Posts Tagged With: Native spirituality

How the Dreams of Chief Hawk Pope Came True

In the late 1980s after my return to Ohio, I took oil painting classes for a couple of years from Chief Hawk Pope of the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band. I valued his sheer presence and laser-like critiques. He was direct, something I appreciated. I was there to learn, not to have my ego soothed. When something worked, he pointed it out. When it didn’t, he showed how it didn’t and guided correction—explicitly.

I’ve learned that his methods are part of his personality, the make-up of a strong chief, not asking any more of his People than he demands of himself. But that understanding wasn’t even on my horizon when I knew him back then. My interest and passion for preservation of Native ways was yet bubbling beneath the surface, not to fully emerge until the mid-1990s. By that time we had fallen out of touch for some years.

But a strange thing happened.

In the first months of 2014, he began to cross my mind periodically. These occurrences were fleeting; I didn’t hang onto them or wonder why.

In early April I went to Ohio to visit my folks, still living near Dayton. As soon as I arrived I had an overwhelming compulsion to find Chief Hawk—if I could—and reconnect.

I googled his name and discovered his life had taken quite a turn in the 1990s and later. He’d provided vocals for one of the scenes in the movie Dances with Wolves and been extensively involved with the PBS documentary mini-series 500 Nations. In the book Imagining Native America in Music author Michael V Pisani wrote of the musical language he used in the documentary: …the singer Chief Hawk Pope relied on this melodic cadence to underscore moments of great sadness and tragedy such as the Trail of Tears sequence. I also noted he’d been on tour with Spirit the Seventh Fire, a multi-media production conceived by his friend Peter Buffet, with music written by them both. And the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band now had a home on original Shawnee land, previously lost as a result of genocide advocated through the Indian Removal Act, purchased back by the Tribe.

Shawnee SignI found contact information for the Tribe through their Facebook page and sent a private message explaining who I am and that I’d like to reconnect if Chief Hawk was interested. I got an immediate response from one of the Tribe asking me to come to the Zane Shawnee Caverns, on Shawnee land, a few days later for a meeting. Prior to the appointed day, my mom and I ventured out for a day of sightseeing and got hopelessly lost in an area of Ohio unfamiliar to us both. We ended up in the tiny town of Zanesfield looking for a museum we were told was at least 100 miles north. A few days later on the way to my meeting with Chief Hawk, I was astounded to end up in the very area my mom and I got lost, indeed going right through Zanesfield and drove just a few miles beyond!

I really had no idea why I received inner direction to initiate the request I did. I merely followed that strong, not-to-be-disregarded energy. When I walked into the Zane Shawnee gift shop for our reunion, it was evident that I was supposed to be there. The reconnection was powerful for us both. Beyond that day, I returned to spend another in deep conversation prior to my departure on other travels east. We agreed we’re going to work together—although neither of us know exactly what that means at this point.

Before I left I told Chief Hawk about my unprovoked thoughts of him coming to mind the months prior…then the inner urge to initiate a reunion…even getting lost in the countryside near Shawnee land…when I had no idea they were there.

He looked intently into my eyes and said, “Well, I’ve been throwing out a net these last months.”

I’m glad I paid attention and answered.

Below is an open article written in 1998 to his People in Tosãn Shawandasse, the official voice of the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band, beautifully illustrating elements of intent and belief.* What Chief Hawk doesn’t expressly share is the tremendous sacrifice he has borne through his 40+ years as chief since taking on this spiritual responsibility as a young man, given to him by his grandfather.

While directed to the Shawnee People, any of us can take heart and guidance here. His words are truth.

HawkArticle_0001

Some Dreams Do Come True

by Chief Hawk Pope

 

In order for a dream to come true, all it takes is the following:

– A real need.

– Believing you can meet that need even if that only seems to be a dream.

– The courage to go for it, knowing you could lose.

– Work as hard as it takes to make it happen.

– Get as many of the People as you can to make a team that can do the job.

– Do all you possibly can, knowing that if you truly do that, Creator will take up where your abilities leave off.

– Convey your hopes, dreams, and needs along with your love and respect to Creator and demonstrate that you are still His Children (The Shawnee). This you do in the way He left for us, the ceremonies.

– Rise above the criticisms and stumbling blocks thrown in your way by the petty, evil or just those much smaller than the dream. You can’t let their fear become yours, their criticism or lack of support shake your faith, or their jealousy pull you down.

– Stay the course, no matter what.

– Be grateful for each blessing, each dream come true, and never forget that your efforts were only half of what made it happen. Sometimes we come close to losing our way. Sometimes we allow ourselves or others to be part of a problem and not part of the solution. If this happens, we lose the blessing. We don’t meet the need. We give up the dream and we just plain lose. So far, by following this plan and philosophy, we have accomplished the following:

 — 1970: Reorganization of the people of the Remnant communities and reformation of the Shawnee Nation, United Remnant Band.

— 1974: Formed an interim core Council and moved back to Ohio homeland.

— 1980: Gained State recognition as the descendant Tribe of the historic Shawnee in Ohio.

— 1982: Brought back the ancient ceremonies after 30 years.

— 1985: Constructed our first Great House since historic Lower Shawnee Town on the Scioto.

— 1989: Purchased the first 31 acres of Ohio Shawnee Homeland-Shawandasse.

