now on the downslope side of this great natural cathedral as they follow the curves of the Carson River to U.S. 50 toward Sacramento. I experienced my first California sunset, a spectacular solar-panorama, while approaching Oakland and the San Francisco Bay area. I later learned that perhaps the last Ghost Dance was observed early in the 20th century near here, at Alisal near Pleasanton. I had reached the coast and the other end of the Great American Dreamscape.
Can you see it?
We have all arrived at the end of the age. For some a descent westward, and a new beginning.
Tim and Maia, who have since moved up to Sonoma County, took me throughout the city, to Haight-Ashbury and to the People's Park at Berkley where I spent a day. We hiked to the top of Mt. Tamalpais and visited the majestic Redwood forests. What can be said about them? these tallest of all living things? They are so humbling (one wants to kneel in their presence)...and yet so vulnerable. It is with mixed emotions that we thank those who preserved these woods for preserving them. They were the same individuals who were cutting them down.
Well, the past is prologue, all is forgiven for those who accept it, and who are willing to change with changing reality. Actually, if it were not for the fact that these last several centuries, and particularly the 20th century, have been recorded from every possible perspective, those who are alive in the future would hardly believe it all, how close humanity actually came to destroying himself and the planet he lives on--if the Divine Presence did not rise up and stop him that is. Their's will be a world wholly transformed, a natural Paradise. As it is they will read the books and see the films (or whatever form the printed and visual media has assumed in those times), and be unbelievably amazed at what they are seeing. But because of the work that is being done in our time they will realize the potential for evil that also exists in themselves, without having to experience it for themselves as we in our time have had to, and be ever on guard against it. They will be on guard against the speeches and the philosophies that have brought those who are presently in charge of the world to power. And they will regard with great historic reverence, not only the Most Ancient One but all the ancient ones who stood bold in these times against the destroyers. Of course it was never God's intention to let the destroyers get beyond the present point in time. "Four knocks, no more." And one can see those little shoots growing up all over the forest floor.
The journey home was with two specific places in mind, Chaco Canyon, another ancient ruin in northwestern New Mexico, and that place considered on a geodesic scale to be the center of the conterminous United States located in northcentral Kansas.
The ten thousand windmills one meets on the way out of southern California into Arizona (the Windmills of Tehachapi), all of them churning away in the prevailing breeze, are all part of the future. It is a place of thanks. One feels a touch of assurance, even pride (well, not pride, but joy), to be part of what man is becoming--not what he is yet, but what he is becoming. He still takes much, much more than he gives, destroys more than he preserves, and the wrong people are still in charge of those windmills. He is still trying to air-condition and consume his way into the future. Nature (God) will alter that arrangement for him. (The New Mother Earth Catalogue will be standard reading in every shtetle, every Hobbit village and homestead). If one catches the light at the right time of day the triple-blue-mountains are a very interesting visual illusion. And then there are those round stones, millions of them, all piled up on top of each other as if someone placed them there, one by one. But that's true of course.
Nor can one intone, or even frame in their mind, words enough to describe the depth and breadth and majesty of the Canyon...
Once again, one can only stand in awe at the grandeur of God. A simple wide-open, heartfelt "thank you" is enough. The greatest things require only the simplest responses. I am sure that one day soon unmindful tourists will no longer be flying airplanes and helicopters down into this sacred place. (On our most recent trip through Grand Canyon National Monument, on our way back to New York, we, Tim, Chris and I, found ourselves at a remote place along the south rim as night was falling over the canyon. We stayed there in meditation until the sun disappeared in the West, and all was dark. "Can you hear it?" Tim said. We strained to listen. "What?" I asked. "Nothing," he said. "It is absolutely quiet." We just sat there and listened).
