The Red Road that I know:
The Native folks here had their belief like everyone else from the beginning of their existence but I think the term Red Road they came up with recently so that they can define their religion to the government.
There are a few basic things that they all agree on and then after that it’s everyone’s interpretation according to what they see. For example the Creation and Turtle Island. All the Ojibway(Anishinabek is what they call themselves) and Cree and other Algonquin language group folks have a creation story with the Turtle island coming into existance. The Iroquoi have a different story about a woman and a bird, Bird Island maybe, but these days they also say Turtle island for this continent and the Lakota,Dakota,Nakoda say Turtle Island. I only know what I learned here from George Henry the elder I know and Russell Noganosh the Ojibway artist and a little from Tony the elder from the Oneida(Hidnashonee) 6 Nations Iroquoi Confederacy(Onandaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Tascurora and Mohawk) , also Moses my buddy and Matt another buddy of mine who is ½ Austrian but lives with his mom’s Native folks and is seriously on the Red Road not in any european fashion but real, regardless of his dad being Austrian Matt’s Native he has diabetes like many Native folks to and he has no ties to his dad or Austrians. And Levi, he’s Ojibway to and is for court cases, a lawyer. Herald, who is Ojibway I learned just about the Ojibway language and some things from the culture and we talked about issues the folks have, his daughter works with the homeless Natives. They have white folks smash their skulls with heavy cement slabs for fun, and horrible things like that, we didn’t talk about the Red Road, Harold and me, only language and some cultural experiences. Those are my sources. I talked to other people but didn’t learn from them just talked and they said what they believe in so I can talk about that also.
There has been much controversy whether I
should put this on the site. After much prayer and meditation, I have decided to
include it. The only way to overcome fear is with knowledge.
Sundance is a traditional Lakota ceremony that represents life and rebirth. It was once exclusively Lakota, but has become a ceremony employed by many other American Indian tribes. Each tribe has it's own variation of Sundance, but I will only describe the Lakota Sundance here.
Sundance is a new years ceremony celebrated in the summer, usually on a full moon. The actual Sundance lasts 28 days, but the last four days are the ones in which the dancing and most of the ceremony take place. A person who is invited to Sundance (you must have an invitation) must spend a year in preparation. This year is spent in sweats, meditation, and perhaps vision quests. You never know what to expect on your first Sundance, and nothing but the experience gives you this knowledge.
When the last four days of Sundance arrive, a dancer will go to where the ceremony is held. Once the sun rises on the first day, the day of the full moon, food and drink other than sage tea are relinquished until the ceremony is over. On each of the four final days, the day begins and ends with a sweat, or purification.
On tree day, the day before Sundance begins, a scout is selected to find the cottonwood tree that would stand at the center of the sundance circle. A cottonwood tree is always chosen because it is extraordinarily sacred. It is sacred for two reasons. One, because it was the tree that taught the Lakota how to make a tipi. It's leaves are shaped in the conical pattern of the tipi. Children made play houses from the leaves, which was seen by adults, and so they made their houses in the same pattern. Another reason the cottonwood tree is so sacred is because if you cut an upper limb crosswise, inside will be a perfect five pointed star which represents the presence of the Great Spirit.
When the scout returns with the information about the location of the tree, that evening the people involved in the ceremony go to the tree and offer it prayers. A piece of rope is tied to the top of the tree. Then a honored person is chosen to count coup on the tree. Three other men are chosen and each of the four stand around the tree at one of the sacred directions. They each take turns cutting down the tree until finally it is cut loose. The tree is then slowly lowered to the ground where it is caught by those men who pledged to pierce.
Blankets are placed on the ground where the tree would land, and as the tree is carried back to the Sundance circle, the blankets are retrieved from where the tree has passed and placed before it by the women, so the tree never touches the ground.
The tree is brought into the circle from the west. Bundles of sage and tobacco are then tied to the top of the tree by Sundancers to represent prayers that they have. The tree is then carefully placed in the hole in the center of the circle that had been prepared for it.
Such ends tree day
The next three days are spent in dance, prayer, and meditation. The men and women enter the circle each morning, and dance without food or water. The people dance in a clockwise motion, men on the inside, women on the outside. This goes on for the first two days, the dancers resting only when really necessary, and only are allowed to drink sage tea. On the third day, which is commonly piercing day, the heyoka (sacred clowns, backwards people, and very spiritual people) come out to dance and raise the spirits of the dancers. They dance counter clockwise and traditionally wear black and white. The heyoka often are dressed in ridiculous clothes, and spend much of their time trying to make the dancers laugh.
The third day is also the day that most men pierce. Piercing is the most sacred part of the sundance ceremony. It is representative of the sacrifice that the individual makes for the good of the tribe. As far as I know, the Lakota are the only tribe that has piercing in their Sundance. This was explained to me once by a Ute Sundancer to be because the Lakota pierce for the entire native people: they are the warriors of the American Indians, and thus sacrifice for the whole. I have no idea if this is a widely accepted reason, but it is a flattering one.
On this third day, all of the sundancers that have pledged to pierce (and haven't already) lie down together. The presiding Medicine Man(Men) then go to each person and cut two incisions in that person's chest. Then pegs are inserted into the holes and the sundancer is blessed. This goes on for each man who pledged to pierce. The dancers then go to the tree where there are ropes attached to the top, and attach these ropes to the pegs. Then traditionally they dance to and back from the tree three times, and then yank back with all of their strength, breaking the skin where the pegs are held in. The skin is then cut off, and placed at the base of the tree, and the sacrifice is made.
There are many variations on piercing: a dancer can be pierced in the back, and have buffalo skulls attached by ropes to the pegs, then he dances around the circle until the pegs break; a dancer can hang from the cottonwood or a Sundance lodge by his pegs until they break; or a person can be pierced both front and back, and have the pegs attached to four stakes placed in the four directions.
At dusk on the third day, the dancers close the circle and get a great feast that has been prepared for them. Hoka! This is the Lakota sundance ceremony as I have experienced it, but it has been a while, so if I have made any errors, PLEASE tell me, and I will briskly correct them. "
The Lakota invite traditional Natives from other Nations to the sundance. My Mohawk friend Ravenmarie was at the sundance.
This is the plains, let me add that there are so many ceremonies and things people do that you can spend your whole life learning them. For example a young fellow was leaving home and going for work in the city far from the reserve so he cut his hair and gave it to my friend Raven instead of giving it to his mother. That is again a Mohawk ceremonial thing. Raven then stitched his hair to her regalia so she can use it at another ceremony like that. I told that to Derlyn Moses’s woman who is Oneida Iroquoi like Raven both are from the 6 Nations, Derlyn said to that that there are so many ceremonies and things people do that you can spend your whole life learning them.
With the US and Canadian government being established all over the continent natives have got a name for their religion , Red Road. There are all different ceremonies and interpretations from Nation to Nation and even from individual to individual but some basics are same and everyone is accepting the 4 colors of the Ojibway as the 4 colors as part of the Native way. The Navajo however have another set of four colors, going clockwise from the left yellow, black, white . blue. Their Creation story mentions how things are Created and each color stands 4 a different world created. Here are 2 write-ups by Navajo folks:
Of a time long ago, these things are said…
The story tells the story of creation of the universe and traces the evolution of life of the Navajos (humans) through 4 underworlds to this present world, the 5th world. They came up through each
world with the help of the gods, evolved and became human.