— 1992: Built the community center, road, electric and well on Shawandasse. The Great House was moved to Shawandasse and original dress brought back to ceremonies.

— 1995: Total of 228 acres in 3 Ohio counties.

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You are invited by Chief Hawk Pope to visit Shawnee lands located at Zane Shawnee Caverns near Bellefontaine, Ohio. See their website for information on Pow Wows, camping, cave visits and other events and developments on Shawnee lands since 1995.

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* Reprinting of this open article was used with full permission granted by Chief Hawk Pope.

Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Book Review: Spirit Matters by Matthew Pallamary

 

Spirit Matters

Matthew Pallamary has written an uncensored memoir of his journey through the violent jungle of his origins to the deep interior of his heart and mind—finally delivering him to the Amazon rainforest of Peru and the person he is today. Spirit Matters shows us graphic realities most haven’t seen: dangerous inner city streets, the struggles to leave them behind, and a form of spirituality alternative to mainstream Western culture.

Matt is a respected San Diego writer and workshop leader at writing conferences. Initially known for his horror stories, he became interested in shamanism and Indigenous cultures, producing a book—Land Without Evil—which was recently adapted to stage. Research led him toward experiential understanding of natural substances used for centuries in religious rituals in South America and elsewhere.

Years ago, Matt and I crossed paths in Palenque, Mexico and became friends. I knew he had a rough start; he referred to himself as a Boston street fighter raised in an Irish Catholic ghetto. But I had no idea until I read this memoir; it’s a miracle he made it out alive. Such life experiences instill deep-seated limitations in the mind about what’s acceptable, possible, one’s own worth—or if anything or anyone is safe. The expected path is predictive and short. But Matt had something else operating as well: knowledge that a deeper life was available for him. The honesty in which he describes his internal conflicts, which kept him in a two-steps-forward three-steps-back shuffle for years, is poignant and real.

In this memoir, he also documents academic research on the use of visionary plants in Indigenous cultures, alluding to their use in early Christianity as well but secreted. His experiential research drew him to Mexico and then repeatedly to the Peruvian rainforest where he engaged in intensive ayahuasca ceremonies, over several days at a time, with a shaman initiated to lead them … not a spiritual journey for the faint-hearted. Ayahuasca is known to usher the traveler through a threshold to truth. The truth may be an experience of the Divine, or just as easily a slide into the Dark Night of the Soul. Either way, an instrument of transformation, as he says below.*

 …I saw it in the jungle of the landscapes of my visions, the truth was that the darkness ultimately lived inside me. Ayahuasca had the ability to find and exploit my deepest fears, bringing terror in direct proportion to the depth of the particular fear it tapped into, constituting part of an amazing process of self discovery…

This is a beautiful story of one truly intrepid man, a Warrior of the Spirit if I ever knew one, who found his way out of a dark jungle, when so many of his friends and family did not. Matt Pallamary is someone to be respected for his gritty honesty and intent toward Spirit, aside from his capabilities as a writer. Spirit Matters informs us while providing inspiration.

Available in print, e-book and audiobook through Amazon. Spirit Matters was a Best Books Award Finalist for USA Book News.

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*Ayahuasca is being used in the treatment of drug addiction—its success rate now documented in a clinical study in Canada. Go to MAPS to learn more and download a copy of the study.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Book Review, cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Music Review: Mayan Ancestral Music by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

xavierqy

Kenosis Spirit Keepers was privileged to sponsor Xavier Quijas Yxayotl in September 2013 for our Spirit Keepers Series held in Phoenix. Xavier is a composer, ritual musician, artist, healer and more. A gentle man of Huichol/Azteca lineage, I’m not sure I’ve met such a multi-talented person who practices his many arts with such humility.

His music carried me beyond this world to another realm entirely. Those nights I slept more soundly than I had in months. Every unique sound—raindrops, wind, birds—are made through instruments he made with his own hands, not environmental recordings. I was able to witness the vast array of clay flutes, whistles and other percussion instruments that comprised his compositions, all adorned with symbolic art.

He first learned to play the flute through his Huichol grandfather as a child, and shortly after began to make his own instruments. But there’s more. In the 1970s, he was called to resurrect ancestral ceremonial instruments destroyed and outlawed during colonial times. Many people are making such instruments now. But back then? No one. How does someone do so when no one else has—and all but a little documentation was obliterated?

I said to Xavier, “Did the calling and ways to make the instruments come to you in dreams and visions?” He confirmed what I sensed. Such things often occur in Indigenous traditions whether to ritual musicians, weavers, midwives, healers, those who hold prayers in varying ways. He also told me, “When I am playing my music, I can often feel my ancestors there standing next to me.”

Xavier has been nominated several times for the Native American Music Award, played at the Nobel Peace Ceremony in Rome, featured on PBS and countless other accolades. For the movie Apocalypto, Mel Gibson contacted him to make the historic instruments used in the movie. Due to union rules, Xavier couldn’t appear in the movie, but he taught the actor-musicians how to play the instruments he made.

We are fortunate that Xavier has a number of CDs available, aside from from Mayan Ancestral Music. You can go to CD Baby to play sample tracks and purchase. Also available on iTunes.

