Review of Nancy Red Star’s “Star Ancestors: Extraterrestrial Contact in the Native American Tradition

This book is a masterful work of art in addition to containing a collection of personal experiences from members of several different tribes. These include Navajo, Mi’kmaq, Abenaki, Seneca, Cherokee, Tarahumara, Maya, Olmec, Yaqui, Creek, and Choctaw.

Though testimonials about UFO encounters are included, the majority of the book is on a more spiritual level, dealing with other types of connections with the Star People. These include the importance of ceremony, previous lost civilizations from millennia ago, high technology in the distant past, the origin of indigenous people, and prophecies of the future, which is upon us now.

The book has been around a while, the original copyright in 2000, then renewed in 2012. In today’s world that’s a long time and many things prophesied that may not yet have occurred by either of those dates have by now.

I think my favorite section was “We Wander This World with a Purpose” by Mali Keating. She spoke of the Hopi, where they came from, and their numerous prophecies. Here’s an excerpt of one section that explained so much about our modern world.

“The Anasazi were a people left over from the migration. The people were told they must never stop and build cities, but of course some did…. Cities make people crazy, as we all know. People become greedy and lose the ability to work together.”

Here’s another, that may not have been as apparent when this book was first released as it is now:

“The Hopi said that they would know that the end is coming when roads crisscrossed this continent like the web of a spider–those are the vapor trails of airplanes. You can see vapor trails like the webs of spiders in the sky.”

Actually, roads on which we drive crisscross the continent, too. Those trails in the sky,  however, are not vapor trails, they are called chemtrails. Vapor trails are condensation from normal airplanes whereas chemtrails are chemicals such as barium and aluminum being deliberately sprayed in the atmosphere to supposedly combat climate change. This, like so much else out there today, is a lie. If anything, they are causing the climate to go crazy by facilitating weather manipulation.

There are numerous photos of indigenous art and the layout of the book itself is genius, between Nancy Red Star’s commentaries before each entry to her free verse poetry at the conclusion. Reading these stories is not just informative, it’s an experience of another realm beyond what meets the eyes.

A realm that Native Americans and all indigenous people understand.

May we all learn from their ancient wisdom before it’s too late.

5-stars, Highly Recommended

Available from Amazon and InnerTraditions.com

Panpsychism in Indigenous Cultures

What is he trying to say? (Photo credit Robert C, Pixabay)

Panpsychism.

That’s a big word, isn’t it? I’d bet dollars to donuts most of you have never heard of it before, much less know what it means.

Okay, here’s a hint:

Indigenous people consider panpsychism to be intuitively obvious.

This is something that’s inherent to their culture. It’s a form of spirituality and reverence for life too many in today’s modern world lack.

If you’re still lost, here’s another hint.

If you’re a pet owner, you might know more about this than you realize. Do you believe your fur baby, or even fish or turtle, has a personality? Does that mean it has a soul? Okay, skip the dualism, do you believe it’s conscious? A sentient being?

My little suitcase stowaway is no doubt saying, “I want to go with you.”

What about your houseplants and garden, the trees that shade your home? Do you ever talk to them? Provided they’re not made of plastic, there’s no doubt they’re alive. But are they conscious? Some research in recent years suggests they are, even if they’re a bit snobbish about it and only talk to their own kind.

Anyone who’s had their car, computer, cell phone, or some other electronic device go wonky right when they need it most has seen this. Maybe it’s only Google spying on you, in which case you can hope they hear the unpleasant things you’re expressing in your frustration.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, panpsychism is the belief that all things, animate and otherwise, have consciousness. Here’s a quote from an article by Berit Brogaard, D.M.Sci., Ph.D. and graduate student, Kristian Marlow, published in Psychology Today a few years back:

“According to the traditional version of panpsychism, everything around you is conscious: the chair your are sitting on, the rock you use as a doorstopper at home and the thick hurricane-safe windows in your office. Panpsychism literally means that particular kinds of psychological states are embedded in everything…. Consciousness may be a force akin to electromagnetism or gravity that exists in some form on the fundamental level of reality.” (Read the entire article here. )

Indigenous people have known this to be true for thousands of years.

