Sunday, August 31, 2008
The internet is filled with strange people. Some of the most strange of all time are self-appointed protectors and self-appointed guardians against, excuse me, I mean for American Indians.
In a polite society if someone decides to be your guardian, and you have not asked them for help, this is a crime called stalking. Criminal stalking is a felony crime in North America. Because of that little privilege called freedom of speech, stalkers can use words on the internet, making them up as they go along.
This is what is happening in many places. I recently read a story about myself on an Italian blog. They were wondering why I was so far from the reservation. They seemed personally offended that some American Indian that they don’t know was doing something they know nothing about. Even so, they bill themselves as the protectors of American Indians in Italy. No one asked them to do this.
So let’s get this straight. A group of people I don’t know and never heard of writes about a man they know nothing about in way that sounds like they have some sort of official status in the tribal world. Sound strange?
Groups like this are relentless and quite numerous. They have zero official status among American Indian people. If one of the subjects of their admonishment articles contacts them they have nothing to say and run and hide their computers. This is like crying wolf or yelling fire before you know what is going on. It may not be criminal press, but it is certainly psychopathic press.
Why does American Indian culture have these plastic police looking for plastic indians? What sickness has befallen modern society that American Indian people are allowed to have no work, no travel, no peace, no culture, no support but only judgement, finger-pointing and the occasional fantasy about the sacred noble savage????
In my tribal culture we measure people by the quality of their actions and know how to decide for ourselves what and who is right for us. Isn’t that how you do it in your family?
Not all American Indians are collecting casino cash on some reservation with their star-studded enrollment papers clinched in their red little fists waiting for some white man to tell them they are ok, they are approved indians.
Strangers offering approval and disapproval ratings of other strangers is just to odd to take seriously. Charles Bronson once said about film critics, “The actors and directors and film-makers are the center of the wheel of the movies, the fans and audience are the spokes of this wheel, the critic is the slimy stuff that sticks to the wheel as it goes around". Sticky trash sticking to the wheels as it goes around. People who need to pick through the trash to find their daily news may not be the most reliable reporters.
There is an old saying that he who looks in the mirror and sees only shit is because he is looking at shit. People who make their life looking for trouble will always find it. Even if they have to make it up. Plastic people see only other plastic people....
Of all the strange problems these days! Tribal people have to work through so much bad information in order to communicate at all with the people of the modern world. I have always accepted that part of the work of the Four Directions Unity Bundle is to offer opportunities for people to speak clearly, openly and honestly with each other. Call it a resource of good information. Good information is hard to come by on many subjects. Naturally it is a little harder when the good information is attacked by people who have never heard it, investigated it, participated in it or had a conversation with anyone who did experience it.
If I were a drinking man I think I would get drunk tonight.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
©2008. Turtle Heart
A bowl of water
Our moment together lives inside of me
A bowl of sacred water
Drawn up from a deeper well
Our song together began in the sky
The sacred open sky
Flowed under the sleeping stones
And up from the roots of an old tree
Sacred old roots
To become a fire
That lights up my dream
My sacred dream
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
©2008, Turtle Heart
Who Pays for the Sacred? ||
Part 1: Don’t Pay To Pray
Reasonable people understand there is a relationship between money and the infrastructure of sacred space.
There is a vocal and unrelenting, judgmental minority that pesters society on this subject. This divisive issue distracts and affects the dialogue about tribal ceremonial matters like no other issue. It has lead to accusations and a mythology that American Indian ceremonies are “free”.
I have done hundreds of ceremonies for “free”, meaning I paid with my own money whatever the costs came out to be. In doing so I have spent a modest fortune over these years. At other times, I require that participants make donations or pay fixed fees to cover the various expenses involved. These expenses include housing the sacred objects (rent), travel, food, telephones, computers and gasoline, to name a few.
While you can function with great freedom, you cannot function in a worthwhile manner for free. This has always been true. There should be no question that you are going to pay. If no one asks you for money, it is up to you to seek out the host and demand to know how you can help. Every other argument on this subject is fear, a lie.
