is a story about "speaking and living one's Truth." It is about
forgiving, surrendering, trusting the universe, knowing who you
are, serving Tunkashila's (God's) children, and remembering to
take care of our Mother Earth, for she is the Giver of Life.
my sister Mari and I were invited to the city of Las Palmas, on
Spain's Gran Canaria Island, to teach and share our Native American
Way of Life. This would be my first time in Spain and I was filled
with the excitement that comes with the opportunity to visit yet
another country, to learn who the Canarian people are and to walk
on our Mother Earth's majestic volcanic island.
Before I left for Las Palmas, we had been experiencing forest
fires here in Colorado. One fire, called the Snaking Fire, came
as close as one and one-half miles from my home.
this one particular day, a very hot day, I was caregiving my one
year-old granddaughter Himalaya. No different from a baby kitten,
she wanted to play, run, jump, and crawl all around the house;
I had to keep my eyes on her every move. My home is built with
large open spaces, and a hot tub sits inside the atrium in the
center of the house. The atrium walls are surrounded with hibiscus,
geraniums, cactus, bougainvillea, and other exotic plants that
love to sit under the glass roof and soak up the sun. In the midst
of these plants is my sacred alter.
one o'clock in the afternoon, I decided to wash the large windows
that face south of the house. Because the wooden floor of the
deck was too hot for Himalaya to run around on, I put her in a
stroller, sitting her next to me so I could keep her entertained.
At one point, while dancing, singing, and listening to Himalaya
laugh, I looked toward the southwest and, to my surprise, saw
a very large cloud of smoke and flames billowing hundreds of feet
into the air. The fire was so close! I stood quietly, watching
the smoke and flames stretching, reaching high into the sky, forming
a variety of odd shapes.
that a southwest wind was blowing directly toward my home at about
45 to 50 miles an hour, I called 911. When the operator asked
if there was an emergency I said, "No, I don't have an emergency
yet, however, I am looking at a very large cloud of smoke and
flames that look like they are not far from my home."
asked, "What division of homes do you live in?" I told her and
she replied, "The fire is about 6 miles from you. You are not
in danger yet, but if I were you, I would start considering what
you might do if it gets any closer." I was told that someone from
the fire department would let me know if I had to evacuate. I
hung up the phone and went back to washing the windows, and dancing
and singing for Himalaya, but I kept my eyes on that giant cloud
of smoke and flames.
passed slowly, and smoke started to spread into and over the valley,
coming closer and closer to my home. I knew I had to make a decision
as to whether or not I would pack some favorite belongings. By
6:00 that evening, I knew it was time to make a choice and
make it quickly. I decided I would take my photographs, the traditional
buckskin dresses my mother and father made for me when I was 13
years-old, and my father's traditional war bonnet. However, when
I went upstairs to my office, it was evident that I could not
take all my photographs, there were just too many, so I decided
to take only family photos. Carrying my granddaughter underneath
one arm, I quickly loaded the car and finally, by about 7:30 PM
when the telephone rang and the evacuation whistle blew over the
answering machine, I was ready to go. I put Himalaya in her car
seat, buckled her in, and drove away. That evening I returned
Himalaya to her parents' home in Denver before driving to a friend's
house to wait out the fire.
the days of evacuation, all I could do was watch television and
worry about my home. But early in the morning of the third day,
just after awakening, I was lying on my friend's couch and thinking
that I would drive back to my home before heading out for a scheduled
week-long trip to California. However, when I opened my eyes,
I did not see the room I was in; instead, I saw my home sitting
in God's bright sunlight. I looked around the 9,000 foot mountain:
The grass was a golden rust color and everything looked just as
it had when I left two days ago. My eyes scanned the landscape
surrounding my home, and as I looked toward the garage, which
sits several yards away from the house, I saw a man with a beautiful
tall, strong, auburn-colored horse. The man had reigns tied to
the horse, which was pulling a one-blade plow, and I could see
that they had tilled a four-foot wide road all around my home.
In my vision, I could only see the back of the man. He was wearing
a light brown shirt, dark trousers, and he was holding the reigns
in his hands. When I sat up to get a closer look, the vision disappeared
and all I could see was darkness in the room. I decided then that
I needed to take my things back up to my home. The decision was
solid in my mind, and my spirit was satisfied with my choice.
I got up quietly, dressed, went out to the car, and started the
drive back to the mountain.
were no passenger cars going west on highway 285, only a fire
truck and a channel 9 television van. I was caught between them,
so I knew the highway patrol would not stop me. As I approached
the road that would take me to my home, there were trucks pulling
trailers, carrying out horses and other animals, all going in
the opposite direction.