By now Native American readers are rolling on the floor at the stupidity of the white man. No wonder he makes so many bad decisions, he’s out of touch with his world in the most pathetic of ways. Now, at long last, the white man is starting to catch on. Spirit animals are becoming popular as well as sensitivities to other energies as well. The question is whether or not it’s too late.

One of my favorite stories is told by Russell Foureagles when he states, “This may sound crazy, but rocks–especially artifacts manufactured by our ancestors–have occasionally spoken to me and sent me pictures, sometimes even movies, when I picked them up. With the aid of a rock, I have not only seen the past but, in a sense, lived it.” (The Making of a Healer: Teachings of my Oneida Grandmother, p. 195) He goes on to tell a delightful story of a rock calling to him and telling him its amazing story of being part of a hide scraping tool thousands of years before.

Think what you want, but you cannot make this stuff up.

As a writer, I let my characters lead, and they often teach me many things I never could have imagined. I don’t believe as a writer I create their essence, then channel them. One of my favorite parts of “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits” is Chapter 6, “The Aspen,” where Charlie Littlewolf connects with an quaking aspen tree that helps him solve his white brother’s murder. (You can read that excerpt here.) In my science fiction story, “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51,” the main character is a telepathic walking plant. I’ve never seen plants quite the same way since.

Okay, you don’t have to be crazy to be an author but it helps.

My point is if we but learn to listen, there are messages all around us. What wisdom might a mighty oak convey? Meditate on a tree sometime and see what you learn. I’ve obtained amazing insights just watching my birdfeeder.

One of the problems of modern life is that we so rarely take time to listen.

What are you missing?

When Every Day was Earth Day

Karl Bodmer: Indians hunting the bison. Tableau 31. In: Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied: Maximilian Prince of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, during the years 1832–1834; published London 1843–1844.

Today is Earth Day, reminding us to honor and appreciate our planet as well as treat her kindly. The concept of doing so only once a year is incomprehensible to Indigenous cultures. Native American reverence for all living things extends to the Earth herself. Taking what you need with respect and gratitude is expected; exploiting her resources for the sake of greed is abhorrent.

Every day was “Earth Day.”

For example, bison (erroneously called buffalo) were revered and respected. They killed only what was needed for food, then used the hide, horns, bones, and sinew for such things as clothing, tipis, and tools. Nothing was wasted. Killing for sport or simply for the animal’s hide (much less its tongue), was unheard of.

Then the white man came.

At the beginning of the 19th century 30 to 40 million bison were present on the Plains. By 1895 their numbers had been reduced to roughly 1,000. Upon completion of the Intercontinental Railroad, they were often shot from moving trains. Hide Hunters moved into Native hunting grounds and slaughtered bison, leaving their rotting carcasses behind.

1892: bison skulls await industrial processing at Michigan Carbon Works in Rogueville (a suburb of Detroit). Bones were processed to be used for glue, fertilizer, dye/tint/ink, or were burned to create “bone char” which was an important component for sugar refining.

In 1873, Army Lt. Col. Richard Irving Dodge stated, “Where there were myriads of buffalo the year before, there were now myriads of carcasses. The air was foul with a sickening stench, and the vast plain which only a short twelve months before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary putrid desert.”

Historian, Pekka Hämäläinen, noted the effect this had on Native Americans when she noted, “The buffalo was the foundation of their economy and the centerpiece of their cosmology, and the wholesale slaughter shook their existence at its core.”

Rath & Wright’s buffalo hide yard in 1878, showing 40,000 buffalo hides, Dodge City, Kansas.”

Where might our country be today if it weren’t for such wanton destruction? But the real question is have we learned anything since?

First-Hand Account of Someone Raised by a Medicine Man

This short video captures the essence of the indigenous spirit. Some of the comments are worth reading as well. I stumbled upon it quite by accident and it touched me so deeply I wanted to share it with as many as possible.

Indigenous people get a lot of bad press, mostly from history books written by their conquerors who knew little of their beautiful, compassionate culture. There is much to be learned from their wisdom. The world would be a better place if more people embraced their values of family first, hard work, connection with nature, independence, generosity and kindness.