Before anything, there was the First World, which was red (some versions say black). It was inhabited by the Holy people and insects (the Air Spirit People). Because the Air Spirit People
misbehaved and did immoral things, they were unwelcome wherever they went. So having nowhere to go, they circled upward and ascended thru a hole in the sky to the next higher world, the Second World.
This world was blue. In the Second World they encountered the Swallow People (birds) and for some time lived in harmony. The Air Spirit People once again did immoral things (they had affairs with the wives of some of the Swallow people) and once again, they were kicked out of this world. Again, they flew high in the sky and went thru a hole in the ceiling of the sky to the next world, the Third World.
The Third World was yellow and was inhabited by the Yellow Grasshopper People. Still, there was yet no people, plants or animals, mountains or waters. This world was flat and had yellow countryside. Again, the Air Spirit People lived in harmony for a while with the Grasshopper people. But soon they were up to their old habits, (having affairs, acting immorally). The Grasshopper people told them to leave, as they seemed to create disorder wherever they went. So the insect people took flight once again, but this time four Grasshopper people came with them.
They soon found their way to the Fourth World. This world was a mixture of white and black. The sky changed colors at different durations. There were four great peaks along the horizon of the 4th world, and the land was very dry. This world was larger than any of the lower worlds. They came upon the inhabitants of the 4th world who were People Who Lived in Upright Houses. They welcomed the newcomers. This time, the Air Spirit People were determined not to blow it with their new hosts. Time went by, and they did not misbehave. They lived in harmony with the people of the 4th World.
Soon, they heard a voice calling, and they were visited by the Yei, the Holy People. The Holy People instructed the Air Spirit People and the inhabitants of the 4th world to bathe and dry themselves with corn meal and wait for them. They did so, and the Holy People created First Man and First Woman from ears of corn, buckskin and the wind (breath).
First Man and First Woman had 5 sets of twins. The first 4 pairs of children were male and female, and married and had children. The last pair were known as the hermaphrodite twins. They did not marry and had no children, but contributed to society by their artistic creations (pottery, baskets) and other activities, so they were very much valued.
Within a few years, First Man and First Woman had an intense argument and parted ways. All the men went to live with First Man, and all the women with First Woman. This lasted a few years, and from this event the people realized that men and women really do need each other.
Then one day the people heard a steady roar. Insects told the people that it was a huge flood of water coming from all directions. The people were in a panic, not knowing what to do. They asked the squirrels and weasels to help them. The squirrels planted a pinion and juniper seed and the plant grew very fast. The Weasels planted a spruce tree. Together they grew fast and tall. They were then visited by a Holy person, who helped them get to the next world by this growing tall plant. Badger helped dig the hole into the 5th World. First Man and First Woman led the people thru the hole and they had reached the present, 5th world. (Above this 5th world is yet another world, but we aren’t there yet.)
Once safely in the 5th World, they created the Sun (Johonaa’ei) which means "one who rules the day" and the moon (Tlehonaa’ei) which means "one who rules the night". Stars were soon created, including the Pleiades. The people began to travel and move around the earth. Coyote and other characters are introduced here. And due to certain activities, (masturbation, gambling, etc.) the creation of certain monsters came into being. The Monsters began terrorizing & killing the people. There was Monster Who Kicks People Down the Cliff, Monster Who Kills With His Eyes, the Rocks that Crush, Slashing Reeds, the Horned Monster and many others. Soon, the Monsters killed most of the people. These were not good times.
Then the Holy people and First Woman created Changing Woman from turquoise and White Shell Woman from a white shell. Both Changing Woman and White Shell Woman were lonely, and one day as the Sun was moving across the sky, he saw the women sitting below. He sent them a ray and it went into them and they became pregnant. Both women had sons and they raised their boys together. Both boys always wondered who their father was. Finally they learned their father was the Sun. Soon the boys reached manhood and decided to venture out to find their father and ask for his help so they could destroy the monsters that were wreaking havoc on the earth.
The two young men, headed west. On the way they encountered many challenges, adventures, obstacles and tests. Along the way, they were aided by Spider Woman who taught them many things, how to fight, use their powers, get by the monsters and outwit traps. Eventually, they made it to their father, the Sun’s house. They asked for his help, but he did not trust them at first. He put them thru some harsh tests to see if they were who they said they were and if their intentions were true. Both young men passed the tests. The Sun decided to help them and taught them many things and powers. They dressed for battle.
Both young men went forth into the world killing many monsters. Changing Woman’s son became known as Monster Slayer and White Shell Woman’s son Born of Water. Many of the monsters carcasses can still be seen around Dinetah, (Navajo land) especially in Canyon de Chelly. Some of the Monsters he decided not to kill, as they served a purpose in the larger scheme of things. The Monsters he let live were the monsters that eat the flesh of the dead (the buzzard), the Monster Who Brings Old Age (aging and death), Cold Woman (winter and seasons), Poverty Creature, and Hunger Monster.
Monster Slayer then realized his work was done, took off his warrior armor and rested. Then the Sun made a beautiful place for Changing Woman to live in the West with lots of animals and nature. This way Changing Woman and the Sun could be together as husband and wife every evening after he returned
from a days work going across the sky. On her way west, Changing Woman instructed the people to perform Kinaalda (girl’s puberty ceremony) on Navajo maidens as a passage to becoming a woman.
To this day, Navajo people go to the San Juan valley, where in the mists after a summer rain it is said they can see the Hero Twins in the rainbow. Here the Navajos pray for victory over enemies and for harmony (hozho, to walk in beauty) in the world.
All this happened a long time ago, it is said!
The Navajo creation story involves three underworlds where important events happened to shape the Fourth World where we now live.
The Navajo were given the name Ni’hookaa Diyan Diné by their creators. It means "Holy Earth People" or "Lords of the Earth". Navajos today simply call themselves "Diné", meaning "The People". The Tewa Indians were the first to call them "Navahu", which means "the large area of cultivated land". The Mexicans knew them as "Apaches Du Nabahu" (Apaches of the Cultivated Fields), where "Apache" (Enemy) was picked up from the Zuni Indian language. The "Apaches Du Nabahu" were known as a special group somewhat distinct from the rest of the Apaches. Alonso de Benavides changed the name to "Navaho" in a book written in 1630. The English name the Diné officially use for themselves is "Navajo". Recently, Navajos have been referring to call themselves by their original name, "Diné".
According to the Diné, they emerged from three previous underworlds into this, the fourth, or "Glittering World", through a magic reed. The first people from the other three worlds were not like the people of today. They were animals, insects or masked spirits as depicted in Navajo ceremonies. First Man ('Altsé Hastiin), and First Woman ('Altsé 'Asdzáá), were two of the beings from the First or Black World. First Man was made in the east from the meeting of the white and black clouds. First Woman was made in the west from the joining of the yellow and blue clouds. Spider Woman (Na ashje’ii 'Asdzáá), who taught Navajo women how to weave, was also from the first world.
Once in the Glittering World, the first thing the people did was build a sweat house and sing the Blessing Song. Then they met in the first house (hogan) made exactly as Talking God (Haashch’eelti’i) had prescribed. In this hogan, the people began to arrange their world, naming the four sacred mountains surrounding the land and designating the four sacred stones that would become the boundaries of their homeland. In actuality, these mountains do not contain the symbolic sacred stones. The San Francisco Peaks (Dook’o’oslííd), represents the Abalone and Coral stones. It is located just north of Flagstaff, and is the Navajo’s religious western boundary. Mt. Blanco (Tsisnaasjini'), in Colorado, represents the White Shell stone, and represents the Navajo’s religious eastern boundary. Mt. Taylor (Tsoodzil), east of Grants, New Mexico, represents the Turquoise stone, and represents the Navajo’s religious southern boundary. Mt. Hesperus (Dibé Nitsaa), in Colorado, represents the Black Jet stone, and represents the Navajo’s religious northern boundary..