I arrived home I went first to the back of the garage to see if
anyone had plowed and tilled the earth there. It had not been
disturbed. The earth was intact and the grass all around the mountaintop
was very much the golden rust of my vision.
carried the photos, my traditional dresses and my father's war
bonnet back into the house. Standing in the center of my home,
I spoke aloud and said, "If you must go, I will prepare you to
go in the most sacred and beautiful manner."
that, I took fresh sage and sweetgrass, put them into a shell,
lit them, and walked around my home in a clock-wise manner, spreading
the scent and smoke throughout every room. When I had blessed
my home, I gathered materials and began to clean. I finished washing
all the windows, vacuumed the rugs, cleaned the counters in the
kitchen, polished the furniture, watered all the plants, and put
fresh clean water into the hot tub. As I was moving around my
home, thanking Tunkashila, our Blessed Grandfather, God, and our
Blessed Earth Mother for all that I have been given in my life,
I heard the sound of warplanes.
Surprised, I went outside to see if I was hearing correctly, and
what I saw was incredible. Directly above my home, circling the
mountain top, were seven WWII bombers. They were so close I could
see the men sitting inside. The planes were moving very slow,
and the pilots were flying them with direct precision. They would
circle the mountain top, fly to the ridge where the smoke and
flames were billowing hundreds of feet into the sky, and drop
a bright red slurry onto the fire. I was so overcome with what
I was witnessing that I could not contain my emotions. For the
next several hours, the bombers circled my home and mountain top,
going directly to the ridge and dropping slurry on the fire.
this was going on, I kept cleaning, watching the planes, and thanking
Tunkashila and Grandma for their love and protection. The last
thing I did was to put my buckskin dresses away. I held them tightly
in my arms and thanked my mother and father for making them for
me. As I was thanking them, these thoughts came into my being:
"You don't need these material dresses; you are wearing the dress
we made for you. You walk in the dress we made for you, every
day of your life. You are Our Dress."
stayed in my home that night, thinking it just might be my last
night ever in this home, and in the morning left the mountain
top for my flight to San Diego. During the week I was there I
would not watch or listen to the news and I tried not to worry
about what might be happening to my home. Happily, by the time
I returned from California, I was able to go directly from the
airport to my home, which was unharmed.
weeks later, sitting for fifteen hours, flying six miles above
our Mother Earth on an airliner headed for Gran Canaria Island,
I finally had time to think of the vision of the man and his beautiful
horse tilling the soil around my home. It also gave me an opportunity
to contemplate the meaning of what my mother and father had said
to me: "You are wearing the dress we made for you." Watching our
Mother Earth appearing and disappearing in mysterious clouds miles
below me, thoughts ran through my being, and I wondered what I
was to learn from their message.
thought of what my grandparents and parents told us when we were
young: "Tunkashila, God, our Creator, has woven the most
perfect, sacred and beautiful Fabric of Life. You are a part of
that Fabric of Life. God's fabric includes all of life. Keep it
sacred and holy. When the Fabric of Life is tattered and torn,
much sickness will seep into the holes, and life will be difficult
and painful. Humanity will lose its spirit. Even though people
will be walking and talking, they will be dead. Their physical
bodies will be empty, hollow, and forlorn."
thought of humanity and of all the people who are confused and
suffering today. In my innate knowing, I believe Our Creator,
God, created all of life to know itself. Our own human, physical,
Fabric of Life starts when we are conceived. We can only "be"
who we came to this physical world to be. When we don't know who
we are, fear, hatred, anger, jealously, and greed run rampant
though our minds, our physical beings and our spirits. We call
this way of life, Sickness.
had to stop myself from dwelling on a suffering humanity and tried
to concentrate, instead, on what my parents' message meant for
me. My Fabric of Life is made up of threads from ancient Arikara,
Mayan, Hidatsa, Mandan and Crow Native American Nationsa
fabric of chiefs and spiritual human beings. Our Ancient Native
American stories of who I am live deep in every cell of my being,
built into my spirit from the Star Nation.
story I remember that lives deep within me is a story of my father.
When Daddy was a very young boy, he lived with Grandpa and Grandma.
When Grandpa went fishing, he left Grandma and Daddy home alone.
Daddy told of this event:
one morning, maybe around 2 AM, someone came knocking on the door.