I hope you enjoy this short (about 10 minutes) video and it brightens your day with hope as it did for me.

The Medicine Wheel and the Zodiac

The four sectors of a classic Native American Medicine Wheel superimposed on the houses of the Western Zodiac. Many tribes relate the four colors to the races of man, i.e., white, black, red, and yellow, though each sector relates to a different part of a person’s character. Each house in Western Astrology pertains to a different part of life.

There are many interpretations of the Medicine Wheel, perhaps as many as there are tribes. Nonetheless, there are distinct similarities, all seeking to help a person grow through self-knowledge. The one included here pertains to the principles taught by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind in their book about the Medicine Wheel, but subtitled “Earth Astrology,” which lines up nicely with the zodiac used in Western Astrology.

Not surprisingly, the interpretations for the different “Moons” are about the same as their corresponding zodiac sign.

Sun Bear, an Ojibwa, states that his interpretation of the Medicine Wheel was not derived from western astrology, but acquired through inspiration from the Great Spirit, suggesting that both systems originated with the same source. The purpose of their system is to help all people relate more closely to the Earth Mother and all of creation.

Here are Sun Bear and Wabun Wind’s Medicine Wheel equivalents to the zodiac with their totems.

ARIES – March 21 – April 19

Moon: Budding Trees

Animal: Red Hawk

Plant: Dandelion

Mineral: Fire Opal

Color: Yellow

TAURUS – April 20 – May 20

Moon: Frogs Return

Animal: Beaver

Plant: Blue Camas

Mineral: chrysocolla

Color: Blue

GEMINI – May 21 – June 20

Moon: Corn planting

Animal: Deer

Plant: Yarrow

Mineral: Moss Agate

Color: White and Green

CANCER – June 21 – July 22

Moon: Strong Sun

Animal: Flicker

Plant: Wild Rose

Mineral: Carnelian Agate

Color: Pink

LEO – Jul. 23 – Aug. 22

Moon: Ripe Berries

Animal: Sturgeon

Plant: Raspberry

Mineral: Garnet and Iron

Color: Red

VIRGO – Aug. 23 – Sep. 22

Moon: Harvest

Animal: Brown Bear

Plant Violet

Mineral: Amethyst

Color: Purple

LIBRA – Sep. 23 – Oct. 23

Moon: Ducks Fly

Animal: Raven

Plant: Mullein

Mineral: Jasper

Color: Brown

SCORPIO – Oct. 24 – Nov. 21

Moon: Freeze Up

Animal: Snake

Plant: Thistle

Mineral: Copper and Malachite

Color: Orange

SAGITTARIUS – Nov. 22 – Dec. 21

Moon: Long Snows

Animal: Elk

Plant: Black Spruce

Mineral: Obsidian

Color: Black

CAPRICORN – Dec. 22 – Jan. 19

Moon: Earth Renewal

Animal: Snow Goose

Plant: Birch Tree

Mineral: Quartz

Color: White

AQUARIUS – Jan. 20 – Feb. 18

Moon: Rest & Cleansing

Animal: Otter

Plant: Quaking Aspen

Mineral: Silver

Color: Silver

PISCES – Feb. 19 – Mar. 20

Moon: Big Winds

Animal: Cougar

Plant: Plantain

Mineral: Turquoise

Color: Blue-Green

Equivalents to the Elements in Western Astrology

Fire = Thunderbird

Earth = Turtle

Air = Butterfly

Water = Frog


The introduction to The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology states, “We have forgotten that we are connected to all of our relationships on the earth, not just our human family. We have forgotten that we have responsibilities to all these relations, just as we have them to our human families. We have imprisoned ourselves in tight little worlds of man-made creations.”

You do not need to be familiar with western astrology to enjoy and understand this approach. If you are, then it will enhance and deepen your perceptions with another layer of insights into yourself and others. The books below, available on Amazon, provide the details and earthly beauty of the system for relating to Mother Earth.


[NOTE:–These books are among the many I’ve read as research material while writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits. Co-author, Pete Risingsun, provided the details of Charlie’s journey in the book, but material such as this helped me learn more about Native American culture and prepared me for our collaboration.]