After setting the mountains down where they should go, the Navajo deities, or "Holy People", put the sun and the moon into the sky and were in the process of carefully placing the stars in an orderly way. But the Coyote, known as the trickster, grew impatient from the long deliberations being held, and seized the corner of the blanket where it lay and flung the remaining stars into the sky.
The Holy People continued to make the necessities of life, like clouds, trees and rain. Everything was as it should be when the evil monsters appeared and began to kill the new Earth People. But a miracle happened to save them, by the birth of Ever Changing Woman (Asdzaa Nadleehe) at Gobernador Knob (Ch’óol’í’í), New Mexico.
Changing Woman grew up around El Huerfano Mesa (Dzil Na’oodilii), in northern New Mexico. She married the Sun and bore two son, twins, and heroes to the Navajo people. They were known as "Monster Slayer" and "Child-Born-of-Water". The twins traveled to their father the Sun who gave them weapons of lighting bolts to fight the dreaded monsters. Every place the Hero Twins killed a monster it turned to stone. An example of this is the lave flows near Mt. Taylor in New Mexico, believed to be the blood from the death of Ye’iitsoh, or the "Monster who Sucked in People". All of the angular rock formations on the reservation, such as the immense Black Mesa (Dzil Yíjiin), are seen as the turned-to-stone bodies of the monsters.
With all of the monsters dead, the Navajo deities, or "Holy People", turned their attention to the making of the four original clans. Kiiyaa aanii, or Tall House People, was the first clan. They were made of yellow and white corn. Eventually other clans traveled to the area round the San Juan River, bring their important contributions to the tribe. Some were Paiutes who brought their beautiful baskets. Others were Pueblos who shared their farming and weaving skills. Still others were Utes and Apaches.
For her husband, the "Sun", to visit her every evening, Changing Woman went to live in the western sea on an island made of rock crystal. Her home was made of the four sacred stones: Abalone, White Shell, Turquoise, and Black Jet. During the day she became lonely and decided to make her own people. She made four clans from the flakes of her skin. These were known as the Near Water People, Mud People, Salt Water People, and Bitter Water People. When these newly formed clans heard that there were humans to the east who shared their heritage, they wanted to go meet them.
Changing Woman gave her permission for them to travel from the western sea to the San Francisco Peaks. They then traveled through the Hopi mesas where they left porcupine, still commonly found there today. Then they traveled toward the Chuska Mountains and on to Mt. Taylor. Finally, the people arrived at Dinetah, the Diné traditional homeland, and joined the other clans already living there. Dinetah is located in the many canyons that drain the San Juan River about 30 miles east of Farmington, New Mexico.
The Ojibway Medicine Wheel has from the left clockwise: black, white, yellow, red and everyone accepts these colors as Native 4 colors as far as I saw. Just like everyone says Red Road and just like everyone Pow wows, even Athapascans who don’t have any such ceremony originally.
The Cree who are very similar to the Ojibway , practically the same and there is a movement of connecting them into one with an OjiCree language have a Medicine Wheel with the red and yellow in switched places while looking at the Ojibway Medicine Wheel and they have blue instead of black. That doesn’t make divisions between them and I heard an older man say that it doesn’t matter if you have red before or after the yellow and I also saw Ojibway use blue in place of black. The Medicine Wheel teachings are the basis for everything. Moses said he was taught that the eagle brought the Medicine Wheel from the Creator to people as guidance. I think it would be good to look at the Creation story that the Ojibway as well as the Cree who live west of the Ojibway have. There are always different versions but the basics are all the same.
The Ojbway Creation Story
There are many different versions of the origin of this American Indian oral tradition. For the Ojibway/Anishinabe people, the legend is as follows. Long ago, after the Great Mystery, or Kitchi-Manitou, first peopled the earth, the Anishinabe, or Original People, strayed from their harmonious ways and began to argue and fight with one another. Brother turned against brother and soon the Anishinabe were killing one another over hunting grounds and others disagreements. Seeing that harmony, brotherhood, sisterhood, and respect for all living things no longer prevailed on Earth, Kitchi-Manitou decided to purify the Earth. He did this with water.
The water came in the form of a great flood, or mush-ko'-be-wun', upon the Earth destroying the Anishinabe people and most of the animals as well. Only Nanaboozhoo, the central figure in many of the Anishinabe oral traditions, was able to survive the flood, along with a few animals and birds who managed to swim and fly. Nanaboozhoo floated on a huge log searching for land, but none was to be found as the Earth was now covered by the great flood. Nanaboozhoo allowed the remaining animals and birds to take turns resting on the log as well. Finally, Nanaboozhoo spoke.
"I am going to do something," he said. "I am going to swim to the bottom of this water and grab a handful of earth. With this small bit of Earth, I believe we can create a new land for us to live on with the help of the Four Winds and Kitchi-Manitou."
So Nanaboozhoo dived into the water and was gone for a long time. Finally he surfaced, and short of breath told the animals that the water is too deep for him to swim to the bottom. All were silent. Finally, Mahng, the Loon spoke up. "I can dive under the water for a long way, that is how I catch my food. I will try to make it to the bottom and return with some Earth in my beak."
The Loon disappeared and was gone for a very long time. Surely, thought the others, the Loon must have drowned. Then they saw him float to the surface, weak and nearly unconscious. "I couldn't make it, there must be no bottom to this water," he gasped. Then Zhing-gi-biss, the helldiver came forward and said "I will try next, everyone knows I can dive great distances." So the helldiver went under. Again, a very long time passed and the others thought he was surely drowned. At last he too floated to the surface. He was unconscious, and not till he came to could he relate to the others that he too was unable to fetch the Earth from the bottom.
Many more animals tried but failed, including Zhon-gwayzh', the mink, and even Mi-zhee-kay", the turtle. All failed and it seemed as though there was no way to get the much needed Earth from the bottom. Then a soft muffled voice was heard. "I can do it," it spoke softly. At first no one could see who it was that spoke up. Then, the little Wa-zhushk", muskrat stepped forward. "I'll try," he repeated. Some of the other, bigger, more powerful animals laughed at muskrat. Nanaboozhoo spoke up. "Only Kitchi-Manitou can place judgment on others. If muskrat wants to try, he should be allowed to."
So, muskrat dove into the water. He was gone much longer than any of the others who tried to reach the bottom. After a while Nanaboozhoo and the other animals were certain that muskrat had give his life trying to reach the bottom. Far below the water's surface, muskrat, had in fact reached the bottom. Very weak from lack of air, he grabbed some Earth in his paw and with all the energy he could muster began to swim for the surface. One of the animals spotted muskrat as he floated to the surface. Nanaboozhoo pulled him up onto the log. "Brothers and sisters," Nanaboozhoo said, "muskrat went too long without air, he is dead." A song of mourning and praise was heard across the water as muskrat's spirit passed on to the spirit world. Suddenly Nanaboozhoo exclaimed, "Look, there is something in his paw!" Nanaboozhoo carefully opened the tiny paw. All the animals gathered close to see what was held so tightly there. Muskrat's paw opened and revealed a small ball of Earth. The animals all shouted with joy. Muskrat sacrificed his life so that life on Earth could begin anew.
