THE WEEPING WATERS POWWOW PROSE

The original powwow prose readings are reprinted here, with their authors‘ permission.


A WHITE SOARING BIRD
(Excerpts from presentation at Powwow)
by Barbara Callahan Quin


Tell us a story, Grandmother," Heather Rainbow said. The old woman, seated on her favorite rock, pulled her worn but still brightly colored woven shawl around her shoulders. Upon the suggestion from Heather, the children of the village gathered around their elder. Though she was not, in fact, grandmother to all of them, the children looked to her as such and, like grandchildren, they were always eager to hear the stories she told.

"What story shall I tell you?"

One boy, James Burning Stone, offered with enthusiasm, "Tell us about the time Laughing Duck fell out of the canoe and had to swim like a fish to the shore!"

"That's an old story," Bretta Clear Water said. "Tell us something else, Grandmother."

"But that is a good story, James, is it not?" the Grandmother asked, her kind gaze reassuring the boy. "It is good for a laugh, and laughing is good for your spirit. Do you all know that?" Some of the children nodded with understanding, some did not. "It is good to laugh and have fun, to play and sing in the sunshine, to skip and pick wildflowers in the fields. It is good to not be so serious all the time, Bretta. But it is also good to be serious sometimes. There is a time for work and a time for play. And who is to say that work cannot be fun? The Great Spirit has given us all work to do and we should do it with joyful, happy hearts."

The Grandmother was loved among her people for her wisdom, and especially her ability to teach the children. She taught them about life by telling them stories that they could understand, by walking with them in the woods or by the river, by teaching them how to love one another and how to love themselves.

The Grandmother turned to Heather Rainbow, who had asked for a story. "What kind of story would you like to hear, Heather?" Heather shrugged and grinned shyly, looking down at her hands. The Grandmother smiled with knowing and invited Heather onto her lap. The other children gathered close at the Grandmother's feet, their tanned faces looking up with expectation.

"I have told you many things," the Grandmother began. "But still you are very young and have much to learn. You will have long and happy lives if you learn to do the right things."

"The right things?" Heather asked. The Grandmother nodded.

"First of all, you must always honor the Great Spirit. Each day, when you wake up, look toward the sky where the Sun appears and give thanks to the Great Spirit for the new day.

"Next, you must honor the Earth. She is your home during this time and to have a good home you must take care of it. That is why your teepees are swept clean each day, so you will have a good place to sleep each night. This means being thankful also for all the bounty that the Earth has given you, the plants and animals for food to eat, the lakes and rivers for water to drink and to cleanse your bodies, and the valleys in which to build villages to live and play. She is your home, this Earth. She was given to you by the Great Spirit, but you must respect her and take care of her or she will not be a good place to live.

"Finally, but very importantly, you must love yourselves and you must love each other. Do not be deceived by your differences. Do not mistake them to mean that James is smarter than Bretta because he likes to laugh, or that Bretta is better because she understands her lessons well.

"I am not your grandmother," she said to the children.

"But, are you not my father's mother?" Heather asked, her brow creased in confusion.

"It is true that I brought your father from my womb, but I am not your grandmother and he is not your father."

The children frowned and looked bewildered at this information. The Grandmother smiled gently and continued. "It is the Great Spirit that is your father and your mother and your grandfather and your grandmother. And it is that the Great Spirit works through each of us, your mothers and fathers, your brothers and sisters, to bring about the will of the Heavens."

"But what does the Great Spirit look like?" one boy asked.

The Grandmother's eyes sparkled as she answered. "Have you looked into the still water of the pond, Henry Thunder Cloud?"

"Yes," the boy replied.

"What did you see there?"

"Sometimes I see fish swimming by," Henry said with a big smile. "I try to catch them!"

"I see rocks at the bottom," another child said. The Grandmother looked at Heather, sitting quietly on her lap.

"What do you see, Heather Rainbow?"

Heather seemed hesitant to reply, and then she ventured carefully, "Sometimes, I see a face, my face, and it dances and laughs and sometimes cries when I throw rocks into the water or when the wind blows across the pond."

