The hard path, booby trapped by gnarled tree roots and granite rocks, stretched out in front of us. Our two shelties, Rascal and Scalawag, ranged ahead, checking out a myriad of smells. This would be our last hike before our annual migration to the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan where we would hide out in Priscilla's family summer home.
We were pounding along filled with the exhilaration of Spring when suddenly a strong voice broke into my consciousness.
"Sweat Otterheart before you leave."
"I don't have time for that. There are so many things I have to do yet before we can go."
"Sweat Otterheart before you leave."
"Sweat Otterheart before you leave."
I determined to ignore the voice. No way did I have time to take an afternoon and evening to do a Sweatlodge. Loralee Otterheart was a young Blackfeet woman, fairly new to our small Sweatlodge community. She was a professional Native American Storyteller and teacher. Although I liked her and found her to be a fine addition to our community, I really didn't know her yet.
"Sweat Otterheart before you leave."
"Okay! Okay!" Sometimes you just have to give up and do what the Spirits want or they will pester you to death. This was obviously important. I had no idea why.
That evening I called Loralee and told her what happened and that I would have to sweat her next week. She was bewildered as you can imagine, but agreed to it. On the appointed day we built the fire and prepared for the ceremony. It is beyond the scope of this editorial to describe the Sweatlodge ceremony, but during the third round of the sweats I consulted the Spirits. When I asked them why we were commanded to do this Inipi, they said that they wanted Loralee to be my successor. I was to teach her all that I knew. She would take over for me when I could no longer do the work.
To say the least, we were both surprised and puzzled. What could this mean? It was up to her to agree or decline. She chose to accept the task and is now assuming her place as my appointed successor within our sweatlodge community. Since that first sweat, we have been constantly reminded to get on with it. During her Vision Quest this past summer, the Spirits added even more urgency to their request.
Two summers ago, my daughter Laura was on a Vision Quest. She was shown a huge turtle with a crack running from the top to the bottom of the shell. On either side of the turtle were two people, one wearing a bear headdress, the other a buffalo headdress, and they were fighting over the turtle. Following behind was a person with his arms stretched out toward the turtle. The Spirits told her that the crack in the shell means that the turtle continent/earth is in trouble. The people fighting over the pieces didn't represent Whites and Indians; they represented people with conflicting agendas for the land. The person following behind stood for all of us who are trying to prevent the crack from becoming permanent. She was told that it is too soon to know if we can heal the crack, but that we must keep trying.
Last summer I was crying in the Sweatlodge over the mistreatment of Grandmother Earth and was clearly told to stop crying and do something. I had not been a political activist up to that point, but I got busy. I found the party that best represented my viewpoint.
The urgency regarding a successor is not that my demise is eminent, but that I will be seventy in a couple of months. Although I will continue to teach and do ceremony, I cannot physically sweat as often as I used to, and these tasks need to go to younger people. Today, with Loralee as my helper, we have eight Pipe Carriers and six Water Pourers in our small group. Each of them is learning more and more the ways of the Red Road.
As I talk with other spiritual teachers, I hear that they too are feeling the urgency. The Spirits are pushing us hard to get the work done. The time is near when people will desperately need spiritual grounding and healing.
In early August (2004) a good man, Tom Balistrieri, spoke with the blessing and encouragement of a group of Medicine Men to an audience of health professionals. These men, calling themselves the 19+1, come from the Inuit, Pueblo, Dineh, and Shoshone tribes. They meet once a year at a sacred place to share with each other. This summer they each reported that they had been told by the Spirit of Grandmother Earth that She is sick and ready to leave. I dread to think what this may mean, but it bodes great changes for all her children struggling to survive. She told them that the time for prayer is almost past. Even the time for action may be almost past. She spoke of the disregard by humankind for Her health and the health of her children: the forests, the animals, birds, fish, other humans. Tom said that these medicine men are facing the great Tetons and begging Her to stay with us a little longer.
The Hopi are widely regarded as the keepers of prophecy for all the tribes. The traditional "elderly elders, men and women in their 90's and 100's, " have opened their prophetic teachings to everyone. Several books are available, but I would recommend Thomas Mails,' The Hopi Survival Guide, which was written with the help of one of the few surviving traditional elders, Dan Evehema, a 103 year old man (at the time of the book's publishing). The Hopis teach that we are in the Fourth Age or cycle of the earth and that this age is coming to a close. This teaching is in accordance with many other prophecies. Some of the Hopi prophecies have already happened: there would be roads in the sky; there would be moving houses of iron; there will be horseless carriages; that someday we would speak through "cob webs" in the sky; that we would speak through space.