Nanaboozhoo took the piece of Earth from Muskrat's paw. Just then, the turtle swam forward and said, "Use my back to bear the weight of this piece of Earth. With the help of Kitchi-Manitou, we can make a new Earth." Nanaboozhoo put the piece of Earth on the turtle's back. Suddenly, the wind blew from each of the Four Directions, The tiny piece of Earth on the turtle's back began to grow. It grew and grew and grew until it formed a mi-ni-si', or island in the water. The island grew larger and larger, but still the turtle bore the weight of the Earth on his back. Nanaboozhoo and the animals all sang and danced in a widening circle on the growing island. After a while, the Four Winds ceased to blow and the waters became still. A huge island sat in the middle of the water, and today that island is known as North America.
Source: Story adapted from The Mishomis Book; The Voice of the Ojibway, by Edward Benton-Banai
2nd better writeup:
How Nanabush Created the World
In the beginning, so the Ojibway story tellers say, the world in which we live did not exist. In its place was a far older world, the home of the first birds and animals, and of the mighty magician, Nanabush.
To look at Nanabush, you would have thought him quite an ordinary sort of man. Unless you had seen him performing his deeds of wonder, you would never have imagined that it was he, and he alone, who created the world we see around us today. So powerful a magician was he, that he could turn himself into an animal, an old tree stump, or a maple leaf - simply by wishing it.
Now in the old world, which existed long before our world, Nanabush and his young brother lived together by the shore of a lake. For company, the two men talked and played with the birds and animals. They were friendly with them all - all, that is, except the treacherous Serpent people, the evil, giant snakes who lived beneath the water and who tried to kill the kindly animals who were Nanabush’s friends.
Nanabush and the Serpent people often fought with each other, and it was because of one of these fights that Nanabush made our world.
One winter day, Nanabush’s brother was out hunting alone. When he did not come home in the evening, Nanabush thought that perhaps he had lost his way in the woods. The next day the young brother still had not returned, and Nanabush became worried. So he set out to try and find him. He had often warned his brother never to return home across the ice which covered the lake, but rather to walk around the shoreline on solid ground. He now began to fear that his brother had forgotten his warning and that he had been pulled through the ice by the Serpent people and drowned in the icy water below.
Nanabush searched everywhere, but not a trace of his brother could he find. He knew that the worst must have happened: the Serpent people had drowned his brother as he feared. He set out again, this time to find the Serpent people and punish them.
One day, just as he was approaching a steep hill, he heard a peculiar booming sound.
‘What can that be?’ he asked himself. ‘I must climb the hill and find out.’
When he reached the top, he saw a little lake in the valley below, and there, sunning themselves on the shore, were two Serpents. The booming noise came from the pounding of their gained hearts.
Quietly but swiftly, Nanabush drew his bow and shot an arrow at each Serpent. Though he hit them both, they were still very much alive, for they slithered into the water in the twinkling of an eye and disappeared.
Then a strange thing happened. The water in the little lake began to rise. It rose steadily, soon flooding the whole valley.
‘Oho!’ exclaimed Nanabush. ‘The Serpents know I am hunting them. They are going to try and drown me.’
He climbed the tallest pine tree on the hill, but the water by this time had covered the hill, was lapping at his heels. He climbed as quickly as he could, and before long was at the top of the tree. The water kept on rising and soon reached the level of his chin, but then, strangely, the water began to go down again. It went down as quickly as it had risen, and when it had receded to its old level Nanabush climbed down out of the pine tree.
‘They nearly drowned me.’ said Nanabush, catching his breath. ‘I shall have to be careful, or next time those evil Serpents will certainly kill me.’
He then chopped down a number of trees and made a giant raft, which he left on the top of the hill. Wondering what he should do next, he wandered away through the woods again. He walked for nearly an hour when he suddenly stopped. He thought he could hear a woman crying. He crept on cautiously, and came to a clearing where an old woman was sitting on a log, and, just as he had imagined, she was crying.
‘Why are you crying old woman?’
‘Ah, a sad thing has happened. That wicked man, Nanabush, has wounded my brothers with his arrows.’
Nanabush knew at once that the old woman was a Serpent Woman in disguise. He also realized that she did not know who he was.
Smiling to himself, he exclaimed,’That Nanabush must be a rascal! But tell me, what are you going to do?’
‘I am gathering herbs to heal their wounds,’ she replied. ‘I am also gathering basswood bark. We shall twist the bark into a long string and stretch it around the base of the hill. We shall watch the string and if it vibrates, we shall know Nanabush tripped over it. He is hiding somewhere on the hill.’
‘Where do the Serpent people live?’ he asked next.
‘All you have to do is follow the path to the lake.’ replied the old woman , pointing the way. ‘When you get to the lake, walk right into it. A short distance in, you will find a door. The Serpent People are inside.’
Without saying another word, Nanabush slew the wicked old Serpent Woman and dressed himself in her clothes. He followed the path to the lake and found the door. He opened it and found himself inside a huge lodge - the home of the Serpent People.
Walking along quickly, he soon came upon the two Serpents whom he had wounded, with his arrows still in their bodies. The Serpents were guarded by a group of fierce animals, and Nanabush discovered that one of the Serpents he had wounded was the Chief of all the Serpents. However, the fierce animals throughout Nanabush was the old woman, and let him pass.
In another corner, he saw the body of his brother, who had indeed been drowned by the Serpents. In a flash of anger, Nanabush leaped forward and pushed the arrows deeper into the bodies of the two Serpents, killing the instantly.
‘Now I have avenged my brother’s death!’ he shouted. And , before the fierce guardian animals had time to realize what had happened, Nanabush slipped out of the Serpents lodge and raced back the shore of the lake, running as fast as he could.
When the guardian animals realized what had happened they roared with rage and summoned the rest of the Serpent People, who immediately caused the water in the lake to rise again. But Nanabush heard the movement of the water as it began to rise, and he ran toward the hill where he had hidden the giant raft. As he ran he called loudly to his friends, the birds and animals.
‘Come with me, my friends!’ he shouted. ‘Come to my raft on the hill. The water is rising again, and this time you will drown unless you come with me.’
The birds and animals answered his call not a moment too soon. Just as they reached the giant raft and climbed safely aboard, the water rose over the crest of the hill as set the raft afloat. In a few more minutes the whole world was covered by the surging water. There was not a single thing to be seen on top of the water except Nanabush and his friends on the floating raft. Even the highest hills were not seen.
Nanabush and the birds and animals floated around aimlessly on the raft for many days and nights. At first Nanabush thought the water was going down again, but after they had been on the raft a full month he realized that the old world was submerged forever beneath the water and that the wicked Serpent People had drowned with it. Nanabush, himself would have to find a way to create a new world.
‘Loon!’ he called, when he decide what he should so. ‘You are an excellent swimmer. Dive down and bring me a lump of mud in your bill.’
The loon dived into the water and was gone a long time. Presently, he returned.
‘I couldn’t reach the old world,’ replied sadly. ‘It was to far down.’
‘Beaver!’ called out Nanabush, ‘you are a great diver. You try next.’
The beaver dived into the water and was gone much longer than the loon. But he failed to reach the bottom of the vast ocean.
‘Muskrat!’ exclaimed Nanabush, ‘ You must try next.’