The Grandmother nodded. "What does the Great Spirit look like? It looks like the fish, the rock, and your favorite tree, someone beloved to your heart. The Great Spirit looks like... you, and you, and you!" She pointed to each child.

"You mean, I am the Great Spirit?" James asked with amazement in his voice.

"You are like a sunbeam, shooting off from the Sun. As a sunbeam, you are not the Sun, but the Sun is in you, making you bright and strong," the Grandmother explained.

"I am strong," Henry announced, standing up and puffing out his chest. "I shall be a warrior who is brave and strong and I will conquer many enemies!"

The Grandmother gave Henry a stern look. "You do not know what true strength is, what bravery is, Henry Thunder Cloud," she said. "True strength is not measured by the number of men you kill, or by the number of buffalo skins you bring home from the hunt. True strength is in the heart and is measured by your capacity to love.

"When you are strong and bright, like a ray of the Sun, you will be healthy and prosperous and happy. You will see all things clearly for what they are. But when you forget to honor the Great Spirit, to honor Mother Earth, to love yourselves and one another, when you are afraid, then shadows appear and your sunbeam is not so bright."

The Grandmother paused. Nearby a dog barked as it chased a rabbit. A gentle breeze wrapped around the little group, cooling them in the late summer afternoon heat. Water lapped at the banks of Two Fork River. Grey-white puffs of smoke rose slowly from the campfires being prepared to cook the evening meals.

"I shall tell you the story of LittleCrow WalkingEagle, who was afraid much of the time and who doubted the beauty in her soul. LittleCrow WalkingEagle did not believe that the Great Spirit loved her as much as the others. She was sad and her heart was heavy. Then one night, LittleCrow WalkingEagle had a dream that the Great Spirit came down from the Sun, disguised as True Heart, and talked with her."

"What did the Great Spirit say?" asked Anna Twin Feather. "This is the dream of LittleCrow Walking Eagle," the Grandmother said, and began to tell the story....

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RETA STEWART ALLEN'S VIEWS ON FAITH


RETA STEWART ALLEN
Photo by John Schultz

Reta Stewart Allen, president of the Springfield Writers’ Guild, participated in a two-way dialogue with Wanda Sue Parrott in which she responded to questions for and as a Christian. She also read a synopsis of her children’s book “Princess Sighing Dove” that was being considered for publication at the time of the powwow. We withheld publication of the synopsis to protect the contents under consideration.

Q. --Reta, you're a Christian. I'd like to run something by you. As you know, my Trail of Tears poem has several references to Christian hypocricy involving things white men did in Jesus' name to Native Americans back in 1839. For instance, they believed Indians were savages not fully possessed of souls like white men's. They justified their behavior by believing Native Americans were less-than-human and their belief in Spirit was considered both primitive and evil. As a modern Christian, who is not a Native American, you wrote an inspired children's book about a Native American girl, Princess Sighing Dove. How did you reconcile any of your own possible religious conflicts when the spirit--or muse--moved you?

A. I believe there is only one Great Spirit, the Lord God Almighty. Native Americans may not have called Him by the name we do, but they worshiped Him in all the ways He made Himself known to them.

Q.What might those ways have been? Did He make himself known through such eerie things as ghosts, as well as natural elements Indians called spirits of insects, animals, plants and even ancestors?

A. Sometimes people get “spooked” by the mention of spirits.

Q. What causes their fear? Do you believe you've ever been scared by negative spirits?

A.It’s true that there are evil spirits. I have had many harrowing encounters with them in my life journey, including involvement with “new age” groups, reincarnation and séances.

Q.These are topics we often discuss here at The Oneness Center in an open-minded way. I frequently refer to the Greater Muse and Greater Light interchangeably as substitutes for Spirit or God mainly because Muse and Light are non-religious, non-political terms and they don't ruffle anyone's feathers! Do all Christians feel toward new age groups, reincarnation and seances as you do, or is there a specific segment of the Christian community that has had experiences like yours and, therefore, shares your feelings? Please enlighten me, if you are so moved, about your beliefs.