The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind

Dancing with the Wheel: The Medicine Wheel Workbook by Sun Bear, Wabun Wind, and Crysalis Mulligan

Veterans’ Day Kudos to Native Americans

Ira Hayes, one of the soldiers depicted in the iconic statue of the Marines raising the American flag at Iwo Jima, was a Code Talker.
[Picture attribution: By Famartin – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link]

It’s Native American Heritage Month as well as Veterans’ Day, the perfect time to show appreciation for the many astouding contributions Native Americans have made to the U.S. Military. Their participation rate is higher, 19% having served in the armed forces versus 14% of other ethnic groups. Furthermore, even though they were exempt from the draft, many enlisted.

The “warrior tradition” of Native American tribes was mostly squashed once they were exiled to reservations, yet their love for their country and willingness to defend it remained. They already dealt with the consequences of one “foreign invader” stealing their land. The prospect of things getting even worse with another one was not an acceptable option.

It’s ironic that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Native Americans were forced by the U.S. Government to leave their traditions behind, including their languages. Fortunately, however, their many dialects survived, a fact that was a major factor in U.S. victory during World Wars I and II.

Choctaws in training in World War I for coded radio and telephone transmissions. [Wikipedia]

During that time their unique, unwritten languages were perfect candidates for development into code. If you’re unfamiliar with the “Code Talkers,” here’s a brief summary, courtesy of Wikipedia:

 “…there were approximately 400 to 500 Native Americans in the United States Marine Corps whose primary job was to transmit secret tactical messages. Code talkers transmitted messages over military telephone or radio communications nets using formally or informally developed codes built upon their native languages. The code talkers improved the speed of encryption and decryption of communications in front line operations during World War II.

Comanche code talkers of the 4th Signal Company [Wikipedia]

There were two code types used during World War II. Type one codes were formally developed based on the languages of the several tribes, including the Lakota, Crow, Comanche, Hopi, Meskwaki, Seminole, and Navajo peoples. They used words from their languages for each letter of the English alphabet. Messages could be encoded and decoded by using a simple substitution cipher where the ciphertext was the native language word. Type two code was informal and directly translated from English into the native language. If there was no word in the native language to describe a military word, code talkers used descriptive words. For example, the Navajo did not have a word for submarine so they translated it to iron fish.”

Navajo Code Talkers, Saipan, 1944 [Wikipedia]

Several tribes were represented during the course of various wars and campaigns, including the Navajo, Comanche, Hopi, Meskwaki, Cherokee, Choctaw, Cree, Mohawk, Muscogee (Seminole and Creek), and Tlingit. Military and government honors have been bestowed on them for their contribution, in some cases years later because it couldn’t occur until the program was declassified.

Micah Highwalking, U.S. Military Academy 2010 graduate.

If you’re a history buff, especially as it relates to intelligence encryption, you’ll want to check this out further. Wikipedia has a comprehensive article at here and Military Times published an outstanding piece which includes interviews with former Code Talkers here.

Clearly this honorable tradition is continuing today for both Native men and women. The first Northern Cheyenne to graduate from West Point was Micah Highwalking. As of her 2010 graduation date, she was one of only five Native Americans to accomplish that honor. You can read more about her on Facebook here.

On this special day all former and current members of our military deserve our respect and gratitude, but especially the many Native Americans from all tribes who willingly fought beside those who had previously been their foe. It’s notable that on Veterans’ Day 2020 the Smithsonian Institute dedicated the National Native American Veterans’ Memorial. You can learn more about it here and watch their virtual message in the following video (17:25 min).


OTHER RESOURCES

Print

Available from Southwest Indian Foundation Website

The Navajo Codetalkers

Video Introduction to the book (3 min)

Video

Wyoming PBS Special on Native American Veterans (27 min)

Help Native American Veterans

If you’d like to show your appreciation for their service by helping Native American veterans, Native American Veterans’ Assistance (NAVA) does exactly that. Their website is here and their donation page is here.