The muskrat dived in and was gone even longer then the other two, they were certain that muskrat drowned. Just as they were going to give up on him, he suddenly appeared on the surface, motionless, floating around as if he were indeed dead.
Nanabush pulled the muskrat onto the raft and revived him. He noticed that the little animal was holding onto a paw tightly closed. He pried it open - and there was a tiny, wet particles of sand. The muskrat had reached the old world after all!
Nanabush took the grains of sand and dried them out carefully. He fashioned them into tiny globe, on which he breathed lightly. Then he planted the globe gently into the water beside the raft, and commanded it to grow.
The little ball began to revolve and spin on the water, and soon it started to grow in size. Within a few minutes, it had grown large enough to hold two ants which Nanabush placed on it. The ants made the globe spin faster and grow bigger. In no time at all, it had grown large enough to hold to mice.
Thus it was that the little ball grew and grew. At last, when the moose - the largest of all animals - had climbed onto it and disappeared from sight, Nanabush commanded the globe to stop growing. He himself stepped onto it, and said:
" Here is the new world - home for all birds and animals."
And that, so the Ojibway story tellers say, is how Nanabush created the world in which we animals live in today.
In another similar story like this one there is a mentioning of the 7 clans, that after Turtle Island came about the seven animals were the seven clans of the Anishinabek. It is good to know what the seven clans are. The word dodem means clan. On the Pacific coast the Natives have wooden posts explaining through the carvings on them the clan and the story of the clan. When the Ojibway guides were asked by the whites what that was they said dodem, clan. So that’s how the name totempoles came about. Like when the english asked the Australian aboriginals what that animal is , the Native said :"what are u saying? (I don’t understand)" in their language Kan Guru? So now we have kangaroos.
This is a writeup by an Ojibway fellow about the 7 clans
People of all nations in the world essentially have the same basic needs: food, protection, education, medicine and leadership. Traditionally, the Ojibway Clan System was created to provide leadership and to care for these needs. There were seven original clans and each clan was known by its animal emblem, or totem. The animal totem symbolized the strength and duties of the clan. The seven original clans were given a function to serve for their people.
The Crane and the Loon Clans were given the power of Chieftainship. By working together, these two clans gave the people a balanced government with each serving as a check on the other.
Between the two Chief Clans was the Fish Clan. The people of the Fish Clan were the teachers and scholars. They helped children develop skills and healthy spirits. They also drew on their knowledge to solve disputes between the leaders of the Crane and Loon Clans.
The Bear Clan members were the strong and steady police and legal guardians. Bear Clan members spent a lot of time patrolling the land surrounding the village, and in so doing, they learned which roots, bark, and plants could be used for medicines to treat the ailments of their people.
The people of the Hoof Clan were gentle, like the deer and moose or caribou for whom the clan is named. They cared for others by making sure the community had proper housing and recreation. The Hoof Clan people were the poets and pacifists avoiding all harsh words. The people of the Martin Clan were hunters, food gathers and warriors of the Ojibway. Long ago, warriors fought to defend their village or hunting territory. They became known as master strategists in planning the defense of their people.
The Bird Clan represented the spiritual leaders of the people and gave the nation its vision of well-being and its highest development of the spirit. The people of the Bird Clan were said to possess the characteristics of the eagle, the head of their clan, in that they pursued the highest elevations of the mind just as the eagle pursues the highest elevations of the sky
To meet all the needs of the nation, the clans worked together and cooperated to achieve their goals. The Clan System had built in equal justice, voice, law and order and it reinforced the teachings and principles of a sacred way of life. Today some people still follow their clan duties, but, for the most part, the original force and power of the Clan System has diminished to a degree of almost non-existence.
The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the OjibwayBenton,
Saint Paul, Minnesota: Indian Country Press, Inc. 1981
The Cree call nanbush Wasekeyjak.
The Mishomis book has stories about the Ojibway traditions. Mishomis means grandfather in Ojibway. It was colected into a book by someone Ojibway, however the Native folks don’t like things written in books they have oral ways of keeping records of things and rock paintings and paintings or engravings on birchbark or painted on animal hide. Petroglyph type of records.
It is really interesting how the information is kept. A group of story tellers sits and one narrates while others listen if there is a mistake they correct him. It is safer that way than written in a book that everyone can change around and rewrite they way they like to do it. People did that with the bible, and every fewyears they sit and write a new bible from their mixed up heads and they say this is heavenly words, idiots.
The Medicine people are from the bear clan from what I know here where I live. I read in the letter that in Siberia you have the ceremony with the ice taking away the troubles of the winter that people had. It is something I can relate to. This is what happened. My friend Raven from Ottawa, she is the same Mohawk person I mentioned above that was invited to the Sundance etc, she said how to get rid of pain and bad feelings and troubles. She told me to take a stick and hold it in the hand and near the river. Then to focus all the pain and troubles to the hand and let them go from the hand to the stick and then to throw the stick into the river with all the troubles transferred to it letting the river take the stick away and the troubles.
Back to the Medicine wheel. The Medicine Wheel shows the 4 colors, like the 4 colors of man, it has 4 directions like the 4 directions on earth, it is a circle like the world is round and like everything has a cycle. Like the 4 seasons, like the four of stages life: infancy (weakness), youth, manhood-womanhood and old age(again weakness). Everything is based on the Medicine Wheel. There is also the ceremonies the one I have contacts with is the summer solace, that’s when people get up and wait for the sun to rise and with hands out and palms up to wards the sky thank the Creator. One person says the thanking the Creator prayer others are quiet and listen. There is a fire lit and the 4 herbs are thrown I it, sage, cedar, sweetgrass and tobacco. There is a blanket with old items used by the forefathers in everyday life. The whole religious concept of the Red Road that I know is based on seeing the greatness of the Creator through the good things He Gave us and honoring that and thanking the Creator for that. But then everyone has their own way of seeing things so I can only speak for myself. People asked me to cleanse places from spirits disturbing them, I am not to interested in doing that , my friend Raven does that and what she does is very simple. She talks to the spirits and talks about love and softens their feelings and they agree not to hurt anyone or disturb anyone and they leave. My connection is to the Creator and I don’t get involved with spirits. Raven does and did a funny thing, from far away in Ottawa knew what sweater I was wearing. It was funny.
Here is what a Native fellow says about the Red Road that I have direct contact with.
Religion was a very important part of Native life. Early Native people believed in a 'Supreme Being' who was the 'Master' and Mystery' of all that exists in the universe. The belief was that all animals and birds had the following inalienable rights: the right to man's love and respect, the right to man's guardianship, the right to live a full life, the right to grow and multiply, the right to enjoy unmolested freedom, and the right to share man's fellowship and to share the goodness of creation. And because all things, inanimate and animate, were created by the Supreme being, they were filled with his spiritual essence. No animal was ever deprived of its life without a silent prayer from the hunter. To the early Native people, education was a part of everyday life. Their books were the rocks, the rivers and lakes, the trees and roots, the sun, the moon and the stars. It was from these elements that they fashioned their material culture. Creative life was in everything. One loved nature and nature loved in return. The people believed in only one Supreme Being, The Creator, whose mighty power governs and directs the beginning and end of all things
Big White Owl, A Brief Sketch of Native Woodland Religion, The Native Perspective, July - Aug. 1977.
Tobacco is used by native people to represent the honesty that they carry in their hearts when words are to be spoken between two people or to the spirit world. When a request is made, a teaching is shared, a question is asked, or a prayer is offered, the tobacco travels ahead of the words so that honesty will be received in a kind and respectful way. To offer tobacco is to pay an ultimate respect to that which you are asking.
