I am thankful to a student of mine who 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 poignant, observing and elevating voice.
Even after all of these years I still wonder how we can make Ho’oponopono (Hawaiian word for making things right) with our Native American brothers and sisters? How on earth can we make sufficient amends, heal, and be forgiven?
Native Americans have humbled me with their generosity and kindness. When I first moved out West in 1991, Arnold Rice blessed us all in the central park of Prescott Arizona, with, “you are all Native Americans, as you were all born here on American soil."
Years later, after moving to Boulder, Colorado, I was invited in to Lakota prayer lodge by Bobbi Gleason 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 the Lakota prayer 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, combined with the heat in lodge put you in a trance. In this altered state of consciousness, conscious mind is derailed, and our unconscious is accessed. We melt into a complete surrender. We are immersed with elements, ancestors, and the Great Spirit who feed us the 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 often 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 a greater Source where we ultimately find miracle, mercy, grace, magic, comfort and relief.
I invited my student to the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where I visited with my children many years ago on a spring break camping trip. The mission of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians.
We are all indigenous peoples. Indigenous to some land in some place. In addition to my Celtic heritage I may even have Native American blood, as my grandfather always said that his grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee. This is an easy love story to imagine, a French man falling in love with a beautiful Cherokee woman.