Every Step Forward Leaves Something Behind

Progress requires change. As new truths become evident, old ones fade away. Sometimes it’s a good thing; others, not so much.

Consider the period in history known as The Enlightenment.

It’s hard to miss the irony of what “being enlightened” meant in the 17th Century versus what it means now.

When it was proven conclusively that the solar system was heliocentric, not geocentric, it unlocked new doors of scientific knowledge. Ecclesiastical authorities trembled, called out for professing a truth that simply wasn’t. Placing Galileo under house arrest did not change the facts, only made the powers-that-be ultimately look like fools, their credibility and power decimated.

Was this progress?

In some respects, yes.

In others, not so much.

Slammed by this undeniable revelation, the faithful stumbled over the rubble left behind. Sadly, this placed the realm of the spirit under scrutiny as well. It was undetectable and thus unable to be proven in the lab. Besides, it was part of the domain of those who’d erroneously insisted upon a geocentric universe. Astrology, which is based on an Earth-centered view of the heavens, was tossed aside as well.

When Galileo observed Jupiter’s moons through his telescope, he realized it was possible for heavenly bodies to revolve around something besides the Earth, ripping the concept of a geocentric universe to shreds.

Replacing the concept of God or the Great Spirit with math was a bold and incredibly reckless step, making scientists no less arrogant than the Church.

Skeptics rail against prayer and any connection to things of the spirit, their mien no different than that of the bishops, cardinals, and popes who once proclaimed the Earth orbited the Sun.

The Enlightenment is largely responsible for where we are today as a planet, for good or ill. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and rediscover what was lost when telescopes and space probes replaced the wonder and beauty of the night sky. Likewise, our connection to each other as well as every plant, animal, and mineral that comprises our Earth Mother. Beyond that, hasn’t science itself told us we are all made of “star stuff,” comprised of elements produced in the stars?

Limiting “truth” to those things that can be proven scientifically denies the many magnificent things that remain just beyond our reach.

The place from which we came and where we’ll eventually return has yet to be detected by scientific instruments. One of the things I love about quantum theory is that it’s the most likely place where all these strange and wonderful unexplainable things could easily reside and thus reconcile the argument between science and religion once and for all. What exactly is the role of consciousness? Do thoughts become things? Does it interact with matter?

Isn’t that what our spirit and body do? Every single day?

Science has yet to provide an answer.

Those in tune with a higher realm are familiar with other ways of knowing.

Fortunately, the flawed concept that the only world that officially exists is the physical one didn’t reach indigenous people. Now they have the opportunity to teach us those things that they wisely retained, in spite of “modern civilization” trying to beat it out of them.  After centuries of bad press, the wisdom of ancient ways and beliefs is finally being recognized, honored, and revered.

At long last a select few are embracing the untarnished wisdom of those who have always known the answers before modern man became smart enough to even know the questions. Only when this wisdom is incorporated into mankind’s heart and soul will we be able to handle today’s technology in a constructive way.

And therein lies the irony, that absorbing this spiritual knowledge and perceiving this magnificent unseen realm is called–

–enlightenment.

A somehow tragic illustration of the Circle of Life.

It’s time to retrace our steps, taking with us what we’ve gained while gathering up those things that were left behind along the way.

Picture credits: Pixabay (Ancient key: Konstantin Krasinkov; Jupiter: Randy Cardoso Garcia; Crazy Horse Memorial: Rudi Nockewel; Heavenly Light: Gerd Altmann)

How Much Do You Know About the Medicine Wheel?

Photo Credit: U.S. Forestry Service

1. What is the medicine wheel?

a. A circle divided into four parts, each of a different color representing Earth’s four races.

b. A large circular structure oriented with the four cardinal directions defined by stones that was used anciently as a calendar.

c. A complex philosophy that promotes self-reflection, personal growth, and spiritual progression.

d. All of the above.

2. Where can you find ancient medicine wheels?

a. Lovell, Wyoming

b. South Dakota and Wyoming

c. Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

d. All of the above

3. How old is the medicine wheel?

a. 20,000 years

b. 7,000 years

c. 300 – 800 years

d. Unknown

4. What are medicine wheels used for?

a. A calendar.

b. Institute peace and understanding.

c. Personal introspection, meditation, and personal growth.

d. All of the above.