Who pays for Dalai Lama to travel in the world and give teachings to all cultures? And how much is he paid? The answers are simple; it costs millions of dollars to get Dalai Lama around. He personally makes nothing. I, and a handful of others like me, are in this exact situation.
Reservation communities have never had much experience in understanding or talking about money. From the beginning until the present day, money is not well understood by reservation members. Most reservation members do not grow up in the same capitalist system as modern people. It is a different there. Tribal people do not really understand money. Even today, with some tribes having profitable casino operations, they require outside consultants to actually understand how to make a paying system work on the reservation.
When tribal speakers talk about “do not pay to pray”, or say things like “there is no money in the right to ceremonies”, they are speaking tragically incorrect English. What they are trying to say is how much American Indians really dislike the theft of tribal teachings by modern people. This is always the problem. Money is not the problem….
Do the people who say strange like these believe that the ceremonial leader must pay for his airline ticket, car rental, feed everyone and then go home, paying for everything himself?
So, in this argument about “money” put forth from loud-talking American Indians, they are not speaking correctly. This is too bad. It has created a lot of confusion. Learning to express clearly what you really mean is a very important part in communicating with others. Clarity in communication is in fact the foundation of the sacred teachings in question.
More tribal authorities need to take responsibility for standards. Every great tool of spiritual faith in the history of the world is sustained by an infrastructure, payments by those whose best interests it serves.
I travel throughout Europe and have made a number of sweat lodge ceremonies here. I have asked that the expenses for wood, food, travel and other required spending are covered. The fees I have charged reflect what these costs are. In this way I am able to make this effort to share in a responsible way. Usually I collect just at or under what the journey and supplies cost. It is that simple. Only models like this can enable the possibility to share these American Indian practices with a waiting world.
Another model might involve endowments. Some tribes have the power to do this, but so far have not. There are no endowments for the sacred bundles and ceremonial keepers of tribal American Indian society. With proper endowments sweat lodge camps could be set up and open at no cost, like the church. They could be dispatched to troubled places around the world to offer assistance, for example. But there are no endowments for this work from anyone, including American Indian tribes, including those tribes who have spent millions of lobbying dollars on gambling interests and political activities while their sacred objects and languages vanish in front of them….or perhaps I should say behind them.
Historically, tribes never developed a habit for cash. To this day, reservation tribal members rarely have a good understanding or a good feeling about money. This is symptomatic of poverty. Guilt and confusion over what money is and where it should arrive is a source of great confusion in American Indian life, and in the expectations and mythology of tribal ceremonies. This great confusion has become a mythology which is spoken of as a do not pay to pray policy. It is only confusion. Understanding how to use money to protect and move the ceremonial original instructions around is a challenge for even the best American Indian community. There is a lot of healing that needs to be addressed on this issue.
I have always believed that it was a good idea to enlist the help of modern people and their money to support the infrastructure of the tribal sacred. With some sense of money management the tribes can move their dialogue out into the great waiting world. By insisting everything is free, they stay home while the mountain of bullshit which surrounds them grows higher and higher. Having the money to send runners, bundle holders, sweat lodge leaders, out into and around the world where they are needed can only happen with a supported infrastructure. This is not paying to pray, it is praying and building and growing, when it is done right.
Tribal ceremonies contain more sacred real world information than “prayers”. We Ojibway Wabeeno people do not believe mouthing your desires and hopes to the creator (praying) are very real. The ceremonies and the sacred bundles are something much more important than prayers. A sacred space is like a mystery life machine. You can enter it and go on a great journey. If you know how.
Society in general expects religious and spiritual groups to build an infrastructure, a financial system that takes care of the work and the objects. That is why there are so many tax and political reliefs for such groups. Only in American Indian tribal society, in loud voices dominated entirely by the impoverished Lakota Nation, do the people talk about “don’t pay to pray”. They talk about it loud and they talk about it often. What they are trying to say is they don’t want people to steal their ceremonies and make money from the theft. I agree with that. When the wrong people do the wrong thing and make money, it is ugly. It happens everywhere, not just to American Indians. We all have to work our way through the same pit of snakes to find a true path for our lives. Stealing and selling is not the same argument as the act of providing support and expenses to the great sacred work. Confusion between these two ideas has come out as a loud and vulgar argument called “don’t pay to pray”.
