Through the Eye of the Feather: Native American Visions


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(AIL TVC1MAN

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NATIII

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THROUGH THE EYE OF THE FEATHER

Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2018 with funding from Kahle/Austin Foundation

https://archive.org/details/througheyeoffeatOOOOunse

THROUGH lTHEEYEj ■OF THE ■ FEATHER NATIVE HARFORD COUNTY LIBRARY

3 1 526 01355941 1 HARFORD COUNTY LIBRARY 100 Pennsylvania Avenue Bet Air, MD 21014

WITHDRAWN Harford O. - r ,y ‘ u,*. Library

»P SALT

LAKE

CITY

I TUCHMAN

First edition 97 96 95 94

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Text copyright © 1994 by Gail Tuchman Poem and artwork on page 94 © by Elaine Bluebird Reyna Photograph copyrights as noted All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means whatsoever, either mechanical or electronic, without written permission from the publisher, except for brief excerpts quoted for the purpose of review. Essays in this book do not officially represent the views of any Native American nation. They are viewpoints of individuals based on their own backgrounds and experience. This is a Peregrine Smith Book, published by Gibbs Smith, Publisher P.O. Box 667 Layton, Utah 84041 Design by Warren Archer Printed and bound by Sung In Communication Co. Ltd., Korea Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Through the eye of the feather : Native American visions / by Gail Tuchman. p. cm. ISBN 0-87905-641-X ISBN 0-87905-597-9 (pbk.) 1. Indians of North America—Religion and mythology. 2. Feathers—Religious aspects. 3. Indian featherwork—North America. I. Tuchman, Gail. E98.R3T47 1994 299'.7 — dc20

93-42653 CIP

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments..... 7 Introduction.

9

Andrew Thomas’s Vision.12 Brooke Medicine Eagle’s Vision.26 Apache Holy Woman’s Vision.38 Richard Dobson’s Vision.

52

Albert White Hat, Sr.’s, Vision.64 Sandra Black Bear White’s Vision.....74 David White Eagle Tree’s Vision.84 Elaine Bluebird Reyna’s Vision

94

In loving memory of my father, William Schwartz, who walked in beauty

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

M

y deep gratitude to the many peo-

the museum’s photographer. Barbara Haugh

pie who made this book possible,

lent sound photographic advice.

especially to Andrew Thomas,

I am thankful to Mary Davis, research

Brooke Medicine Eagle, The Apache Holy

librarian at The Museum of the American

Woman (who must remain anonymous),

Indian Library in Bronx, New York, for pro¬

Richard Dobson, Albert White Hat, Sr.,

viding stacks of books; George Strayhorn for

Sandra Black Bear White, David White

getting me out of the library to my first pow¬

Eagle Tree, Elaine Bluebird Reyna, Ina

wow; the Council of the Nuyagi Keetoowah

Laughing Winds, and Tim Toohey—for their

Society for welcoming me at their ceremoni¬

infinite generosity of spirit in sharing their

als; Carole Weinstein and Daniel Baldwin,

teachings and knowledge of feathers.

who enticed me to New Mexico and who

I would like to express my special appre-

were with me when I found the feather; and

ciation to George Ancona for the invaluable

Julie Small-Gamby, Janet Yager, and Sally

contribution of his photographs and for the

Freeman.

generosity of his time. My gratefulness to each individual who was photographed.

Special appreciation to my husband Douglas and daughter Lauren, whose sup¬

I was fortunate to have the immeasurable

port, understanding, and love inspired me as

assistance and expertise of Caryn Talbot

I traveled, dreamed, and lived this book; and

Throop, Curator of Natural History and

to my mother, Dorothy, and David, Marti,

Native

and Andrew for their love and encourage¬

Heritage

at

The

High

Desert

Museum, Bend, Oregon, in selecting objects, tracking down slides, and fact-checking cap-

ment throughout. Acknowledgment goes to Madge Baird,

Communications

at Gibbs Smith, Publisher, for believing in

Director of the High Desert Museum, gener¬

the book, for her valuable suggestions, and

ously granted use of the photographs. Louise

for being a constant source of enthusiasm.

Stiver, Curator of Collections at the Museum

Thanks to Gibbs Smith, and to editorial

of Indian Arts and Culture and Laboratory of

assistants Dawn Valentine-Hadlock and

Anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico, gra¬

Sandra Chapman, as well as to Warren

ciously gathered artifacts and worked with

Archer, who created the design for the book.

tions.

Jack

Cooper,

Dance bustle. Double red cloth tails with tipped eagle feathers. Large ribbon (Cheyenne). (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

INTRODUCTION

I

t was in the deserted train yard of the old

across the expansive sky above the sun¬

railroad town of Chama that I came upon

drenched Rio Grande landscape, while in

“the feather.” Lying across the cold, steel,

the pueblo plaza below, feathers of hawks

gray tracks was a warm, delicate, yellow and

and other winged ones were transformed

blue offering. Instantaneously struck by the

into fans, hair ornaments, and other integral

juxtaposition of track and feather, I picked

parts of the dance regalia.

up the gift. The incongruity continued. That

Then I felt myself leaning against the

evening, while visiting a friend in Santa Fe,

cool adobe wall at the Hopi Second Mesa,

several feathers in a pottery jug caught my

watching hour after hour as long rows of but¬

eye. I proudly retrieved the pretty macaw

terfly dancers, brilliant in regalia, moved

feather from my backpack. My friend put the

through their prayers—moccasined feet tap¬

find into perspective, saying that to Native

ping out a rhythm on the soft, quiet earth. I

peoples feathers from different birds had dif¬

recollected wondering about the signifi¬

ferent meanings. The owl feather, for exam¬

cance of the dancers’ feathers and those tied

ple, was a feather of ill omen to certain

to the bushes in the plaza’s center.

Nations and the bringer of the dream to others. A feather was not simply “pretty”!

My thoughts flashed back to the annual Indian Market event in Santa Fe, where I

When I returned to New York and

had seen feathers on arrows, in basketry and

unpacked, I realized that my feather was

pottery decorations, in sandpaintings, in

gone. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction I

objects for personal adornment—silver ear¬

had. My intuition initiated the journey of

rings fashioned into dangling feathers—and

discovery that the macaw feather had laid

on eagle dancer kachina dolls.

out. As I reflected on my experiences in New

I remembered sitting in a firelit circle in

Mexico, images of feathers began to surface.

Taos witnessing an eagle dance for the first

I realized I had seen feathers everywhere—at

time. The dancer wore a sweeping fan-

the pueblo dances, at the Hopi Mesas, at

shaped tail in the back, and attached to his

Indian Market, in the firelight at Taos.

arms from shoulder to fingertips were eagle-

I recalled the red-tailed hawk soaring

feathered wings. With a beautiful, graceful

10 flourish of feathers, the dancer began glid¬

To Native Americans, the feather is uni¬

ing, circling, stomping, soaring, swooping,

versally symbolic. It is found in all aspects of

sweeping from side to side, dipping toward

life—from ceremonial use reflecting tribal

the earth and rising in the air—imitating

philosophies and religions to functional and

the movements of the eagle. And in the flur¬

ornamental uses. It is attached to all the

ry of feathers and dance, the eagle and the

activities of living: making rain, planting

dancer became one spirit.

and harvesting crops, success in fishing, pro¬

The spirituality of my experiences in

tecting homes, curing illness. Considered to

New Mexico fueled the desire to learn more

be the “breath of life,” the feather possesses

about feathers and their context within

the power and spirit of the bird of which it

Native American cultures. While valuing

once was a living part.

the feather’s intrinsic beauty, I was simulta¬

Each individual uses different feathers

neously aware that it carried deeper levels of

(wing feathers, tail feathers) from different

significance. Yet I couldn’t in a satisfactory

birds (each with its own symbolism and

way answer the question, “What is special

energy) in different ways for different pur¬

about feathers to Native Americans and why

poses (blessing, awakening, cleansing, heal¬

does their symbolism endure?”

ing)—depending on his or her own beliefs,

Searching for an answer, I continued my

knowledge, perceptions, and experiences.

journey to the Museum of the American

Yet within the framework of these differ¬

Indian here in New York to view feathered

ences

artifacts, to libraries to read through anthro¬

“through the eye of the feather.”

lies

each person’s

vision

to

see

pological reports and ethnological studies—

This book brings together people of dif¬

and eventually to powwows and ceremonials

ferent Native traditions relating the feather

in the East, to learn firsthand. By the time

to their cultures and describing its impact

the following summer rolled around,

I

and meaning in their daily lives. These peo¬

returned to the Southwest to actively talk

ple do not officially represent their nations,

with Native people about feathers, a sharing

but rather they present a vision of the feath¬

that would eventually evolve into this book.

er from their own varied life experiences.

I appeared before councils of elders and met

Their voices reveal how, through rituals and

with countless individuals. As my relation¬

traditions, the feather has reached from the

ship with each individual grew, he or she

distant past, into the present, and will be

opened up more and more. I listened to pow¬

carried forth into the future—an eternal

erful stories, told from the heart. And as my

symbol of continuity.

awareness grew, I was able to comprehend and feel much more fully the extent of what was being shared.

Gail Tuchman

THROUGH THE EYE OF THE FEATHER

ANDREW THOMAS’S VISION

Y

ou know, a single feather can really

feather, you have all your heart and soul in

attract you. I have an eagle feather

it. You feel all the anger, all the blessing that

that’s been blessed. It’s a beautiful

comes with it—all the tears that fall for that

sign. I like to display the feather in a frame

feather in praying for forgiveness and in

to show that I have a gift I

seeking blessing.

will cherish forever. I want to

The feather is a medium

keep it just as it is, just as

of communication with the

pure, having the graceness of

supernatural beings or our

the feather. It’s a cherishable

spiritual messenger. Since all

thing because it was given to

varied activities for life find

me by my father, a greatly

their

respected medicine man for

what I call “Native American

the Navajo structure. I hope

cosmos,” there are feathers

I’ll be carrying on his tradi¬

for every occasion. Feathers

tion and passing the feather

are with us to say, for exam¬

down to the next generation.

ple, a big hearty thanks for a

My position of becoming

successful season. There are

a Hataatli, singer or medicine

feathers for making rain, for

man, is promising. I’ve partic¬

success in hunting and fish¬

ipated in ceremonies using

ing, for protection of homes,

prayers, songs, and feathers,

and for curing the sick. We

to request the attention of

use them in lullabies, love

our powerful spirits.

songs,

The source is all there. The feather is like the center¬ piece. When you look at a

respective

corn

places

grinding,

in

and

social dancing. The feather is Woman’s hair brooch and feather. (Photo ©1992 George Ancona)

in our bylaws. There are not many taboos of a feather,

13

Porno feathered basket, with mallard drake neck feathers, woodpecker scalps, and California quail topknot feathers. Pendants are of clam shell and abalone. (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Sivayze Bounds Collection)

because it’s good in the sense of a good per¬

female. The peaceful, quiet, gentle, soft,

sonal paraphernalia. It’s connected with our

soothing showers represent female rain. On

love and our legend.

the other side, we’re looking at the heavy,

Here, in the Southwest, we refer to a

violent, thunderous male rain. The same

feather or two as “the Breath of Life”—the

representation exists with Wind People,

breath of life which brings us happiness,

Sky People, Lightning People, Rainbow

happiness that employs the inner self, most¬

People, Com People, and Snake People.

ly. Happiness brings joy. Joy brings growth

The softer side is reflected on the female

or germination, and it brings abundance.

portion and the harsher side on the male

Happiness also brings us goodness, goodness

portion. We use feathers to show respect for

as in rain.

our spirits who bring in rain during the

Rain brings Rain People. Rain People bring equivalent balance between male and

summer so Mother Earth can be replenished for planting.

14

SNAKE DANCE The Hopi use a lot of feathers in their

terms of biting. With a snake, we’re look¬

Snake Dance in August. Two snake priests

ing at lightning, and lightning brings

enter the kiva carrying bundles of feathers

rain. We give thanks for finding the

which they make into feathered prayer

snakes. After the prayer offerings are

sticks to aid as a special messenger for the

made, a sacred com meal is sprinkled

gods to bring in rain. The sacred prayer

upon the snakes to purify them. The

feathers are also displayed on a kiva ladder

Snake Dance is a very electrifying event.

to aid in the protection from all evil influ-

The dancers have snakes in their mouths

ence that might enter the kiva. They sig¬

as they’re dancing. Real snakes! We

nal for quiet and respect, as well.

respect the real thing. Our gods must be

Upon finding the first four snakes,

real. Through our eagle spirit, some¬

prayer feather offerings are made by the priests. The snakes are addressed as “my

where in a point of a vanishing world, they will carry our message from the

son” or “my father” so later rain may

kachinas, through the feather, to the

come and the snake won’t be angered in

chief of the four directions to bring rain.