ANSWERS

1. What is the medicine wheel?

Answer: d – All of the above.

a. Many tribes define it as a circle equally divided into four sections of different colors, i.e. black, white, yellow, and red, which represent the four races of man.

b. Pictured above, the most famous physical medicine wheel and type site for such configurations in North America is at an elevation of 9,642 feet in the Bighorn Mountains in Lovell, Wyoming. It’s 75 feet in diameter and comprises a roughly circular alignment of rocks and cairns. Within the primary circle lie 28 rows of stones that extend out radially from a central cairn.

c. The medicine wheel is both an archaeo-astronomical entity with ancient roots supported by archeological evidence and a philosophical one for personal growth and spirituality intended to strengthen a community, one individual at a time.

2. Where can you find ancient medicine wheels?

Answer: d – All of the above.

Between 70 – 150 ancient medicine wheels have been identified in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

3.  How old is the Medicine Wheel?

Answer: d – Unknown

Some sources indicate that the Lovell Medicine Wheel is part of a much larger complex of archeological sites and traditional use areas that indicate 7000 years of Native American occupation. Others estimate it was built between 300 – 800 years ago.

The modern medicine wheel philosophy proclaimed by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind (see references below) originated in the early 1970s.

4. What is the Medicine Wheel used for?

Answer: d – All of the above.

a. Calendar

There are 28 “spokes” in the Medicine Wheel, which coincide with the Moon’s cycle of approximately 28 days. Some stones align with the Sun’s rising and setting on the equinoxes and solstices, marking the seasons.

At different times in the 20th Century archaeoastronomer, Jack Eddy and astronomer, Jack Robinson, independently determined that some of the stones aligned with the heliacal rise of certain stars. These served to divide the seasons into months.

The dawn or heliacal rising of a specific star pinpoints a date exactly. This is the day a star is first seen, just before its extinguished by dawn, after it has been hidden by the Sun’s light for an entire season. If you’re familiar with astronomy, you know that certain stars are only visible specific times of the years. Others never set, such as Polaris, a.k.a. the North Star, and the constellations such as Ursa Major and Minor which include the Big and Little Dipper, that surround it. They are always visible, but they rotate around Polaris and thus change positions during the year.

b. Institute peace and understanding.

The estimate of the medicine wheels’ age of between 300 – 800 years old coincides with the 15th Century AD when Native American nations were in a state of constant war with each other.

At that time a great Iroquois Chief later known as Hiawatha urged the tribes to cease killing their brothers and formed a great alliance known as the Confederation of Nations, which proclaimed Indian peoples were more alike than different, in spite of speaking different dialects. Their basic belief systems and traditions were similar.

The Medicine Wheel became part of this commonality and was decorated in special symbols, colors, and stones, to let people entering the tribe know about its tribal members. The wheel instructed individuals on their strengths and weaknesses as well as what they needed to learn and share with others. Each was expected to work on themselves, or leave the tribe. Within a few generations, people lost the concept of blame and anger which resulted in the longest peace in modern history of 150 – 200 years.

c. Personal introspection, meditation, and personal growth.

The medicine wheel has interpretations that are similar to those espoused by Western Astrology. Sun Bear (Ojibwa), whose visions revitalized the medicine wheel for this purpose, claimed, “We attribute any similarities between the Medicine Wheel and astrology or any other way of self-knowledge to the fact that all truths come from the same source.” (The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, p. xix).

Similar to an astrological natal chart, a person’s birth date determines their location within the medicine wheel. That placement is associated with a special moon, power animal, healing plant, color and mineral. As a person progresses through life and experiences challenges, answers and inspiration can come from “visiting” other locations on the wheel and meditating upon the qualities they need to learn and grow.

Sources

http://www.native-americans-online.com/native-american-medicine-wheel.html

http://solar-center.stanford.edu/AO/bighorn.html

http://solar-center.stanford.edu/AO/dawn-rising.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine_wheel

Sun Bear and Wabun, “The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology,” Simon & Schuster, © 1980.

