In Memory of Alicja Rozanska
Woke up at midnight last month after sleeping four hours and was not sure if I had a vision or if I was thinking in my sleep or what, but I was having all these thoughts about my elders and who was praying with them and if they had said their last prayer.
We all need to share, communicate, work, create and heal to survive; if we find love we are lucky and if we learn to pray, then we can give thanks like all the old cultures did in the old days. Of course we are an extension of our ancestors, we are an extension of our elders and loved ones. We are the past, present and future generations; we are the light, darkness, the sun, earth, air and water. My old uncle Robertjohn says it is the old elders who have taught us as children how to give thanksgiving, how to honor life and Mother Earth; our elders teach us everything has a spirit. Robertjohn says everything is alive; if you are sitting on the moon looking down at Mother Earth, he says “alive or dead”.
When our old elders gathered up and we all stood in a circle around the sacred fire every year, our prayers got stronger and our love got stronger, but our people were getting weak from the negativity around us and we tried to keep our way of life alive, but everything was out of balance in the world, from losing our natural diets to forgetting to maintain physical, mental, spiritual indigenous lifestyle.
Robertjohn said the highest form of prayer is song. In the song is the melody, the harmony and the thought, the prayer. All the songs in the world have given so much love, joy, peace to the peoples of the world and their very spirit. Some songs are so healing we need to hear them over and over and over again. Some songs are sung every day, they are sung by the entire community, entire families, entire nations for respect, for peace, for harmony, maybe even for healing. Some songs are so powerful they are used for birth and crossing over. Some songs can be used for purification, cleaning of the mind, body and spirit. Some songs are for making happy, in giving thanks to Creation and Life and Life-giving forces. Rabbit Dance Song, Eagle Song, Fish Dance Song, songs that honor fish, birds, insects and animals bring us closer to our relations and our relatives. The songs are old, the songs are new, but they are songs that bring harmony, peace, humility, justice and unity. The song is a form of prayer, a form of respect, a form of healing. A song is from the heart, the song is from the spirit, the song can be with tears and laughter, peace and pain. Some of the most beautiful songs come from birds, animals, fish and insects, we just cannot hear some. The universe can be a place of prayer and song at times in Tibet, Mongolia, China, Africa, Greece, Turkey, Australia, Poland, Russia, America and the world. The world can be a breeding ground for peace, harmony, prayer, song and dance.
When I woke from my dream, I thought who was praying with our elders. I thought of Leon Shenandoah, one of our most gentle Onondaga chiefs, who was chief of the chiefs, Tadodaho, a leader of his people and culture, someone raised in peace, power, righteousness, respect and harmony. Then I thought who was praying with Austin and Hilba Two Moons when they were dissidence of his grandfather who fought in Little Big Horn and Austin always treated me like a son, the way most of our elders treated us when we attended sacred gatherings and councils. Every year our Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth/American Indian Institute would sponsor and organize our sacred councils somewhere in Canada or US, where a native community was in need of traditional native elders to help bring back their native ways and ceremonies with our help. Then I started thinking who is praying for my mom and is her apartment getting smudged and purified. I know Marcus and Priscilla Vigel had a strong community of Pueblo Culture and that their ceremonial life was strong among the families and people of New Mexico. They had two daughters, Margret and Vicky, who were like clan mothers keeping the family and community positive with prayers and good energy. Also I knew Tom Porter, our spiritual leader of the Mohawk people, was being looked after because he was always out in the community boosting people’s spirit with his wisdom and teachings of The Good Mind, of the respect needed for any family or community to find tranquility, harmony, equality, justice and peace. When I think of the love and gentleness from Ann Jock for all Indian people and all people of the world and her own family with her husband Corn Planter, I realize there is hope in the world if such love can exist on the planet! Who taught us how to pray, who taught us how to give thanksgiving, who taught us how to purify ourselves. Priscilla used to say to me, Danny you pray for me and I will pray for you in the most beautiful way. It was like a blessing just to be talked to in that gentleness and peaceful manner.
Our circle is still going, but it is not what it used to be. Our elders are being replaced by their children and it’s a new generation and not that it’s not a strong generation, but the ones who carried their fathers’ and grandfathers’ Sacred Pipes are a different breed, because you had to see the open space, freedom and cleanness of Mother Earth to know that power and quietness of 100 years ago, even the stories that were told two hundred years ago by their elders. I remember teachings twenty-five years ago: our elders said prepare yourself for what’s coming because everything is falling apart. Even when my partner/wife was diagnosed with cancer and I tried to save her, I learned that the trees were a nation to themselves and that the plants were a nation too a part of Mother Earth and I prayed to them to help Alicja and I prayed to the Grandmother Moon to help Alicja, but then in the end I learned I had to give thanksgiving for all the years we had together and not ask for more.
All of this stuff happening tells me how Sacred Life is, how beautiful life is all around us. Sure we can see destruction and the rape of Mother Earth by negative people and corporations, but there is natural beauty all around us, even gardens, forests, mountains and lakes to heal in and energize ourselves. Like Janice Longboat says, our teachers are all around us ready to teach, but we as people have to want to see, hear and feel the gifts that the Universe, our Great Creator has blessed us all with. Like Mac McCloud says, what Mac says has to be said, what Mac says is the truth. The way I see things is we need to give Thanksgiving ourselves, we need to be mindful of Creation and be thanksgiving people.
When I was coming home from work the other day, I thought what if all the electricity shut down, what if all the hot water stopped getting hot, where would our energy come from, what’s going to power the cities if things collapse. What happens if the oil and gas run out. This world or society is built on security and refreshments and we are forgetting the Sacredness of it all. Even though my wife is gone and even though my mom is so far away, I love them more than anything I know or can see or feel; only the moon and my grandchildren can take their place now. We are living in a fragile time with our oceans being destroyed so fast; with machinery nothing seems to be sacred any more in this world, but it all is. I am honored to be sitting here at my computer with all these memories and thoughts and I pray that we all find time to bring back the Sacred and Respect for Mother Earth and Creation and we give thanks for all those who have forgotten to be thankful.
One of my best friends and elders crossed over not long ago: Wilmer Nadjiwon was 97 years old, a chief of his people for fourteen years. When we spent time together it was like hearing the legends of the past. Wilmer was a hunter and fisherman, he could feed his family and people and he did. Wilmer went to war for Canada like many other native people when we were at war. Our ancestors are as noble as the old days but wounded and broken from residential school like my uncle Wilmer. As long as I live I will smoke my pipe for Wilmer and my wife because we were happy all together, we did ceremony together, we worked for Mother Earth together and we ate together. We were the truest extended family. Wilmer was an Ojibway hero and leader. We cannot forget our elders! Wilmer was angry but he was gentle like many native people, he was gifted and blessed to be a Sacred Artist carving, writing and painting.
Chief Oren Lyons said our Sacred Pipes belong to the Creator. We pray for all people and give thanks to Creator and Mother Earth for all the gifts from The Great Mystery.