Written by: Harold Flett
Written by: Harold Flett
From the practices the most common things are smudging, eagle feathers, tobacco pouches and the pipe. Another thing good to mention is that Native folks don’t have flags originally, they do now with the government and that nonsense, but the real thing is the eagle staff. It’s a stick with eagle feathers. The eagle staff is carried and taken care of by the eagle staff carrier, from a carrier to a carrier over the ages. Every Native community has an eagle staff. However I’m sure there is Natives who don’t have that in their original culture, probabaly in the SouthWest the Acoma Publos don’t have an eagle staff originally in their culture. About smudging is like this: In an abalone shell, the dark green ones or in a stone bowl or any sort of dish type object, I use a seashell as big a s a small plate, 4 herbs are burnt, sweetgrass, cedar, sage, tobacco. Smoke comes and with a turkey feather smoke is spread. One person can hold the shell and the other stand, the person with the feather fans the smoke towards the person and the person spreads the smoke over the face, arms hands and chest. That’s smudging people usually do in mornings.Eagle feathers are earned with good merits for the community. An interesting thing is that since 2001 in Canada in court a person on the Red Road can hold the eagle feather instead of the bible when he gives the oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Eagle feathers are illegal by US and Canadian law for nonNatives as far as I know, so that they don’t kill off all the eagles. I don’t have an eagle feather but I have a hawk feather that I got from under a tree where a hawk that is like a friend to me often comes. On Friday he was eating a bird he caught and it was snowing hard, I was outside close to him beside a fire with my kids. The smoke came to him and he looked at me curious about what I’m doing, it was funny. We have another friend a little rabbit living in that same place. They don’t run away when we talk to them in Ojibway(Anishinabek) if we talk Turkish they look curious. If they hear english they run away. People wear deer hide pouches with tobacco in them as a necklace, or tied to the belt or tied to the steering wheel of the car. Tobacco is also used as offering, when you cut a tree or something like that tobacco is thrown with the left hand from the heart onto the ground. I think it serves a good purpose because you are taking something but returning something aswell so you are fulfilling the circle. Even from a nonreligious purely empirical point of view it makes sense. Tobacco can help the ground, it can help a plant, it is good. The pipe is used at a ceremonial gathering. Not like europeans smoke pipes and cigarettes. The pipe is pointed in the four directions first. I made one for a friend , a ceremonial pipe, I put 4 sections on the pipebowl. The pipe bowl as far as I know represents the woumb, and the stem a persons life. So a person using the pipe things of that and is honest about his life because it’s all there infront of him as he holds the pipe. To lie and use the pipe is contradictory, that’s why the pipe is a ceremonial object. There is a story how the pipe was given to man, it’s called a thunder pipe because of the story involving thunder who wanted to marry a human girl etc.
Another thing I have direct contact with is the things dealing with the Medicine man, but before that I want to mention something and then I’ll get to that last topic. The whole concept of the Red Road that I know as I mentioned before is seeing the greatness and the signs of the Creator and thanking Him and honoring the good things. For example we have girls jingle dresses with cones making the sound of water when they hit each other. The female color is blue, water, because women work with water and the male color is red because men work with fire. The moon brings the low and high tide. We have water flowing. So the jingle dress person has a fan and she points the fan to the moon. Honoring the moon for the tides. The fan is from feathers ofcourse. That’s about the honoring of things. The other thing is a sweat lodge, or just sweating. When a young man returns to his brains and decides not to live anymore in the wonderland offered by the europeans, he sweats for cleansing. A sweat lodge is a hut from tree branches and inside hot rocks heated up in afire are placed making it very hot inside, smoke is also sent to the hut, sweat lodge making clensing smudging inside besides the heat making the person sweat. Then one can rub some good herbs on the chest more like hit the back and chest with a branch of some good herbs, Dan Smoke did that. He is an authority here, he has a radio station and comes on TV, and says there is a war here between Natives and the Canadian govt, funny but true, there is a war the govt wants Natives assimilated for sure. The treaty rights the govt says refer to Native rights, natives say no the Treaty rights refer to your rights to sit here on our land, our rights are hereditary, yours from the treaties. After that the youn fellow takes a bath and asks the Creator to Help him and starts a normal life. I read an article close to what I know about the sweating. It wouldn’t be bad to share it here:
Building a sweat lodge is not particularly difficult, but careful consideration should be given to various details.
A quiet and secluded area is the obvious setting for a sweat lodge. Privacy is essential, yet the area must also be accessible. Once you have found the site, you must then choose where you wish to place the lodge itself.
There is no hard, fast rule that the doorway of a sweat lodge must face a particular location. The lodge doorways at the base of Spirit Mountain in the Black Hills face west. Most Sioux and Ojibwa sweat lodges face east or west, but you must consider the terrain, location, and setting of the entire lodge area when selecting your lodge opening. In the interest of fire safety, you may have to select your fireplace area first. This will determine the direction of the opening for you, since lodges almost always face the fire.
Fire safety is of extreme importance in selecting the lodge site and choosing the location of the fire pit. At times, fire pits may have to be dug deeper then what may seem necessary and their location will have to take advantage of windbreaks or shelter from the wind. Even if it is a calm day, assume that the wind could become a factor. Seldom is a sweat lodge built for only one evenings activity; therefore, always consider that high winds can come up during the time the fire is heating the rocks for a later ceremony and resulting sparks and drier conditions could result in a fire.
Early on, assign several participants to gather firewood and rocks. Put one or two persons in charge of preparing the fireplace, building the fire, and heating the rocks. If you start the fire early, the rocks are usually hot by the time the lodge is finished.
Be sure the fireplace is far enough from the lodge so that the ceremony participants can have some privacy. Many times there will be two successive sweat ceremonies, and people usually wait their turn sitting around the comforting fire. Their conversations could be distracting to the ceremony if the fireplace is too close to the lodge.
Rocks should be of limestone or granite, without significant cracks. Use rocks a little larger than a softball, or the size of a cantaloupe. Never use sandstone or other porous, water-absorbing-type stones. Wet sandstone can explode when heated in the fireplace. Lava rocks are probably the best rocks to use because they seem to retain their heat and also convey unusual images when they are heated to a red glow and are observed within the dark confines of the lodge.
Several hatchets, a shovel, and a pitchfork are useful tools for the fire and stone heating.
If everyone pitches in, you can build a sweat lodge in three to four hours. All it takes is a knife, a hatchet, and a ball of string. The frame is usually made of willow, but any sapling will do.
The average size lodge will comfortably seat eight to twelve people. To estimate the size, first draw a circle two feet in diameter in the center of the lodge site. This will be the rock pit that you will dig later. Sit cross-legged on the ground facing the circle, and leave at least a foot or two between your knees and the center circle's outer edge. Place a stick with a string tied to it in the center of the circle. Run the string a few inches behind your sitting position. The string serves as a radius for the lodge, and you can then draw the circumference on the ground. A nine foot diameter lodge will seat twelve people comfortably. A ten foot diameter lodge will seat fifteen to sixteen people. Remember, however, that a large lodge will be difficult to heat unless it is well insulated. With the black tarp found in so many hardware stores and the blankets participants bring, however, a large lodge can be built that will hold the heat.