Sun Bear, Wabun, and Crysalis Mulligan, “Dancing with the Wheel: Medicine Wheel Workbook,” Simon & Schuster, ©1991.

Night Skies in Diné Bikéyah

The Navajo (Diné) have a rich tradition of starlore that maintains everything is connected. The stars above, the Earth below, and every plant, animal, and human. All are an integral part of nature and the Creator’s greater whole.

To Diné, the night sky is a sacred place. One does not speak of sacred things casually. Talk of the stars only takes place between October and February in Winter Stories, told when bears, insects, and plant life are resting. The only exception is limited discussion around the summer solstice

Starlore has been passed on through oral tradition and differs slightly from region to region. Such knowledge is mostly held my elders and medicine men. Certain parts of the sky relate to healing and societal messages, such as the importance of family. Many parts of the sky are too sacred for discussion among the uninitiated.

The Big Dipper, Casseopeia and Polaris are known to the Diné as one constellation known as Náhookǫs. It is perceived as a male warrior (Big Dipper) facing his female companion (Cassopeia) with the central fire (Polaris) between them. These circumpolar stars remain in the sky all year and represent the eternal nature of the family. During the course of the year, the Big Dipper portion changes orientation as it revolves around Polaris, its position indicative of the seasons.

Waxing Crescent Moon

The Pleiades are known as Dilyéhé, which translates as “seed-like sparkles.” Their appearance in early May on the western horizon indicates the time to plant crops. When they disappear later in June, it’s considering too late to plant and still harvest before the first frost. Orion is known as Átsé Ets’ózí, a young, strong warrior responsible for protecting his family and people.

His association with Átsé Etsoh (Scorpio) has an amusing story behind it. These two constellations are never seen in the night sky at the same time.  Their story declares the wise admonition that a mother-in-law and son-in-law should not see one another in daily life. A traditional Navajo mother-in-law might even wear a bell to warn that she is in the area. How much easier would life be if that were the case in all cultures?

Predawn is an important time that’s considered the beginning of a new day, not midnight as it is for western cultures. The Navajo month begins with the first sliver of a crescent moon. The young moon, combined with the first star or constellation seen in the eastern predawn light in the days following, indicate the beginning of a new month.

More delightful information accompanied by beautiful illustrations can be found in “Sharing the Skies: Navajo Astronomy” by Nancy C. Maryboy, PhD and David Begay, PhD available from the Southwest Indian Foundation here as well as on their website www.sharingtheskies.com.

As a side note, astronomy plays an important role in “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits.” It was something Charlie and Bryan shared as teens and helps solve the mystery.

Thoughts on Indigenous People Day

“Powwow” (Photo by Laura Hamilton courtesy Pixabay)

According to USA Today, if you live in Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin – plus the District of Columbia and more than 130 cities, then you observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of (or in addition to) Columbus Day. To the others, including the U.S. government, it’s still Columbus Day.

When I went to the post office in my small Texas town to mail some books on that day it was closed. I mentioned this to a friend, but referred to it as Indigenous People Day. His response was a crack about revisionists. That got me thinking.

There’s been a lot of ruckus this year about discrimination, racism, and the darker side of United States history. Destroying national monuments and tearing down statues because some group finds them offensive as part of a violent protest of the past reflected in the present displays generations of anger and righteous indignation.

But it doesn’t change a thing.

Most law-abiding white people see only violence, disrespect, and lawlessness.

They don’t get the concept of generations of visceral resentment.

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

It’s important to consider the context of those times. With 20:20 hindsight it’s easy to see how events and situations that were acceptable centuries ago are now recognized as barbaric and reeking of white supremacy.

More often than not, this is a factual statement.

By today’s standards they were wrong.

Please pause a moment to watch the following video of Marlon Brando saying it far more eloquently than I ever could.

When I was in school many decades ago history class provided biased information. Any journalist knows that a story must contain who, what, when, where, why, and how. Back then history textbooks left out a critical element:

WHY!

We were taught to regurgitate events and dates, perhaps the location, but that was it. BORING! Furthermore, we were not taught to think about what happened, much less why, but simply to accept it as fact.