Hopi Snake Dance, painting by Otis Polelonema, ca. 1920s. (Blair Clark photographer, courtesy School of American Research Collections in the Museum of New Mexico)

15 As a Navajo, we strive for hozho “the

You’re brought up with eagle feathers

balance of harmony.” According to the tra¬

and you think of eagle feathers as a mighty,

ditional lifestyle and Navajo belief, the uni¬

as a legitimate. They represent the blessing-

verse is affected by good, which is under our

ness of the nourishing Mother seeking the

control, and evil, which is not. Between

powerness of Father Sky, which has control

those two extremes is the B lessingvuay,

over the planets, the cosmos, the constella¬

which brings the whole concept together

tion of our stars, the Milky Way, and the

into balance. Blessingway is the center core

moon. They’ve all been said for in a blessing

of the Navajo religion. The Blessingway

with the help of a feather. Using a feather is

ceremony shows us how to live our

like summoning your gods. If you

lives in beauty, in harmony. The

respect your feather, in turn, you

Blessingway forces out opposition and creates balance. The key is bal¬ ance! The ceremony involves a lot of feathers. To us Blessingway can be pleas¬ ant. It can be beautiful. It can be holy. It can be dangerous if it likes to. But it’s usually the goodness of life—what we cherish. Blessingway

When you LOOK AT A FEATHER, YOU HAVE ALL YOUR HEART AND SOUL IN IT.

receive goodness for life. If you sit down and look at a feather, there’s a divider, a stem or “path” down the middle that we like to think of as the equivalent balance. We use that pathway heavily in our pottery, in our bas¬ ketry, in our sandpainting, in our weaving. We emphasize this bal¬

can prevail to the blessing of new

ance to a point where we like to

life, a new hogan, marriage, live¬

seek it as the goal of life. We seek

stock, crops. It comes to the attention of our

it in relationship to the forces of the uni¬

highly religious spirits, the spirits that will

verse, through which we hope to prolong or

bring blessing upon all people.

enhance our daily lives.

It was Changing Woman who gave the

When a person disrupts the balance of

Navajos the Blessingway rituals and who

harmony, he or she creates disorder and

has

other

risks mental anguish, physical torment,

Navajo beliefs. Changing Woman, accord¬

even death. To restore the balance, we per¬

ing to our mythology, created the first Dineh

form one of the Navajo Chants or Ways.

(the People—the Navajo), and she alone

These

among the Holy People always does good

involve the use of medicinal herbs, prayers,

things for the tribe. Changing Woman and

sandpaintings, songs, and feathers.

nurtured

and

nourished

all

Sun (also among the Holy People) come

The

long

and

Enemyway

complex

ceremonies

ceremonial

restores

together to bring infinite unity and order to

balance. It’s performed if someone is being

the universe.

contaminated with the enemy—what that

'III

16 person is fighting. The enemy can contami¬ nate

the

physical

or

spiritual

By ceremony only, can harmony be

being.

restored. Therefore, by effecting a cure, by

Whatever’s upset must be replenished. The

transferring the medicine and power, the

ceremonial takes about nine days. There’s a

sickness falls from the patient and harmony

lot of purification—purification of the mind,

returns. Through faith, with the forces of

the heart, the soul. There’s a lot of praying,

the “Holy Ones,” we rise to walk in beauty

a lot of songs to be sung, and a lot of danc¬

once again.

ing as well. And the important role is the

W

feather, which brings forth the summoning

hen we seek out feathers, we don’t

of the gods. It’s like the gods are looking

just pick one out and say this will do!

down and speaking, “You’ve disturbed the

We have to pick a good feather so the gods

balance. We grant your wish for harmony,

will be impressed. It’s very, very important.

but you must respect us and your bylaws.”

We try to impress our gods so that the feath¬

The Enemyway has a patient side which

er brings our message to them. The gods

upsets the harmony bal¬

above us will seek down

ance and a receiving side

and see if this individual

which receives two eagle

is wearing a feather. That

feathers. We carry a staff

usually

decorated

animal

Native American. If he’s

wear, personal parapher¬

a Native American he

nalia, and the two feath¬

needs special attention,

ers to represent the plant

because he belongs to

kingdom and the animal

our lineage,

kingdom. A com pollen is

our

very useful

Com

And if he is praying,

pollen and eagle feathers

he will be paid special

are a must for our upper

attention.

gods. They really love it,

The

with

also.

means

he’s

a

perhaps,

cultural

feather

group.

is

an

to the extent that they

identification to Native

love to hear our chants

Americans—to provide

and our prayers. That’s

us with guidance, securi¬

what they thrive on and

ty, and protection. A lot

cherish. So we cherish those things in a favorable

of times you see paint¬ Dance regalia ornaments. Eagle feathers and fluffs, with yarn-wrapped quills.

way by trying to impress our gods that we do care.

(Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

ings

where

a

warrior

blends with an image of an eagle. We’re trying to

17

Porno feathered basket. California quail topknot feathers curl under the shell beads on the rim. Yellow feathers and green-and'black duck feathers create the design. (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

18 seek eagle spirit. An eagle is a very good war-

we don’t want to go off. It prolongs us in

rior, provider, and protector. We like to have

longevity. It’s supposed to enhance us in,

that spirit in us in everyday life to protect us,

perhaps, germination, so we can germinate

to guide us, to seek us to expand our hori¬

from where we’re at into a prospective

zons. If we’re religious, we like to stabilize

family man or into respecting who we are in

that, to have the option of power-

the identity of being a Navajo. It’s

ness to prevail through our life.

like we’re saying, “I’ll follow the

How do we get feathers? If you’ve been initiated, you get your Native name and you get your feather. The feather is yours for life. When you’re initiated, you go through a sweat bath where you purify yourself. Then you pray and take an oath with the feather presiding. It’s like tak¬ ing an oath through the Bible when you’re in a court system. You’ve got to hold the feather toward the East, the giveness direction. From the East, we seek new life. East is the gift bringer of goodness. We confront ourselves and say, “I’ve conquered what I want to conquer. Now I take this oath

You CAN

trail of happiness through the eye of

PASS A BLESSED FEATHER ON TO SOMEONE ELSE, AND THAT’S ABOUT THE HIGHEST GIFT YOU CAN EVER COME UPON FROM A Native American.

the feather, through the eye of our ceremonials!” Only if an individual has been disciplined toward being Native American, is he eligible toward tak¬ ing a feather, because we don’t just hand over feathers and say, “Hey that’s yours.” You have to work for it, just like any hierarchy symbolic thing. Every feather must be blessed. The eagle feather has got to be pure so the recipient will not catch the badness of the feather. The medi¬ cine man blesses the feather. You can pass a blessed feather on to someone else, and that’s about the highest gift you can ever come upon

and respect my gods. I’m going to

from a Native American. You have

be honest and fair and I will help

money value

my people—through this feather. I take this

and so forth,

but

there’s no comparison to a feather.

feather as an identification, so when I seek

In old times an eagle feather was replen-

help in prayers the gods will give me special

ishable. Now we’re having a lot of problems

attention and comprehend my prayers so

getting them because eagles are an endan¬

they can be answered.”

gered species. Legitimately,

if you’re a

Through the feather we keep that oath.

Navajo, two feathers are probably the ulti¬

It’s a promising. It enhances forgiveness. It

mate of all ultimates. That’s all you receive

enhances us to be more disciplined, because

for your personal use,

unless you’re a

19

Hopi Snake Dance figurine by Frederick Myron, ca. 1953. (Blair Clark photographer, courtesy School of American Research Collections in the Museum of New Mexico)

20

Feathered banner. Native American flag to attach to a pole is made of white turkey feathers. (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon: Doris Suiayze Bounds Collection.)

medicine man and you need them for vari¬

special saying for the eagle to replenish

ous other things.

what we use.

A lot of medicine men have old tradi¬

To be able to hunt an eagle, you must

tional hunting ways where they track

have a permit. Highly respected medicine

eagles down. That’s a reversal of you,

men are usually the only ones to handle

mother nature, and the eagle, where there

hunting eagles. You must have experi¬

are a lot of prayers toward the animal. We

ence. The individual hunting must have

ask our Creator to provide a lot of eagles

the spirit of the eagle. The Spirit is a highly

so we can use the feathers for special spir¬

concentrated word.

itual messages for the upper gods. Through

We use a staff of eagle feathers because,

our prayers, chants, and songs, we have a

to us, eagle represents “free spirit,” “the

21

Eagle Dance. (Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

22

Eagle Dance, painting by Tonita Pena, ca. 1935. (Blair Clark photographer, courtesy Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, New Mexico)

spirit of freedom.” It’s like the American flag,

turkey feathers on the shrines, which often

which is symbolic in that it means American.

take a lot of feathers. Sometimes an eagle

To the Navajo, eagle feathers signify the

feather is added just to dress it up.

boldness, the unity of all. The eagle is a sacred

animal.

We

thank

the

eagle.

The feathers we do not use are owl feath¬ ers. It always seems as if the owl will bring

Kingdom-wise the eagle is in charge, so when

bad

messages to

the Navajos,

perhaps

you think of feathers, you think of eagles.

upcoming death, an accident, a disaster. We

We use turkey feathers as well. We can

automatically use our corn meal or pollen

weave them into a blanket and use them on

and, through a quick prayer with it, use a

our Navajo staff. Turkey comes in abun¬

feather to say it’s not going to happen.

dance, fortunately, with abundant feathers.

If an owl flies over and comes from the

It’s very important to us, because we use

north, that’s especially bad because North is

23 the direction of evil. The eagle has

people. Some people are not aware

sent the owl to give the lineage

of the beautiness of eagles—the

group or clan group a message that there’s a harmful thing that will happen within a day or perhaps a week. We’ve always respected that message. We just don’t respect Owl. I’m sure he or she has a family and friends, but we don’t respect Owl. We are also afraid of it. We automatically sense it as bringing a bad message! However, as I said, the Navajo people are very respecting toward the eagle. The Eagle Dance is an example that we are at peace and harmony with the eagle and give it respect. We share the social Eagle Dance with non-Indians to show what we do in a cherishable sense to respecting all giveness of nature and all giveness of the animal. In the social dance we’re not bringing out the true giveness of the cere¬ monial Eagle Dance, so we don’t put a mask on it. If a dance is done for the religious aspect, you put a

The Eagle Dance is to GIVE AN EXPRESSION TO THE EAGLE AND TO REFLECT THE GRACE OF THE Native PEOPLE, THE GIVENESS OF THE Native PEOPLE, AND THE RESPECT OF THE Native People

grace, the beauty, the freedom— that we as Native people like to have. We’ve been shortchanged quite a bit. It seems like we’ve been neglected on freedom. We like to seek the beautiness. We’re beauty in our own way. We pros¬ per in our own way. We have our own religious structure. We have our own lineage, our own clan or clannish groups. We have our own language and our own dialect. We have appreciation and respect for the universe itself, as in our father the sky, our mother the earth, and the kingdoms—animal, plant, and human. For the

Eagle

Dance,

each

feather is individually wrapped and sewed on the costume. We wrap the stem of the feather in yarn or leather. We see the stem as a beginning of life. The stemming of life is like migrating, and there is a path in the middle. When we go

mask on it. Non-Indians usually

into the fluff of the feather, it

don’t see that. Anything that has a

spreads out because we learn to

mask is considered a special messenger for

expand. We expand our horizons,

the

minds, our religion, and the giveness of

upper gods—Hopi

have

Kachinas;

Navajo have Yeis. The Eagle Dance is to give an expres¬ sion to the eagle and to reflect the grace of

our

what we have to provide through our cus¬ toms. It’s all reflected in the single feather. We like to respect that.

the Native people, the giveness of the

How respectful are we? At a powwow if

Native people, and the respect of the Native

an individual drops an eagle feather, he is

24

disqualified. That’s how reli¬ gious we are, even at a pow¬ wow which is a social func¬ tion. If you’re in a competi¬ tion and you drop a feather, you’re automatically disqual¬ ified. But you don’t just; pick up the feather. Four dancers who are war veterans will pick it up and sing a song for it.