Grandma got up to see who was there and Daddy followed her. Grandma
opened the door to find a very drunk white man hanging onto the
screen door. He was so drunk he could hardly stand up. He said
to her, "Lady, I am very hungry. Do you have any food I can eat?"
said to Daddy, without any hesitation, "Ben, help this man
in." Daddy was surprised, but he helped the drunk man into
the house, walking him to the dining table and helping him sit
in a chair up to the table. Grandma went immediately to the stove
and started to cook. Daddy thought Grandma was crazy, inviting
this drunk white man into the house while Grandpa was not at home.
then said, "Ben, put some water into the wash basin and wash
his hands and face." Daddy listened to grandma, still thinking
she was crazy. He washed the man's hands and face as Grandma continued
to cook. When the food was ready, Grandma put it in front of the
man and let him eat as much as he liked. She sat at the table
with him and Daddy stood by her, watching every move she and the
drunk man made.
the man finished eating, he said to Grandma, "Lady, this is the
best food I have ever eaten. Now, I would love to have a smoke.
Do you have any tobacco?"
said to Daddy, "Ben, get your Grandfather's pipe, and fill
"Grandma," Daddy protested, "Grandpa never lets
anybody use his pipe. He will be terribly angry when he learns
She said, "Ben, go get Grandpa's pipe." So Daddy did
as instructed. He brought Grandpa's pipe, filled it, and gave
it to the man.
white man smoked the pipe and when he finished, he said to Grandma,
"Lady, this is the best smoke I ever smoked."
It was now daybreak and the man said to Grandma, "Thank you so
very much for your hospitality, I must go now." He got up and
walked out the door.
was surprised at Grandma's behavior. He said to her, "Grandpa
is going to be really mad when he finds out what you did."
said to Daddy, "You never know when Tunkashila, God, will
come to you, to see if you are walking your prayers. You could
lose your chance to serve Tunkashila, God, if you have fear and
she said that, Daddy ran out the door to see where the man was.
Our Mother Sun was beginning to spread her light onto the prairie
and because the prairie is flat Daddy thought he would be able
to see which way the man was walking. Daddy said he looked in
all directions, but there was no evidence of a man walking away
from the house.
was taught life-lessons in stories like this one, and by example.
My grandparents and parents never turned anyone away from their
home, however humble it was. There was always food on the stove
and fresh water awaiting their visitors. The first thing we did
when visitors came to our home, before they could even speak of
why they came, was to serve them food and water. This was our way
of life. I remember my father's generosity. If someone needed money
for gas to take a child to the hospital, or if they needed food,
my father would give them whatever money he had, even if it was
his last dollar. Daddy was a hunter, and when he brought home food,
he would divide it up and take it to the elderly, the sick, and
those who had many children. In the Fall, Daddy would mine coal
and carry it by wagon and team to all the elderly and others who
needed help getting ready for a long hard winter. My people are
kind and generous to every human being, no matter who they are.
My people have lived their prayer.
humans are taught best by example. By our examples, we weave our
Fabric of Life. I remember my father saying to us children, "I want
you to remember this: Always remember who you are. In your lifetime,
you will meet many false prophets. Remember every thought, action,
and footstep you create are your prayers. Be kind, gentle, strong.
Help those who are in need and in danger. Forgive, don't judge,
and remember you come from great stock. Your roots are deep, as
deep into our Mother Earth as the largest roots of a Cedar Tree.
Pray for those whose voices cannot be heard."
time passes, and as a grandmother to many, many children from all
over the earth, I am just now understanding what he meant. I pray
for the windour air, our breathas humanity cannot hear
her voice. I pray for the rainour water, our life bloodas
humanity cannot hear her voice. I pray for our childrenthe
animal children, the human children, the winged children, the finned
children, the tree children, all childrenas humanity cannot
hear their voices. I pray for our Mother Earth, as her children
don't know her, and cannot hear her voice.
must remember, always, that choice is one of the greatest gifts
we are given in our life on this earth. We can choose to be happy,
choose to love, choose to forgive, choose to take only what we need,
choose to take only what belongs to us, choose to be kind, choose
to be compassionate, choose to give instead of taking. We must remember
we have no promise for tomorrow and live everyday to its fullest.
When we give this gift to ourselves, we will become mentally, physically
and, especially, spiritually healthy.
I know the fabric, the dress, woven for me by my grandparents and
parents are their examples: their generosity of spirit, my Daddy's
love for lifehis spirit filled with hope, his truth and honesty,
his strength to forgive, honor and respect all of life, his sense
of humor that sparkled through his green eagle eyes; my mother's
kindness and forgiveness, her non-judgmental attitude, her smile
and her compassion. I pray I can honor them by letting their spirit
shine through me. I pray I am wearing the dress they wove for me
in the most sacred manner.