Fact?

Let’s talk about facts.


History books failed to mention that Native People were here first, had no understanding of the principle of property ownership, often held higher moral and spiritual values than their conquerors, and were defending territory given to them centuries before by the Great Spirit.


We had one side, that of the victors. The Baby Boomer generation grew up thinking Native Americans were savages who were simply in the way. This was further reinforced by movies and westerns on TV to say nothing of backyard games of cowboys and Indians.

History books failed to mention that Native People were here first, had no understanding of the principle of property ownership, often held higher moral and spiritual values than their conquerors, and were defending territory given to them centuries before by the Great Spirit.

Can you begin to see how offensive a holiday celebrating Columbus’ “discovery” of American would be to First Americans after generations of oppression in the supposed “land of the free and the brave?”

At the time of westward expansion–Manifest Destiny, if you will–these atrocities reflected the prevailing attitudes of the western world. The deeds and behavior now recognized as evil were considered normal, even heroic. And sadly, still are, in some parts of the world.

Fort Robinson Massacre

In many cases, Native American cultures were more advanced back then than the United States is today. Granted some were barbaric by western standards, such as the Maya and Aztec, but it’s important to remember that we invaded their land. Most tribes in North America were far more peaceful.

Treaties with First Americans were (and still are) broken as a matter of course. Chiefs would sign a document in good faith, often having no idea what it said, only to have what they thought was agreed upon never occur because Congress refused to ratify it. As far as they were concerned they had agreed to its terms and couldn’t understand why the white men who signed the document didn’t have the proper authority to guarantee their side of the agreement.

And it’s obvious that when indigenous people refused to give away their country, then genocide became the logical alternative.

Did you know that the Pope granted explorers permission to kill or enslave indigenous people? To the Catholic Church’s credit, this opinion eventually switched to missionary and education efforts, except the intent initially was to annihilate their culture and Anglicize them by forcing Native Americans to cut their hair and punishing them for speaking their own language. Thankfully, that has changed. Today’s curriculum includes respect for their culture and history as well as retaining their native languages. The private schools today are doing penance for the past, which is more than can be said about anyone else.

Pike’s Peak Goldrush Map

Indigenous people in the United States were murdered and those that remained driven off their land, usually to reservations in locations no one else wanted. At least until gold or silver was discovered, in which case they were driven off again. Many today live in conditions comparable to those of a Third World country.

How is this okay?

Consider this: The USA helped Europe defeat the Nazis in World War II. Our troops decimated Germany in the process, but we helped them rebuild. Adolph Hitler was a vile threat and avowed enemy. We bombed the hell out of them.

Then stepped in after the war and helped them recover! And did the same thing for Japan, who attacked our fleet at Pearl Harbor!

Seriously?

Photo by David Mark (Courtesy Pixabay)

Yet, for First Nation people, from whom we literally stole this country, we do little to nothing. Rather, we continue to steal and desecrate their sacred sites, then hover somewhere between ignoring their situation and the typical narcissistic response of placing the blame on them.

“Sorry, guys. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

How would today’s Americans respond to Chinese hoards swarming their borders? How would you respond? Would you welcome them with open arms? Or defend your country by embracing your 2nd Amendment rights?

Columbus should be remembered. The sea voyage alone at that time was incredible. He led the way for Europeans to be free and escape oppression. Ironically, this came with a price that imposed far worse circumstances on the First Americans, when millions were slaughtered and brushed aside as vermin. Columbus belongs in the history books, but the effect his “discovery” had on the First Americans needs to be told and acknowledged (as well as some of his less than stellar personal deeds).

The USA has a long way to go before they quit being defensive and admit this behavior was antithetical to what was supposed to be a Christian nation espousing “liberty and justice for all.” We must balance the history books and acknowledge the darker side. It takes a big person (or country) to admit when they were wrong. It doesn’t change the past, but it could heal the present and certainly the future.

Meanwhile, the least we should do is eschew Columbus in favor of Indigenous People Day.

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Recommended reading: “Great Speeches by Native Americans” edited by Bob Blaisdell. I suggest you buy it here, from the Southwest Indian Foundation.