Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Traditional ways still alive
This summer has been a good one for me. I was honored to be able to witness the Dakota Wiping of the Tears Ceremony for a family in mourning, we had four sweats three at night and the last at sunrise. As I drove up to the lodge at 4:30 am. I found to my surprise and delight 6 young men watching the fire. These boys were in their late teens and early twenties laughing quitely about somebody or something, talking about sports and girlfriends the way young men do. But when the elders came out and it was time to go in, the mood of the young men changed they were serious and respectful. Two of the older boys started singing, I think they were brothers. They sang with perfect harmony their words were clear and heartfelt. Their father spoke to them in Dakota and they responded appropriately, even the youngest one who maybe was about thirteen knew what to do and did his part with dignity. We started the day in prayer in the afternoon we feasted and fed the poeple.The family gave a way many gifts, then we ended the ceremony with a celebration dance. I dressed in my ndn regalia and participated in the celebration supporting as best I could. I was so impressed and honored by this ceremony I cried. Later I told the young men that participated in the sweat that morning, one was grassdancing and the others were singing around the big drum, that I was proud of them. I told them that seeing them told me that our culture will live on through them. I told them that my heart was glad that our traditions will live on in the next generation. Earlier this summer I attended a sweatlodge ceremony were only the dakota language and songs were song the entire time. Even thou I am Omaha, my heart soared with compassion and prayers for the people, I cried with joy. I lefted there feeling drained and yet humbled and happy. I was happy and grateful because something sacred had been kepted alive. I was humbled because I was able to be apart of it.
We are living in a time when being ndn is hard and the people are suffering in many ways. Tears, broken hearts and disappointments have been the legacy for many years now. So many things are complicating our lives, clouding the way for us as ndns to live. Alcohol & drugs have had devistating effects on our people. The long term effect of poverty, lack of education, poor economic development and inadequate health care has limited our growth. More importantly we have lost a part of the spiritual connection to the Creator that our ancestors had. We live in a time when even our own tribal members express jealousy resentment and talk disrespectfully about each other. Many tribal councils govern our people like the white man governs his and we suffer from this. At times the leaders take care only of themselves and their own, leaving many out of the loop. Our young people suffer the most, our elders are leaving us in great numbers everyday and with them goes many of our ways, beliefs, customs and songs. Nonetheless their is hope, always their is hope.
This summer I attended several annual Pow-Wows, my own in WhiteEagle Okla the home of the Ponca. I was grateful to see so many songs that were sung for individual families, clans & societies, honoring veterans past and present. In Flandrue South Dakota I witnessed veterans being honored with song and prayers. Always there are prayers. Our traditions live on resilient, they endure and overcome every obsticle. Living in the white mans world and keeping an ndn heart and ndn eyes can be difficult but not impossible. Every Pow-Wow I attended there was prayer, for that I was grateful.
This year among the Omaha in Macy Nebr. the Strong Heart Society gathered for its annual sundance, all went well. The spiritual leaders said that it was the best dance that they have ever had in the past nineteen years. A couple of Ponca's showed up and brought their pipes and asked if they could dance and they were welcomed. Twenty dancers prayed and danced the Omaha Sundance from sun-up to sundown the people danced, prayed and shed blood and tears for the people. Many prayers and humbling gestures were made by fasting, offering of flesh, dragging of buffalo skulls, or hanging from the tree everyday the people cried and prayed. So many prayers for the people, for the sick, the hungry, the homeless, those that were less fortunate, the elders and ndns suffering in the inner cities, prayers for the people in harms way, prayers for the leaders of the world. Prayers for the people, for all of the people, all over the world, prayers of peace, good health and spirtual well being. We all need prayers, we all need to beleive that something greater put us all here on this earth.
I am glad to report that the Indian People of North America are still here and will be here in the future, praying for the people of the world, for the four legged, for the winged sky animals and the animals that swim in the waters, for all living things. In the end of time I know their will be an ndn with one pipe offering our prayers for the people. Our ancestors knew that the Creator was a living God and that same God lived within each of us. For them every breath was a prayer, we need to as ndn people embrace that concept again and give our lives up to Gods will.