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Our next Spirit Keepers Series program will feature Laura Alonzo de Franklin, curandera (healer/spiritual guide) of Mexhica/Aztec lineage. Mark you calendar for September 26-27, 2014 and join us in Phoenix. Check back for more information soon.

 

 

 

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Music Review | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview with Dianna “Snow Eagle” Henry, Seed Saver

Flordemayo documenting seeds.

Grandmother Flordemayo documenting seeds.
Photo credit: The Path

Grandmother Flordemayo had twice mentioned Dianna “Snow Eagle” Henry to me during my visits to the Seed Temple in Estancia, New Mexico. Each time she lamented, “You just missed her! She was here helping but went back home.”  Home turned out to be Arkansas. When Flordemayo began to establish the Seed Temple, which Kenosis Spirit Keepers helps support, she called Dianna to consult her expertise regarding seed preservation. Dianna has gone back and forth providing service ever since.

The last time I was there, Flordemayo put a book in my hands. Dianna’s coffee table book Whispering Ancestors: The Wisdom of Corn is an illustrated treasure trove of information on Native varieties, some lost to time and then resurrected. In certain ways it takes you back in time by identifying which Native Tribes carried different strains, planting instructions—and hints at the esoteric, ancestral knowledge in the Seed Collective. I was intrigued.

Native Seeds

Native seeds.
Photo Credit: Wisdom of Corn.

Dianna consented to an interview for The Lifepath Dialogues. Below you’ll find the audio recording uploaded to You Tube. She graciously shares how the seed-saving path opened to her, rather unexpectedly as passions sometimes do, and the ways that spiritual knowledge from seeds began to come. One of the many things I appreciate about Dianna is her willingness to follow a path that’s unknown but fueled by intent. She shares it all.

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is pleased to sponsor Grandmother Flordemayo, Dianna Henry and Greg Schoen for events in Phoenix on January 31-February 1, 2014. Greg is also a respected seed saver with many years’ experience and will take us “down the rabbit hole” into the mysticism of seeds. You can read his article about Rainbow Corn in Mother Earth News here.

This Friday night talk and Saturday experiential workshop will directly benefit the Seed Temple’s preservation work. You’re invited to join us and know that—as you are receiving the teachings—you’re also benefiting the wider work of global consciousness.

(Note: The benefit dates mentioned in the recorded interview were changed so that Grandmother Flordemayo could also personally participate, offer her knowledge and prayers.)

Categories: cultural interests, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Interview, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Hopi Spirits Come to Life: Home Dance at Moenkopi

In July 2009 I was invited by Harold and Char Joseph to Home Dance, the first one in the Hopi village of Moenkopi in 50 years—a very historic event. It’s during this July dance ritual that the Katsina spirits are ushered back to the San Francisco Peaks, the mountain range north of Flagstaff, Arizona, where they live until their return to Hopi in February of each year.*

A friend and I arrived at Moenkopi village outside Tuba City just before dawn. Harold was already leaving home. Moenkopi being Char’s home village, Harold acted as a helper. Normally Harold would have been at Second Mesa’s Shungopavi, already a long time in the kiva, a subterranean chamber reserved for religious rituals, engaged in ceremony in his home village. But this time being quite special he was lending a hand the way relatives do.

The previous night we’d ventured down to the plaza with other family members, carrying chairs, staking out a place in one of several rows already formed. The dirt plaza was long and narrow, enclosed by the original stone homes dating back to the 1870s. I felt like I’d stepped back to another era.

Going Home Shungopavi

Going Home Shungopavi
Oil on canvas
depicting Home Dance.
©2011 Carla Woody

That early morning we sat at the edge of the village with others who had gathered, high on the bluff overlooking the lush cornfields below, a sharp contrast to the red rock cliffs surrounding them. I only discovered later that we actually perched on a kiva. An elder came and asked everyone to move. He slid the wood covering over to reveal its secret and climbed down.

We waited, slightly chilled by the light wind. Glancing around me, some of the people were in special dress, the women in beautiful shawls, and a few young girls wore the traditional hairstyle with fluted buns over each ear. There was a low buzz of conversation and greetings. Everyone waited patiently for the sunlight to hit the cornfields below. A number of pick-up trucks were parked to the side of the fields. In my mind, I converted them to horses because a sound was on the breeze that led me into another time and dimension.

At first it was faint but then it grew, rising up as though from the bowels of the earth. A chant that rose and fell, coming from an area of trees near the field. Those around me went quiet in anticipation, eyes glued, fingers pointing. And finally when the light hit the field just so, Katsinam emerged from the copse forming a single line as they began the slow walk up to the village, carrying cornstalks. It seemed like the line had no end. Finally, all Katsinam came into full view from the woods. They numbered 130, give or take.

As we shifted to our seats at the far end of the plaza, Katsinam poured in one-by-one, forming an ellipsis, continuing the chant, making the small repetitive movements that created the dance, virtually right in front of us. The sound of bells and rattles, strapped to each knee, accompanied each step and joined the drone of their voices. Even though sun now heated the air, I got chicken skin.

They gave cornstalks, a symbol of prosperity, to those watching and gifts of fruit and piki, a paper-thin rolled tortilla made from blue corn. The dancing continued. Then it was time for the first round to end. And the Kachinam left the plaza to be sequestered again. They performed at great sacrifice, foregoing food and water in the blistering sun until much later in the day.

