Sacred Pipe Goes To Italy: Part One || Falling Down In the Garden of Ulysses

I left behind the United States, my art gallery, and my long life in my country in 2004. This is why.

In the Summer of 2004, I was invited to Italy. The year before I had shared an open ceremony with a group of Italian visitors, 18 of them if I recall correctly. I found their comportment, respect, and intelligence a really refreshing experience. When, a year later, I was invited to come and share some of my ideas and a few of the open ceremonies of my culture, I was very pleased to accept. That meeting took place in August. By November, I was living on the small island of Pantelleria. Italy and Italians were a revelation to me. 

The old Indians who were my Grandfathers and Teachers had asked me, in the early 1980s, to consider taking the bundle (gathered collection) of Sacred Pipes that I carry, out into the world. In 2004 the door opened for me to keep the promise I made at that time to those beloved and wise American Indians. When I left my home in Taos, New Mexico, in 2004, my intention was to keep moving and complete a circle of ceremonies, specific ceremonies with the sacred pipe, in a circle around this Mother Earth.

When I arrived on Pantelleria island, the energy and spirit, the force, that came up from the land there had a powerful affect on me. For weeks and weeks it affected my dreaming, my waking thoughts and my emotions. I felt such a strong affection for these peaceful, creative, polite and loving Italian people. It was irresistible. Almost as if, at least as clearly as, a voice I trusted spoke to my inner soul and said to me, “Bring all your sacred objects and ceremonies to Pantelleria.” At that moment I made the choice to move the headquarters or home of my sacred bundles from Taos to Pantelleria.

That decision changed my life forever. The first thing that happened was that I became seriously ill, for some years. For four years I was in a sort of waking coma, with little detailed memory of where I went or what happened. This illness was triggered by a traumatic accident which injured my left eye. It quickly escalated into a full blown crises that affected my entire body. It kept me isolated inside my new island home, away from light, away from the wind, staying as still and quiet as possible and hope for healing.

Yes, the decision I made to change my life was an explosion…an explosion in my body, but in my heart and soul as well. As I healed and waited and asked questions, I understood how stressful, traumatic and dangerous my life had been in the USA. America does not love its American Indians. Being an American Indian in America is dangerous. Being an American Indian in Italy is a blessing of peace and tolerance, and opportunity.

Coming to Italy saved my life. When, as a young, wounded, angry Vietnam Vetran, I came to the old Indians with fury, rage and confusion about that war, about America, about our lives as American Indian people, they saved my life at that time as well. The sacred Pipe has saved my life many times. By trusting those old Indians, I reached for the teachings, silences and ideas of that ancient spiritual education, the ceremonial life of my Ojibway ancestors…I reached into that rich resource through my anger and pain and desire and learned to trust the voice of love in my own heart. I learned to listen to that voice when I stumbled a broken old soldier, who before had been but a boy, into the arms of the old Indians. I listened to that voice when it told me to fall in love with Italy and bring my life-long work with American Indian ceremonial teachings out into the world.

The old Indians told me if I could get these sacred pipes in a circle around the Mother earth, that it would change everything. My heart believed them. And so I fell in love in Italy, with Italy and with this little island.

In this series of writings I will share my experiences with the Italian people who have shared in the many ceremonies, over 100, that we have made together, learned together, here in Italy.

"I am the one who made this life, my life
With my two hands I have made it
Going in eight directions I have made it
Standing Stone and Brother Mysteries I have made it
It was I who made this life
With my two hands I put it on the earth
I lived it, it is right here
I have taken it
Inside my song I will carry it
I will show you, my friend,
The open heart of the earth"

|| --- Nagamowin Gashk'ewizi || Turtle Heart

(Part Two in Two Weeks: The Awakened Dreamers

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