Then

the

feather

is

returned to the person who ■

• 'iWi

I 'SpHF'mI

■ H

J

Wr

7m

dropped it. The respect of the feather! The feather is to secure us, in a lovable sense, to

mlk

make

BK /'

sure

prospective

jrPBKj

we’re mind

in

a

and

a

prospective stage, that we Dropped feather at a traditional men’s dance. (Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

respect ourselves and our fel¬ low individuals.

In beauty happily I walk With beauty before me I walk With beauty behind me I walk With beauty below me 1 walk With beauty above me I walk With beauty all around me I walk It is finished again in beauty It is finished in beauty —The Night Chant

25

Eagle Dance. (Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

BROOKE MEDICINE EAGLE S VISION

I

am an enrolled member of the Crow Indian tribe, raised on the reservation as a child, yet my perspective is likely to be very dif¬ ferent from the traditional Crow perspective. First of all, when I was a child I lived on a self-sufficient ranch far even from the nearest Indian village (made farther by the fact that we often traveled horse¬ back). As well, my own family was not very traditional or religious. Thus I didn’t get to participate in the few ceremonies that were held. (At that time the Indian Freedom of Religion Act had not been passed, meaning that Native spiri¬ tual practice was still illegal and sacred gatherings were few.) Secondly, as an adult I’ve traveled the world and studied with a wide variety of teachers and elders from many spiritual traditions. So it’s important to understand that in sharing with you, I speak from the perspective of my own experience,

My

basic WORK IS FOR Mother Earth, and I DO THAT THROUGH HELPING PEOPLE FIND A WAY OF HARMONY AND WHOLENESS WITHIN THEMSELVES AND WITH All Their Relations.

not as a representative of my tribe. From early childhood, I have been interested in healing of all kinds, and I have pursued a path in my life which has led to many ways of working toward wholeness for myself and others, and for heal¬ ing of our Mother Earth. Thus I am an Earthkeeper, a teacher, a ceremonial leader, singer, per¬ former, and one who walks a heal¬ ing or medicine way. As an Earthkeeper, my interest is in making a difference in the world in such a way that we twoleggeds will be allowed to stay here and to replant the beautiful garden we have destroyed. My basic work is for Mother Earth, and I do that through helping people find a way of harmony and wholeness within themselves and with All Their Relations. Whether it is working with the concept of critical mass in global ceremonies or doing healing work with my hands on individuals,

27 it is all aimed toward that same end.

eagle flies high, close to Spirit, and then also

In recent years, I’ve completed a series of four

globally-oriented

ceremonies;

comes down to nest on Earth. Thus, the eagle

we

feather is something which can help us to

invited people from all over the world to

touch into Spirit, into Source, into the Great

pray with us four different years when we

Mystery—and then to bring that vision back,

gathered in dedication dances. One of those

to ground it and make it real on Earth. In my

ceremonies was held in conjunction with

tradition, when working with the eagle

Harmonic Convergence and was

feather, you tell the truth—the deep

called “Dance Awake the Dream.”

truth. I use them in teaching, heal¬

Basically, that experience was to

ing and ceremony—especially to

awaken us to the fact that it is time

In my

cleanse with the smudge, to change

to make the dream real on earth,

TRADITION,

and clear energy, in calling Spirit,

rather than just talking about it— to make peace and harmony and

WHEN

abundance for all a reality in our

WORKING

daily lives.

WITH THE

T

and on a talking staff to help people be clear and truthful when they speak in circle. Although the eagle feather is the one I use most, I would like to

he simple fact that feathers

EAGLE

use the feather of another very spe¬

represent the magic of flight

FEATHER,

cial bird to discuss some concepts

makes them very special, as does

which I feel are very important.

their beauty. No wonder natural

YOU TELL

This is the owl feather, which car¬

peoples all over the world have

THE TRUTH

ries very different meanings for var¬

used and cherished them! They can be dedicated to many kinds of work, whether a simple fan for

ious tribes or groups, yet in modern

-THE DEEP

times has come to be associated by

TRUTH.

some with death and evil. For me,

healing or using as part of a dance

in contrast, the most important law

outfit, or an exquisite headdress

as we look at any part of creation,

which represents our spirit’s ability

including the owl and her feathers,

to fly.

is the honoring of everything alive—that we

Although I use many different feathers on

should respect the sacredness of all things.

different occasions, my primary use is of eagle

Each and every thing or being has its own

feathers,* which to me symbolize Spirit. The

medicine—by which I mean its unique power or gift to the world. To me, the owl is

*As you may know, it is illegal for anyone without a

the sacred guardian of the night and dark¬

Fish and Game Department ceremonial permit to use many kinds of feathers, including eagle, hawk, and other birds of prey. My permit allows me to carry and use them.

ness—which is no better nor worse than the day and light—created by the Great Creator

28

Dancer. (Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

just as you and all things were. The owl’s medicine allows us to see our way through darkness—to move with grace

Great Mystery with open eyes and heart. This can be very powerful, helpful, and even beautiful to us.

and ease through the dark times, the dark

For many Native peoples to whom the

nights of our lives. Its medicine helps us

owl has come to represent evil, death itself

become conscious and clear about our own

has also assumed negative associations and

death and move toward that aspect of the

come to be feared. In the old days, the

29

Fancy Shawl dancer. (Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

Group of dancers. (Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

people understood that they died when they

that through dying Earth receives the pre¬

were ready to leave their bodies—that death

cious gifts of birth and newness. Those first

was only a change of worlds and had nothing

humans then chose to have death and all the

to do with evil. There might have been evil

beauty

deaths, but death itself was not in the realm

springtime, renewal—rather than remaining

of evil. In fact, there are many creation sto¬

the same forever.

that comes

of death—children,

ries and myths where the two-leggeds have

It may have been through the incredible

had the choice about whether or not to have

genocide that signaled the devastation of

death as a part of being on Earth. Some felt

American Native cultures, when so many

they should not—that everybody should stay

were killed without honor—horribly and

on Earth and remain the same; others felt

senselessly—that death became an un-

31 natural thing to some Native people. Such

To these children (and evidently to

senseless and bizarre death very likely gener¬

those who influenced them), the little

ated terror in those still living, and I think

people were boogey men, or bad—the kids’ experience

this terror has carried down and

unknown (death) became some¬ thing terrible and evil. An example of this kind of degeneration concerns the “little people,” once recognized by our northern tribes as powerful spirit helpers; in recent years, I have experienced

many

people

on

reservations who have come to fear them. The little people were really small people, a little bit over knee-high, with very large heads. Although they were very strange and different, they were spiritual helpers to the people and were

honored,

respected

and

revered. Not long ago, on the reserva¬ tion near my family’s home, I was riding a horse at dusk, and I asked the kids who owned the horse if I could take it up through the hills rather than just around the house. They said with big eyes, “You’re

taught

them

“they’d get them”—which is a

made people afraid; then anything associated with darkness or the

had

What’s true is THAT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING WE HAVE WHETHER A CRYSTAL, A CAR, OUR MONEY, A FEATHER, IT COULD BE ANYTHING WE CAN DEDICATE THOSE THINGS TO GOOD OR EVIL.

total degradation of the lore which once saw the little people guiding vision questers through the diffi¬ cult trials of their vigils! When I actually rode up through those hills that evening, the horse sensed many things that made him ner¬ vous and “spooked.” Although I couldn’t see any little people, I felt the kids were right—and the horse knew the little people were all around. Yet the special and unique power of these spirit helpers had now become a threat, something perceived as dangerous. While Huichol

talking teacher

to from

an

old

Mexico

about the owl, he taught me a pro¬ found lesson. “You know,” he said, “what’s true is that anything and everything we have—whether a crystal, a car, our money, a feather, it could be anything—we can dedi¬ cate those things to good or evil. In the instance of money, we can

I

spend it buying cocaine and selling

answered, “Yes.” They said, “It’s

it to children, or we can use it to

just about to be nighttime,” and I

buy food and give it to children.

goin’

up

in

the

hills!”

and

said, “Yes.” They warned me, “The little

Money doesn’t have a negative or positive

people are up there. They’ll get you! The

energy—it’s how you dedicate it! ”

little people will get you!”

He went on about the owl: “Since the

Dance bustle and arm rosette set.

Dance bustle. Pheasant feathers, immature bald eagle feathers,

Made by Mott Green, Nez Perce.

dyed commercial feathers, and ribbon. Red wood tail flaps.

(Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend,

(Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon;

Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

owl’s world is one primarily of night, they’re

object we receive, especially those which are

naturally associated with the darkness. Even

for use in ceremony; through smudging or

though they can be dedicated to darkness or

other means, clear it of whatever influence it

light, some people who want to do dark

might have carried, and then dedicate it.

things—bad and hidden things—dedicate

“When you see an owl feather,” he

them to evil. But they’re not innately evil—

concluded, “pick it up and dedicate it

although they may be chosen to be dedicated

immediately to the light—to seeing through

to evil because of the dark aspect they some¬

the dark times,

times represent.

ease through unclarity, to positive ends of

“What is important is to cleanse any

flying with grace

and

whatever kind are important to you—

33

Child in traditional regalia, (photo © 1993 George Ancona)

34 dedicate it and then that will be its

Others I know among the Chero¬

use!” This old Huichol’s teaching

kee tell of using owl wings to break

about feathers has taught me a

It has

powerful lesson about my own life

TAUGHT ME TO ASK THE QUESTION, “TO WHAT IS MY LIFE OR THIS OBJECT REALLY DEDICATED, WHETHER FORMALLY OR NOT? What USE DO I WANT TO MAKE OF IT; WHAT WAY OF BEING DO I WANT IT TO PORTRAY?”

and other objects as well. It has taught me to ask the question, “To what is my life or this object really dedicated, whether formally or not? What use do I want to make of it; what way of being do I want it to portray?” Thus one can choose to like or not like the owl; yet to assign to it evil, danger or death is very differ¬ ent from the way I approach the world. There are dark shamans or dark witches who have dedicated owl feathers to negativity, but the owl is Great Spirit’s creation and the

gift of Great Mystery—an

innocent creature. I’m a person who has always wondered “Why?” If I can’t find out what’s underneath all things, I ask and ask until I tend to drive my elders crazy. The question “Why is the owl so terrible?” was finally answered in a way that made total sense

to

me

by

the

wise

old

Huichol, who helped put together in my mind and heart how ceremo¬ nial (and other) objects are all to be used—through dedication. Some of my friends in various tribes use

up pain, whether present in an individual

or

simply

lingering

about in a hospital room or coun¬ seling office. Any feather can be dedicated— it could be a hummingbird feather! What is important is how it’s used, and what you have in your heart when you use it. I am saddened because I see too many people now using feathers as a symbol of their status in Native ways, when the deep truth is that Native ways are not about the “beads and feathers” (as one of my elders reminded me). For example, it’s not how fancy a peyote fan may be nor how beauti¬ ful the feathers that is important— rather it’s the spiritual aspect and practices of peyote as healing med¬ icine that should be primary. Though a hummingbird feather is very tiny and perhaps does not seem as impressive as an eagle feather or peyote fan, its medicine is one of the most powerful. This tiny bird has enormous power and ability. 1) Hummers are carriers of an exquisite, iridescent beauty and as such are powerful models for us. 2) They have quite incredible com¬ mand of the air, being uniquely

them as “woman medicine”—to

able to move forward, backward,

bring forward the deep feminine.

up, and down very rapidly. Their

35

Though a HUMMING¬ BIRD FEATHER IS VERY TINY AND PERHAPS DOES NOT SEEM AS IMPRESSIVE AS AN EAGLE FEATHER OR PEYOTE FAN, ITS MEDICINE IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL. Sappho’s Comet Hummingbird. (Photo © NYZS/The Wildlife Conservation Society)

little bodies do so much just simply to defy

morning. They have a miraculous ability to be

gravity; scientists have said they shouldn’t

everywhere at once in this world, and yet

even be able to fly, yet they do. A tiny

demonstrate an incredible courage and will¬

miracle! 3) They live at the very edge of sun

ingness to live on the edge of their experience.

vival, literally on the edge of life and death.

Sometimes I use hummingbird feathers

I have learned from hummingbird experts

for healing. When I need something very

that if a hummingbird flies far at night and

powerful to heal a deep wound or critical dis¬

gets nothing to eat, it can actually be dead by

ease, I choose the hummingbird feathers.

36

In WHATEVER WAY WE USE FEATHERS THEN, IT IS IMPORTANT TO RESPECT THEM AND THOSE OF OUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS FROM WHOM THEY COME.