A. Satan has an army of evil angels that seek to destroy us. But not all spirits are evil. The Bible even speaks of the spirit as a part of man, along with our soul and body. And there is the spirit of things not human, but alive nonetheless. For example, the spirit of beauty in nature’s various forms of life, from the smallest violet to the giant elm, from the tiny working ant to the soaring eagle. Our Native American forerunners knew that right well. Then there’s emotions like love and joy which “lift our spirits.” There’s also the spirit of enthusiasm and teamwork that we call “getting in the spirit.”

Q.So, what do you believe the Native American term Great Spirit means?

A. Of course, the greatest spirit of all is the Holy Spirit of God.

Q.In Indian tradition, the birth of a pure white buffalo calf was a sacred sign of the Great Spirit's manifestation in physical form. The very existence of multitudes of Indians depended on buffalo, whose needless near-total massacre in the late 1800s by white men must have been as significant to Native American spirituality as the crucifixion of Jesus was in Christendom, though the endings are very different.

In 1968 I was named Honorary Chief of the White Buffalo Tribe, a group of Native Americans from all tribes who left their reservations and moved into Los Angeles to receive job training and help with social skills. They studied in a workshop named after, and operated in the spirit of, the White Buffalo.

Alas, alcoholism, depression, illiteracy, suicide and widespread death from disease before age 50 followed the descendants of the once-proud, free ancestors into the city, where they and the White Buffalo eventually vanished in the shadow of White Man's influence. I was a reporter on The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. Through coverage of the Native Americans' plight I became aware of, and interested in, my own small amount of Indian ancestry. At that time, I thought it was Cherokee, but now know it was Chickasaw.

To memorialize the White Buffalo, the Unknown Indian who helped me write my Trail of Tears poem was given the honorary title "White Buffalo--Honorary Muse of all Native Americans" by webmaster Al Baker. No spiritual redemption or sacred resurrection is involved in the White Buffalo story--to my knowledge. How does this compare to the Christian story that dates back around two thousand years?


A. On the third day after God’s own Son died on the cross for us in payment for our sins, He rose from the tomb and spent forty days walking and speaking with His disciples, not as a spirit, but in the flesh. Then, when He was ready to ascend to His Heavenly Father, He told the disciples He would still be with them, and in them, by His Holy Spirit. That’s still the way Jesus is with us today when we invite Him into our lives and hearts. We can count on living with Him forever through God’s Holy Spirit.
If you want to know more about the true Great Spirit—the Almighty Creator, His Son, and His Holy Spirit—read His Book.





TECUMSEH
The famous Indian referred to by Yvonne Londres was Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief who predicted the great earthquake of 1811, now known as The New Madrid Quake, that caused the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to run backward.
DEAR GREAT GRANDMOTHER:

(Excerpt from writings about Jesus, spirits and Native American spirituality)

by Yvonne Londres


The Quakers honored religious insights, and even considered a trance that a famous Indian went through as an authentic spiritual experience, and recognized it. . .

Where many Christians were hateful and cruel, not all were. . .

Thank goodness the Quakers were kind and put value and recognition into their views, thus making a Christian and Native American combo faith that they both loved and worshipped together. . .

Jesus talked about spirits all the time and some Christian religions are really into that.
Yvonne Londres, 2008-2009 Senior Poets Laureate Poet Poster, is a Christian poet who lives in Texas. She has attuned with the spirits of Native Americans most of her life, and is a dedicated contributor to Native American causes, especially for children living on reservations. She is sponsor of a new literary prize, the White Buffalo Poet Laureate Award listed in the Ceremonies & Prizes section.


PREYASI'S TRIBUTE

(Personal essay by an Apache chief’s great granddaughter who came out of the closet at the powwow)

by Mandy Barke

(as Preyasi*)



Photo by
John Shultz
Photo courtesy of
Amanda Barke
Today I’d like to pay tribute to all the Native Americans who passed through Missouri’s borders. The Osage lived in Northern Missouri and traveled south to hunt in our area. The Kickapoo lived here in the Springfield area and the Delaware lived here as well. Many tribes were forced through our borders along the Trail leading west.