Black Mesa lies between the Grand Canyon and Four Corners. It was nightime when I passed through there. But one can not miss, or fail to sense the wholly surreal Massey-Peabody atmosphere (the eerie sight and sound--the Auschwitz effect), that surrounds such places as these. From another perspective it is like a CNN war zone. It is a war zone--a war against the True Light. (Men go into the bowls of the earth for their sources of energy now. They shall reach up for it and gather it from above in the age to come). Nor should one fail to realize the great problems these companies intentionally create between peoples when they set their sights on a particular place, such as the sacred Anna Mae Sundance Grounds at Big Mountain near Black Mesa:
"Early in the morning on Aug. 17, without a warrant (It was probably easy enough for them to get one. Even the American government in Washington has its own Star Chamber), or any warning, a group of up to 60 officers representing the Hopi Tribal government, the Hopi Tribe's Land Team, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Navajo County Sheriff's Dept., invaded the ceremonial Sundance site at Camp Anna Mae, a home to traditional Dineh resisters who have vowed to remain on their ancestral homelands despite continuous threats by Hopi and federal governments of forced eviction and relocation. This ceremonial ground is the site of daily worship for traditional families who live at Big Mountain...as well as a continuous ceremony dedicated to healing of the earth and towards the creation of life known as the Sundance. The officers who came to invade the village arrived armed with a bulldozer, a backhoe, chainsaws, and other equipment of destruction, as well as live weapons and several ambulances (apparently the officers expected bloodshed). Within several hours the entire ceremonial site had been bulldozed, including all of the sweat lodges. The sacred Sundance Tree of Life, including its eagle feathers and prayer offerings was cut down and shredded...
The Hopi Tribal government, working in cooperation with the BIA and the federal government, simply wish to make a profit through the exploitation of the earth, mining the coal reserves, and in the process destroying the sacred land. In so doing, they would not only wreak environmental destruction, they would destroy an entire way of life, indeed an entire people. The Dineh at Big Mountain are fighting for one thing, their right to exist.
To desecrate a sacred site and be happy about it is a sign of a sick mind..Louise Benally, 8/29/01.
The Dineh of Big Mountain have called for a worldwide 'prayer gathering' to occur on October 12 and 13. This consists of no travel. Instead, for people all around the world to assist the Dineh elders and their families in two days of prayer...in support of indigenous rights, religious freedom, and the setting in motion of events which will allow all people to return to harmony with Mother Earth." www.blackmesais.org/Big_Trouble_At_Big_Mountain.html.
These prayers were answered already. The events were set in motion on the morning of September 11th. For wherever the Body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. (Luke 17:37).
I woke up as the Navajo park ranger was opening the gate to the Four Corners Monument. There were a few others also there already, waiting to visit. There was no charge to enter until 8.30 when the park officially opened for the day. Like almost all other Native American places this was a very unofficial and informal place to visit. It is a man made site, but a mandala nevertheless. It is the only place in the United States where four states meet together at right angles. One should stop at every labyrinth and at every mandala they come to, each is a center, each is a sacred place to offer prayers. (The mandala is the point at the center which expands, as one's consciousness expands, to form a great circle in which the prayerful and receptive soul can now include the entire Universe and every living thing in it).
On one of the other trips across the country we have made since last August--actually I have been back and forth three times all together in the last six months--we met a man named C. J. Butler. He, along with his wife and others, sells Native American arts and crafts and religious articles at the Four Corners Monument. (Friendly and insightful conversation seems to be the real reason he is there. He and his wife are gentle, giving people. "We just make a simple living," he said)...
Meet at the Center
According to Navajo history, they were first instructed in the art of sandpainting by the Holy Ones, divine beings of tremendous power and importance never seen by human eyes. The Holy Ones became known through instructions they relayed to spirits, such as the Wind people, who passed on knowledge of the ceremonial songs to the ancient Navajos. Among the sacred knowledge given to the first apprentices during Seven days and Seven nights of purification and instruction were songs, prayers, medicine objects, plants with protective and curative powers and sandpaintings...The apprentices were told that they must do their own sandpaintings with sand on Mother Earth, a stipulation to prevent the knowledge from being hoarded and to ensure that anyone with the necessary ability and patience could learn them. As the Holy Ones told them:
We will not give you this picture. Men are not as good as we; They might quarrel over a picture and tear it, and that would bring misfortune.