Peyote fan (drop fan). Hawk, ring-necked pheasant, and wild turkey feathers, among others, with leather handle. (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

That deeply wounded person is on the same

In whatever way we use feathers then, it

edge of life and death which the hummer

is important to respect them and those of our

knows and handles so well. In such a situa¬

sisters and brothers from whom they come.

tion, I lay the little tail feathers against the

Their special beauty and magic can be mag¬

wound, so that their power can energize that

nified through our human intention. Thus I

area. Or, if I’m working someone’s heart—

remind you again to be clear about your way

their emotions—I use the feathers as if to

of using them and to dedicate them in ser¬

“sweep away” that old energy, like sweeping

vice of All Our Relations. I have spoken,

or gathering to release it.

Brooke.

37

Anthony Standing Rock in traditional dance regalia. (Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

APACHE HOLY WOMAN S VISION

I

’m a holy woman from the Lipan band of

Native Americans, everything is circles.

the Apache. What I am doing when I use

Everything. We’re in a circle that can return

a feather is calling the power of the spin

our being and incarnate human spirit. We

it to come. I use the feather to then

have forgotten that we are loved,

brush the aura of the person, to

that we have come from that

cleanse the negativity and that kind of thing out of the person’s field. I am calling power to come and do that. The eagle feather is the feather,

par

excellence,

for

Native

American people to use in cleansing and healing. What is the symbolism of the feather itself? We can look at the quill as the path and the joining of each of the furry feather parts on each side of the quill as events in our lives. The path is to remember the past and those who went before us, since we always honor the ancestors. But it’s deeper than that in the sense that there isn’t really anything for us

The EAGLE FEATHER IS THE FEATHER, PAR EXCELLENCE, for Native American people TO USE IN CLEANSING AND HEALING.

power, and we are that. The “path” is the path of the heart—to return to the memory of who and what we are and then to live that on earth. The circle indicates the circu¬ lar path and the eternal return. We see that in the cycle of nature— the eternal turning. The seasons. The days. We don’t use the linear concept, rather the cycles of the turning. And because we are in and of nature itself—who is our mother—that is true for us, too. Look at the quill as the path of the heart and the feathering part, all the barbs that branch out from the quill, as decisions in life as we make

to learn. We already know, but we

our journey. Some of them are

forgot when we came into form—

receptive, creating the feminine

when we were bom. We forgot where we’ve

aspect—which is what we’re always returning

come from—the great round it’s called.

to—via the active, consentive masculine

So we venture into the round of form. To

power of being able to do anything.

39

On each side of the feather is both femb

In my tribe, women are honored for

nine and masculine. What one is striving for

woman power. If we’re birthed from the femi¬

all the time is to bring oneself in such align-

nine principle, the power or action of the

ment with the Great Mystery that the mas¬

masculine principle, then, lives within us.

culine and feminine energies are

That’s where we’ve come from. We

perfectly balanced within—so that

have those powers within us. We

there is no war within one’s own

Look

heart. And that’s where peace

AT THE QUILL AS THE PATH OF THE HEART.

begins! The

Great

Mystery

is

the

unnameable. It is Reality with a capital R—out of which everything comes

and

also

within

which

everything lives, moves, be’s. The

can be in the feminine mode with the stereotype in form—for the female to carry the feminine— though that’s not 100-percent true, because men carry the feminine too. Women manifest and show a lot of the

feminine

characteristics,

which is the receptive. For exam¬

Great Mystery lives within every¬

ple, one of the things many women

one, every object. And ultimately

do when they first hear or feel

you come to the understanding that there

something is to reflect on the meaning. They

isn’t anything but that anyway. In the mean¬

don’t go immediately into “That means so

time, as we journey down the path of the

and so.” They demonstrate that power a

heart, we’re waiting to come back to that

great deal more than men typically do,

knowing and living within ourselves.

though some men are learning—hopefully!

THE APACHE The background of the Apache is that they were nomadic, existing in bands. There were many bands of Apaches. There still are. In the past the Apache were more hunters and gatherers than settlers. Apaches were probably with less sophistication of social form than tribes that were settled. We Apache are very fierce people. “Don’t cross us” is sort of the message. “Don’t mess with us.” The Apache might have been less reflective, in the old days, than a settled tribe. They were quicker to go to war with you if you crossed them. And part of that had to do with just surviving, because the Apache were a small band.

40

For the MASCULINE PRINCIPLE, WE’RE GOING TO HAVE THE CAPACITY TO CONCEPTU¬ ALIZE AND HAVE ACTIVE MOVEMENT WHICH CAN DIRECT THAT FEMININE ENERGY, IN APPROPRIATE WAYS, OUT INTO THE WORLD AND YOUR CHOICES OF LIFE. Spirit wheel and feather.

(Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

41

Dance bustle. (Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

42 Out of that reflection flows the understand¬

line aspect. It’s what you choose to do and

ing of respect and relationship for whatever

how you choose to do it, how you walk the

it is that you’re reflecting on. And

road, the path, as you go along. It’s

out of that grows the nurturing,

the balancing within your own

because you see in a whole more than you do in pieces. For the masculine principle, we’re going to have the capacity to conceptualize

and

have

active

movement which can direct that feminine energy, in appropriate ways, out into the world and your choices of life. It requires the mas¬ culine principle, or the action, to be able to actualize whatever it is that you have reflected on. So that’s a part of the meaning that all things are born of the fem¬ inine—the interior of our being, that part of us that takes in. And of course, for women, our bodies are even that way. We can’t escape that, because we’re in the cycles and our body will do it whether we’re conscious of it or not. Men usually have a harder time with the inner being. Because, for example, when we have our moon time—our period every month—it reminds us that mystery is going on within our body. A woman’s body can catch

We can

being of those powers of the mascu¬

look AT THE FEMININE/ MASCULINE IN THE BLACK (dark)/ WHITE (light) PARTS OF A FEATHER. The dark ASPECT IS FEMININE IN OUR Apache TRADITION; THE LIGHT ASPECT IS MASCULINE.

line and feminine. This is why in the Native world so many of the tribes were matri¬ archies, and just the men did the fighting. But they didn’t do so without the

permission of the

women, because women are the ones who birth the children. And you don’t want your son, your hus¬ band, and your father out there get¬ ting their heads cut off! But that whole idea has been lost in modern culture, and a lot of women today are in the army. In the past, some women were warriors. There were some great female war chiefs. They were not precluded from that, but the emphasis was not on it. For the feminine aspect, then, it’s a very close nurturing—interac¬ tion. For the masculine aspect, it’s more the outer vein of guardian and protector of the feminine. We can look at the feminine/ masculine in the black (dark)/ white (light) parts of a feather.

the spirit of a new being and nur¬

The dark aspect is feminine in

ture it. Think about all that hap¬

our Apache tradition; the light

pens in that process. Then what

aspect is masculine. You can get

you do is extrapolate those things into the decisions of your life—which is the mascu¬

into numbers as well. When you’re looking at patterns of light,

’ll

43

Apache quiver and arrows, 1930. (Blair Clark, photographer, courtesy Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, NM)

44

Feathered head bonnet. (Photo

© 1992 George Ancona)

45

Dancers.

(Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

you’re looking at something that is akin to

which doesn’t allow us, then, to do the

the sun, which is the masculine principle—

things that we’ve done. We don’t do those

the protector, the guardian, the life giver. So

kind of things to our relations!

if you’re looking at actions that you’ve

The light aspect has to do with the num¬

taken in your life, then you have to ask if

ber one in terms of the clarity of your con¬

there’s an alignment with that kind of pro-

sciousness, of what the Dream is inside that

tection—first of all for yourself as a being

you’re actualizing out here. Then the dark

and then for all of your relations. That

aspect is the feminine, the reflective.

includes all of the children of earth. Air and

You look at the feather, and you look at

water are the first children of earth, and

events and choices and such in your life.

then the plants, right on down through the

Then you extend the feather up, and you ask

kingdoms. Our understanding is that those

the power to come and to help you. Because

are all our relations. And there’s a specific

when you point your path, your quill up, and

familial fizz to that, not a separated thing,

the decisions that you’re making, then

46 you’re also asking for those decisions to he in

understand what’s going on or not, you tmst

alignment with the Great Mystery. The

it. From the basis of tmst (three), all things

Great Mystery sends the answer back down.

are bom from the power of the four direc¬

If a person wears or holds one feather,

tions. Four is balance. Seven is balance with

there’s the connection with the sun. Two is

the birth of whatever it is, through the power

associated with the feminine side of things.

of the four directions in perfect trust. Four and

You can look on that as the power of reflec-

three together—that is the Dream.

tive consciousness. You have con-

Everything said about numbers

sciousness in All, which is the one.

can relate to the wearing or holding

Two is

When you reflect on it, you have a content to that consciousness. That’s the feminine, and everything is bom out of that—not just the physical of our bodies, but our mentation. Two is always woman, and in my Apache tradition, it’s black. Black symbolizes Grandmother Earth —the planet. We wear the robe of Grandmother Earth. Our bodies are Grandmother Earth. We are made of the elements of this plan¬ et, primarily water, but we have the minerals and all the other parts. And when you die, your body returns, your robe returns to her. So your body goes home.

ALWAYS WOMAN, AND IN MY Apache TRADITION, it’s black. Black SYMBOLIZES Grand¬ mother Earth— THE PLANET.

of feathers. Nothing in any tradition is done without meaning. There are different symbols, different ways of approaching these things. One way you might be praying for the Dream is by hanging seven feathers from your pipe. You would do that if you’re praying for the people, so that the people can live, and

if you’re

praying

for

the

restoration of trust and for the beauty of the Dream to come awake—the dream of balance of har¬ mony in all beings on earth. I wish we could achieve that. I’ve spent my life working for it, so I guess it’s the best you can do!

All is a whole. Everything has

Number twelve is the grand¬

meaning. You sit and reflect, and you

mothers and grandfathers, those

smoke your pipe, and you ask to remember

who have come before. They’re in spirit form,

what these things mean in your own heart.

and they’re available to help us. The hawk

One is consciousness. Two is reflective con¬

tail, in nature, has twelve feathers if they’re

sciousness with content in it. Then you have a

all in place and haven’t molted out. If you’re

triangle which is your platform, your base.

using a twelve-feather fan, then you’re obvi¬

That’s three—trust. Trust in total interdepen¬

ously going to be praying for the ancestors to

dence and interreliability of the All, the All

work through you. The ancestors know better

within the Great Mystery. Whether you

what to do than we do. If we release our

47

Jicarilla Apache eagle-feather headdress, late nineteenth century. (Blair Clark photographer, courtesy Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, NM)

Pipe stem. Incised wood with golden eagle feathers wrapped in red yarn. (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

Traditional dancer.

(Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

Traditional dancer.

(Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

notion that we’re so smart, put our littleness

Not everyone has an affinity to use an

aside, and let the grandparents work through

eagle feather. They might use hawk instead.

us, then a lot more can be achieved in the

They might use both. For example, I might

direction of the Dream. Because they know

brush you with a hawk feather and cleanse

better than we do, their vision is higher and

your aura. If I was going to do full work with

clearer, and since they’re in spirit form,

you, I’d use an eagle feather.

they’re closer to the Great Mystery.

W

When you’re calling for power, the eagle is the one for Native People. The red-tailed

hen a person has an affinity for a certain

hawk (the “little messenger”) has tremen¬

bird, he or she uses feathers associated

dous power and tremendous meaning, but in

with the medicine of that bird. Medicine is your

my mind it’s a transduction. If I’m really

giveaway. It’s the giveaway of what you have—

working for you to heal yourself, then I want

your gift back to life. Everything knows what

to call all the power that I possibly can. So

its giveaway is except twodeggeds. We have a

I’m going to use an eagle feather. Most

hard time discovering what that is!

everyone is going to do that.

49 ing feathers would have been either by saving someone, or a tremendous kill on a hunt, or something that was a real act of bravery. You would sit in council and get to tell the story of what you had done. The council listened to how you had overcome your fear and moved into the place of “It’s a good day to die.” And, of course, when a person moves into that place, they’re invincible. If the council agreed with the story that you told—and they would feel the feeling of what you’re describing because the elders know what that is and can recognize it—then you would be awarded a feather, which would be a great honor.

T

he birds are the people that fly high and walk on the air. And, as such, there is

the ascension of spirit tied in with that. The eagle will fly higher than anybody, so it’s Dancer with feather Stick.

(Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

closer to the Great Mystery than any other creature on earth. That’s why the eagle

How can people earn feathers? Demon'

feather is so important.

strating an act of bravery by helping out in a

A feather—one feather—fits into a body

town disaster is a modern'day illustration of

of feathers. It’s just one part of a whole pat¬

how one could earn the right to wear eagle

tern. It’s fascinating to really work with a

feathers in their hair. In the old days, earn¬

wing, for example, or a tail, and to see the

DREAM CATCHER The Apache use owl feathers also. We use them as the “bringer of the dream.” Over the head of my bed I have a hoop—a circle again. It’s a woven spider web of sinew which is to catch the dream. I have the feet of the owl on the shield also. Between the feet, within the claws, is a bear fetish. The bear is the “keeper” of the dream and the spirit of healing.

50

TO LOOK THROUGH THE EYE OF THE FEATHER WOULD TAKE ME TO THAT PLACE OF VISION WHERE I CAN SEE WHAT’S REAL AND WHAT’S NOT Dancers.

(Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

beauty of how in the world that gets all fit¬

elders who were carrying the teachings

ted together to make a whole pattern. And if

didn’t have anyone to give them to.

you remove the one feather, you can’t see

W

the whole pattern in that one feather. That’s

hat is it like seeing the world through

the way we are—one feather. We do not see

the eye of the feather? Suppose that

the wing of the eagle of which we are a part.

you sight down a feather with all of those

But we know it. We can know that it’s so

kinds of things we’ve been talking about

and look for the patterns.

working in your heart. And you

look

When we get together with feathers in

through the eye—the lens—of the meanings

ceremonials or powwows, people will recog¬

of those things to return to the memory that

nize the person who can call power very

you’re searching for within yourself.

quickly. And generally stories get told. No

If you look through the eye of the feath¬

big drama. People are taught what someone

er, it would be looking at whatever it is—

else had got, to clear unconsciousness, and

myself or just reflecting on the nature of

they listen. Fortunately, some of the young

things and on the nature of being or what¬

people are beginning to listen to the elders

ever. To look through the eye of the feather

again, after a long time. A lot of the teach¬

would take me to that place of vision where

ings are lost already, because a lot of the

I can see what’s real and what’s not.

Child in traditional regalia with fan.

(Photo

©

1993 George Ancona)

RICHARD DORSON’S VISION

W

hen I was three years old, my

I work with all sorts of feathers, mostly

mother

an

legal feathers—from any bird that you can

Indian man. We up and moved

keep as a pet or hunt. I do occasionally work

got

remarried

to

out to his family place

with nonlegal feathers,

which was just a little

like eagle and hawk, if

ways from the edge of the

they’re brought to me by

Mescalero Apache reser-

someone who can legally

vation in southeast New

possess them.

Mexico. My stepfather’s

There are no univer¬

father was Mescalero. His

sal meanings to feathers.

mother was Navajo.

I

The meanings vary from

lived out there for the

tribe to tribe. I can only

first half of my life. My

speak from my under¬

step'grandparents

standing

were

of

it.

That’s

both traditional. One of

the understanding that

the things they did to

started with Navajo and

keep

of mis¬

Apache and has grown

chief—because I was such

as I have learned from

a precocious child—was

people of different tribal

to teach me how to do

extractions-based mostly

beadwork

around the Native Am¬

me

out

and how

to

work with feathers, which

erican Church. You

is a specialty of mine. I turn feathers into

Fan. Made with bald eagle wing; feathers tipped, with beaded and painted buckskin handle.

ceremonial objects like

(Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon;

medicine bags and fans.

Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

see,

I’m

in

a

rather strange position because I only have oneeighth Indian blood in

53

There are NO UNIVERSAL MEANINGS TO FEATHERS. The MEANINGS VARY FROM TRIBE TO TRIBE. Golden eagle. (Photo © 1993 by George Ancona)

me which is not enough to make a real dif¬

scout was a brother of the Locust people—a

ference to anybody. And yet, I’m also, all

humpback flute player. Now when the

humility aside, one of the best people around

people emerged into the land where they

who do what I do. Native people come to me,

wanted to live, they were met by the eagle

asking me to make things for them. Probably

who challenged them and said, “This is my

85 percent of the things I make are for peo¬

land. What right do you have to come here?”

ple in the Native American Church, who use

The people allowed as to how they didn’t

feathers extensively in their ceremony.

particularly have a right, but that they really

Working with eagle feathers is very spe¬

wanted to live there.

cial. Let me tell you a story to help you

So the eagle said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll

understand the relationship between people

test you, and if you pass the test, then you

and eagle feathers. The story is quickest if

can live here. Who’s the bravest amongst

told Hopi style:

you?” And the scout, the flute player,

T

stepped out. The eagle said, “All right, Pm his is the fourth world. People emerged

going to take my bow and my arrow, and

through three previous worlds to get

Pm going to shoot an arrow into your eye.

here. They had scouts that led them. One

If you flinch or blink, your people have to

54 leave.” Eagle took an arrow, and he

brave. Your people have a right to

poked it real quickly at the flute

stay here. And to show my faith,

player’s eye and stopped just a hair’s breadth away. The flute player didn’t move. And the eagle said, “That’s good. You’ve got some bravery. Here’s one more test.” The eagle took his arrow, knocked it in his bow, and shot it through the flute player’s body. The flute player just stood there. Then he took his flute out. He played it, and the music was so beautiful and so sweet that he healed his wound.

You

can’t CHOOSE THE FAMILY YOU’RE BORN INTO, BUT YOU CAN CHOOSE THE RELATIVES YOU MAKE.

I’m going to let you use my feather, so that when you talk to the Creator, I—who fly the highest of all birds—will hear your prayers and carry them up to the Creator.” And that’s the basis for eagle feathers right there! Everything I learned, I learned in stories like that. I wasn’t just given facts. There’s a similar story that comes from an uncle of mine named Richard Deer Track out in Taos Pueblo.

The eagle was very impressed

Now let me explain a bit about

by this. So he said, “You’re very

relationships. Indians have two

San Ildefonso Pueblo Basket Dance, painting by Gilbert Atencio, 1959. (Blair Clark, photographer, courtesy Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, New Mexico)

55

THE SUN DANCE Every feather from the eagle can be used. The “breath” feathers, the two longest down feathers from beneath the tail, are used in the Sun Dance. The down feathers are often tied to a whistle made from an eagle bone and wrapped so that they can be carried by the dancers as they’re dancing back and forth to the tree. The dancers use the down feathers to channel the energy of the dance into themselves and to gather the strength of the eagle, because the dance, whether it’s a piercing dance or not, is an ordeal. One way for male dancers to pierce is in the chest above the pectoral muscle. A slit is cut deep down to the muscle. Then a wooden skewer or eagle claw tied to a thong is run through the cut. The thong is tied to the central tree, and the dancer dances, pulling on the cord until he breaks himself free. It takes an incredible amount of strength and willpower to do this. You pierce, if you dedicate yourself to do that, for the good of your people. The Sun Dance is a renewal dance and it’s a sacrifice. You don’t really own anything. The stuff that you have around you is all very transient. But the one thing that you do own is your own will. So I view the Sun Dance as a sacrifice of your own will, your own intention. To do something that requires that amount of will is a giveaway of your will that the Creative Spirit notices. In a sense, YOU are the only thing that you have to offer. The piercing Sun Dance is a way of offering it. And it’s not done to inflict pain upon yourself; it’s done to give part of your will to a whole world, so that the world may benefit from it.

kinds of relationships—relationships by

a real bonding that comes with choice. And

blood and by adoption. And relationship by

that kind of relationship is taken very seri¬

adoption is in some ways more important—

ously. You don’t find Indians calling each

because you can’t choose the family that

other “brother” and “sister” unless they

you’re born into, but you can choose the reb

mean it in that way. And if they say it, then

atives that you make. So when I’m talking

they mean it, and they’re stuck with it!

about my “uncle,” my “father,” my “grandfa¬

My Uncle Richard said that when people

ther,” I’m mostly speaking of adopted family.

emerged into the world, they were met by

That kind of adoption is very strong. There’s

the Creator who gave them four things: corn

56

Peyote fan (flat fan). Water bird feathers (Anhinga). Beaded leather handle. From peyote set made by Robert Tall Bull, Southern Cheyenne. (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swa^e Bounds Collection)

so that they cotild feed themselves; tobacco

shield your face from the fire sometimes.

so that they could speak with each other in

They always have a practical side! The fan is

truth; eagle feathers so that they could talk

opened when you’re using it to cedar yourself

with him; and the earth itself to live on.

off—using cedar smoke from needles that

T

have been thrown into the fire to purify yourhe way a feather is worn varies from tribe

self—or when you’re singing.

to tribe. Feathers are often carried in the

When you’re singing in Native Ameri¬

form of fans. The number of feathers depends

can Church, you’re usually kneeling on the

on the fan. A good eagle tail fan, for example,

ground. In one hand, you have a fancy gourd

has twelve feathers which is the full set from

rattle. In the other, you’re holding a staff, a

the tail. The traditional way that I know of to

bundle of sage, and—if it’s after midnight—

make an eagle tail fan is so that it will open

you’re holding your fan. The fan acts in

and close just like the bird’s tail does. Some

some ways like a radar dish that broadcasts

people make them so that they don’t move.

the prayers that you’re singing up into the

Tail fans are used mostly in doctoring and in

Creation.

Native American Church meetings to con-

Native American Church is pan-tribal.

nect you with the power of the bird—and to

Ceremonies are usually held once a week,

57 and they last: all night. You sit on the ground in a teepee or a hogan

or

you

have

“brush”

meetings. If you’re too poor to afford a teepee and you’ve got no place to hold a ceremony, you sit out under the stars in a little brush arbor. It requires great will and intention to get through the night. The purpose of the Native American Church is to be in touch with the Spirit. Meetings are only held for specific purposes: like if somebody needs a blessing, somebody’s sick, somebody’s kids are going off to school, somebody’s

born,

somebody

dies. The feather is used to communicate—to call for the Spirit. The water bird, also called the “water turkey” or “snake bird,” is one

of the

symbols

of the

Church. It is the spirit force that acts as an intermediary between the Creator and the people. The

altar

of the

Native

Peyote fan (drop fan). Ten feathers with beaded quills. Each hawk feather moves individually. Beaded buckskin handle. Made by Henry Thompson for his father, Chief Tommy Thompson, last of the traditional salmon chiefs at Celilo, Oregon (Wyam). (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

American Church, in most cases, is a low crescent moon made of earth. The

an eagle or a water bird, depending on the

opening of the crescent faces the east towards

particular branch of the Native American

the door of the teepee. The fire is built at the

Church.

horns with logs that are crossed at one end so

The water bird feathers used in the cer-

they form a V. Through the night the fallen

emony are usually made as a flat, fixed fan of

coals and ashes are moved very carefully into

tail feathers. The feathers are brown, with

the moon. By morning, the fire person will

white tips and darker markings in them.

have shaped the glowing red coals into either

They look almost like turkey feathers, only

58

Peyote fan (drop fan). Water bird feathers (Anhinga). Beaded leather handle. Gift from Nora Spanish (Blackfeet) to Doris Bounds. (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

they’re stiffer and they’re corrugated, with

eagle the chief of all the people because he

ripples. When you wave the fan, if it’s well

flew the highest. They made the bear the

made, the ripples brush against each other

war chief because he had great strength.

and make a squeaking sound. That’s consid¬

And they went through and they gave

ered the sound of the bird’s cry. Fans with

everybody different tasks to do. Then they

these feathers are dipped in water and then

said, “Who shall be our doctor? Who shall

sprinkled over people in blessing.

take care of us when we’re sick?” They

All sorts of other feathers are used by

thought about it, and finally they gave that

Native people, even hummingbird feathers.

task to hummingbird. Because he, of all the

Let me tell you a story again:

people, knows the herbs best. Because he

B

drinks from all of the different flowers. ack when the world was in the emer¬ gence time, all of the different people

So hummingbird feathers are used in doc¬

got together and appointed different ones of

toring by the medicine people. Hummingbird

them to fulfill different tasks. They made the

feathers are considered to be extremely

59

Humming¬ bird FEATHERS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE EXTREMELY POWERFUL, EXCEPTION¬ ALLY POTENT, ALMOST MALEVOLENT ENERGIES.