I have made many ceremonies with tribal people. I always paid for this. I considered it my obligation and part of my education. I was happy to pay. I paid as often as I could. I would just leave as much money behind as I possibly could when I stayed with and shared ceremony with my tribal relations. I used to bring cash. And just left it behind when I left. I made no noise about it. I am a good example. It is one reason why my tribal elders love me.
Tribal leaders and keepers of ceremonies need to brace up and embrace a more balanced and thoughtful view of these matters. Under the current entrenched attitudes, the ceremonial teachers, sacred bundles and ceremonies are vanishing. This attitude contributes to the continual shrinking of opportunities and qualified people to carry on the tribal sacred.
I imagine a great university filled with teachers of the sacred teaching day and night. The great school of the sacred American Indian teachings has yet to be built. The current attitude may sound noble, but it is not correct. When tribes scream and yell about the money they are missing the point entirely. They are trying to object to the theft and acting out of tribal sacred, but using this language it comes out as something else..
Arvol LookingHorse, a keeper of an important sacred bundle of the Lakota went on record in 2010 to answer some of the hysteria directed his way by tribal members who are angry that he "raises" money or "accepts" fees for his work. His answer is similar to mine, as you may read above. It is great that at least one other keeper of a tribal bundle has spoken with some clarity about the need for tribal keepers of bundles to raise funds to meet their escalating expenses: "This whole conflict is happening because of money that these individuals think should go to them personally and to others they convinced of their hardship that is due, any money raised is for what efforts Wolakota was created for and the people involved in those efforts. There are other state and non-profit organizations that help the concerns they have and have helped them. They can also spend their energy on their concerns and creating their own program, instead their energy to attack people."--Arvol Looking Horse, statement June 2007.
Part 2 || Who Pays for the Sacred?
One American Indian teacher told me that a person must try in this life to be honest and respect time, sex and money. Behaving responsibly, she said, in these areas is important in leading a balanced life.
The Four Directions Unity Bundle and the World Journey is an official enterprise or project created by well-qualified and realistic American Indian people. To make this project work it has been necessary to secure housing, materials, transportation, communication and a sustaining force so we can continue to work now and well into the future.
Most of the funding to date has been from my own sales of sculpture and paintings. This has been true for many years. During my long studies and relationships with my tribal teachers I continuously gave them gifts, paid their bills, brought food to their homes and gave them gifts of cash when I could. I never stayed with any of the old Indians without doing what I could to take care of them and ensure that I was giving back and showing support and respect for their time and friendship. They never had to ever ask for my help, or ask for money or food. I always came with these things. No one had to ask me. I wish more people followed my example.
Many modern people hound and pester and get up in tribal lives and leave nothing except the occasional empty McDonalds hamburger bag or an empty pack of cigarettes. Yes, it is worse than that. I am trying to be nice. Every good tribal American Indian knows that if you visit the house of the sacred you have to give back, help out. Good tribal relations do not have to be told this fact.
This sacred silence about what is really obvious has been translated into a belief that tribal people, if they are real, must work for free, without any kind of payment or assistance. I really wonder what kind of person would visit the home of sacred American Indian teachings and not leave something behind, not try to help in some way.
In my travels I am often put in the position to rely upon the people who are hosting and who have invited the ceremonies into their community. When we are invited in the proper way to bring the Great Bundle to a community of people, we must rely upon their resources and their fairness to travel there and come home, as well as to do good and productive work for them.
Good work needs what it needs. Sometimes it needs money. Sometimes it needs an airplane or a long automobile drive. Good tribal relations really struggle with this issue and try to find a point of balance. To get something real done in the world tribal people, like all people, need financial resources. These come so slowly to tribal sacred teachings. Most of the tribal members who do this work do it on his or her own, because it needs to be done...money or no money.