But it was now time for the rest of the village to eat. We returned to the Joseph home and feasted on hominy stew and drank strong coffee. When the phone rang, I’d hear them tell the person on the other end, “Come eat!” One of the family members told me, “This is the Hopi way!” Indeed it was. As people poured through the door, they were directed to grab a plate and ladle a good helping.

The Katsinam were to dance eight times that day. Between dances families and friends gathered at homes, many from out of town it being such a special time. Each time food was shared. We were encouraged to nap in the heat of the day—which I did, in a room full of people that felt like family to me even though it was my first time meeting some of them.

How was it that this was the first Home Dance in Moenkopi in 50 years? Many Hopi people have fallen away from the traditions, and the necessary initiations aren’t occurring to support the ceremonies. Shungopavi is the only village that keeps the complete cycle of religious ceremonies unbroken, the elders staunch.

A strong older woman instigated the 2009 Home Dance. Her son was marrying. She wanted to show off the wedding robes of her son’s bride as part of the ritual. Other brides would be able to do the same. Through her commitment the village re-engaged, others coming from elsewhere to support the ceremony, accounting for the large number of Katsinam, a profound example of what determination can do—and for good cause. Traditions take us back to where we began. For my part, an appreciative outsider greatly stirred by the experience, I hope the Home Dance continues in Moenkopi. At this writing, it’s recurred once. That was in 2011.

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*A Katsina is a spirit being of the Pueblo Tribes, an invisible natural force that can be called upon to bestow protection and wellbeing for the village. Katsinam is the plural form. In the Hopi tradition there are approximately 400 different Katsinam, each one different and having a separate purpose. For days prior to religious dances, initiated males enter the kiva and undertake long rituals. When they emerge from the kiva to dance, they are no longer who they were when they entered. Instead, they are the embodiment of these powerful spirit beings, dancing in human form, on the earth.
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I will sponsor Spiritual Travel to Hopi: Sacred Guardians of the World during March 6-9, 2014. This is a rare chance to experience Hopi Spirit Keepers in their homes, hear the ancient stories, visit sacred sites, learn about medicine ways and attend the Night Dances, all that weaves the very identity of the Hopi people as guardians of the world. Only recently is it now possible to be invited to such an experience. It’s only through relationships I’ve developed over a number of years that this program has been born. Join us for this adventure of the spirit! Early registration discount ends November 6. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support Kenosis Spirit Keepers’ projects preserving Native traditions.
Categories: cultural interests, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

The Last Report on the Miracles

In The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich has written a book that transports the reader not only to another time, but also to a field where all could dwell with increased respect and understanding.

Agnes is the main character, an inventive person of strong character who found a way to deal with living in a time when women had few choices—the early 1900s. Timing, opportunity and a desire to leave her old situation behind allowed her to step into the identity of Father Damien Modeste, a priest who was expected shortly at a remote Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota called Little No Horse. The narrative takes us over nearly a century of what it was like to have a foot planted in both worldsa woman living as a manministering in one culture yet not intruding with another, developing roots and living with a sporadic fear of one day being found out. Would everything Father Damien built in his beloved community, all trust and love given to him, be discarded if Agnes was discovered?

The telling of this chronicle comes about through the investigation of one Sister Leopolda who is up for sainthood. When the church’s emissary comes to interview Father Damien, we have the opportunity to witness a life well lived, intricately woven and deeply connected to community. Not the life of Sister Leopolda but that of Father Damien.

Equally important is the telling of the Obijwe traditions, the sometimes funny and bizarre antics of medicine man Nanapush and the difficulties often endured. Peppered throughout are enormous gems of wisdom. A couple of examples are shown here.

…even careful plans cannot accommodate or foresee all the tricks of creation…

…We see the seasons pass, the moons fatten and go dark, infants grow to old men, but this is not time. We see the water strike against the shore and with each wave we say a moment has passed, but this is not time. Inside, we feel our strength go from a baby’s weakness to a youth’s strength to a man’s endurance to the weakness of a baby again, but this is not time, either, nor are your whiteman’s clocks and bells, nor the sun rising and the sun going down. These things are not time… (Nanapush)

It’s also punctuated with Father Damien’s frequent, unanswered notes to the Pope such as this one.

Pope!

Perhaps we are no more than spores on the breath of God, perhaps our life is just one exhalation. One breath. If God pauses just a moment to ruminate before taking in a new breath, we see. In that calm cessation, we see. All I’ve ever wanted to do is see.

Don’t bother with a reply.

Modeste

The characters in this novel are so rich and their stories so resonant, there’s a part of me that secretly hopes the writings are based on fact. They have an underlying inherent truth. Life is indeed layers of complexity, with all its attendant emotions. Here it’s delivered to us through Agnes and Father Damien, their voices intermingled. This book is much more than entertainment, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Available on Amazon and retail bookstores.