Dance bustle. Trimmed turkey feathers with fluff tips. Common flicker tail feathers on leather rosette, twenty'four-inch diameter (Umatilla). (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

powerful,

exceptionally

potent,

almost

somebody—that killed. It’s that they were

malevolent energies. Every now and again,

powerful. When medicine people got together,

you’ll see somebody who has a fan made

they used to do this to each other just to test

from a hummingbird’s tail. It’s a tiny thing,

each other’s medicine. It was considered if you

usually made very delicately with very fine

put yourself out as a medicine person and you

beadwork. I’ve made three of them in my

didn’t have the strength to take care of some-

lifetime, and they’re exquisitely beautiful.

thing like that, then you might as well be dead

Then there are flicker feathers. Those are

anyway—because at least then you wouldn’t

also doctoring feathers, but they aren’t quite so

be hurting anybody else!

benign. In the old days, people made a “flicker

Today, flicker feathers are used in doctor¬

arrow” by taking a flicker tail feather which is

ing. You don’t see many people who use them,

very sharply pointed at the end, biting off the

because they’re considered to be a very potent

point and spitting it into their enemy’s body to

medicine. It’s mostly the elders who have

kill him. It wasn’t their sharpness—the physical

them—people who have learned a particular

part of the feather that they were shooting into

kind of doctoring to be done with them.

60 For round, or “drop” fans, I usu¬ ally use macaw or roadrunner feath¬ ers—long, thin kinds of feathers. I I

also use the scissor-tailed flycatcher, a small bird whose tail feathers can be twelve inches long. The feathers have a black tip and a white body, but the white is oftentimes tinged with a very faint pink. Drop fans are used a lot in singing, especially in the

Native

American

Church.

They’re cylindrical in nature when they’re held, but when you start singing you let them drop open, and they explode like a starburst. The feathers drop open in every which direction. It’s incredibly difficult to describe the technique of making fans, but I’ll try to break it down a little. • Cleaning: When I get feath¬ ers, they’re usually loose. I clean them with warm water and mild soap and either air dry them or use a hair dryer, which keeps them from wrinkling up.

Fan. Tundra swan tail feathers. Handle wrapped with otter fur, horsehair drop.

• Preservation: Feathers don’t

(Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

need much in the way of preserva¬ tion. They last. If I have, for exam¬

Every bird has its own meaning, its own

ple, a bunch of macaw feathers, I’ll seal

medicine, its own way of being used. As a fan-

them in a plastic bag so that moths won’t

maker, I use feathers from all different kinds

get to them. People usually keep their feath¬

of birds. I make three basic kinds of fans: wing

ers and fans in a cedar box so that bugs don’t

fans, which are made from the wing of the

get on them.

bird, and tail feather fans, which are made in two ways—-flat like a bird’s tail or round.

• Selection: Usually when somebody comes to me to make an object, they give me

61 a selected set of feathers to work with. But if I’m making something that’s not commis¬ sioned, I’ll select feathers for aesthetic reasons, like they go well together, or they’re all the same type, or because of their size. There are some kinds of feathers that you don’t mix, like hawk and owl, because the two birds don’t get along. Hawks kill owls. I wouldn’t put together feathers from any two birds where one would prey on the other. • Materials: I use hardwood, white leather, and Czechoslo¬ vakian seed beads. The hard¬ wood is for the handle. The leather wraps the handle and feathers and makes the fringes. The beads decorate the handle. • Process: The feathers are attached by tying them on. You can either tie them on with leather, or I use dental floss! It’s very strong and it

Peyote fan (drop fan). Scissor-tailed flycatcher feathers, ring-necked pheasant tail feathers, and commercial feathers. Beaded handle with leather fringe. (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

doesn’t show. It’s a trick I learned from an Indian elder, actually. I wrap

bags are only for medicine people. If the per¬

the dental floss around the feather onto the

son has an affinity for a particular bird, I’ll

handle. I cut the fan and put the feathers on

use that feather on the bag because it has

in a very special way. Then I bead the handle

special meaning for him or her. The signifi¬

and put fringe on the bottom. But this

cance of feathers on pipes depends on the

doesn’t nearly describe the process!

tribe. If you have an eagle feather on your

Besides fans, I put feathers on medicine

pipe stem, you would have to be a person

bags, pipe bags, and pipe stems. Medicine

worthy of that. You don’t do it yourself.

62 Somebody will do it for you. If you have an

to two hundred dollars for a set of eagle tail

affinity for a hawk, or if you’ve seen it in a

feathers, people are motivated to go out and

vision, you might put a hawk feather on your

shoot eagles. Even so, you know what kills

pipe stem.

most eagles in the United States?

The significance of using a bird’s feather has very little to do with the feather itself. It has a lot to do with your relationship to the bird—to its spirit. So you could say that everything has two forms. You have the regular animal form, like the hawk, and the spiritual form of the hawk, which is, in some ways, completely different. One way to think of it is if you have a particu¬ lar spiritual affinity for a bird, then if you have the bird’s feathers you are somehow in contact with the bird’s spirit. Say you went on a vision quest and an eagle came to you in your vision and told you it was going to be your buddy. It might instruct you to go out and find an eagle feather so that you can maintain contact with it. That would be why you would have a feather—not because it’s pretty or decorative. The way I feel about working

Electrocution gets a lot of them.

The signifi¬ cance of USING A bird’s FEATHER HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH THE FEATHER ITSELF IT HAS A LOT TO DO WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE BIRD - TO ITS SPIRIT.

Road kill gets some. A lot of eagles, especially the bald eagle, which is a carrion bird like a vulture, has nothing against swooping down and eating something that’s been hit by a car. And while it’s there, the eagle itself might be hit. Aside from sort of natural causes like electrocution and road kill, the largest way eagles are killed is that they’re shot by ranchers and fann¬ ers who are under the misappre¬ hension that eagles go after their stock, which is usually not true. Many farmers and ranchers leave the eagle lying in the field. Native Americans don’t have to go out and kill eagles. If they’re registered with their tribe as tribal members, they can apply for per¬ mits from the Fish and Wildlife Service to be granted feathers from the “feather bank” and given legal permission to possess them.

with feathers is that I’m not upset¬

The feathers come from birds that

ting any ecological balance. I don’t

have been

injured and subse¬

go out and snuff birds for their feathers. I use

quently died, or were killed by poachers

live feathers—feathers that the bird natural¬

and confiscated, or died of natural causes

ly molts off. A lot of Native people do that.

and were found and turned in and restored.

But there is a black market in feathers,

It’s a nice service that prevents more birds

and it’s a bad thing. Because by getting one

from being killed.

63

Traditional dancer. (Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

ALBERT WHITE HAT, SR.’S, VISION

I

’m a member of the Rosebud

talking about creation, I’m talking

Sioux Tribe, bom and raised

about all creations on earth—and in

here on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. I’m an educator, involved in the subjects of Lakota tribal history, culture, and philos¬ ophy. I teach the language and oral history, and I sing for medi¬ cine men in ceremonies. I want to make it clear that I’m not a medicine

man

or

a

spiritual

leader, but I feel that I’m doing what

every

Lakota

member

should. We must have the knowl¬ edge of our language, history, and culture in order to practice the Lakota philosophy. Our concept of God is that

We

must HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LANGUAGE, HISTORY, AND CULTURE IN ORDER TO PRACTICE the Lakota PHILOSOPHY.

the universe. To us, God has many parts and all these many parts make one God. We don’t have a word for animal in our language. We address other creations as “relatives” or “nations,” such as “Eagle Nation” and “Coyote Nation.” This is how we work with whatever

material

we

use

from

another nation. We have to show them that respect and ask for forgive¬ ness if we take something from their nation for our use. The eagle feather comes in that form. To us, the eagle feather is part of the dress, part of the make-up of the

God’s spirit is in all creations.

eagle. The eagle is a very powerful

The evil that Christianity talks

messenger for us to all creation for

about—Satan, the devil—that concept is

our needs, whether it’s health or help or pro¬

also in every creation. Whatever is created

tection. So in taking a feather from the

has both good and evil in it. So we have this

eagle, we ask for permission. We believe that

very simple philosophy. In prayer we say,

the feather is very special because of the sta¬

“All My Relatives.” This is how we acknowl¬

tus of the eagle. We use it in ceremonies like

edge the existence of God. And when I’m

the Vision Quest and the Sun Dance and

65

Traditional dancer wearing head roach.

(Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

Traditional dancer with head roach and bustle.

(Photo

©

1992 George Ancona)

part of the outfits or costumes that we use for

dancing.

each ceremony.

who may use eagle feathers, grass dancers

We have a lot of different costumes. I’m

We have traditional dancers

who use very few feathers,

and fancy

a traditional dancer and I create my own

dancers. The young athletic men are

designs. Each dancer designs his own cos-

usually the ones who do the fancy danc¬

tume and the designs all have a purpose.

ing. It’s very fantastic dancing with a lot

Whether the eagle feather is used in a

of acrobatic movements. The fancy dancers

costume is the individual dancer’s preference.

use turkey feathers or colorful bustles.

For example, some dancers wear a head roach

They don’t use eagle feathers. Some fancy

with two feathers on it; others do not. If a

dancers wear bustles that are made out of

dancer uses the eagle feather, it is always for

owl feathers or hawk, feathers. But what¬

a reason—the individual’s reason.

ever feather you use, you show respect to

There are different categories of men’s

that nation.

If

you’re GOING TO DO a Vision Quest YOU REALLY SHOULD PREPARE AT LEAST FIVE YEARS, BECAUSE YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE RITUAL IS. Fancy dancer.

(Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

The women also have different cate¬

deer, or an eagle. When that happens, it tells

gories of dancing, but women use eagle

you that somebody is listening to and

plumes, not the feather. Both men and

acknowledging your prayers. We believe that

women can participate in the Vision Quest

the presence of the Eagle Nation, the

and the Sun Dance.

Coyote Nation, helps us in addressing the

For an ordinary person like me, the

Whole Creation to answer our prayers. We

Vision Quest is a time of reflection, a time of

use the eagle feather as a way of asking the

inner search, a time of analyzing my life—

Eagle Nation to protect us while we’re up

finding my weaknesses and my strengths—so

there on the hill for the Vision Quest and

that I can use my strengths to work on my

also to help us with our prayers.

weaknesses.

You need a sponsor for the Vision Quest,

Sometimes in the Vision Quest, you see

so you approach a medicine man. Each med¬

an animal of some sort present—a coyote, a

icine man has his own designated area for

ORIGIN OF “SIOUX” here are nine Sioux reservations in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska. The only difference among the divisions of the Sioux Nation is that we have three different dialects-L, D, and N. Otherwise, we understand each other. We identify each other by the dialects we speak. I’m Lakota. The other groups are Dakota and Nakota. I call “Sioux” a French plural at the end of a Chippewa (Ojibwa) word. Originally the Chippewa word was Nadowessi-meaning a “snake” or “deadly snake.” That’s what the Chippewa used to call us. The Dakota dialect and Chippewa continually harassed each other-not major wars or anything, but trying to outfox each other in certain things, such as trapping. Unfortunately, the anthropologists called it “Indian Wars.” It was not! It was just a little dispute or competition. Anyway, when the French trappers came into the Great Lakes area—Wisconsin, Minnesota, and up into Canada-during the 1600s (after they used up all the furs or the pelts they could get in other areas), they moved further west and ran into the Dakota dialect. And they asked the Chippewa, “Who are those people?” The Chippewa said, “They’re Nadowessi. Stay away from them.” In French, to make some words plural, you add “-oux.” Eventually the first part of Nadowessi fell out and just the word Sioux came up.

the Vision Quest. Fie might say, “Well, I

least five years, because you need to under-

have this hill and that’s where you should

stand what the ritual is. And then you do

go.” Or, a medicine man will allow you to

the final preparations for one year.

pick the hill that you want to fast on. Fie

The final preparation is your psychologi¬

might say, “You pick your hill and I will take

cal preparation and your physical condition.

you there.”

During that year, for example, you periodi¬

The “vision” you’re seeking is really

cally fast for a day or abstain from liquids for

inside of you, and you fast as long as you feel

a day, just to get used to that feeling. When

you can handle it. If you’re going to do a

the time comes, you decide how long you

Vision Quest you really should prepare at

can last, and that’s the time you do for your

69

70 Vision Quest. It’s anywhere from one to four

crown made of sage. Sometimes we make a

days. You go through a process. Then the

medallion and tie an eagle plume onto it.

medicine man will take you up on a hill and

An eagle plume might also be tied onto a

leave you there. When you go, you say you’ll

whistle. You wear the medallion and the

do it for a night and a day, or two nights and

whistle with the feathers around your neck.

two days, and when that time comes, the medicine man will come after you.

