The Spring/Summer Gathering of The Free Cherokee, at Dragon Hills in Georgia, was the best Gathering we have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. We arrived early and participated in an Inipi Ceremony to release Sun-at-Dawn's Spirit from any obligaton that she felt she might have with The Free Cherokee. An Inipi was held to honor her and to release her Spirit. It was very emotional, however, we could feel her presence there with us and it gave closure to us . We pray that it also gave closure to her.
People started arriving by the dozens and we all came together as one family. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We met some people for the first time and easily became friends. It was like one large family. Of course, we were also happy to see the many people that we knew from previous gatherings; and, to meet in Chief's Council again, as we do every year at this time. The Chief's Council welcomed Chief Greyfix ThunderCrow and The Deer Clan of East Tennessee to The Free Cherokee. Several people received their names. It brought back memories of a time long ago when CrowTalker received his name at Dragon Hills. I painted a black crow on a stone and left it by the fire ring...maybe some of you remember seeing it.
We want to say congratulations to our new Principal Chief, Desert Wolf, who was nominated by The Women's Council and accepted by The Chief's Council. To our "old" Chief we say, "We love you and your sweet Little Knife. You have kept The Free Cherokee going and we sincerely appreciate that. We hope you can slow down to full throttle now".
We want to also congratulate Laughing Otter as the new Chief of the Turtle Clan. CrowTalker was named Peace Chief of The Free Cherokee. He and Laughing Otter, Warrior Chief, will be working together to maintain balance in The Free Cherokee.
Our greatest adventure in going to the Gathering in Georgia was our trip on the way home. Our old van got us to Georgia early in the week before many others had arrived. It got us around during the gathering, but the trip home was a different story.
We started home on Monday a.m. and made it to Dallas, GA where our van stalled. Tim's dad saw us stranded and said his son (Tim) was a mechanic just down the road. We spent a day and half at a garage in a junkyard. Tim did as much as he could, however, Nellie was getting old and he didn't think she was going to make it home. We were invited to spend the night with Tim and his family. We left there on Tuesday afternoon and checked in early at a Motel in Tennessee on Tuesday Night. We started out the next morning, refreshed and looking forward to getting home and then it happened..... just South of Jellico Mtn...... the engine locked up. CrowTalker and Hawk were trying to figure out what to do, when a I-75 Emergency Traffic vehicle showed up. CrowTalker called AAA and a guy showed up right away and put the van up on his truck...
Do you know you can not rent a car with cash, nor can you rent it one way? You can rent moving vans though ( one way and with cash). CrowTalker, Hawk and the tow truck guy unloaded Nellie's cargo into the truck. The guy looked puzzled when they started unloading the stones CrowTalker had purchased in Georgia (240 lbs.). By the time Hawk finished telling him about the stones, I came out with the keys to a 20 ft. moving van. We gave Ole Nellie to the tow truck driver and headed on home. We miss Nellie, however, she has been replaced with a nice, clean maroon van five years newer.
After returning home, we enjoyed a visit with old friends. Brenda Flies With Crow from Florida, my Mom and myself visited Grandmother Earth Sister and Grandfather Richard in Morgan County. Earth Sister is our "Sweet Grass Lady". If any of you want to purchase Sweet Grass....this is the place to go or call. She is a Navajo Grandmother that takes her dish pan and a pair of scissors to her patches of Sweet Grass...she cuts it, braids it and hangs it on a clothesline on their enclosed porch, to dry. Her braids are sometimes 30 in. long and so fresh. They sell and ship sweetgrass braids all over the world. If you need some for ceremony, please let us know and we can contact her. Earth Sister, with urging from Brenda Flies With Crow, presented us with our first bumper sticker for our van, "Dancing to the Beat of a Different Drum".
Before we came to the Gathering we participated in a Medicine Wheel "Around The World" Ceremony on Saturday May 8th. People gathered around noon at the state park for a carry-in luncheon picnic. The activity had been announced on the Inter-net. Ceremonies were held in certain sacred sites throughout the country and elsewhere. Locally a place called Ash Cave was selected for the ceremony. This place was significant since it was a communal gathering place that contained the ashes of many fires of our ancestors (hence its name Ash Cave). A beautiful waterfall cascades from the top of the cliff. The cave looks like a Southwestern cliff dwelling but without buildings.
An ancient Four Directions staff was carried from the West to be the center-piece of the ceremony. There was a flute player, and people brought personal drums and a PowWow drum. By coincidence the Ohio University symphony was giving a free outdoor concert of electric flute music at Ash Cave. At three P.M. to coordinate with noon-time ceremonies on the West Coast, the ceremony began with prayers around a circle. When it ended, most people stayed for drumming and singing. A special performance was also given by a Hoop Dancer. It was a good time. Children and adults were playing in the water and the waterfall, and different people from various places were meeting for the first time. It was in keeping with the spirit of the place. Native song and language was heard again in the hills and woods around the enormous open cave.
At the ceremony we met a group of people who had come down for the weekend at a twelve acre retreat near where we live. We were invited to a bonfire at the property, and soon made many new friends who shared our interests. Over the past few months, we have worked together and used the land for ceremonies, since our place is much smaller. The Three Spirit Band held its Summer Gathering there on the weekend of July 9th.
This year we have held two gatherings for our band. The Spring Gathering was held May 14th to 16th, the weekend after the Medicine Wheel Ceremony. It was held on our two-acre property. We had two families come from central and northern Ohio, and the rest were from the local area. We had ceremony, and a sacred fire all weekend - tended by the young people who kept it going all night for two nights and during the day. It was one of the best gatherings we've had so far at our place. The Summer Gathering was at the twelve-acre retreat near here. It too was a great success.
Our Band is changing and growing. One nice thing is the number of young people (pre-teen and teenager) who are involved in activities with their family. It is great seeing young people willing to explore and learn. We pitch our tents and enjoy the outdoors together. It is like a small village. People are involved with crafts, exploring the woods and streams, and helping with ceremony. There is both work and play. The young people look forward to the gatherings, and the adults enjoy themselves as well. It is good to see everyone get along so well and enjoy each other's company.
The land at the twelve-acre retreat is beautiful. It sits in a small valley with a stream running through it. There is a field through the middle and a grove of pine trees. The owners built a pole-barn meeting house with plumbing and kitchen, and a second dormitory building for sleep-overs. Most of the time people just camp in the field along the stream. The open sky, especially at night, is beautiful. It is near the end of a country road with very little traffic. We have enjoyed the weekends that we have spent out there. Hopefully, it will continue to be available to us for our larger gatherings. It would allow us to have more people come.
So this year has been a time of change and growth. We hope that such continues, and that more people will join us. But whatever happens was meant to be, and we are thankful for all the things that have come our way so far. It is all a learning experience. More than just numbers, the quality of life is what is important. So we are thankful for even the small things, and whatever progress we can make to share our minds and hearts with others. Not only are teachings important, but it is important to live them as well. Our seasonal gatherings are an opportunity to practice teachings and to experince the benefit of what can best be descibed as an extended family, or community. It is a community of all ages from young people to grandmothers and grandfathers, being together for a common purpose. It is something we all look forward to and enjoy!
The Three Spirit Band's Fall Gathering will be held the last week-end of September 24th, 25th and 26th. We would be happy to see y'all here in the beautiful foothills of Southeast Ohio. For more details and information contact us at 740-596-4974 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till then, walk in peace,
To learn more about the Three Spirit Clan of Ohio, check out their web site at http://www.freecherokee.org/threespirit/.