© March 2000, Revised November 2000 ~ Stephanie M. Schwartz
I have been asked to speak on the pain-filled happenings caused by some
Traditional American Indians who wish to keep American Indian spirituality
strictly limited to those who are of 100% pure Indian blood or at least to
those who are card-carrying, registered, legal members of a tribe/nation.
While I have really tried to duck this issue because I am no authority, not
even a tribal member, this is obviously such an important question that I
find I can't leave it alone. Every time I take a nap or sit quietly, it's
implications keep coming back to me over and over and I am literally driven
to respond to this painful conflict which speaks so closely to my heart.
I may get blasted here for my words but I simply say they are mine and, as
such, are simply my opinion. No great wisdom or knowledge from me. Just
ponderings and questions, just like everyone. I do not wish to offend anyone
by my statements so if you feel I am offbase, just chalk it off to my ignorance.
As I understand it, when the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared to
the Lakota Sioux, the Seven Bands had been at war with each other. In fact,
life was pretty much consumed with hatred, rage, violence, and resentment,
....brother fighting brother. The people were starving in their hearts and
in their stomachs as well. It is said she came to bring Peace, and that Peace
is symbolized by the Sacred Canunpa, the Sacred Pipe, which she brought and
gave to The People. According to Black Elk, the late Lakota Holy Man, it
is a direct link between The People and Wakan Tanka, Great Spirit/Great Mystery.
The parts of the pipe, alone, can have various symbological meanings but
its primary purpose, above all else, is to link The People with Wakan Tanka
so that all may walk the good Red Road in Peace, blossoming in harmony on
the Tree of the People, and interconnected with all life in the great Hoop
She came and taught the men of their power and potential to be strong, pure,
and powerful as they lead The People in peace. That their power was a gift
to be used for peace. She taught how all living things are interconnected
in the Great Hoop of Life.... not just two-leggeds.... as we are nourished
by Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth. She taught the women of their spiritual
power and their vital place within the Nation as well as how to cook the
buffalo which later appeared to feed the starving people. She taught of the
wisdom of the elders. She taught the young girls how to become aware of and
control their spiritual power for the good of The People as they grew into
womanhood. She taught to the little children of their value so that they
would know that one day they, too, would have the power and would lead The
People in Peace under the Sacred Canunpa.
She taught them how to honor the dead with respect as their souls moved on
into their journey and brought an ever-renewing realization to The People
through the Keeping of the Soul Ceremony that, indeed, life and soul does
transcend this one physical existence. She taught the good of the whole was
more important than the good of the individual... that in all things, including
the Sundance, the goals should be for the good of all The People and not
the individual. She taught the people to be aware of their human imperfections
and work regularly to purify themselves and their Heart through the Inipi
She taught how each individual might humble themselves and approach Wakan
Tanka personally through Vision Quests but approaching always with the awareness
that whatever benefit or gift might come from this ceremony, the primary
goal is that it should transcend Self to the greater good of all The People.
According to Black Elk she also taught that as Wakan Tanka loves each of
them so should they love all humanity and work for humanity to live in harmony
together. To this end, she taught them a Ceremony for Making Relatives of
those from other Nations and Peoples, that the Will of Wakan Tanka might
be done and harmony reign in this world.
Not all of the seven sacred ceremonies were given at the very moment of her
visit but they were promised. And in fulfillment of her promise, they were
given through sacred visions as the years went along. This was no dry ritualistic
set of traditions but a live, vibrant, powerful relationship with The Great
Mystery, ever-evolving and leading The People to grow in their awareness
and responsibility and past the narrow confines of hatred, rage, envy, and
self-centered ego concerns. Her teachings showed The People that each individual,
every individual, is uniquely and supremely important precisely because what
each does affects all life, no matter who or what role in the society they
play. In my opinion, the prized Lakota values of Generosity, Courage, Respect,
and Wisdom are simply living reinforcements of all these teachings.
But now comes the hard part. Here, many of the traditionalists will tell
me I have no right to speak but I will say it anyway..... my heart forces
me to ask...... I look around and ask myself, have we continued these teachings?
Or is life much like it was when she came before...... hatred, rage, and
violence still with us?
Do the blood quotients or blood purity of its peoples really indicate the
state of The People or does its Heart? Are the phony Indians any worse than
the Indian who swindles his own People? Does not brother still fight brother?
Are spurning those of good heart and intent but no tribal card helping anyone?
Is the incredible, absolutely agonizing pain I see and feel everywhere as
we all, each, must wrestle with these difficult issues ever going to be resolved?
How can they ever be resolved?
A wise Lakota once told me that Wakan Tanka calls who It will...... that
the Sacred Pipe and the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman will speak to whom
they will...... not based upon man-made rules and regulations but upon the
Will of Wakan Tanka and the Heart of the individual. And it must be from
the Heart that the validity of this is recognized and valued. Until that
happens, the Hoop may be mended but the Tree is not yet ready to blossom
again. And some days, it seems overwhelmingly discouraging that this can
ever be a reality.
It is precisely because of this that, in my opinion, the Sacred White Buffalo
Calf Woman will honor her promise and return. Obviously we hue-mans are still
too weak to get it right on our own. And it's not just a Tribal/Nation
problem.... these very same problems and issues exist everywhere..... although,
in my view, it is truly the most tragic to see it in the American Indian
Peoples, the very peoples who have the very most to offer the world and humanity.
We need help. We all need help. I believe, hope, and pray that the Sacred
White Buffalo Calf Woman will, indeed, come and help guide us all, all nations,
all peoples, all humanity to come together in harmony. And I pray every day
of my life that the Lakota will be able to fulfill their potential and the
charge she gave to them to lead us to this and to Her. With unified Heart,
they could. That is my opinion.
I am only an old woman of no money who walks with Lakota visions and has
no right to say anything except that of one who feels the pain everywhere
intensely and wishes she could do just something to make a difference and
to help but is as lost as everyone else as to what it might be.
Peace. Mitakuye Oyasin. We Are All Related. -steph, looks sky woman
March 19, 2000