Each medicine man is a little different from the others. They have a little different

You take the eagle feather with

process all going towards the same

you on a Vision Quest, plus tobac¬

goal. And the Lakota Sun Dances

co and other offerings to the spirits. You hang the feather on a pole and usually also tie a feather on your pipe. The type of offerings depends on what the medicine man tells you to take. The eagle feather is also used in our Sun Dance. You must have a purpose to do the Sun Dance. You might make a prayer asking help for somebody’s health—a loved one. If you want a loved one to be healed in a ceremony, you might say, “You heal my loved one and I will do the Sun Dance.” The Sun Dance is a way of returning that favor. You fast during the Sun Dance. It’s optional whether you pierce or not. I have

Feathers are GIVEN TO HIM REP¬ RESENTING HIS VIRTUES OF GENEROSITY, FORTITUDE, COURAGE, AND BECAUSE HE’S REACHED THE AGE OF WISDOM.

pierced. The Sun Dance is a year’s

are like that. Each one is run by dif¬ ferent leaders. If somebody wants to dance, I encourage them to go to other Sun Dances and watch and pray and then decide which one they’d feel comfortable dancing in. The Sun Dance has come back real strong. It was underground all these years. Our whole philosophy was—because it was outlawed! 'The movement in the late sixties finally forced the government to give us the freedom, of Indian Religion in 1978. A lot of the rituals are com¬ ing back.

I

want to mention another mis¬ conception that some anthro¬

pologists

have.

They

call

the

feather bonnet that the leader

preparation. Myself, I studied for four years.

wears a war bonnet. That’s a wrong descrip¬

Then I made a pledge and did the final

tion of it. I think the title “war bonnet”

preparations for a year.

really comes from Elollywood. If a man

If you use eagle feathers in the Sun

earns the position of leadership and respon¬

Dance, you ask the Eagle Nation to help

sibility, those feathers are given to him rep¬

you. Some people use two eagle feathers and

resenting his virtues of generosity, forti¬

put them, on either side of their head in a

tude, courage, and because he’s reached the

71

Traditional dancer.

(Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

Feathered bonnet. Remade in mid-twentieth century from

Feathered bonnet. Thirty tail feathers from

older bonnet. Thirty-three eagle tail feathers tipped with,

immature eagle, tipped with red fluff.

eagle fluff. Ermine brow band. Belonged to Chief

Beaded brow band with rosettes

Tommy Thompson ofCelilo, Oregon (Wyam).

and ribbon streamers (Cayuse).

(Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon;

(Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon;

Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

age of wisdom. So the feather bonnet really

workings of that power. So there is no mys¬

represents the virtues of the Lakota people,

tery or magic in our philosophy. We don’t

the concept of All My Relations. It doesn’t

use substance to reach a certain level.

represent war.

Everything we do, we do without any aid,

Everything the Lakota Sioux do relates

without any kind of drugs or medicines. We

to the All My Relations concept. People

do it with a clear mind and physical strength

really need to understand that concept to

or ability. And this way, whatever we

understand what our symbols represent.

achieve, we know we’ve done it ourselves.

Our concept of God is the most impor¬

Many of us who have grown up on the

tant thing—that all creation is one God.

reservation have been practicing these ritu¬

We don’t have a word for Great Mystery.

als for years, and we’re still learning about

Because of our concept, we understand the

them. It’s a way of life.

73

Fancy dancer. (Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

SANDRA BLACK BEAR WHITE’S VISION

I

am a Lakota Sioux song and

dancing. The costumes we make

dance instructor at the college

don’t

on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. I also teach arts and crafts—mostly outfit making. We use feathers in the outfits that

we

make—mostly

turkey

feathers, owl feathers, and hackles from roosters. These feathers are mainly for men’s costumes in social dancing. The number of feathers used for decorations depends on the kind of outfit you want. Most fancy dancers have colorful costumes made of turkey feathers—the white or black turkey feathers— and all the colored hackles. We do a lot of tying, gluing, and taping of feathers onto different materials. We use feathers if we think they’ll

We use FEATHERS IF WE THINK THEY’LL LOOK GOOD ON OUR OUTFIT OR LOOK GOOD ON US BECAUSE OF THE WAY WE’RE DANCING.

involve

eagle

feathers.

Traditional male dancers who use bustles of eagle feathers have to get their own feathers. We also make a lot of women’s costumes—jingle

dresses,

shawl

dance costumes, and traditional dance costumes. The jingle dress is made of cones set close together and decorated on different colors of material. They make a noise, so when the women are all dancing it sounds like jingles. Feathers aren’t used on jingle dresses. For the fancy shawl

dance

costumes,

women

wear beadwork on their capes, leggings, hair ties, and moccasins, but feathers aren’t attached to these costumes either. The traditional

look good on our outfit or look

dancers

wear

buckskin

good on us because of the way we’re

trade cloth dresses.

dresses,

75

Fancy dancer.

(Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

77

Fancy Shawl dancer. (Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

78 In our tribe the only time you

I remember when we were little,

can get a feather is when you earn

we got to wear one eagle feather

it. You must have an achievement or be given a feather through other ceremonies. Women get feathers from achievements like graduating school or being in the service. We get feathers when we go through puberty. When you’re twelve years old, you go through an adoption ceremony where you get an eagle plume tied on you, and you’re permitted to keep it. An adoption ceremony is held when our parents want to honor us or think it’s time that we start learning more as becoming adults. We’re adopted by someone who can be a good role model for us. From then on that relationship continues, but we must do our share. When we go through the adoption ceremony, we have to give something of value. Most of the time it’s a big giveaway to show that from then on we have the right to wear our feathers. If we don’t do that, our elders tell us we can’t wear the feathers. Women are only allowed to wear eagle plumes. They’re worn on the left side of the hair and are usually put on a medicine wheel which is tied on the top of

In

in the headband,

sticking up.

our TRIBE THE

These feathers came from our

ONLY TIME

gave us the right to wear them—

YOU CAN GET A FEATHER IS WHEN YOU EARN IT. YOU MUST HAVE AN ACHIEVE¬ MENT OR BE GIVEN A FEATHER THROUGH OTHER

uncle or big brother veterans who but we had to return them after the dances. If you’re a Lakota man, you can get an eagle feather from any achievement. You can wear two eagle feathers on top of your head no matter what kind of a dancer you are, as long as you are a war¬ rior from the warrior society. This means that you are someone who is going to school to get an edu¬ cation and degree, someone who is working hard, someone who’s providing for a family, someone who is in the service and has helped the country, someone who is always helping the people. You

CEREMONIES. Women get

get recognition for your achieve¬

FEATHERS FROM

Receiving the feather has prayers

ACHIEVE¬ MENTS LIKE GRADUATING SCHOOL.

ment so people agree that you should wear the eagle feather. and songs behind it. Then you must always help the people, in general, to let them know you have gained the right to wear an eagle feather. You have to be humble and helpful. As a woman, I don’t feel it’s

your head. Most of our male tradi¬

unfair that we don’t have the same

tional dancers wear eagle feathers.

use of feathers as men. I wear eagle

79

Fancy dancers with plumes attached to Medicine Wheel on heads. (Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

80

81

Fancy dancers.

(Photo © 1992 George Ancona)

plumes and my kids wear eagle

women now who pierce, but not

plumes. I made sure they got their

the way men do.

Indian names when they were young and that they all went

I

We never bothered to interfere

WAS BROUGHT UP THE REAL TRADITIONAL WAY BY MY PARENTS.

with the opposite sex, because we

Now I’m

through the adoption ceremonies. The men’s teachings are a lot different from the women’s. I tried to learn as much as I could when I was growing up. When my parents were teaching us a lot of these things, my mom did it for the girls and my dad did it for my brothers.

had our own roles to play. What is the woman’s role in the Sun Dance? It used to be that women only danced on the outside. The only time the women could dance was to honor or support their male relatives. Now, because there are a lot of women who lead single lives or who work just as hard as the men, a lot of that has changed. We can participate now because it’s a time of prayer. It’s a time of giving yourself or making sacrifice or praying. There are rules, and you have to learn a lot in order to be a part of them. I have participated as a dancer in the Sun Dance. I wear my eagle plume for this sacred cer¬ emony. I help out the women. The fasting is usually four days and

PASSING THE Lakota CULTURE ON TO MY CHILDREN.

WE NEED TO TEACH OUR KIDS SO OUR CULTURE WON’T BE LOST.

Women usually

pierce on their arm. As a traditional dancer and a singer, I travel all over the United States for powwows. I see a lot of things I disagree with in the pow¬ wow world. People are really mis¬ using eagle and hawk feathers. People

are

wearing

too

many

feathers. A lot of men wear them even when nobody has given them the right. There are even kids wearing whole tons of eagle feath¬ ers that they’ve never achieved. In our rules, a lot of teachings come behind

the

eagle feather—like

bravery, wisdom, fortitude, gen¬ erosity. If people don’t honor these traditions, they don’t have a right to wear eagle feathers. I was brought up the real tradi¬ tional way by my parents. Now I’m passing the Lakota culture on to my children. We need to teach our kids so our culture won’t be lost. That’s what I’m aiming to do. I’m teaching a lot of the younger kids on the reservation, even though I’m also teaching at the college, because I think they learn quicker and can carry on our traditions. I teach them singing and dancing and outfit making, stories, different

three nights. It used to be that

rules and value systems—to keep

women did not pierce. I know

our culture alive!

83

Young dancer in headgear. (Photo

© 1992 George Ancom)

DAVID WHITE EAGLE TREE S VISION

Cherokee is my affiliation. I

the unknown and find the truth that

was bom in Southern Colorado in

is hidden in darkness there. It is

the Rocky Mountains. My fami-

Owl

called “the night eagle” because of

ly—my mother’s side comes from

FEATHERS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE u DREAM V BUNDLE.

the power that’s attributed to it—

the South; my great-grandmother was part of the Cherokee Nation in Alabama. Her husband’s family was

from

are

Mississippi.

currently

two

There

bands

of

Cherokee—the Eastern band in North Carolina and the Western band in Oklahoma. When you’re talking feathers, you’re talking quite a lot of differ¬ ent perspectives. For example, to some

tribes

the

owl

is

“the

bringer of death.” But to the Cherokee

and

up

into

the

Algonquian tribes, the owl is considered to be a favored, pow¬ erful, and sacred bird. Some of

Hawk

wisdom and bringing the dream. It was recognized among all tribes that there were basically two worlds: the world that you were awake in and the world that you were awake to dream in (the other world). You would sleep between worlds and wake up in one or the other. When someone who was a powerful dream¬ er would go into the dream world, they would meet the spirits behind

FEATHERS ARE ALSO USED IN THE DREAM BUNDLE.

different animals and plants and be able to receive teachings from them. In the Cherokee tradition, the old legend is that all of the ills of humankind were given to us by the animals. All the cures were given to

that comes from the old story you

us by the plants. One of the things

hear as a kid about the wise old

Owl did was tell the plants what was

owl.

going on. The plants decided to

That

came

from

the

Woodland people. The owl has the capacity

counterbalance the action of the animals.

to fly into the darkness, into the void, into

Here’s the way the legend went:

Ill

85

THE TRAIL OF TEARS In the 1830s, Georgia’s legislature sent missionaries into the mountains of Georgia. Gold had been discovered there in 1828 and settlers were pressuring the government to open up Cherokee land for farming and mining. The missionaries named and wrote down descriptions and locations of all the different tribal people and how much land they held. Later, the Georgia militia and vigilantes came in. They knew exactly where to go to find the tribal people, and they rounded them up. The soldiers put the Cherokee people in stockades. Then they packed the people in wagons and made them cut their own trail all the way across the country into Oklahoma. The Cherokee peo¬ ple had to go down through Mississippi through all those woods and swamps. They had to cut trees and lay them down for the wagons to be able to get through. This is one reason why so many people died. About fourteen thousand people were relocated and over four thousand perished on the trail. That’s why they called it the “Trail Where the People Cried” or “The Trail of Tears.” There are many similarities between what was done to the Cherokee and what was done to the Navajo by Kit Carson.