I have never known a single American Indian who grew rich from doing ceremonial work. Some American Indians have grown rich by exploiting this system and by telling lies to everybody. These people are rarely in possession of Sacred Bundles, though they may talk about them. If there is money available, there are always people who will lie and cheat to get it, even if it is only one dollar. This is a big struggle for those brave and beautiful tribal people who really hear the waiting world, the need modern people have to hear from the sacred of the American Indian. This is yet more in a long history of bad information which is so damaging to tribal culture and tribal people of North America.
In Buddhist society, the monks are there for the people and there is usually little talk about money or what things cost. The monks are taken care of by the monastery. The monastery is built by the faith and donations of the people whom it serves. In many cases, in tribal society, this system of balance has failed. There is a lot of cynical and unreal talk about how ceremonies are free and no money should be involved.
Historically, tribal communities were so immersed in the normal ceremonial lives day to day that it is hard to point to a direct system of payments. However, there has been and never will be a free ceremony. Somebody pays, even if no one asks you or your friends for money. In every society on this earth the work of specialized ceremonial, religious and cultural work must be paid. They must be fed, housed. Supplies wear out and have to be replaced. The persons who receive the work of the sacred are responsible for its survival and its good health. A good ceremonial leader needs clean clothes and new shoes for example. On the other hand tribal people do not like to see spiritual and ceremonial leaders behaving in an indulgent way.
Modern society for some reason feels the normal attitude in these matters is to press Native Americans to do strong ceremonial work for free. Not only is this an insult to common sense, it has disoriented tribal society so they feel guilty and outraged over the issue of money completely. The damage has been severe.
The services of ceremonial rituals and their people have never been free in any society at any time anywhere. The method of payment and maintaining form may be subtle and hard to detect but it exists in every case.
The thinking that would allow people to believe an American Indian can travel to their homes and make long ceremonial teachings for free is an insult to the very idea of what is honest. It is an idea that has come from the shadows and lives like a bee, stinging the spirits of every poor tribal person. It has created a bony and ugly pointing finger of accusation to those American Indians who have tried to get out in the world and get some work done.
The Catholic Church is most likely the largest single private land and property owner in the world, in the history of the world. The people of Catholic society gave this great wealth to the church. Because of this system you can go and talk to a local parish priest for “free”. The priest receives a healthy salary, a home and most of their expenses, including health care.
The Sacred School |
The families and other relations who sought out special ceremonies made traditionally and historically serious payments. The same was true for those who wished to advance their knowledge by studying to achieve higher ranks in the sacred societies. In Ahnishinabe Society, many favors, payments, gifts and services to the community were required in order to advance in the great Mide-Wian Society.
Sacred Pipe prays with and for all people. There is no way to put a price on such things. There is no payment for prayers because only you can pray, only you can reach and understand this place in your own soul. An education can help you. In our work we do not charge people money to pray. We do need to pay for the firewood, the food, very often the transportation and other expenses of life in this modern world. It is in balance that the students help pay these expenses. That is all we have ever approached as far as fees go. Anyone who needs this experience can come without payment, but they must work or make some other trade. This is what is in balance. Everyone works together to make these moments possible.
Here in Italy you cannot go out and cut firewood. You have to buy it. The people in the cities have no food growing in their small yards. We have to buy the food and prepare it. I cannot ride my horse to a city across the sea. I must buy an airline or a boat or a train ticket. The sacred objects live in one house on Pantelleria. This house costs us $9,000.00 dollars a year. Electricity, telephone, gasoline, and all the other expenses must be paid in cash. These same facts are true on tribal reservations as well. Someone must pay the expenses, every time. All to often there are no resources to keep a good gathering of people making ceremonies going for very long. These days it is more like a guerilla operation than a polished organization of ceremonial professionals.
