If you’re a person with eyes to see and ears to hear, you’re well aware the plight and spirituality of America’s indigenous people recently rose to the head of our nation’s consciousness. The quick and dirty, with an emphasis on dirty: Standing Rock’s stand-off thrust the spear tip forward on the front line battle over the transition between an old energy and new energy economy. Well explained in one of many posted videos, we’re all up against this challenging metamorphosis, teetering on the edge of an imminent shift.
Wind, solar and hydropower now being so much cheaper than the old energy systems, the carbon cronies quest to maintain market domination relies on the creation of masses of infrastructure. All the folks invested, from Citibank to Wells Fargo to other corporations, wanted oil flowing through that pipeline for years to come, long after any justification for oil vanishes. We’ll no longer buy fossil fuels in the USA, as the switch to wind and solar and electric cars concludes. But this infrastructure allows for selling to poorer countries, perpetuating global pollution, a no-win for every party involved. We’ve all painfully watched an outlaw corporation break the law by combatting peaceful protestors. And the state, rather than coming down on the peaceful side by advocating for law and order, chose instead to employ its awesome military powers of plastic bullets and tear gas on people peacefully asking for order, all on behalf of the criminal.
That’s the quality of information easily read on Facebook or in the Kalamazoo Gazette. The story behind the story, where we go off the map, out past the power lines and up that little side road without a sign, hidden from the mainstream, is where we find the keepers of our ancient future, keepers of the drum. Unknown to most people, the Ceremonial ways of Native Americans offer a path of purification so powerful, the modern ills of anxiety, depression, and addiction are soothed and even alleviated by its healing balm.
Study history and the industrial revolution and you’ll realize how truly remarkable the discovery of three thousand miles of howling wilderness just over the Atlantic’s horizon, a paradise populated by Stone-Age tribes, a native population barely changed, technologically, in 15,000 years. Living in mobile or semi-permanent encampments in the heart of nature left these “savages” with short, brutish and arduous lives, an existence we of the centrally-heated, phone- fixated modern world can hardly imagine. A little over one hundred years ago, these nomadic hunter-gatherers organized their lives and Ceremonies under vaulted ceilings reaching to the sun, moon and stars. Extraordinary purification practices granted them the mystical mindset of the ancients, enlightening many leaders and elders.
Warmed, comforted and technologically obsessed with modern world conveniences leave us equally soft, scattered and disconnected. Gone the fierce edge of fighting for food and survival, and along with it potent rituals of renewal as well as rites of passage. No surprise then the scores of people in contemporary society on “the hunt” today for the sacred, for the grounding providing by native Ceremony. In the Inipi or Sweatlodge Ceremony, one of seven rites of the Lakota Nation, elements of nature – earth, air, space, fire and water along with the human participants – are organized in a sanctified fashion, fostering experiences of oneness and inner peace on a fast track to well-being. Heated steam combines with darkness, drumming, sacred songs, prayers and spirited community connections, stimulating psychological wellness.
After being invited in like an extended family member in the late 90’s, much of my upwardly mobile, modern world drive fell to the wayside. While I wasn’t exactly transformed into some Native American Saint, I was blessed with a glimpse into my own death as well as the world of the spirit, esoteric Ceremonial experiences leaving me unable to see the point of pursuing anything short of the highest realms of God’s kingdom. Raised in a western, death-denying culture, I was all Noh’-gays – “Ears” in Lakota – when my teacher, a Sicangu Lakota Medicine Man of Rosebud, South Dakota explained to me: “We Lakotas say that we are born to die.” And believe me when I tell you that no one does Death like the Lakota Nation.
Living that former life, I traversed from my Arizona and later California homeland to the Dakotas several times, and would probably have been rambling to Standing Rock in my pickup truck months ago. Times having changed, committed now to building up a healing retreat center in south western Michigan, lead me to supporting the effort from afar by running several sweatlodges, introducing my new neighbors to the beauty way experience while donating contributions to the Standing Rock camp.
Did you catch the eye-wetting video of a group of veterans standing before the feathered head of a Lakota Chief and kneeling down to ask forgiveness for the way they treated the tribal people of the Americas? Wesley Clark Jr., the son of NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark Sr., joined together with a group of veterans and delivered a powerful apology to the Native Americans. The full video, featured on Salon, also features Native elders such as Lakota spiritual leader Chief Leonard Crow Dog and Standing Rock Sioux spokeswoman Phyllis Young.
Clark Jr. states: “Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you, over the many years. We came, we fought you, we took your land, we signed treaties that we broke, we stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. Then we took still more land, and then took your children. Then we tried to take your language, and tried to eliminate your language, your language, that God gave you, that the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways. But we’ve come to say that we are sorry, we are at your service (kneeling), and we beg for your forgiveness.”
After a tremolo, Chief Leonard Crowdog of the Sicangu Lakota Nation of Rosebud South Dakota, Teacher of my Teacher Wicasa Itankan Tatanka Weitgo, responds: “World peace. World peace. We will take a step, we are a Lakota sovereign nation, we were a nation, and we are still a nation. We have a language to speak. We have preserved the caretaker position. We do not own the land, rather the land owns us.” More shortly on what we can learn from tribal societies on healing, loyalty, belonging and the eternal quest for meaning. Aho matakuye O’yasin (we are all related).