Categories: Book Review, cultural interests, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Seed Intelligence: Indigenous Perspectives and Our Collective Birthright

In October 2010, Flordemayo was in Los Angeles attending a conference. At break she returned to her room on the 23rd floor. Before lying down to rest her eyes, she noticed an emerald green glow on the wall. When she opened them again the light had taken up the entire wall and a vision unfolded. “There was a panoramic landscape and everything was emerald,” she said. “It was so beautiful that I said to myself, ‘I’m going into this light.’ I have absolute memory of walking in a field dialoguing with everything. I noticed a mountain to my right. Then everything began to change! At the top, it split and there was movement like an avalanche! The forest and everything in it came tumbling down—trees, animals, stones, water. It crossed the road below and I saw that all domestic life was being swept away! I thought, ‘I have to get to my cornfield!’ I was praying and running as fast as I could, and then I’m grabbing the yellow corn, the blue, the red, the black…and then I grabbed all the rainbow corn I could grab! I bundled all the corn I could carry up in my long skirt. But I couldn’t run fast enough! I heard a voice from above, ‘Flordemayo! What are you doing? The military is coming!’ I answered in a cry to the Universe, ‘It just doesn’t matter anymore!’ Then I was standing in the hotel room again facing the wall. The emerald light was gone. I had tears in my eyes. I fell back on my bed. I was devastated.”

Flordemayo

Grandmother Flordemayo
Photo credit: Linda Rettinger

As a young child, Flordemayo was recognized as a seer. By the age of four, she had already begun her training as a curandera espiritu, a healer through divine spirit, a gift inherited through long family lineage, originating from the Maya highlands of Central America. She is a member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, standing for peace and healing of the Mother Earth. When messages come strongly, Flordemayo knows to answer them—no matter the obstacles.

What is the timeliness of this vision?

Apab’yan Tew is an Ajq’ij, a Day Keeper, and spiritual guide of the sacred K’iche Maya tradition from the village of Nawalja’ in Sololá of the Guatemalan highlands. His ceremonial work most often takes place in caves, engaging with resident energies of the natural site and timing of the Tzolkin calendar in conjunction with needs of communities or individuals. Like Flordemayo, his gifts evolved from childhood until he ultimately answered the call through a series of difficult shamanic challenges.

Apab'yan Tew

Apab’yan Tew
Photo source: Apab’yan Tew

Apab’yan elaborates on the Maya worldview: “We cannot be who we must be without the land. Another principle is that the body we have is not really ours. It is lent from the Mother Earth herself. So if you create any kind of danger to your body, you are also hurting the Mother Earth. What the Earth produces and what we produce is part of the same cycle, the same system. We are not separated from the Earth—and the Earth is not to be thought of as just another provider of goods. The term that is used in the West is ‘natural resources’ as something to be taken, something to be transformed. For us, we don’t use this term. We use the term ‘elements of life.’ It is our life! It is not a resource.”

In Indigenous traditions, every aspect of life is integrated and sacred. This Maya spiritual leader is quite clear that to surpass a cycle creates imbalance. Nothing should be moved from its place in the Universe. His people think of the seed as a living feminine entity, not a commodity. There is a proper way to carry her, to talk to her, the Sky and the field in the act of sowing according to specific timing. This in itself is a ceremony, integration of a flow that already exists and must not be taken from those like himself who hold these ways close.

There are those who seek to eradicate the sacred ways.

Apab’yan talks about the Maya ways of respect: “It is our purpose not to take more than we can give back. But it is also our purpose not to change. We must not touch what is not ours. It is not ours from the beginning. It is ours to have a dialogue. The seeds talk to us. We have five seeds. Only one of the five is for us. One is for the Sky. One is for the Earth. One is for the brothers in the fields. Maybe there’s a crow that’s going to come. The last one is for anybody who needs it. In my harvesting, maybe I’ll have some extra seeds to give to someone or sell them. There’s no harvesting for commercial purposes. But we have extra if someone needs it. We are Corn Beings. So we must not even play with the seeds.”

He believes there is no current problem with GMO seed infiltration in the high altitude area of his village: “You don’t sell milk to a cow!” For the Guatemalan highlands, there’s not enough room for the politics of Monsanto. What the West calls “organic” these Maya farmers have been doing for eons—and the best selection has long ago been made. However, he sees a danger as any of his people become more influenced, perhaps by emigrating and then returning home, to set aside their ancient ways of living.

That same protection isn’t available to Native and heritage farmers in the US. Five years ago I sat in a conference session and heard a Zuni man sadly express the fear he held: the real possibility of GM seeds blowing into the fields that he and his ancestors had planted with their pure Native strain for hundreds of years. It was disheartening and outrageous.

If the spirits of Earth and Sky are no different than the seeds they sow, the food they eat, what their bodies are made of…then to tamper with any part is an outright act against religious freedom and quality of life, rights the US constitution is supposed to uphold. For giant agribusinesses to also attempt to spread their seed where people have few rights equates to preying upon those who have a voice but are ignored. When spiritual tradition falls apart, grounding dissolves; detrimental influences make additional in-roads; suffering takes over—a process proven over history. Spiritual pride is lost; ethnic groups are additionally marginalized.

A grassroots movement has sprung up.

Learn About GMOsPeople are starting to come together, much as in past times of threat or needed change. Coalitions are appearing like GMO-Free Prescott, a small, volunteer-run nonprofit organization in Prescott, Arizona specifically formed to educate and support everyone’s right to choose food and products that have not been genetically modified. Founder Shea Richland states, “I got involved due to health issues when I was leaving ‘no stone unturned’ to find answers. The more I learned, the more concerned I became. When the documentary Thrive was being shown in our area, I felt it was an opportune time to do more. So, GMO-Free Prescott was born. If people were walking what the Native people teach, then our organization wouldn’t be necessary.”

Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg, is known as an environmental activist. She is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support and create funding for frontline Native environmental groups. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation. Her organization offers a number of naturally derived products that may be found via Native Harvest online to help fund the White Earth Land Recovery Project.

Winona LaDuke Source: Native Harvest

Winona LaDuke
Source: Native Harvest

She shares this: “When I was a young woman, my father would listen to me patiently, with great compassion, as I explained to him the many environmental issues facing our community and the complexities of the world. His name was Sun Bear, or Vincent LaDuke. He used to tell me, ‘Winona, you are a smart young woman, but I don’t want to hear your philosophy unless you can grow corn.’

I remembered this for many years but was not as smart as he thought. It took me until the turn of the millennium to become a corn grower. I thought about this often and wondered about the corn varieties my ancestors in northern Minnesota would have grown. I began a quest, one of many. The first corn that came to me was a Bear Island Flint corn, eight to twelve inch, multicolored cobs. The seeds were gifted from Ricardo Salvador, then a professor at Iowa State University. He had found them in a seed bank. The corn came from an island in the middle of Leech Lake Reservation, where I later learned, after many interviews and much research, that our people often grew corn on islands, away from predators, in micro-climates surrounded by water. Ingenious. We began to grow. Then, I moved onto Manitoba White Flint, the northernmost varieties of the Ojibwe, grown about 100 miles north of Winnipeg.”

Winona notes the importance of growing Native seeds and seed saving: “Never a crop failure after all these years with this corn! It is hearty (with) twice the protein and half the calories of market corn. And it is resilient. (Through) frost, drought and high winds, it stays. We were the northernmost corn growers in the world. And yet, we had lost much of our corn and our seeds. So, we have grown that corn now for a decade. Again…resilient. Monsanto’s crops failed in 2012, but ours did not. We are grateful. That was the beginning. Today, we are growing an 800-year-old squash, found in an archeological dig in Wisconsin. And we are growing many other varieties. It is our hope to create a northern Anishinaabe seed bank.”

The vision that Flordemayo received was a strong message coming from the Creator to uphold the welfare of our interconnections. As she accepted what seemed like a monumental task, things quickly began to fall in place—as it so often does when a vision is true. Exactly the funds required to purchase the forty acres of land that came available near her home in Estancia, New Mexico appeared. She established the Seed Temple as a volunteer-run project under her nonprofit organization, The Path. Smaller donations came to excavate the underground seed vault, construct the classroom building that covers it, and to create its accompanying medicine circle and fire temple. Flordemayo said, “You can’t have plants without water. We need a place to go and pray…to hold the spirits of water and plants in prayer.”

Rainbow Corn

Rainbow Corn
Photo: Greg Schoen

Local volunteers and those from some distances come regularly to continue building and advise. Greg Schoen is one of them. He’s impassioned about seed preservation: “Crops are being stripped and ‘dumbed down,’ the diversity bred out of them. When we do this to the corn, we do this to ourselves.” He got his start as a seed saver in the mid-1980s receiving his original “Glass Gem” jewel-like kernels from Carl L. Barnes, a mixed blood man of Cherokee/Irish/Scots ancestry now in his eighties living near Liberal, Kansas. Over the years, Greg received other Native varieties from Carl, planted them himself and gifted them to such organizations as Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona.

“I think of corn as holding a knowledge, like a recordkeeper. Sometimes when Carl would grow corn in his fields, Native strains that had gone extinct would re-emerge. When Native people here lost the corn they carried, it’s like they lost the central point that anchored them to the land, like they lost their language. So, when Carl would reintroduce their ancestral corn to them, they would light up. It would be like you were wandering in the desert and your ancient scrolls were returned to you!”

Greg freely gifts baggies of “Glass Gem” seeds to anyone who wants them. In the coming year he will plant at the Sufi community near Silver City, New Mexico where he now lives. When asked what direction the Seed Temple would take, he said, “We’re starting to provide educational support to seed savers. There will also be a ‘seed lending library.’ Individuals can take portions of the seed stock of one of more items from the seed bank, with the agreement that they will grow out the seed according to proper growing practices, and return a portion of the seed produced to the seed bank. Those are just some of our plans.”

Flordemayo affirmed Greg’s statement and added, “The seed has a spirit, but it doesn’t have a voice. We are giving the seeds a voice! We are welcoming Native and heritage seeds from growers. The only restriction is that the seeds are organically grown; and we know where they came from and who is growing them. So we need to have documentation in receiving them.”

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is the volunteer-run nonprofit I founded to help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions. We see the Native seed issue as an integral aspect of Indigenous spiritual traditions and are helping to support the Seed Temple. More is still to be done in the way of construction and obtaining all things necessary to start up and maintain. One way Flordemayo plans to help fund the project is through classes in the growing and use of medicinal herbs, sacred bathing, and vision and dream work. She has turned the Hogan, located next to the seed vault, into the Temple of the Golden Child, which will be used for this purpose.

More and more independent seed saving operations are being established in pockets around the globe. Greg Schoen continues to quietly do what he can to preserve our heritage by sharing his passion, experiences and seeds with others on a similar track. Shea Richland believes so strongly in our birthright for health and well-being that she reluctantly stepped into the public eye to form GMO-Free Prescott and educate regarding our choices. Winona LaDuke works at the national level through organized environmental activism. Flordemayo answered a vision. Apab’yan Tew performs ceremonies for the well-being of the planet in the dark recesses of caves.