This house where the Sacred Four Directions Unity Bundle lives is safe and protected and strong. It is a good place for several people to come together and study the sacred ways of the mystery life. Sacred Pipe is happy to have this house, needs this house. We are happy to pay. If we travel in Italy a long distance to one ceremony it usually costs about $1,500 to go and come back for three or four days.
There is a lot of phony talk from self-appointed new age people about how all the American Indian ceremonies are free. Every tribal person has heard this talk for years. This kind of talk is nonsense. It implies something that is nonsense. It is manufactured hysteria masking the troubled spirit of angry people who are not very well informed about the real world. Perhaps these people were disappointed in their lives and believe pointing a finger at other people is a good way to get attention and love from American Indians who otherwise would ignore them?
American Indians need to be more responsible about these money issues. They need to take more control, build more infrastructures for the sacred and otherwise learn how money can be used in a sacred way to preserve, protect and share the sacred in a responsible way. This is what is real.
Here at the home of the Sacred Morning Fire of the Four Directions Unity Bundle we have a sacred fire that any person on this earth can visit and use for prayers and sacred silence without any cost. We also conduct many ceremonies for people here for which there is no payment asked. In other situations, we offer special programs that involve travel and real world expenses, so we charge a modest fee for these moments. Wherever we travel, we are available to talk and work with people and no money is involved in this work. It is also my policy to make no charge of any kind for any tribal people, anywhere. I am quite satisfied to absorb all the costs myself for work with tribal people, and have done so for more than 30 years.
Talk by new age barking dogs about the "shame" of tribal people trying to manage the practical money and other issues required to do actual work out in the real world is one of the strange new problems which pound on the hearts of any tribal person who dares to think such work is important.
It seems like any tribal person who tries to get out into the world has to run through a long line of snakes and barking dogs. It can be intimidating. Well-informed people understand the value in supporting the expenses of worthwhile work in this world. The old Ahnishinabe Elders know all about this kind of problem. These snakes and barking dogs are prominent realities around any sacred place, around any sacred work in this troubled world. Every person knows that it is dangerous to try new things, try to change old bad things. That is why many people don't even try. This work we are doing is clear in our minds, clear in the continuing consultations we have with tribal elders and clear that money is not the point or purpose of our work. I believe this is true for many other American Indian people trying to work with modern society.
In this work we try to help people in the best way we can. There are many people who visit and share ceremonies that never offer a penny and are never asked for one. We believe the World Journey of the Four Directions Unity Bundle is a group of teachings, a school in the movement of the Sacred. Nothing we have done or will ever do involves charging people money to pray, like the Christian Churches do every Sunday. In the Christian King James Holy Bible there are numerous references to "tithing", which is giving ten per cent of your income to the Church. This is one way the churches build their great power and influence in society. Who says American Indians must stand at the door in rags, homeless and begging people to let them pray with humanity for free?
For many decades tribal people were forbidden to even practice their spiritual and sacred ceremonies. They were forbidden to pray in their language or even speak their languages in many places. Today those repressive practices are no longer "legal". American Indian people have the right and privilege to create their own sacred schools and make their own plans for how these works are to be managed. There is a difference in being in a situation to "pray" with someone, and offering some days of teachings and formal experience in tribal ceremonial life. Schools and sacred teaching are specialized services, learning opportunities and an effort to build something lasting, organized and regular. The world may seem like a complicated place....but it IS possible to build something and get other people to help you build something. I hope every day that more American Indian people and communities will take responsibility for understanding what is real about these serious issues....and that others back off on the phony "the sacred is free" codeword’s about something they fail completely to understand.
It may be true that there are people who think the sacred is free..... People who really think it is ok that you have to give nothing, give up nothing; contribute nothing in order to stand with the sacred. I don’t want to know such people.
