CIRCLE OF LIFE
would say, "God, our Creator, has created all of life in a circle.
Everything is made in a circle and all that is created is connected.
The sun, moon, stars, trees and "you" are made in a circle. The
strongest winds come in a circle and the strongest currents in
the water come in a circle. Never forget you are one with all
of life and all of life is one with you."
stories of God's creation were constant lessons on how to live life
in the moment, and in the most sacred manner. When I was young,
innocent, pure, and loved I had no doubt these words of wisdom were
filled with the breath of life. Standing before her, listening in
silence, her breath engulfed my soul like a soft warm kiss from
the sun. My grandparents knew our ancient creation stories would
continue to hold my soul in God our Creator's light, and make our
ancestors, who had passed before us, proud.
my culture, we were taught to listen, be patient, forgive, and trust
our inner soul. Grandma would say, "Always remember how powerful
you are. Be careful with your thoughts. Your thoughts are your prayers.
Reflect on what you are thinking before you let your thoughts come
out of your month. Once your words are spoken, you can never take
them back. Chose your words very carefully. People will remember
you by your words, and they will carry these words as if you had
asked them to pray for you. Whatever you send out into the universe,
you will be the first to experience it." Her words sang loud and
clear. I especially remembered them because she would say, "All
that you say and think will come to pass. They will not come in
the limited manner you think, they will come in the manner in which
all of Creation hears them."
think of her words today as I reflect on the events that make up
the circle of my life. Many years have passed since I was a young
child listening with fear as the World War II planes passed over
the North Dakota prairie at night. Hiding in our two-room log house,
the curtains draped thick and heavy over the windows just in case
the bombers were Japanese or German, we prayed for my uncles, who
had been sent far away to Japan to help fight in the war. Whatever
my two-year-old prayers were during this time, I believe they have
come to pass.
years ago, I had a dream that revealed to me the incredible power
of prayer and the wisdom of Grandma's words. In my dream, my sister
Laverne, who had been killed in a car accident seven years earlier,
came to me. The things that she revealed to me in this dream were
a mystery to me at that time, but proved to be prophetic.
my dream, there was a large complex in which the buildings were
all connected and made of cedar wood. Laverne and I were situated
in a room in one of these buildings. The room had a bay window on
the North side where Laverne sat, smiling and laughing at me. She
told me that the building belonged to one of the most beautiful
men I would ever meet. As she was telling me about the man, I could
see him—tall and slim with a suntanned face. His kindness gleamed
from the depth of his spirit. Laverne told me, "He is a very special
person." In my dream, I could see him walking down a path and directing
many people alongside a very steep mountain. The people he was leading
were small in size; some of them were wearing caps, but those that
were not had thick, shiny black hair. Then the scene changed and
I could see the snow-capped mountain tops. The sharp jagged formations
appeared to come from the center of the earth, reaching dramatically
into the heavens. They were absolutely breathtaking. Laverne said,
"This place is one of the most sacred. You will meet many wonderful
continued to instruct me and show me many thingsit was like
a movie. I looked into rooms that were very different from the rooms
in our American homes. I saw rooms in which the floors were covered
with a soft, woven materialsmall mattresses covered with fluffy
blankets laid neat and smooth on the floor. So many images passed
by, and when I woke up, I could remember a lot of them, but I could
not remember them all.
short time after having this dream, while I was working as a counselor
for the Stanford Research Institute in California, I was invited
by C&F Institute, a School of Psychology in Tokyo, to come to Japan
to conduct a workshop on the Interfacing of traditional Native American
and Western medicine. When the invitation came to me, my mind went
back to that time when I was a child, hiding in fear of the Japanese
bombers, and listening to my grandma crying and praying for her
sons to return home safely from Japan and from the war. I wondered
what my grandparents and parents would say if they were alive. What
would they think?
memories came back to me. I was again that frightened two-year-old:
sitting on the floor, staring into my grandparents faces, listening
and crying along with them, not really knowing or understanding
why, but feeling it was important to help. I sat there watching
them as they took down our Sacred Bear Robe from the wall, carried
it into the living room, and laid it down in the center of the room.
