Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shadows Breaking Into the Light

For American Indians the news seems mostly to be bad news. Today we read a report which tells us that while most American people are living longer lives, American Indians are not living as long as a generation ago. American Indian suicide is the highest in the country, elevated way above the suicide rate of all other Americans. This portfolio of darkness is carried throughout tribal communities. Understanding problems like this seems to be the best work we could make in these days. The problem with shadows is that no one wants to turn around and look at them. The people who count these numbers are just number counters, they offer no help. In my lifetime, what has been lost is astonishing. Looking back I am stunned. Many reservations of the American Indian have no news. They don't even know what you and I know. The vast majority of reservation residents probably receive little or no news about what is going on...in the world, or 20 miles away. You and I are informed. Today you and I know American Indian babies die at a rate 44% higher than just ten years ago.

Next week we arrive in Milano to make ceremonies around the Equinox. We will go inside the sweat lodge and make the dream singing in several places. I have appointments with several of my doctors. Possibly I will have some days in the hospital in my continuing struggle against a relentless virus that is in my body. At the moment my ability to walk is about 300 feet. Something is wrong with my legs and they have stopped working in general. I go, but I go low, as the old timers used to tell me. Go Low. I can't drum as long as I used to be able to. My arms have problems of their own. My body was pretty well trashed about 10 years ago in a crash with a big truck on the Hopi reservation. I don't feel like an old Indian ready for the drop anytime soon, yet my health situation has slowed down and limited the opportunities which could be present for more ceremonies, more songs, more prayers and more sweat lodges. This is my work and I will make it up to the end, doing that work. I can't shake the strong feeling I have that the work makes a difference. No matter how bad things may seem, perhaps they would be much worse if not for these prayers and ceremonies that our people make as often as they can.

Inside that sweat lodge we talk about life and death. Inside that sweat lodge we are seeking life. We are seeking the knowledge of the universe, which is different than the knowledge of the family, of the job, of the statistics which say we are all dead or dying. Many of my old Indian teachers were in their nineties, a few over 100. One of my dearest teachers passed way recently and he was only 63. His father was almost 100 when he passed.

If I could show you a single image of what is going on all around the homes of the American Indian people right now it would look like hell itself, it would stun you and reflexively you would look away, change the channel, blink. Yes, there is and are some great beauty, some gathered space, some shining moments. These two possibilities are both true at the same moment.

You cannot change another person. You can change yourself. If you do that, if you wake up, you will know what you can do. There is something there you can use. It is the same for the people, these sacred relations of my mystery life...there is something there they can use. They can find their way. We awaken one by one. Into a life. It is right there.

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