by Marilyn Youngbird

Article #2 in our series
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Marilyn Youngbird, Chief Woman Among Chiefs, lectures internationally on the Native Way. She is a healthcare practitioner, teacher and workshop facilitator whose message of peace and healing is heartfelt and endearing.

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Last week I traveled to North Dakota from Colorado to visit my relatives who still reside on the Three Affiliated Tribes reservation. I love going home and visiting, but more often than not, I come back to my mountain home filled with deep sadness in my heart for what is happening to my people.

This morning, as I lay in my bed in the early daybreak hours praying for my sick relatives, I wondered what my grandma and grandpa, my mother and father would think if they were alive. Many years have gone by since they passed into spirit, yet memories of them filled my being and I found myself talking to them as if they were here, telling them all the news I had heard on the reservation. I spoke to all of them, but I specifically addressed Grandma because she was the matriarch and medicine woman. "Grandma you wouldn't believe all the sickness at home. There are only 600 elders left in our three Nations and most of them are suffering with diabetes. There are many other diseases our relatives are afflicted with, but diabetes is a plague.

"The elders are not the only ones suffering, Grandma, there are many young people and adults, too. I feel we have given up our powerful medicine ways and are looking only to Western medicine for help. At this time there are over 22 individuals, ranging in age from 40 to 80, who are being kept alive on kidney dialyses machines. Many of them have had their legs, hands, arms or feet amputated. In some cases, both legs and arms have been amputated."

At some point during this one-sided conversation, I drifted off to sleep. Time elapsed, as the day broke. I was still in a light sleep when I heard a knock on the window, and then another knock that woke me fully. I turned to look at the window and saw thick swirls of white mist drifting by. As I watched the floating mist, I remembered how Grandma would communicate with the sacred elements of life, which revealed to her detailed and complete stories of the present and future. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window at the front of the house. Through the window I saw memories of my childhood floating by in the mist, taking me back to Grandma's traditional teachings and our way of life.

Grandpa and Grandma were the Center of our culture and they held our Circle of Life strong and tight. Their ornate wood burning stove was always covered with pots and pans filled with wonderful food from the vegetable garden, and they opened their home to every human being that stopped by. Grandma would say, Food is one of the most powerful medicines of life. When you cook, always remember your hands are sacred - handle the food with unconditional love. Remember your thoughts and words are your prayers - put good prayers into the food so the people you feed will heal from your prayers.

All the grandchildren loved to stay at their home, and we especially loved to sleep with them. I can remember waking in the morning, lying between my grandparents, listening as they quietly shared their night dreams and their work plans for the day. Most of the time I hopped out of bed right along with them and participated in their greeting of the rising sun prayer ceremony.

On one particular morning, when I slept longer than usual, they left me in bed, making sure I was securely covered with Grandma's homemade quilts, and proceeded with their work. When I awoke, I couldn't find Grandpa and Grandma in the house. I thought they must be in the garden working with their corn children and their two sisters beans and squash. (That is now Grandma referred to them - her three sisters.)

Wanting to say my prayers in the traditional manner, I opened the door and walked out onto the porch. Closing my eyes, I raised my arms and hands toward the sky. Just as I started to pray, I heard a gunshot and, at the same time, something stung the top of my right hand sending sharp pains circulating throughout my body. I froze. Instinctively, I opened my eyes, looked at my hand and then looked up into the brilliant green-blue sky. Almost turquoise, it looked just like the ocean, but the ocean was upside down; there wasn't a cloud to be seen. Something was falling from the sky and I stretched out my arms to try to catch it, but it fell on the wooden porch next to my feet. It was an Eagle. Still alive, it had been shot in its right leg and much of the flesh had come off, some of it lying on the porch floor. The Eagle's eyes were open and it was looking directly at me. I was so scared I started to cry. Drawing from the wisdom Grandma had instilled in me from the time I was born, I told the Eagle, "I will help you." I turned and ran into the house. Remembering where Grandma kept her dishtowels, I grabbed one of them and ran back out to the porch where the Eagle lay.

As I bent down to pick up the Eagle, it spoke. "We don't have much time," he said. "They are coming to get me."