T

games between plants and animals—in here was a point in time when human¬ ity got a larger population. People had

lost their balanced way of relating to the earth. It got displaced. And it began to prey on the animals in an unbalanced way. The animals finally got tired of it, so they held a conference in the woods under a

order to help people to be able to walk in balance. Of course, the owl became one of the teachers of the people to bring them in balance with how to work with the animals in such a way as to not stir up their animosity. And it did it by bringing the dream!

hemlock tree. They decided that they were going to come up with different ills that

Owl feathers are the most important part

they would visit on humankind for all their

of the “dream bundle.” Hawk feathers are

greed. The owl happened to be sitting up

also used in the dream bundle. The hawk

in the tree and heard about it. So the owl

feather is the “messenger of the spirit” and

and the tree passed the word on. The cedar

helps choreograph energy. For a dream bun¬

called the council of the plants. They

dle there are some fetishes involved, also

decided to create these offsetting forces’

thread, yarn, cloth, and whatnot. The

86 bundle is placed over your head, or over the

pate. If you use a small feather on it, you’ll

head of your bed, in order to focus energy for

hold that energy in place.

the dream and to connect your intent. You

When I do a sweat, I use feathers from

create a kind of spiritual magnet, and it is

four birds on four poles in the four direc¬

your intent that is the force in the magnet¬

tions—eagle in the east, owl in the south,

ism. The dream bundle is the

raven in the west, hawk in the

object that holds that magnetic

north. The sweat lodge is basically

force to draw in. The first medicine owl that 1 got woke me up in a dream three times. It told me to go look. And I found it where it had been hit on the road that night. A medicine owl means an owl who has come to me in a medi¬ cine way—whether it’s an elder who gives it to me in a ceremonial way, or in this case, where the owl gave itself to me in a dream. My owl is really special. People have seen it coming around when I do pipe cer¬ emonies sometimes, because I use its feathers. I use its feathers for cleansing—whenever I am trying to remove negative energy. I have

a place for purification and prayer.

The

And there’s a whole alchemy of

first MEDICINE OWL THAT I GOT WOKE ME UP IN A DREAM THREE TIMES. IT TOLD ME TO GO LOOK.

energy that goes on in creating a sweat place. If you’ve got a dozen plus people inside a lodge releasing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual toxins, then you have to have your magic, your alchemy, pretty well orchestrated in order to deal with it and be able to dissipate and carry away the residual spiritu¬ al wastes. And, of course, the four powers are basic to Native Americans in dealing with that: the four directions, the four comers of the world, the four elements. The number four is a com¬

its tail and its wing feathers, and I

mon basic. It’s the axis of the world,

use its back and belly feathers on

signifying earth, the four major pow¬

fetishes and on my shield.

ers of the world, the four major powers of our

I preserved the owl by drying it with salt

experience. Each of those four directions is a

and borax. Most time the feather is really

point on the Medicine Wheel that stands for a

stable, because it doesn’t have any fat on it.

certain thing: matter, water, air, fire.

Basically, all you do is wash it, depending on

So when you’re creating a ceremony, you

the condition it is in when you find it. If the

want to create a place of balance where the

feather is split, you take a smaller feather

four powers meet in equal power. And

that’s whole and glue it to the split feather in

because it’s a spherical situation, you have

order to preserve its power, because if a

the earth above and the soul below. You’re

feather is split, then its energy starts to dissi¬

the center, which is the seventh power.

87

Dancer wearing headgear and bustle. (Photo

© 1993 George Ancona)

r

88

Headgear.

Great Homed Owl.

(Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

(Photo © NYZS/The Wildlife Conservation Society)

The feathers call in, or hold, the energy of

same type of breathing mechanism, rudimen¬

the different powers for the Spirits as messen-

tary gills, the whole nine yards. And as it

gers. We consider all of the animal kingdom

grows and changes, we go through all these

as basically our teachers. We draw upon their

different forms that you can find mimicked or

powers or their attributes to help us be more

mirrored in all the different kingdoms in

balanced. One way of looking at the human’s

nature—from the first cellular joining of the

relationship to the world is that humans are

sperm and ovum all the way through the

the accumulative total of all the creatures of the

growth and death cycle of a human being.

earth. We have within us the eagle, the hawk,

You find an echoing of life’s evolution on this

the turtle, the buzzard—everything. If you

planet and all of its forms.

look at the fetus as it is growing, it has the

Looking at this integration of all levels

make-up identical to that of the shark—the

creates a whole new perception of human’s

89 relationship to the world. And it is because we

The whole Blessing and Awakening cer¬

haven’t maintained the awareness of the inte¬

emony is done after everything is cleansed. I

gration that the world is in the state that it’s

use both eagle and macaw. The eagle is used

in. Using the animal medicine, whether it’s

as an awakener. We use the eagle feathers to

feathers or talons, or skins, or bones or teeth,

bless and awaken all objects. The macaw is a

is our way of connecting with aspects within

bird of great beauty. I use macaw feathers as

us and calling those powers forward-

the blessing fan. That imparts what¬

so that we can accomplish whatever

ever blessing it is to whatever is

it is we need to accomplish in this world, to bring things into some sense of balance and survivability.

T

he beginning of any ceremony is “to make sacred.” We usual¬

ly use sage because it’s the strongest cleansing herb. We bum it to get it to smolder. Then we spread that smoke around whatever ceremoni¬ al object we’re using. We bathe it in smoke. When we use the feather to “sweep the smoke” through the object or through the aura, we’re using the power of that feather. Different feathers have differ¬ ent powers. When I do a blessing or

When we use THE FEATHER TO “SWEEP THE SMOKE” THROUGH THE OBJECT OR THROUGH THE AURA, WE’RE USING THE POWER OF THAT FEATHER.

being cleansed and awakened. The same thing is done with people before they go into a Lodge of Purification. Different people use different fans. Some people use eagle, some owl, some hawk. I’ve used condor and peacock. I haven’t used turkey in the sweat. But I have individual turkey feathers, and I have turkey feathers on my shield, because turkey is a very special bird. Ben Franklin wanted turkey for the national bird. We call turkey “the Earth Eagle.” It’s basically a provider. It provides more on a physical level, which is very different from the eagle, which provides on a spiritual

awakening ceremony, I use three

level. The owl provides on the spiri¬

different sets of feathers. I use owl

tual level, but in the dream way.

to do my smudging and clearing. My blessing

The number of feathers we use varies

and awakening is done in two phases—Earth

tremendously, because every number has a

Mother

and

certain power. Among the Cherokee, you

Awakening is a specific ceremony for any¬

have certain numbers that are more signifi¬

thing from cleansing or blessing a house

cant than others. Seven is probably the most

to medicine objects. I do Blessings and

powerful number among the Cherokee peo¬

Awakenings on pipes and different objects.

ple: seven clans, seven basic ceremonies in a

It’s a way of making sacred and making it

person’s life, seven days in the week, seven

available, activating it.

sacred mountains.

and

Sky

Father.

Blessing

It’s the most sacred

90

Eagle wing FANS USED IN HEALING ARE VERY POWERFUL* You USE PRIMARILY THE SEVEN FINGER FEATHERS OF AN EAGLE WING*

Headdress/split-horned bonnet. White ermine crown with three loose feathers carved in patterns. Three full ermine skins hang in back; three ermine strips on each side. Large buffalo horn cut in half on each side. Recently made (Yakima). (Courtesy The High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon; Doris Swayze Bounds Collection)

T

number. Then there are the twelve planets

from Sun Dancing to counting coup in bat¬

that have human life that are part of our lin-

tle to overcoming a serious limitation can

eage, our tradition. There are the twelve

earn a feather. My owl fan is made up of thir¬

elders that make up the primary council. You

teen owl feathers that were on the .owl’s tail.

look at the thirteen moons of a year.

Thirteen, to me, is one of the most powerful

How do feathers fit into these numbers?

of all numbers.

Some of it is just tradition. You carry a feath¬

Eagle wing fans used in healing are very

er for certain things that you do. You get to

powerful. You use primarily the seven finger

wear so many feathers based on how many of

feathers of an eagle wing. The pointer

these actions you have performed. Anything

feather is the longest tip feather. There’s one

91

Traditional dancer.

(Photo

©

1992 George Ancona)

92 Chief the ceremony to receive the flame. I got a Cherokee grandmother and her hus¬ band to be the grandmother and grandfather and a couple of young people to be the chil¬ dren. The Cherokee always try to be mindful of seven generations back and seven genera¬ tions forward. When we gather herbs, or hunt, or anything like that, it’s always the Law of Seven that is applied. We pass the first seven plants, or the first seven patches, or the first seven animals that we’re hunting. We do this to ensure that the seven generations to come will have plenty. Whatever you gather, you give some to the elders to help take care of those who have gone before. Sometimes you wear a feather when you’re doing this. If you want to have that power to be able to see very clearly and dis¬ tinguish things, you might carry an eagle Iiopi bow and arrow set, 1950. (Blair Clark, photographer, courtesy School of American Research Collections in the Museum of New Mexico)

feather in your hands, or have one tied in a bundle that you have with you. Or, you might have it hanging off your bow or your

above that called the thumb; it’s shorter.

rifle when you hunt. It depends. If what you

The three other finger feathers come below

want to do is to be really able to see through

that and make up what is called a “hand” of

the woods and spot your quarry, you use a

eagle feathers. It’s used in purification and

feather in order to call in that power and see

healing ceremonies. Some people have a

the things.

“hand plus”—the full seven, nine, or twelve,

Feathers help call up and focus your

depending how old an eagle is and how big

mental and emotional forces on a specific

the feathers are.

quality. If you’re wanting your eyes to be as

I have an antler and feather bonnet. I

good as an eagle’s eyes that day, and you

used it in a high ceremony in Texas when we

want the eagle’s help, then you go through a

received a flame that had been lit by the

prayer process and take the eagle feather

Onondaga and carried around the world by

with you when you go hunting, so that you

hand. When it came back to Dallas, I was

have that part of your being enhanced. You

picked to be the Medicine Person to Dance

tap on your tie to the eagle.

93

Dancer.

(Photo © 1993 George Ancona)

Remember, humans have all

birds—and even different feathers

plants and all animals within them, and all plants and animals are the reflection outward of all the com¬ ponents that make up a human being. An animal fetish or body part activates your connection to the powers of that animal. It’s like using the dream bundle with the owl. That’s basic. Then the inter¬

off the same bird—is going to vary

Remember, humans HAVE ALL PLANTS AND ALL ANIMALS WITHIN THEM.

from tradition to tradition. What I’ve learned has been passed on to me through the lineage of the elders of the Sweet Medicine Sundance Tradition, in particular, my teachers: Chief Two Trees of the Cherokee and Harley Swiftdeer of the Deer tribe, also Cherokee. I

pretation of the power and the

honor the seven generations of the

quality you’ve given to different

past that I learned from.

ELAINE BLUEBIRD REYNA S VISION

ONE EARTH-ONE PEOPLE (The Vision of Bluebird Woman ©)

The Original Plan of Creator, Life-Giver:

We are One People, on One Earth; All life is sacred; The Earth is sacred; We must cherish and protect our Mother Earth, Father Sky above and Sacred Oceans below; The Four Races of humankind will live in Harmony with all Living Things, so that as many as Seven Generations to follow each Generation— Our Future Generations—will live. The Seven Eagle Feathers represent these Future Generations and our Sacred Ceremonies. These Sacred Feathers carry our prayers to God; Whom we call Grandfather, Wakan-Tanka, Tunkashila; That All Our Relations may live. It is One Prayer: PEACE

Elaine Bluebird Reyna (Mes tiza/Algonquian)

95

Traditional dancers.

(Photo

©

1992 George Ancona)

HARFORD COUNTY

HlSfary

THE SYMBOLISM OF THE FEATHER IN PROSE i|J ■HiTiTtfJTE The feather is a spiritual symbol for Native American Nations from east to west. In strong voice, the personal vision of the feather is explained by men and women of six different tribal backgrounds:

Apache

(Lipan and Mescalero), Cherokee, Crow, Navajo, Lakota Sioux, and Algonquian. “When you look at a feather, you have all your heart and soul in it. You feel all the anger, all the blessing that comes with it— all the tears that fall for that feather in praying for forgiveness and in seeking blessing. “The feather is a medium of communica¬ tion with the supernatural beings or our spiritual messenger. There are feathers for every occasion—for making rain, for suc¬

GAIL TUCHMAN is the author of more than thirty books, stories, and plays for children, including the Readers Theater adaptation of The Secret Garden. She has been involved in book publishing since 1970 as a writer, editor, manager, and director of a book produHH company. Ms. Tuchman lives B her husband and daughter oiES not-so-tropical island of ManhtRsf where pigeon feathers abound ■■l

cess in hunting and fishing, for protection of homes, and for curing the sick. We use them in lullabies, love songs, corn grinding, and social dancing.” —Andrew Thomas, Navajo

ISBN 0-67105-517-1 “To look through the ey would take me to that place I can see what’s real and w

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