Friday, August 08, 2008
©2008 Turtle Heart, Photo and Text
I carried your red body into the open sky
Grandmother has opened her arms and become the moon
Changing woman, changing lives, changing dreams
You have passed through the sky
Carried like the smoke, today we sing, we remember
We enter the great wind, the eastern gate
The bloody past and the ancient future
As we pass with you and through you
All around you where we find ourselves, find ourselves
And empty the sacred bowl
Sacred and empty
At 92 years, the Tribal Chief of the tiniest and oldest American Indian Reservation has passed away. Chief Aurelius Piper was a great character. He was strong, tough, brave as 10 other men and gigantic in stature. He was named perfectly among tribal people as Big Eagle and he was the Hereditary Chief of the Golden Hill Paugussett of Trumball, Connecticut.
While more famous American Indians have made their progress and notice in this world, Big Eagle was a force unique among tribes. His tiny tribe on his tiny land was the nest of a great Eagle. From there he touched the entire world, several times.
Though not federally recognized, the Paugussett Tribe was recognized for over 300 years by the state government. His reservation was the VERY FIRST reservation for American Indians and was imposed in the early 1600’s. Most Federal tribal reservations were established in the mid to late 1800s.
He was tough as ten sailors. Behind his fierce nature was a strong, intelligent mind with formidable instincts. I am sure very few of the people close to him understood him very well.
We have lost a Gate Keeper and most likely the Gate he was keeping.
Big Eagle gifted me my first ceremonial clothing. As a young man I was called upon to work Sacred Ceremonies for Big Eagle but had no real tribal ceremonial clothes at that time. He gave me some of his own ceremonial clothes from when he was much younger. I still wear the leggings he gifted me so many years ago. They are shown in the photo above.
Big Eagle played upon the Mother Earth like it was a mighty drum. His determination and personal resolve was formidable and a lesson and example in life for every American Indian on this earth. I was proud and amazed to know him, to love him, and for a while to serve him.
Monday, August 04, 2008
A powerful ceremony and ritual in Sardinia, Italy
©2008, Turtle Heart photos and text
Sardinia. 01 August 2008
I was invited to bring the ceremonies to Sardinia in a festival to honor the life and music of Andrea Parodi. He was a gifted artist representing the culture and spirit of sardinia. He has passed away, passing into the couds. Two years ago now. When I arrive I see his two daughrers, so young and sweet and bright. His wife looks into my eyes when we are introduced. I saw and felt only her kindness my heart received a strong burst of light from her right away. When I arrived after 12 hours of travel to a diner of some ten or so persons. These were his family and close friends and we stood up together in once sacred circle and were touched on our hearts by one eagle feather and we looked at each other. I used an old song to look around each of them and feel them. They were really there, every one of them. No one was bored. No one was out of their bodies, or at least not far away.
Maybe we were all a little nervous.
Also, I think, when people think of an American Indian or anyone really, they build a picture of what they look like. I remember one woman who makes the most amazing potteries, ceramics. Looking at those I build the most detailed picture of what she must look like. Years later when I finally had the pleasure to meet her, I was not even close in anyway, in any way. I think this most likely happens when people think of one american indian coming to their home. He must look like “this” or “this”. Then I arrive with my big head, my pale skin and the look on my face (which is more or less impossible to forget), because it is the face of Sacred Pipe. When I travel this way I hope I let go of the dead world and present only what might be possible with the help of sacred pipe.
Immersion is on my face. Sacred Pipe is a Spirit and so understands very well how to travel and keep the Spirit of one of the Fallen Dreamers of another culture. Their hearts might believe it is possible if I blieve it is possible because Grandfather said it could happen just like that. That is my “performance method.
I had arrived in a real place, with real people. They put their sacred right down in front of me.They put us into a good bed after feeding us good food and bringing us safely across the wide land into their lives for less than 24 hours.
They had their own medicine to make, they were living in the middle of their own ceremony. They had their own sacred rites right in their hands and on their minds. We were invited guests. I arrived in the middle of a life that had been lost. I carried with me two stones which I gave to them after the evening meal, the late evening meal. After one glass on the wine of sardi, of our host. Hand made. After a meal of grilled vegetables and arabic grains and sweet Sardi cookies.
I gave them one stone, a message from the Old Indians,I carved and gave them another stone, red sacred pipestone, a message for his wife, Valentina. More later in the week about this.
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