The black cloud would not come again, and the rain would not fall. The corn would not grow.
But you may paint it on the ground, with the colors of the earth.
A Guide to Navajo Sandpaintings, by Mark Bahti with Eugene Baatsoslanii Joe.
I mention the religious articles along with Butler's giving nature because of something I have learned about such articles, and because of a story I will relate shortly. C. J. Butler lowered the price of the sand painting so that I could purchase it with the money I had in my pocket. It was a side-by-side image of Sky-father and Earth-mother (or their representatives on earth), with a corn stalk representing the central pillar of the Tree of Life between them. There were other symbols imbedded in the painting which several books on the subject of such sand paintings describe. In one of these books is mention of the fact that most native sandpainters leave out or skew certain symbols when the paintings are to be sold to outsiders, so that those who purchase them cannot unwittingly or otherwise tap into the power that is inherent in the original paintings themselves. Such beliefs stem directly from the universal and mystical realization that the complex symbolism inherent in the Tree of Life, when seen and understood in all of its composite interrelatedness, does indeed yield to those who are one with it a certain measure of power (no, a great measure of power), which one could conceivably use for either good or evil. This is why Heaven has withheld and skewed certain elements of the Great Mystery from the eyes of the sons of Darkness, so that they could not exercise the true power that comes only to those who have lived by faith in the earth, and who have waited on the Spirit to reveal Her own mysteries to those whom She will, in Her own proper time. All of which leads to the following story:
Before setting out on our most recent journey across the country, Elizabeth Lakin, a lady who lives in the Sonoma County area north of San Francisco, asked me to try to purchase a ceremonial rattle somewhere along the way for her, which she planned to use in her own healing rituals. Elizabeth Lakan lives in a tiny one room hut on the edge of a redwood forest, with no indoor facilities. She is a healer, a body worker and a New Age shaman practitioner who is learning her craft, along with the use of prayers and songs, and natural essences and herbs to assist her in her spiritual work. She combines various ayurvedic and Native American methods of healing, which many in the medical community, of course, view with great suspicion and disdain. Though these are emerging (or reemerging) methods of healing, which have yet to prove themselves to the Western world at large (because of its own preoccupation with material and physical things), the Spirit must surely approve of them because She rewarded Elizabeth's faith and blessed her in a very serious and meaningful way:
I was looking everywhere along the way from New York to San Francisco for one of these rattles but could not find one. In the meantime Bernard, who, along with his wife, Sirin, was also making the trip, kept reminding me what a foolish pursuit I was on (a fool's errend). How could one purchase a rattle in an Indian craft shop, he kept saying, and then imagine that it could contain even the least amount of magic or power in it to heal anything or anyone? It would be nothing but a toy he said, a hollow one at that without a song in it, one mass-produced for the likes of cultural tourists who have not one sense of Native American healing practices, much less of the mysteries of nature that underlie them. But what else could I do? I asked. Elizabeth asked me to do this favor for her. Perhaps she could use it for twenty years or so, I reasoned, even if it was a toy, and have all of her own magic put into it before she was ever called upon to do any serious healing with it...
Leaving Cortez, Colorado, early in the morning, on our way west on Rt.160 toward Four Corners, we saw a Native American man walking along the road. I asked Bernard and Sirin if they minded if I offered him a ride. Of course they didn't mind, they are both loving radical people themselves and could not imagine passing someone with such a long way to go without picking them up. It's the way of all God's children. He said that his name was John Willie Jr., and that he lived with his father on the road that leads off of Rt.160 toward Shiprock, New Mexico, just over the state line...
The road to Shiprock.