They unfolded it and when they spread it out flat it looked alive.
I watched Grandpa fill our Sacred Arikara Pipe with his medicine
and prayers. When he finished he laid the Pipe by the Bear's head.
Then my mother and father, all my sisters, brothers, and other relatives
prayed. But I remember Grandma's prayers were the strongest and
most demonstrative. She stood on her feet, spread her arms out like
the wings of an airplane, and danced around the room. Her motions
made it appear as if she was flying through the universe, bringing
her sons home. Her prayers were so powerful! There was no doubt
her sons would return from the war safe, healthy, and whole. The
energy from the love and tears of my family was so strong and so
overwhelming, I could actually see the Bear move his eyes, looking,
studying and making sure we knew he heard our prayers. I watched
with my innocence and had no doubt the Bear was breathing because
I could see his body move with every breath.
Bear Ceremony is one of the most powerful ceremonies among my Arikara
people, and now I understand that the prayers that were said that
day would never end. These prayers would, one day, not only bring
my uncles home safe, but would flow to the end of the world, touching
the hearts and souls of the Japanese children whose parents, grandparents
and relative were killed during World War II.
was scheduled to stay 6 weeks in Japan and would work in many cities:
Hotaka, Tokyo, Yokohama, Yakashima Island, Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
and Okinawa. My first workshop was in Hotaka, which sits directly
beneath the Northern Japanese Alps, at the Hotaka Holistic Health
I arrived at the Health Center, I was overcome with its absolute
beauty. The scenery was breathtaking—more beautiful than words could
describe. The maple leaves had all turned their fall colorsblood
red, orange-yellow, golden yellow, bright orange, minty yellow-green,
anemic redevery color you can imagine. The snow-capped mountains
glistened in the sun and gave me the sense that if I died right
then and there, everything in the world was perfect.
Holistic Health complex was exactly what Laverne showed me in my
dream! Nestled at the foot of the majestic mountains, it was all
made of cedar wood, and the floors of the bedrooms were covered
with hand-woven mats made from rice stock, smooth as silk. Every
nail, every piece of wood, all the fixtures, I learned, were made
and put into place with love by the hands of the Center's owner,
Fukuda, who has been instrumental in introducing Holistic Health
to the Japanese people, came out of the building to greet us and
I recognized him as the man in my dreamtall, suntanned face,
broad shoulders, bare feeta picture of health, a true samurai.
His facial and physical features were stunning. He could have been
Native American, Mongolian and even a mixture of western American.
was the first Native American Traditional Teacher to be invited
to Japan. The C&F Institute published the schedule they had set
for me in all the major newspapers, so many people knew I would
be visiting their country. Some had no idea there were any Native
American people alive in America; they thought John Wayne had killed
40 people attended my first workshop, and to my most grateful surprise,
most of the people looked like my own Native American people. Their
Shinto way of life was very familiar to me and so similar to the
Native American way. Almost everything in our lives compared, however,
our Native American World Wars occurred many years before World
all sat in a large circle, no different from the way my people did
before chairswe always sat on the floor so we could be close
to our Mother Earth. When we started sharing, I could not believe
the inhumane stories I was hearing. One after the other, they spoke
their childhood memories. Many were very young children when World
War II occurred. They told of the devastation of their families,
homes, towns, and countryside when they were bombed. Memories flowed
out of their mouths as if this had all happened just yesterday.
Their emotions were so overpowering, I had to wrap my arms around
them, hold them close to me and wipe away their tears.
will never forget one particularly beautiful middle-aged womanslim,
graceful, with not a blemish on her face, her skin the color of
cream and as soft as velvet. With tears streaming down her face
she said, "I was 3-years-old when they bombed my home. Everybody
was killed. All the buildings burned to the ground. There were human
bodies lying everywhere, burning. Part of my clothing melted onto
my body from the radiation, and some of my flesh was just hanging.