There’s no way to mention every Native American Tribe that passed through Missouri around 1830. The most notable tribe to pass through here was the Cherokee along the Trail of Tears in March, 1839.

Nearly two centuries have passed and the horrible chapter in the American Legacy has been nearly forgotten. The thought of all the thousands of men, women and children being herded across the Mississippi River like cattle sickens me to the point of depression.

The horror they faced as they were forced from their homeland must have been unimaginable. They labeled this area “The Land of Weeping Waters” because of their painful journey.


Apache Girl
Photo by Edward Curtis foremost American photographer of the southwestern Native American culture
From early childhood I was aware of my Native American blood, but thought little of it. When someone asked about my heritage, I would smile and sarcastically say, “I’m an all American Heinz 57”. It was a good way to say I don’t know, nor do I care.

Today, I am proud to claim my one-eighth Apache heritage. My only resemblance to my Apache relatives was the bone-straight dark hair that once fluttered to my waist. It looked a little strange with my blue eyes and became the source of many exotic nicknames in high school. “Xena,” “freak” and “half-breed” were among the nicer comments. As a young adult I couldn’t wait to cut it off and dye it a hundred different colors. But, today I’m trying to get back to my Native American roots by letting my hair grow.

America is a melting pot of many heritages. That's what makes this country what it is today. My great grandfather was a chief, although the tribe is still unknown. Over time I've learned that we should be proud of our heritage because no matter how far we run, it will always be running beside us. The souls that passed through this land so long ago still reside in the quiet places. Every breeze that brushes the land, every rippling stream whispers the names of the fallen and the survivors. Time cannot erase the wounds of the past. But, we must not forget them.

If you find a quiet place and listen you can still hear them running wild and free all over these hills. As the wind blows through my hair I can still feel them. They are part of this land and they will never be forgotten.



Where are All the Indians Now?

A CONTEMPORARY LOOK AT NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE IN THE OZARKS
by Yvonne Erwin



Yvonne Erwin
Photo by John Schultz
Where are the Indians living in Southwest Missouri? When Wanda asked me to write this piece, I became curious. I wanted to know what percentage of our population in Southwest Missouri has some claim to being Native American. I learned the percentage of Native Americans in Greene County is 1.5%.

In checking the Missouri State University research site, I found there are currently 8,857 American Indians residing in Southwest Missouri, 1,142 in Springfield alone.

While American Indians have integrated into non-Indian culture in many ways, American Indians are still dedicated to the preservation of their traditional culture and values. These values include:
  • Family or clan – the family gives security and identity.
  • Transmission of Culture – by word of mouth, not by writing down.
  • Peace – Cosmic harmony is sought. The individual is concerned with the entire cosmos. Religion is a way of life, sacrificial, symbolic.
  • Health – the body and soul are one. Health is synonymous with the harmony of body and soul with nature.
  • Time – Live in the NOW.
  • Willpower – striving to restore harmony.
  • Happiness – spiritual harmony.
Unfortunately, many Indians live in poverty, many are undereducated and many suffer health issues. The Southwest Missouri Indian Center serves the Indian population in 21 counties in Missouri. The SMIC provides low-income American Indians who meet the income criteria with emergency services; such as food, clothing and household goods. The center exists primarily on donations.

Native Americans are also provided counseling services in the areas of child abuse, alcoholism, substance abuse and other areas. The Center is also active in promoting relations between Indians and non-Indians.

Where are the American Indians in Southwest Missouri? They work, they raise their children, they walk alongside non-Indians every day. You might want to visit them at:

SOUTHWEST MISSOURI INDIAN CENTER
Ken Estes, Director
543 S. Scenic Drive
Springfield, Missouri 65802
Phone: 417-869-9550
E-mail: swmoindiancenter@hotmail.com Web: www.swmoindiancenter.com