Cut twelve saplings with a base approximately the size of a quarter or fifty cent piece. After the saplings have been brought to the lodge area, remove the branches and sharpen the bottoms. If you have selected willow, use the soft branches and leaves for the floor of the lodge. Place the sharpened ends into the ground at an equal distance around the drawn circumference, leaving an opening for the doorway. You may use a heavier pointed stake to make the holes for the saplings, or use a hunting knife if the ground is very hard.
Be sure the saplings are embedded deep enough into the ground so they hold firm when they are bent and tied together to form the domed frame. The bend of the sapling should allow for a large man to sit comfortably. Don't build your lodge too tall or it will be difficult to heat. Bind the saplings with string, fishing line or willow bark peeled in long strings.
To strengthen and reinforce the lodge, tie sapling cross braces horizontally to the upright saplings. While work is progressing on tying the saplings together, send part of the group to gather grass, sage, cedar, or leaves to place on the floor for people to sit on. If wildflowers are available, a sprinkling within the lodge adds a pleasant aroma. When placing the seating material, leave room for the rocks to be rolled into the lodge, usually a foot wide path from the doorway to the rock pit.
Tarps are excellent for covering the sweat lodge frame. They are waterproof, and if it rains, participants will find a dry haven inside the lodge. The best method is to cover the frame with a tarp and then cover the tarp with clean blankets. The blankets provide heat and sound insulation and also block out all the light. The more blankets draped over the frame, the better the insulation, and the fewer rocks you will need. If it is colder weather, drafts will not penetrate inward. Use a thick blanket, or several blankets for the doorway. For an adequate supply of blankets, ask each participant to bring one or two. To prevent blankets from sliding off the lodge, use twine or tie the corner of each blanket to the corner of a counter balancing blanket draped on the opposite side of the lodge.
The ceremony can begin when some of the rocks are glowing red. A long handled pitchfork is a convenient tool for adjusting rocks around a fire and transporting them to the lodge.
You will also want to have several five gallon buckets of water both for the ceremony and for dousing the fire when everyone is ready to leave the area. You will also need a dipper and a two to three gallon pail for splashing water onto the heated rocks.
Sweat lodges are easily constructed structures made of saplings bent together and tied with twine to form a half sphere. A pit is dug in the center for heated rocks. The structure is covered with a tarp or blankets. In days past, hides of buffalo robes covered the frame. The earthen floor is strewn with sage, flat cedar, flowers, grass or reeds. Participants gather within the darkened interior to endure the steam generated by dippers of water poured over the hot stones. Inipi is the Sioux term for the sweat lodge.
While the sweat lodge itself is simple to describe, it is impossible to convey the ultimate culmination of spiritual, mystical and psychic expression of the Sweat Lodge Ceremony. You have to experience it to fully understand its fullness and depth.
The average-sized lodge is approximately eight feet by twelve feet. A group can get together on a remote or semi-remote area and build its own "little church" in a few hours.
In the past, participants visited the sweat lodge prior to engaging in the Vision Quest, Sun Dance, and Spirit Calling Ceremonies. Traditional Native Americans held these main ceremonies to meet the spiritual needs of the tribe, group or individual. The sweat lodge prepared them for a higher, deeper plane or dimension. Before the Sun Dance, sun dance pledgers cleansed themselves physically and spiritually within the steamy mist of the sweat lodge. Then the Sun Dance chief or assisting holy man would conduct the Inipi in the early morning hours, before or while the sun rested on the horizon. Vision Questers would cleanse and prepare themselves in the sweat lodge before ascending a lonely hilltop or before the long climb to the top of Spirit Mountain (Bear Butte) in the Black Hills.
Today, however, the cleansing experience is fast becoming a major ceremony for those of all races, creeds, and nationalities who seek natural, nature based, Mother Earth based expression. Even among Native Americans, for whom it was once only a preparation, the sweat lodge experience is becoming a major ceremony, especially among Native Americans living in cities, who have limited access to other tribal ceremonies.
Once the lodge is covered and the ceremony is under way, the participants find a deep connection back into a past. A tribal closeness to the Natural Way unfolds like a budding blossom. A natural bonding begins within the misty, generative womb of Mother Earth. A bonding to one's own concept of God, the Creator, and the created Mother, upon which we all thrive daily. The spiritual bond is likened to an attachment to Mother Earth as one sits within her warm womb. It can be a key function in the search for a spiritual link to God's creation-nature, the environment.
Eagle Man, an Oglala Sioux, equates the Inipi as the ceremony that "intermingles and conveys the lifeblood of the world." Water is the lifeblood of this ecosystem of fire, water, air, and earth,-the four elements. Although the Pipe Ceremony precedes a Sweat Lodge Ceremony, the peace pipe is not smoked until after the participants have endured the Sweat Lodge Ceremony. The Pipe Ceremony honors and brings forth universal truth, but first the lifeblood of water must come forth from the participants.
The four directions are called upon within the lodge. The misty fire heated steam covers you, bringing forth your own mist (sweat). Your universal lifeblood comes forth and intermingles with the misty waters of your brothers and sisters around you. The waters of the world (the bucket of water), which have been brought into the lodge, join and mix with the air of the four directions when the dipper of water is ladled onto the hot stones, making steam. The four winds will carry the life blood out of the lodge to the four quarters of our planet. A part of your lifeblood will seep back into Mother Earth.
The peace pipe is smoked after the four endurances of the Sweat lodge. The participants are refreshed; their lifeblood is traveling through the ecosystem; and their visible breath, symbolizing truth, will be carried throughout the universe. The sweat lodge, in conjunction with the peace pipe, makes for very powerful ceremonies.
The Sweat Lodge Ceremony recreates time and space, at least in the Indian sense. Powers wrote in Oglala Religion,
"The placing of tobacco representing the four winds, zenith, nadir, and Spotted Eagle in a sacred pipe renders the pipe powerful because it contains the entire universe. When it is lighted, life and breath are invested in the universe; and when it is smoked, the universe passes through one's own body and is sent back to Wakan Tanka."
The universe stands for truth. It is the Great Spirit's ultimate creation, and all universal things work synchronically, harmoniously, in accord with the ultimate truth of the Great Mystery Creator. All traditional Indians are very careful about what they say while holding the pipe. Their visible breath of their words must be truth, otherwise they would be very disrespectful of the universe and the Creators ultimate power, which was passed through the pipe.
Lets not forget that Native folks drum, this is a write up about the drum:
In Cree, commonly referred to as "Tawagun".
In Ojibway, commonly referred to as "Tewikan".
In Sioux, commonly referred to as "Chan-che-ga".
Without the drum there would be no Pow wow.
People use different drums for various occasions. The Pow wow drum is a large drum, approximately one metre in diameter. It is the center of the Pow wow celebration that can be used to heal and unify all people. The drum represents the circle of life.
A drum is made of wood and hide, both natural materials. These materials represent honesty and sharing.
The wood comes from a tree. The tree gives life so that we can build the drum. The tree is also telling us where life comes from. Without the sun and the earth there would be no trees - no life. The Anishinabe, the people, were lowered to this earth by the hand of the creator. The tree grows up toward the creator, the source of its life and all of the life on this earth. The hide is from an animal who gives its life for the drum and in this way, represents the gift of sharing.
Once a drum has been made, it is usually given to an individual or a group. Certain people are given the responsibility or instructions in the making of the drum. It is never created as a craft or a toy. Before the drum can be sounded at a Pow wow it must be blessed through a special ceremony led by a elder or a group of elders. Once the ceremony has been completed the drum may be sounded at any Pow wow.
