As a young child I often heard the story of my great, great grandparents, they were born in Wales recruited by LDS missionaries in the mid-1800’s left their poverty, hunger-filled dark existence came America, and settled the promised land. They crossed the ocean and landed in St. Louis, from there they traveled to Salt Lake City on a wagon train.
One polygamist elder took a native American as a second wife and thus began 150 years of secrets in my family. A hundred years later I was born. My father one of six children was encouraged to get educated, though his greatest pleasure came from trekking the wilds of Idaho. Summertime was the season for me to tromp in the wilderness as my father was a forest ranger. I remember eagerly listening to the evergreen’s murmurs, hearing the winged ones call out their songs and being thrilled by wild animals in their domain interacting with their families.
Startled awake by a dream one night, in which an elder Native Woman had her arm around me and whispered the stories of the family of life, including that our true homes are stars and to the stars we shall return. She shared that at night when we go into the dark, the winged ones came from the stars to protect us and help us recall our commitment for walking on this earth. All peoples, all religions, trace their roots to the one Great Tree of Peace. Through perceiving the common factors of human condition and mind, we see ourselves as relatives in the Family of Life…These teachings are like a road map: they guide us to live each day in full recognition of one’s relationship with the world. We are reminded that the power to manifest peace exists in each of us.”
Not all my dreams reflected this form of communing for I also had a repeated nightmare of walking through a great forest, approaching a meadow and witnessing white men killing a brown skinned being. The murderers saw the child and the chase would begin. Running, running in danger and waking up screaming.
From my earliest memories I recall tremendous pride in being 100% Welch. A pure blood amongst a melting pot nation. My mother’s father died when I was fifteen and it was at his Mormon funeral service that a story was told of his grandmother, my great grandmother being an Indian. First surprised and then excited at this news, I began to understand my fascination with the Lewis and Clark expedition and the now famous guide, Sacajewia.
In time I would ask my parents for more information and was told I heard wrong…this ancient ancestor was not Indian but Italian. I was informed to never again speak of this distorted tale.
After this I began to receive a label in the family as dishonest. Each time I referred to our native blood, I would be squelched with not Indian, Italian.
Being raised in the 50’s and 60’s, I was indoctrinated to believe that a woman’s goals should be homemaking, teaching and maybe nursing. Upon graduating from high school I desired to enter the field of pharmacy but chose to marry and go into education. In my early 20’s I developed a growth in my pituitary gland in my skull and in time was forced to leave my job as a mathematics/science teacher and writer. After one year in Western medicine and the directive to have my skull cut open for exploratory surgery a loud insistent call came from deep within me to return to the land, to die.
My sojourn to the land brought back an instinctual intimacy with the earth. The sweet Mother Earth became my best friend. Her heartbeat strengthened mine. I turned to meditation and altered mind states to step out of constant pain, a poignant scene presented itself. During my darkest time of life, when death was also my close companion, I dreamt of a Native American woman dressed in white leather holding a branch of alive green growth, coming out of a dark, cold, stagnant forest. Initially as I reflect back I was startled with the clarity of her person-hood. This point began a deeply intuitive relationship with this spiritual female Indian guide. In 1981, I had the good fortune of meeting the medicine woman Brooke Medicine Eagle.
Brooke, like many teachers to come in my life is a mixed blooded healer. Thus, what she shared often has come under great scrutiny and judgment by both the ‘traditional-true blood’ indigenous people and by the pure white Anglo Saxons. I began wondering why truth contains qualifiers. “A true teacher, a real shaman, a tremendous teacher all must have some kind of authentic, time-honored credentials or blood rights.”
I studied with Brooke Medicine Eagle and her description of the elder sister, White Buffalo Calf Woman, a spiritual messenger, fit my inner seeing and thus I began to relate to this guide as such. As the myth is told of the Elder Sister, she returns to the land when the people forget why they have chosen to be here. WBCW gave the people tools to help them remember their commitment to walk the good, true and beautiful pathway in good relations with all the family of life.
For 35 years I have had the privilege of traveling and participating in numerous Indigenous ceremonies and training’s. Without calling myself a Native American, I have always been recognized as one and this has been a constant rub to my blood family. Newspaper articles have described me as Indian and my family has created a tower of disrespect towards me.
For years I spoke publically towards saving Castlerock ie. Eagle Rock land in East Boise. I remember going into the court House and downstairs to the deed room to research my great, great grandpa Lewis to prove him a landowner over 100 years ago while there I saw the sign which said:
Since white man took the land from the Indians
He’s given back. . .
promotion of abuse
Even though my great, great grandpa William Lewis was a territorial commissioner and helped to make this portion of land a state, I felt shame for the way we have pushed our ways on the indigenous peoples. How we blatantly disregard their sacred religiosity in which they honored all things as ONE, one family interconnected whether it be the rock people, thunder beings, two legged, four legged, winged ones, those that creep and crawl, the waters, stars and Castlerock.
Before the Native American would take any action they would call for a counsel. In a prayer filled manner, asking for the highest good, they called for guidance. As they formed their opinion, it was required that:
they recognize that every action will be held accountable for seven generations to come.
a portion of their focus would be to hold the needs of the children.
the elders would be consulted and respect
And in deep prayer I remember the story:
. . .”Tell me now, Oldest Mother, why did the old Man, the Lord
of the Lightning, let the white men take our lands?”
. . . .she drew a big circle that surrounded all the little
circles. “These little circles are all the little nations and
all the little religions of the world, but the big circle is the
one big nation and the one big religion that encloses them all,
and means them all and knows them all just as a mother quail
draws all the chicks of her brood under her spread wings and
loves them all as a mother should.
Long ago , all our people were united in love and knowledge. The wise old chiefs and the wise old women taught the children how to grow up and be good and to love one another. All the land belonged to all the people and all the children felt that every man or woman was father or a mother. So there was no hurt child wandering alone and unloved, and there was no old person unattended.