We told him that instead of dropping him off at the fork we would take him all the way to his house. It was not that far out of the way. As we approached what appeared to be his very impoverished house, along what appeared to be a very desolate and impoverished stretch of the road (no electricity or plumbing, an old shed out back), his father came to the door to see who was pulling up. As we got out of the car John told us that his father was a songsinger. He kept the old ways. I was beginning to sense what God was doing here. A feeling of wonderment and awe ran through me. "Do you think that he might have a ceremonial rattle to sell?" I asked. "Maybe," the son replied. As we stood in the living room with the father the son appeared with a beautifully handcrafted rattle that he had made for ceremonial use, and perhaps to sell. "How much?" the father asked. (Horesetrading is still the way Native Americans deal with White people). I had sixty dollars in my pocket. He accepted. I asked the son to tell his father who spoke little English, that we were purchasing this rattle to bring it to a healing woman in California. With that the father disappeared into his room and came out with a beaded hawk feather. "My father is going to bless you," John Willie said. The son himself sang a song into the rattle while the old medicine man placed some sweet grass on the woodstove and began his song ceremony. He intoned the Sky above, the Earth below, He prayed to the Spirit in all Four directions and then touched each of us with the sacred feather smudging us with the holy smoke from foot to head. He told me to pray, which I did, following his directions, but adding a prayer to the Center. He accepted my prayers and concluded his blessings.
"Are you Navajo?" the father asked Sirin. "No, I am from Thailand," she laughed.
On our way to the car the old father took another feather and blessed the car and our travels. He gave us the beaded feather with the rattle, which we brought to Elizabeth. We found the second feather on the seat of the car. "Now this rattle has power in it," Bernard said as we made our way toward Four Corners. Tim, Chris and I returned this same way with a gift of organic tobacco and some heirloom seeds that Elizabeth had preserved, along with some other small gifts of thanks that she had packed in a box. The old medicine man blessed each of us again, as we made our way East this time, and back to New York in time for Passover. "Come back and visit me," he said. I told him that I would try to return with some children the next time. He seemed to suggest that we come before May.
Oh, that road leading in to the ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. It is sixteen miles of washboard. The front-end almost fell out of the car. (I know, I know). I left a note asking the people who scrape this road to please pick up the bulldozer blade. (I really meant, Please take the bulldozer home and park it, or sell it for scrap). The trip out there is wholly worth it. Chaco Canyon, like every other sacred site on earth, like every individual soul who walks the planet, is the center of the Solar System. (We must let Anna Sofaer, and others explain all of the technical, archaeological and astronomical details. I shall add here what I sense about it all):
The western (or left) side of the wall was more perfectly aligned with the Equinox than the Eastern side.
This people not only had a sense of their own place at the center of their own universe, as did the people at Cahokia, but it seems they were somehow informed (perhaps only archetypically some will reason) about the great Solar Mystery of Zion itself...
The two perpendicular walls of this temple were found to be aligned, north and south under the daily passage of the sun (thus under the meridian of the sun as it passed directly overhead at the time of the Summer and Winter solstices, leaving no shadow at the stroke of noon on those days), and east and west with the Spring and Fall equinoxes. A rock carving found on a nearby mesa wall corroborates this finding. This placed those who came here to observe the mysteries, and especially at these particular times in the year--whether they knew the greater historical significance of these things or not--at the center of them. And let's for the moment assume they did know something of it all. For just as the Spirit abandoned the City of David (the prototype of all such mysteries), and went into exile westward with all of Her children, so those who built and officiated at this sacred place also seem to have had instructions to abandon it, which they did (and almost at the same time Cahokia and other like-places were abandoned). Yes, there was a Great Mystery abroad in the Earth, and a great part of it was being hidden and preserved on this continent, long before the Europeans returned to it in force.
THE TABERNACLE OF THE SUN...Psalm 19:1-4.
The mysteries of the Hidden Center passed back and forth across the Atlantic and were taught here on this continent many centuries ago. We can also discover how the Central Pillar running through the center of this very ancient symbol of the Tree of Life, from West to East and back again, and from the ancient past to the present, from the Higher realms to the lower, is the original Totem. All of life is engraved upon it.