It takes all of us, each bringing our own way, in the face of such forces that would act against us, to support and maintain our collective birthright—and succeed.

***

This article is being incorporated into the Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) Farming Curriculum that will be part of the Tribal Community Colleges in the region where Honor the Earth Foundation is active.

***

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is sponsoring Grandmother Flordemayo and seed savers Greg Schoen and Dianna Henry for events on January 31-February 1, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. The proceeds from ticket sales go to support the seed saving project founded by Grandmother Flordemayo. For information and to purchase tickets, please go here.

***

Sources:

Interviews with Flordemayo, October 17, 2012 and February 1, 2013.

Interviews with Greg Schoen, October 17, 2012 and February 8, 2013.

Interview with Apab’yan Tew, November 6, 2012.

Interview with Winona LaDuke, November 27, 2012.

Interviews with Shea Richland, November 9, 2012 and January 2, 2013.

Categories: cultural interests, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

What You Can Do in the Face of Devastation and Make a Difference

I received a very disheartening message. I want to share it with youeven though research statistics show that most people would prefer to see uplifting blog content. My feeling is there are just things I can’t ignore. I discount that, due to the immensity of a travesty, I can do nothing about it. That would be the easy way out, to push something aside.

I subscribe to Glenn Shepard’s blog Notes from the Ethnoground. Glenn is an ethnobotanist, medical anthropologist and filmmaker who lives in Brazil and has spent many years doing on-the-ground research in remote rainforest places. Yesterday his latest post ”A letter of protest: In defense of the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional populations in Amazonia” arrived via email. 

The post is about a proposed change to a law currently in the Brazilian House of Representatives “to make changes to Article 231 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988 defining the public interest in demarcating Indigenous Lands.” It has to do with ancestral land rights of the Indigenous peoples of Amazonia. If passed, it would take away many of their rights in favor of those who have encroached: cattle ranchers, mining operations and more.

Guarani People

Photo credit: Survival International

This is not a new issue. It has been going on for decades with terrible consequences. Not only is the rainforest threatened but Terena, Guarani and other Native peoples have been murdered in defending what is theirs. We rarely hear of these things because they don’t get reported. I did some research of my own and turned up this August 8 news article from the Guardian in the UK. It reports on the killing of a Guarani man believed by Survival International to have been ordered by a landowner, as well as other murders of Native peoples numbering “452 between 2002 and 2010, sharply up on the 167 killed during the previous eight years.” The article accuses the Brazilian government of “pandering to agro-business lobby rather than reallocating areas to indigenous peoples.”

Guarani and Kaiowa Indians are in conflict with ranch owners over the allocation of land in Brazil. Photograph: Celso Junior/AP

Guarani and Kaiowa Indians are in conflict with ranch owners over the allocation of land in Brazil.
Photograph: Celso Junior/AP

 If you’ve read this far, then you likely recognize a familiar story. Although the struggle of the Indigenous people of Brazil is especially heightened, similar things are happening in Native lands the world over. It’s a form of genocide. When the right to live on their own lands, grow their own crops and perform their own religious ceremonies is taken away, it’s devastating.

Have any of you ever lost a home? Been told your religious practices are evil, antiquated or ridiculous? Has your voice not been heard? Probably many of you have had such experiences. For traditional Native people, connection to ancestral lands, community, the foods they grow and ceremonies runs deep. It’s a matter of survival and what keeps them spiritually grounded. Take away these things and a sense of identity vanishes.

What to do about such things? It’s not an easy answer. Personally, I founded Kenosis Spirit Keepers  in 2007, a grassroots volunteer-run nonprofit organization, expressly because I believe so strongly in the contributions that these traditions make to the betterment of the world through continued existence.

Has it been a walk in the park to support projects we’ve committed to fund? No. We’ve had to be very creative to do so. I wish we were able to do so much more.

Does it feel to me as though my efforts and those of my board are like lonely raindrops in the wind? You better believe itespecially when I hear about such things as Glenn reported.

Yet, I can’t turn away. No matter how discouraged and tired I get…I just can’t. That’s because I truly believe the more people who feel the way I doand stay strong in that intentthat the tides will turn. We can make a difference. Looking back in history, I see the shift has happened too many times not to believe in what’s possible. I hold that you do, too.

***

Kenosis Spirit Keepers

To learn more about Kenosis Spirit Keepers and how you can help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions, go here.

Categories: cultural interests, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

New Book Release: Portals to the Vision Serpent

Portals to the Vision SerpentI am pleased to announce that my latest book has been released and is now available in trade paperback and/or Kindle versions in North America,  Europe and the UK. The Kindle version is also available in Japan, Brazil and India.

As with all my books, I’m donating 10% of profits from book sales to Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit I founded to help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions—like those featured in the novel. Know that if you’re drawn to read the book, you’re also supporting these important projects.

Description

Preston Johns Cadell is tormented. He attempts to outrun discontent and the void in his heart. His mother is hardly around. His father’s origins and disappearance are shrouded by family secrets. His sole remembrance of his father is flying through the stars nestled in his arms.

