I am thankful that a student of mine recommended the book, “Black Elk Speaks,” to me. Black Elk was an Oglala Lakota medicine man and holy man (1863-1950). He speaks with a poetic voice and gives us insights into the Native American life and perspective of the time. It was a sad, tragic, disgraceful, completely unjust, and deplorable time in American history, when the arriving European forefathers murdered, massacred, robbed, and cheated the Native Americans, though Black Elk speaks in a voice of observation without judgment.
I would like to make Ho’oponopono (Hawaiian for making things right) with our Native American brothers and sisters. How do we make sufficient amends? Is our country healing? Can we be forgiven?
I have received only generosity and kindness from Native peoples. When I first moved out West in 1991, I heard Arnold Rice speak in the central park of Prescott Arizona. Arnold Rice, who is a Native American, blessed us with, “you are all Native Americans, as you were all born on American soil."
When I moved to Boulder, Colorado I was invited into Lakota prayer lodge by Bobbi and Bob, who I met in Ken Cohen’s sacred earth circles. In these circles, Ken would teach on Native American healing and spirituality (Ken authored Honoring the Medicine: The Essential Guide to Native American Healing).
I found lodges to be exceptionally powerful and beautiful ceremonies for purification, connection, and healing. The experience of physically sweating felt linked to psychological sweating, with the stripping away and release of the ego and all that doesn't belong to us. I felt like I emerged from the womb of lodge a soft, tender, pure, and decent, soul.
The drumming, praying and singing in lodge put you in a trance. In this altered state of consciousness, conscious mind is derailed, and unconscious is accessed. We are melted in surrender on the earth from the power of steam profusely sweating us. We find ourselves in immersion with elements, ancestors, and Spirit. The little “i” links with the big “I” and is fed needed strength to endure the physical hardship of the sweat, and whatever awaits in the outside world when the flap lifts.
Endurance is a divine quality which the Native Americans seem to recognize and bring into ceremony.
When we are in the midst of enduring anything painful, we turn to something above and higher and more than ourselves in order to bear it. This greater source has many names in many languages. But it is in this surrender to and allowance of the Great Mystery where we ultimately find miracle, mercy, magic, comfort and relief.
The Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is another great place to visit. The mission of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians.
My grandfather used to say that his grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee. Although not proven by DNA, I had always imagined it is so. I grew up outside of any church, mosque, synagogue or temple but my spirituality has always been central to me. As Black Elk said, "my religion is the same as the birds." We are all children of this earth, we are all indigenous.