I was crying for my mother and father, grandma and grandpa, but
none of them could hear me. I walked through the burning rubble,
burning bodies, but I could not find them. All my people were killed."
horrendous as her story was, it was no surprise to many who were
in attendance. Her story only brought up their own deep hidden childhood
memories of loss. Others in the group told of their Comme Kazi (Wind
of God) 14-, 15-, and 16-year-old brothers who flew war planes to
introduced the participants to our Native American Sacred Purification
Ceremony. So similar were our cultures and beliefs that knowing
and loving Tunkashila, our Sacred Grandfather, God, was not difficult
for them. Likewise, knowing and loving Ina, our Sacred Mother, our
Grandmother Earth, was not difficult for them: They already knew
who they were.
have been back to Japan many times, and the healing continues. One
day, while I was in Tokyo, a man came to the hotel and requested
to see me. I remember sitting on the floor in my hotel room waiting
for him when the door opened and in walked a manthin, balding,
looking like he could have been in his late 60s. He looked tall
from my position on the floor. When he entered, he folded his hands
as if in prayer, bowed from his waist and walked toward me. He knelt
on his knees, bowed even lower and, never really looking directly
at me, he started weeping. "I have waited all my life to meet an
American," he said. "I wanted to live to see this day. I wanted
to say 'Thank You' to an American before I died." He want on to
tell me his story. "I was 12-years-old during the War. All of us
boys were instructed to carry arsenic in our pockets in case any
of us children were caught by the Americans. We were instructed
to give the girls arsenic first and then take it ourselves so the
Americans could not hurt us.
"This particular day, we were in school. My school was a one-room
building situated in the center of the rice fields. During class,
we could hear the loud, piercing sounds of the bombers. We were
instructed to stay in the school house, but as the sounds got louder
and closer, us students got so scared, we jumped out of our chairs
and rushed for the door. The teacher could not contain us. We burst
out into the open rice fields, running. We didn't know where we
were running to, but we just kept running. I looked up into the
sky, which was black with planesall coming toward us. I was
running, stumbling, and falling into the mud that surrounded the
rice plants. I knew they were going to kill me."
continued, still crying, "As I was running, thinking I was going
to be killed any second, I raised my eyes up toward the sky and
saw this plane coming towards to me. The plane came so close to
me I could see the eyes of the pilot. The pilot looked directly
into my eyes, and then a miracle happened: he turned his plane away
from me and flew away."
man, crying uncontrollably now, said, " HE DID NOT KILL ME." By
this time, he was holding onto my ankles, his head on my feet. I
could feel his hands trembling. I was crying almost as hard as he
was. "I have waited all my life," he said, "to say 'Thank you for
my Life.' I have waited all my life to send this message back to
said to him, "Please, what can I do for you?" breaking through the
polite, shy, kind, reserved Japanese custom and culture to ask for
what he really wanted.
said, "Hold me, hold me in your arms." He crawled into my arms and
we both cried together. Finally, he found his composure and thanked
sat together sharing the memories of our lives. He told me he was
a successful automobile business owner, and his life has been blessed:
he had a beautiful wife and children, as well as a brother who had
also survived the war.
thank my grandpa and grandma and parents for giving me the strength
and courage to listen to these storiesstories that have broken
my heart wide open, and pierced my soul where only prayers can heal
them. After a long day of listening and wiping away tears, I'd go
back to my room, wash my face, lay on my bed and cry. When I close
my eyes, I can see my grandpa and grandma's faces. I can feel Grandma
running her hands through my hair, comforting me like she did when
I was 2-years-old. In her comforting caress, I can see the Bear
lying on the floor, looking at me with his big black eyes, giving
me all the medicine I need to get back up and listen some more.