They foretold World Wars I and II and said that WWII would end with a gourd of ashes being poured on the earth (the atomic bomb). They warned that there would be a final world war. There would be another gourd of ashes that would burn brighter than the sun. The prophecies said that Hopi elders would go four times to the House of Mica (glass) on the east coast to speak with the leaders of the nations. They have already done this but have never been received in a serious way by the UN. All the signs indicate that we are near the end of the fourth world because human beings refuse to live together in respect with each other and with the Creation.
According to the Hopi, we should look for the following signs: Changing seasons and weather patterns; geological unrest; unusual volcanic activity; strange animal behavior. Do you recognize any of this? What could it mean that the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate? The North Pole is now open water. Polar bears are dying because they can't migrate. Animals are leaving Yellowstone. The Brown Pelican nests in huge numbers on an island off Florida. This year they came, built their nests, laid their eggs and disappeared. No babies were born. Off the coast of Scotland the sea birds have been devastated. Because the sea is warmer, the plankton at the bottom of the food chain have moved north. The sand eels (that live off the plankton) have died. The sea birds that survive on the sand eels have not mated and produced young (172,000 pairs of guillemots, 6,800 pairs of great skuas, 24,000 pairs of arctic terns, and 16,700 pairs of kittiwakes). These are not isolated catastrophes. Every facet of our ecosystem is under stress from the forests of Brazil, where hundreds of thousands of acres of forests have been clear cut, to the tundra of Alaska which the oil barons are determined to drill and destroy.
Is it any wonder that Grandmother is ill and ready to see this age of human callousness come to a close? You ask what you can do? Here are some suggestions which will not only help the Grandmother, but will help you survive as this fourth age winds down:
- Become an active environmentalist. We can pray and weep all we want, but the time has come to throw ourselves into the fray. Even if it is too late, we need to try.
- Do everything you can to make yourself self-sufficient. The time may come sooner than we think that commerce, food and other supplies may be disrupted. Start composting left-over food. Try planting a small garden: spend time with your plants.
- Do solar if you can. The more strain we can pull off the power plants, the less carbon dioxide is thrown into the air. In the same vein, replace your old light bulbs with the new mini-spiral fluorescents. They use much less power, give the same amount of light, and last ten times as long.
- When you replace an appliance, get one that is energy efficient.
- Recycle. The Grandmother can only absorb so much non-degradable trash.
- Buy local organic food when possible. Support growers who are not poisoning the Earth.
- Become politically knowledgeable and active.
The Bush administration has rolled back thirty years of environmental protection. For example: the courts had to prohibit mining companies from blowing the tops off mountains to get at their coal thus filling the adjoining valleys with leftover debris. Bush had rewritten the rules to allow such devastating practices which destroy not only the mountains but miles of streams, water that is badly needed by nearby communities, fish and wildlife..
Bush is changing the rules so that 58.5 million acres of roadless wilderness may now have roads built through them for logging purposes. The only protection now for these forests is to have a State Governor petition to keep the state's wilderness off limits. This administration has no concern for either the trees, the animals or birds who live there.
Nuclear power plants use an immense amount of water for their cooling systems. In some cases they use virtually all a river's water to pass through the system, killing an obscene number of fish (in the billions). Nuclear plants were being required to modify their systems in order to protect the river's wildlife. Bush has eliminated those requirements.
Power plants and factories no longer have to add air cleaning technology to their operations when upgrading their facilities. They are now free to pollute at will, thanks to President Bush.
The Navy was prohibited by the courts from using the ultra low-frequency sonar to sweep the oceans, but they continue to use the mid range sonar which confuses, disorients and harms whales, orcas, and dolphins.
In case after case, the EPA and other government agencies have been ordered to rewrite their scientists' research conclusions to show results consistent with the pro-polution/pro-business stance of the administration. Nowhere is this more alarming than in the studies of global warming. When government scientists would cite their studies showing the presence and effect of global warming, the administration either buried the studies or rewrote them. Anyone can see the effects of global warming, that the climate is changing. Sea water salinity is decreasing due to the melting of the ice caps. This change in salinity foreshadows the demise of the Gulf Stream which brings warm weather to the US and Europe. Ironically, global warming may bring our country an ice age.
We do not have the luxury of avoiding politics now nor do we have the luxury of a protest vote. This current administration must be turned out. I hate to take such a strong political position, but the Grandmother is sick. She cannot handle another four years of wanton destruction.
I write this in the name of all my relations. Mitakuye Oyas'sin.