Oh that r-r-r-r-road again...Finally, out on the pavement. (It is very easy to find yourself thankful for bad things, like a good road. Actually we must thank God for all things. The age of the internal combustion engine, and the automobile itself, and all of these smooth concrete and asphalt roads, will pass. It will pass as humanity itself passes out of this present Darkness into the Light of the age-to-come). I was now on my way to Lebanon, Kansas, the geographical center of the lower 48 states. This is a very fitting name for a place that will have as much to do with the unfolding of God's plan as this place will in the near future. It is the center of the nation, the navel, just as Goshen was the center of Egypt.
Passing over Texas into the panhandle of Oklahoma, I came to Boise City where a very nice lady allowed me to take a free shower at a local truckstop, without the required purchase of diesel fuel. I entered Kansas at Elkhart, passed the cattle stockyards at Moscow, the grain silos at Sublette, and a large roadside sign at Montezuma that said "Pray for God's mercy, Pray, Pray, Pray." I made an inquisitive stop at I. S. Dinsmoor's Garden of Eden. He must have been quite an eccentric, but in the greater cosmological scheme of things he wasn't that far off. The Solomon River was on the way, as is the Saline River and Paradise Creek. There are hundreds of square miles of open space out here, corn as far as the eye can see. First the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. Here it is:
Speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt...Ezekiel 31; Revelation 15.
Three miles to the end of the road, or rather, to the beginning...
A Great Rainbow Gathering
There is a lot of numerical symbolism in this signpost. This is the temporary center. There is a monument to the right, a small pyramidal structure with a flag pole jutting out of it. There is a small chapel in the background, and behind it an empty building, and all around are miles and miles of open fields. Someone recently planted a small Oak Tree there for all to visit in years to come. I mentioned to a group of men sitting around a stove at the local service station in Lebanon, that this place in Kansas could soon become the center of the Universe, as God begins to deliver Their children out of America in the same way as They delivered them out of Egypt in ancient times. (Joel 2:15-32). "I don't think we're ready for that," one of the men amusingly responded.
At the 30th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, held at Yasgur's farm in Bethel, New York, in 1999 (A Day In The Garden as it was called), the folksinger, Melanie, said to everyone assembled there, that she was saddened to see how the very idea of Woodstock itself was being capitalized on. She spoke of those who own the Woodstock name, and of those who now own the original hillside where the event itself took place. She spoke of those who actually imagine they could get away with charging people money to experience something that God Themselves brought together. "The only reason I am here today," she told the people, "is because you are here. But I will not come back here again. Woodstock was a happening, an event, a sacred thing, and wherever it happens again that's where I will meet you."
This is the inside of the little chapel. (Of course the flag will have to go). Many people must have sat here and prayed for the nation. I sat here and prayed for the true Spiritual Nation, the one that is still laboring to be born. Before the flag is taken down and passed in mourning from hand to hand, before being reverently buried (as a gesture of honor to History itself, and to the Lord of History Themselves, and as a prelude to the higher meaning of the words at Deuteronomy 26), each soul will take note of the shape itself, and of the words that say:
Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou art like a young lion of the nations, AND THOU ART AS A WHALE IN THE SEAS: and thou camest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers.
Thus saith the Lord God; I will therefore spread out my net over thee with a company of many people; and they shall bring thee up in my net.
Then will I leave thee upon the land, I will cast thee forth upon the open field, and will cause all the fowls of heaven to remain upon thee, and I will fill the beasts of the whole earth with thee.
AND I WILL LAY THY FLESH UPON THE MOUNTAINS, AND FILL THE VALLEYS WITH THY HEIGHT...(Ezekiel 32).
I left here, visited another night in Indiana, and returned home to West Virginia. I spent night of September 10th at my own sacred place, in front of my own Sacred Tree. When morning came the world had changed.
The Seventh Month (The Great Jubilee)
Free Leonard Peltier