First Nations

The Jicara

My friend Kate lived for several years in Yuma, Arizona, and worked as an environmental lawyer on an Army base. She and her fiancé Ken made numerous trips down the Mexican coast visiting the tiny towns along the Gulf of California. One particular family befriended them, and welcomed them into their home repeatedly.

The years have been difficult. Ken died in a horrific accident, leaving Kate in great mourning. Then the Mexican family’s matriarch died, leaving behind a sad but kindly husband and two young kids. huichol_yarn_painting_by_rojelio_beuites.jpgBut though Kate moved back to the D.C. area, she makes regular visits to the family in Mexico, and always brings interesting gifts for the kids (who are growing like weeds; it makes Kate feel very old).

Every year she sends me some memento from Mexico, most of them pieces of Huichol art. She has given me two blankets woven in the most amazing colors, a decidedly hallucinogenic wooden dog, and two intriguing crucifixes (blending several different religious traditions).

Perhaps the most recognizable type of Huichol art is the nieli’ka, or yarn painting (like the one depicted here). In traditional Huichol communities, nieli’kas are important ritual artifacts. They’re usually small square or round tablets covered on one or both sides with a mixture of beeswax and pine resin into which threads of yarn are pressed. Nieli’kas are found in most Huichol sacred places such as house shrines (xiriki), temples, springs, and caves. Continue reading

Categories: Art, Dreams, Earth-based Religions, First Nations, Shamanism, The Medicine Wheel | 10 Comments

The Sky Pillar

The news report was bizarre on so many levels. First, the opening salvo: “An amusement park in China has built what it claims is the world’s largest penis.”

That’s right, an amusement park.

Then the eye-popping photo:

The rest of the news story raises more questions than it answers:

Continue reading

Categories: First Nations, Hinduism, Psychology, Shamanism, Travel | 9 Comments

The Time of the Lone Wolf is Over

by Jernigan Pontiac, Seven Days

It dazzles me, the commonality of message among wise-men and women the world over. From the Dalai Lama to an aborigine shaman—those with profound inner knowledge speak the same language, offer the same sage advice. In the often chaotic landscape of the 21st Century, don’t we need to take heart and direction from the Wise Ones? I know I do.

A friend of mine shared with me these words spoken recently by a Hopi Elder from Oraibi, Arizona. It hit me where I live. This kind of message is not for everyone (so I appreciate your indulgence), but for some it may be meaningful as well: Continue reading

Categories: First Nations, Spirituality, Worthwhile Reading | 3 Comments

Inuit Filmmaker Brings His People’s History to Light

Kunuk documents conversion of last great shaman

by Mari Sasano, Canada.com
Friday, September 29, 2006

Though cinema has only been around for the last century or so, Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk takes a much longer view within the context of an unrecorded history. “We came in one lifetime from the Stone Age to digital technology. We Inuit adapt. We’re good at adapting. Filmmaking is just another way; it’s just like hunting, like soapstone carving.”

Likewise, the success of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner—which won the Camera d’Or at Cannes and numerous other international and Canadian film awards—brought ancient Inuit life to a global audience. For Igloolik Isuma, the team behind that film, it meant bigger budgets and greater resources, but their mission to continue to create and share stories about Inuit people in the Inuit language hasn’t changed. Continue reading

Categories: Christianity, First Nations, Shamanism | Leave a comment

Paying to Teach and “Play Indian”

by Shadi Rahimi, Indian Country Today

SAN FRANCISCO—They climb mountains on a quest for a vision. They beat drums and shake rattles. They pray in sweat lodges. Some study for years and later teach others the spirituality they paid to learn.

They are a growing population. But they are not Native. And as self-proclaimed medicine men and women or shaman—referred to by some critics as “plastic medicine men” or “shake and bake shaman”—they often charge for spiritual services.

That, for many Natives here, is a big problem.

Continue reading

Categories: First Nations, Shamanism | 4 Comments

The Big Trip: Jesus is Lord on the Crow Reservation

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The woman who ran the campground was a coal miner. She and her husband both were. There are a lot of coal miners around Gillette. Low-sulfur, I think, is what she called the mines, since “those don’t need special scrubbers.” Because of the Clean Air Act, all coal-producing plants and most of the electrical power plants in the area that are powered by coal must use these special scrubbers, but if your coal has low enough sulfur levels, you don’t need the scrubbers. Oil is very big here, too, nearly as big as in Texas, she told me. “Though here, the egos aren’t quite as large.”

Politically they’re very conservative but somewhat cynical, as it is widely understood that you can get whatever you want politically by buying it, and many politicians won’t do anything for you without a campaign contribution. A city council member (and campaign worker for a mayoral candidate) in Gillette out-and-out told her that if she wanted something changed she should make a contribution to the candidate’s campaign—the council member said she was sure he’d be elected because she had gotten a vast number of senior citizens registered and would personally be driving them to the polls on election day.

Gillette, Buffalo, Sheridan: wonderful, wide-open Wyoming vistas, with lots of cowboys, and oil rigs, and coal mines, and hunters. The hunters, actually, have descended upon the area just this weekend, packing into the hotels and motels and campgrounds for the opening of antelope season. Motel signs are offering them special discounts; the 7-Eleven is giving them a free bag of ice with purchase. (The hunters, not the antelopes.)

I plan to go west on I-90, which swings north into Montana and continues west through Billings and on to Bozeman and Helena. To my left are little mounds that rise unexpectedly from this very gently rolling place: small, sudden, peaky hills—small breasts with nipples everywhere you look: nipple, nipple, nipple, nipple, nipple. Which of course reminds me that Grand Tetons (the mountain range south of Yellowstone here in Wyoming) is French for “Big Tits.” Really. Continue reading

Categories: Earth-based Religions, First Nations, Shamanism, The Big Trip, The Medicine Wheel | 4 Comments

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