In honor of…

Perhaps never before have I felt so in touch with my ancestors and with my presence here on this earth, as I did during the few days we spent at Pine Ridge. Over the past week, I recorded thoughts on and experiences with our relationship with the spirit world and seem to be constantly thinking of such connections.

11/4/13 – Sweat lodge is about positive mindful space, feel the spirits of ancestors. They are here to help us practice love and understanding. Tonight as I sat, the words of Little Mike, the chanting, and the heat brought forth images of passed family members. Whether figments of my imagination or signs of some sort of presence, I could not tell. I am surprised at the peace that I feel with these thoughts. The possibility of the existence of spirits has previously unnerving, yet here I feel protected by them.

11/5/13 – Tonight I prayed. Sweat lodge pushed me to the edge of panic, so I took Big Mike’s advice to heart and prayed in order to keep in touch with myself. I sat in the front row and was aware of each wave of heat emitted by the rocks. I spent the third door mouthing prayers, blessings for others, to myself. I found myself asking the universe, asking my ancestors for guidance and support. Perhaps I could channel the knowledge of my predecessors in my own life, perhaps they, who had experienced so much, could give me courage in my own life.

11/6/13 – Sitting on top of Bear Butte, South Dakota land sprawling in every direction around us, as if we have risen above the world. We are smudged with sage to rid bad energy and listen as the bear bone whistle calls out to the North, East, South, West, sky, and land, summoning the spirits, the ancestors. Prayer bundles, faded by the weather, cling to old trees. And with Little Mike’s song of prayer, I think of my own prayer. I have never been one to pray, but here, I pray. I pray for my family, because I feel close to my ancestors here. My breath full with their breath, their stories. I am scared by this feeling for a moment, and then feel that we are all one again. I hiked up here on my own, separate from the groups of people, in order to feel my breath, in order to feel the presence of those who came before me to walk this path.

11/7/13 – Road sign: “Big Foot Highway: In Honor of all the Chiefs.” The people here remember in a way that I have never experienced before. They are of the stars, of the universe. They speak in circles and emphasize their way. And they remember. There is great amount of energy dedicated to recalling ancestors, inviting spirits to visit, and maintaining their traditions. Through the Yuwipi ceremony today, this connection felt more powerful than ever as I stared desperately into the pitch black surrounding me. Through the chanting I was told to slow down, to listen. Much of my life is spent living checklist to checklist, and I forget to listen to myself and to allow myself the time to breath. Slow down and listen.

11/10/13 – We are home again now and the intensity of connecting with my past, with images and voices, has still not left me. I had a dream last night about Martha, my mom’s sister who passed away as a child. I think of her often, feel connected to her through my name, yet last night, I felt here there. I felt as though I knew her, as though she knew me. Perhaps as though we were one in the same. We were walking along a worn down path and we were learning how to walk together. I am more scared by this here than I was at Pine Ridge, perhaps because spirits belong there and we so frequently shut such ideas down here. There is much good to be learned from the visits from our ancestors, which I have grown to believe may manifest themselves in many different forms.

11/11/13 – Today I am recognizing the amount of reflecting I have ahead of me. I find myself trying to rationalize my experiences at Pine Ridge, needing to remind myself of the lessons I was exposed to and of the reality of my prayers and connections. Back in this fast paced, demanding culture, I seem to want to dismiss the voice that I heard, the images that I saw. Perhaps these were in my head, yet there is still something to be learned. Does it even matter if they were “real” or not? How is it that I want to live alongside the spirit world?

Martha White

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