Any comfort Preston derives is from an unseen advisor who teaches him of the invisible world. Now he is coming of age. Memories arrive from long ago when a brown-skinned woman cared for him. But she, too, vanished. Finding the buried remains of his father’s altar, Preston must answer the draw to his destiny, to discover his lineage—even though he has no idea how or where it will lead him.

Portals to the Vision Serpent is a Hero’s Journey into the realms of shamanism and the Maya world. Interwoven are the struggles of indigenous peoples to preserve their way of life and tragedies that often come from misunderstandings. Through a family saga of dark wounds and mystery, spiritual healing unfolds.

Editorial Reviews

The search to find one’s True Self is a journey that often challenges cultural preconceptions and assumptions. Portals to the Vision Serpent takes this journey deep into the heart of the True People, delivering a story of longing and mystery woven like a story cloth between two worlds.

—Sharon Brown, Publisher, Sacred Fire Magazine

Bloodlines are story lines. In Portals to the Vision Serpent, Carla Woody invites the reader to explore the mysterious, ever-unfolding tale that each one must tell with our lives…one chapter at a time. Step into these pages. Invoke your true name. Re-member who you have always been.

—Jamie K. Reaser, author of Sacred Reciprocity: Courting the Beloved in Everyday Life and Note to Self: Poems for Changing the World from the Inside Out

Portals to the Vision Serpent is a transcendent spiritual adventure of a soul’s inner and outer journey into the rainforests of Guatemala and Mexico and brings awareness to the struggles of native people amidst the onslaught of cultural genocide.

—Matthew Pallamary, author of Land Without Evil

Other Books

Standing Stark Cover Trade paperback currently available in North America. (Watch for wider distribution soon.) Kindle ebook available in North America, Europe, Japan, India and Brazil.

Calling Our Spirits HomeCurrently available in trade paperback in North America. Wider distribution coming soon.

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Travel: Destination or Process?

Some years ago I had an inquiry from someone who was interested in the Entering the Maya Mysteries program I was sponsoring; specifically he was enticed by a destination on the itinerary. He’d done a search and I was the only one offering the opportunity. “But,” he said. “I’m not so sure about this ‘spiritual travel’ stuff.”

Curing ritual image

Curing ritual in San Juan Chamula.
Photo: Carla Woody

How to explain something so intangible? In one respect, it contains elements of tangibility: sites and interactions. Invisible to the naked eye, perhaps unanticipated by the mind, are myriad ways to be drawn into the deeper journey that define these potentially uncharted waters—without conscious realization in the moment that you’ve taken the plunge. Hence, enter aspects that: may have no words or audible sound, cannot be held in your hands, your eye can’t get a bead on, can seem ordinary but aren’t. Yet it produces something akin to a lightning strike that splits the rough outer covering and creates an opening, a probable pathway — and a tangible result. There appears a fork in the road inviting decision. It’s not the territory for a faint-hearted tourist but the traveler of a different sort.

I personally welcome those unending layers and outcomes, only bits and pieces of the larger picture solidifying long after closure of the initiation. I’ve had the great fortune, maybe even destiny, to create such organic spaces, through many years’ relationship-building and travel with special intent: being alert to those people and places who offer themselves as powerful conduits. These elements being necessary to push the energy—our energy—to catapult us beyond places that have grown familiar.

My brand of spiritual travel is physically comprised of sacred sites, ceremonies and those who keep the rituals and stories. The travelers who show up to participate equally act as catalysts. An entrainment occurs and each one gains what they need to further the collective and their own journey. And we find out what it’s like to be at play in a field of mirrors: coming face-to-face with aspects that call out for healing and simultaneously create beauty. I personally celebrate it all.

God pot lighting

Lighting the god pots during a
balché ceremony in Najá.
Photo: Carla Woody

The question arises: do you have to travel to experience such initiation? In some form, you do. We are creatures of habit who tend to cling to a mindset that is familiar, even if not particularly healthy. You must be willing to move outside the container: to be fearless, to be open, to explore. You must embody courage to create a wider life. That’s travel.

The fast track requires putting the daily life on pause and dropping yourself into an unfamiliar environment to rediscover what you forgot. When people gather with this common intent, magic happens. They give themselves permission to explore parts of themselves they’re not so in touch with. Add exposure to Native peoples who inherit a sense of the sacred as an integral aspect of life—and a landscape of possibility appears.

When that happens it leaves an indelible impression and shifts who you are in the world. I frequently face a challenge finding words to express the profound value of the intangible elements running through the lifework I’ve chosen. I currently live in a culture that values the immediate result while ignoring the process that’s all-important in creating something of deep meaning that endures. My sense is that if we’re able to finally find comfort floating in the abyss, it will produce all that’s ever needed–beyond what we could imagine. But it takes travel. I’ll leave you with this quote from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller:

And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life; and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to the meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.

*********************
Author’s note: Those years ago I must have found the right words. I’m happy to report that the man concerned about the “spiritual travel” stuff has since traveled with me twice. And even more importantly, in the process, we’ve become friends.

For information on our upcoming “Entering the Maya Mysteries” programs, go here. For other spiritual travel destinations, go here. A portion of tuitions are donated to Kenosis Spirit Keepers for projects that help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions.

To view other stories on the subject of “Journey” go to the Daily Prompt.

Categories: Energy Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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