There are usually four or more singers around the drum. A person is usually given the responsibility of caring for the drum. He is called the drum keeper or the drum carrier.
The drumbeat is described as the heartbeat of the people. The drum itself is regarded as a sacred object to be treated with respect. Each drum has a keeper to ensure that no one approaches it under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or shows disrespect by reaching across or setting things on it.- Written by: Harold Flett
There is lots of stories about the drum and lots of ceremonies and healing with the drum. Hand drum and the floor drum.
The Inuit also drum and also have a Spiritual Path like the Red Road but they are Inuit and a different Nation from the rest down south of their territory. I have some relations with the Inuit and the Inuit and the rest of the Natives with the Red Road agree on all subjects basically. The Inuit don’t Pow wow but they have very strong ties with the rest of the Natives and they join at gatherings. Normally the other Natives can’t live in the Arctic in the Inuit territory, they can’t take the suffering way of life that the Inuit can. The Natives have a thing unlike anyone else, they go into a death sleep. When my friend Raven went to Nunavut to work as a nurse that’s what happened it was to boring and to cold and nothing except ice so Raven fell into a coma like sleep for a few days. After the few days she woke up and they sent her back to Ontario. White folks didn’t try work Natives as slaves in most cases because they would go into the death sleep. Fall asleep and never wake up again. I’m definitely not like that, I can suffer through everything as far as I can see, funny.
There is 1 specific thing about Native folks, men have long hair. The reason for that is to honor Mother Earth, as a mother she has long braided hair, so men have long hair. The only time men cut their hair is when someone dies. This is in common but there are Natives folks who probably don't have that in their culture and Mohawks cut their hair on the sides and leave it in the middle, also the Nations like the Wendat (Huron as the French named them). Huron is hair in french and they were called that by the French because they had hair cut in places and left long on other places on the head. Myself I sometimes leave my hair very long and sometimes I have to cut it short so that people around me like my mom don't get in trouble with racists because of me her son looking like a hippie as they say.
OK last subject that I mentioned I want to get into is about Medicine men.
This is the basic terminology we learn with the Ojibway folks:
include various articles that assist in the healing process. This is quite common, men , young men in particular have these. They put in it things they come across in life on their learning process and a medicine bundle is ruined if a woman looks at it when it’s opened up The police by law have instructions not to have female officers search Native men’s medicine bundles.
are various forms of healing that take place utilizing various herbal / root medicines and spiritual ceremony.
are people who have learned to utilize various medicine practices.
is a medicine used for purification and represents kindness. It’s long round thick grass and it smells very good.
Talking, Sharing or Healing Circles
are ceremonial gatherings where people come together for the purpose of talking, sharing or healing.
A medicine man gives names to kids. He can look at the child and see it’s character and give it a name accordingly. Here that’s what they say a spiritual name. With a spiritual name it’s hard to get a job or not get harassed by europeans so they have church names, tom, john, and then they call their Native name thir spiritual name. Some don’t have spiritual names and use the english name. Matt’s spiritual name is Laftohlif Tall Feather, because he stands firm with all the troubles in his life. I think Bruce Elaijah named him, a Seneca Medicine man (6Nations Iroquoi) as far as I know. Note: Mohwaks harassed the government set up Iroquoi govt with warclubs and mafia business and Bruce Elaijah was blamed of being with them. Halarious. Mohawks always make something, if something started somewhere here in the East coast OK it’s Mohwaks everyone knows that. In 1980’s they practically had a war with the Canadian govt. I think they still have the heavy weapons with them stored away just in case. In the hell of the european world in places like New York there is Mohawks who stand up. There is sellout Mohawks I met a couple of those but I met mostly men Mohawks. If there is Mohawks I relax. Like Lakotas. When there is a Lakota then everything is OK. Male, female Lakota makes no difference, they are warriors. Mohwaks same, except that Mohawks are in real hell places like New York and hanging in there, not letting go of their land, culture, language, religion, they are holding out. They have a reserve split between Canada and the US a perfect place for smuggling things, Mohawks are funny.
The main thing with the Medicine man is healing. There is a protocol here. If I want to help a native fellow who wants to return to his culture and get healing then I can’t do things to heal him. I can take him to Tony the elder here from Oneida. Then Glen a computer engineer or something like that, an Ojibway fellow teaching drumming, songs and god things to the youth, he and Dan Smoke they have healing seminars or at least they had one. The Iroquoi have long houses, it’s like a wigwam but long and tall, and the Ojibway have wigwams and lodges. A wigwam is very similar to a yurta in Asia. A teepee is from the plains culture not woodlands it can be taken down and put up in another location. A Wigwam is firm, easy to build and take apart but firm. The long house aswell. The Iroquoi also had tall wood fences like a fort around their villages, tree trunks upright next to each other, but u could lift that up and go from underneath it, usually. The word Canada is a name derived from the word "kanata" in Huron & Iroquoi languages - meaning village or community, in Turkish it's Kent, same word. When they have a healing seminar they set up a traditional home and use old traditional tools and speak about the human and the creation and the Creator and the good things. For example they have them learn to light a fire with traditional tools and speak as the fire starts with one small spark and brings warmth how that relates to man and life. This is the kind of healing from the Medicine people. It’s much better than some psychiatric therapy or jail or whatever they set up the european court system justice way or freudian way. That’s basically all I know about the Red Road. To me it’s seeing the greatness of the Creator in the good things he Gave us and seeing it expressed in Native art, the Woodlands culture or the Plains culture or the West Coast culture or the Inuit art, or Native Siberian art now that I came across your awesome artwork, I am enjoying and feel privileged. What is most important to me is that it is essentially a part of me, my origins and who I am.
I had a situation with a couple of people one was a college professor with maybe 1/8 or 1/4 Native ancestry and said wanted to be on the Red Road, then said things like the Medicine Wheel has a small brown color dot in the centre and dreamed things and wanted to lead a life by the dreamed up things and then started to says things like Lakota are Lahota and started using bad words that doesn’t suite an older college professor and then I lost contacts. The other person was realistic and wanted to understand properly what the Medicine men were teaching. There was a situation with young people in Arizona dead from respiratory failure and the doctors didn’t know the cause. Then they had no choice but to ask the Navajo medicine man. The Navajo medicine man knew about that and had previously warned that it would happen. My college professor acquaintance would immediately say that the Navajo medicine man had special secret spiritual superpower and knows things that way. People lose touch with reality and start talking nonsense and start talking abusive and give everyone a headache. My other friend didn’t say that and paid attention to what the Medicine man was saying and is a sane normal person unlike the college professor person. Because the Medicine men there especially Aztecs and Mayans know exactly the way seasons and stars and planets move, he said that when there is lots of rain at 1 time in a cycle, and then there is a dry season in summer and a certain plant gives it’s flower earlier. Then young people have to move out up into the prairies or die. They didn’t listen and they started to die. What happens is that when there is lots of rain rats come out of the ground because of the water in their homes. They then urinate on the surface. The urine then stays there. In summer inside the urine a virus starts to develop. It’s dusty there and the virus goes up in the air with the sand and the wind. This virus is like poison ivy we have here. It attacks only younger people. It goes into the lungs and starts attacking the lungs and lungs fail. The knowledge Medicine men have isn’t a joke it’s based on tens of thousands of years of learning. I know of one Dene lady , she had eyesight problems and her mother cured her with natural medicines instead of doctors prescriptions or surgery, wearing glasses what not