While he talked, I wrapped the towel around his leg and, picking up his flesh, put it in the towel, too. I was crying very hard and told the Eagle, "I will hide you."

"It will do no good," the Eagle said. "Soon, it will be against the law for you to have me."

"I will put you in Grandma's basement," I told him, and though he protested, I carried him down there anyway.

He told me, "You cannot stop them. They will be here soon. Stop your crying; I have something to show you." In the next moment I was observing a scene, like a movie. There were many different people in a room, a room that was not familiar to me. Men and women were dressed in odd clothing that I later realized were business suits and dresses. They were drinking alcohol, dancing, making jokes, laughing and necking in lustful way. My eyes were frozen on this scene, which meant nothing to me at that time. I did not know these people. In the middle of the room was a potbelly stove. The Eagle said to me, "Take my flesh that has fallen from my leg and cook it on top of the stove."

I got one of Grandma's fry pans and put in on top of the stove. I asked the Eagle, "How do I cook it?" He told me to cook it like hamburger. I didn't want to do it, but the Eagle told me to, and so, obediently, I did. After the flesh was cooked, he told me to eat some. I didn't want to, but again, I obeyed the Eagle's command. I put some of his flesh in my mouth, but I could not eat it. Gagging, I ran towards the door to spit it out.

When I opened the door, the scenery had totally changed. Pure white snow covered all of the earth and the sky was the most beautiful blue I had ever seen. The sun was shining brightly and the snow, glistening and sparkling with stars, was so brilliantly white that I couldn't bear to look at it. I spit the Eagle's flesh onto the snow and hurried back into the room. Crying very hard I told him, "I am so sorry. I could not eat you."

He said, "I know. You are my sister; that is why you could not eat me. Now," he said, "I want you to offer my flesh to all the people in this room." So I did, and they didn't seem to notice me, but they ate the flesh I offered to them. When I was finished, the Eagle said, "These people are the ones you have to watch out for."

Just then there was a knock at the door and standing in the doorway were two men dressed in blue uniforms. They had come for the Eagle. I cried and begged them not to take him, but the Eagle said, "It is all right." Tearfully, I watched them carry him to a very large airplane that had landed on the sparkling star-snow covered earth.

All this happened while Grandpa and Grandma were working with their children and sisters in the garden. When they returned I told them what had happened. They made no fuss, acting as if they had already known. They recognized that this was a vision - a vision that would help prepare me for my journey on this physical plane.

Grandma told me all that I had seen would come to pass in my lifetime. She said, "You will experience a time when humanity will suffer a great spiritual famine. There will be many false prophets. These prophets will take our sacred medicines and use them to gain self-importance and self-recognition. They will destroy the essence of life the Creator has bestowed upon us. Once it is destroyed there will be no human being that can mend the circle. Pray for them. Pray that they will find their self-identity and learn who they are. Have pity on them; teach them in the most sacred manner as your ancestors have taught you.

"You will experience a time when the food, water and air will be so contaminated that unknown sickness will breed like mosquitoes on a polluted pond. Remember the elements are the true medicines of life; there are no others that can compare or replace them. Only the Creator, the universe and our mother Earth can make the air, water, fire, food and minerals. When these sacred medicines have been destroyed, so too will humanity and all other life.

"Stay in the sacred Circle of Life. Work hard to mend it when it gets tattered and torn. Stay humble and you will hear and understand the voices of the wind, rain, fire, trees, stars, earth, universe, and animals - the winged creatures, those that crawl on and in the earth, those that live in the water. Speak for those whose voices can't be heard. The children of all nations include all life's children. Watch out for those who eat the Eagle's flesh. They are not our brothers and sisters."

Grandma knocked on my window this morning, wrapping in mist my childhood memories of her sacred wisdom traditions, and moving them through time. Her prayers are my prayers. Chief Woman Among Chiefs.

Marilyn Youngbird
©2002 Marilyn Youngbird

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Editors note:

Marilyn's Pathfinder series offers an opportunity for visitors to understand the roots of the Native Way and to share in experiences gleaned from the life journey of our honored presenter. She looks forward to your questions; they are valued and welcomed.

We wish you well on your journey.

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