THE NAIVETÉ AMERICAN INDIAN
SPIRITUAL STORIES ARCHIVE
THE NAIVETÉ AMERICAN INDIAN
Will I die tonight? I do not know. Only the Great Spirit knows if I will survive the night.
I am Naiche` son of Jacoetae, son of Eagle Wing, who was my grandfather and the great storyteller of the history of my people.
How was it that my feet were guided to this desert place in Iraq? As I kneel before my captors, I retrace the steps that lead me to this place and the final moments of fearful agony that I and my family now endure.
I remember when I was two; I sat on my grandfather’s lap below the Dream Catcher that he had placed above his favorite chair. The Dream Catcher was old, dating back five generations. Our ancestors would place it above the place where their children slept during the early years of their life. The Dream Catcher was made from a hoop of bent willow with a webbing of sinew. It was believed to sort dreams; the bad dreams were caught in the web, while the good dreams passed through to the dreamer. To my people, dreams held much meaning.
I would spend much time on my grandfather’s knee, hearing stories of my people that dated back hundreds of years. As I would hear him speak, my spirit would soar as an eagle over the mountains and I, like my grandfather, longed for the days when life was simpler and the Indian was one with the land and with The Great Spirit who guided his steps.
When I was older, my grandfather would take me on his vision quests, which lasted for several days. We ate nothing except some herbs, which brought about a dream state that prepared us to receive communication from our animal guide. The animal guide was how the Great Spirit would speak to us. While on our vision quest, our animal guide would be the first animal we saw in our vision. My grandfather’s animal guide was a bear, which was a powerful sign to our people.
After each vision quest, my grandfather would add items to his medicine bundle, each item holding special meaning to him. I remember that his medicine bundle included some sweet grass, an odd shaped stone, an eagle’s feather, the head of an ancient spear and a strand of hair from his great, great, great grandfather, who was a chief at the reservation, where he and his people were forced to live by the cavalry of the United States military.
As I grew older, I often thought about living the life of my ancestors, free from the cultures of other people and modern conveniences. It wasn’t until the passing of my grandfather, that I began to think about returning to the life of my ancestors, living from the land and following the spirituality of my heritage.
My father had passed from this life some years earlier and so it was up to me to settle my grandfather’s estate.
It was painful to sort through my grandfather’s possessions and even more painful to part with them. I had a small apartment and could not afford to store his furniture and appliances. I had announced in the newspapers that the estate sale of his belongings would take place the next day, so I was hurrying to prepare for it. With the attic being the last room I needed to go through, I was surprised that it was the place he kept the possessions of his Indian heritage.
I found the Dream Catcher, various types of Indian art and his most sacred medicine bundle. I held it in my hands and remembered the vision quests we shared together. It was time I went on one of my own.
After the last remaining details of the estate sale were completed, I took my grandfather’s medicine bundle and built a sweat lodge behind his house in preparation for my vision quest. A sweat lodge was a dome-shaped tent, which was made of willow branches and covered with hides or blankets. This place was used for physical and spiritual purification for meditation and prayer. Inside the sweat lodge was a pit, which was used to make a fire for smudging. Smudging involved the burning of certain herbs, namely sage, cedar and sweet grass, then taking the smoke into one’s hands and rubbing the smoke over one’s body.
Since this would be the first vision quest I would take alone it had special meaning. It is believed that a man’s first vision quest would be his introduction to his animal guide, who would tell him things concerning his future.
After a full day of purifying my body of its toxins and the releasing of all negative thoughts that were lodged in my spirit, I knelt in front of the fire and began to pray to the Great Spirit as my ancestors did before me.
“Far from the bones of my ancient ancestors, I plead with you Great Spirit to send to me my animal guide, as you did for my grandfather before me. I hear only the sounds of the night owl in the shadow of the moonlight. My people's culture is gone from the earth. Restore to me the heritage of my ancestors and let me soar once again as an eagle gliding over the mountaintops, as I did when my grandfather spoke of the ways of our people. It was he who taught me of our culture, when our people were once free and one with the land”.
I was silent throughout the night as I waited for a response to my prayer. I remained kneeling before the fire until the fire went out. I was there for three days without food or water when the vision came. The Great Spirit must have wanted to know if I would endure before he answered my prayer.
The vision was of a hot, scorching desert. Nothing was alive there except for a lizard on a rock. In my vision I told the lizard I wanted to be restored to the life of my ancestors. I asked him what should I do. I stared at him waiting for an answer. In a few minutes he scurried off toward the desert sands and I saw him no more.
The vision was gone from me. I was tired, hungry and my body was in pain from being in a kneeling position for several days. I went inside my grandfather’s home and slept till morning.
I went to the library the next day and searched the maps for a desert location that was similar to the place I saw in my vision. I did not want to live where there were influences of modern society. I found an area in Iraq that was north of a city called Diyala, which was north of Baghdad that seemed right for my purpose. I placed some phone calls and found a 400 acre piece of land that seemed ideal for building a new reservation for myself and other Indians who wanted to live as our ancestors lived.
I sold my grandfather’s home and my belongings, except for what I could carry and bought a ticket for Iraq. When I arrived to the city of Diyala, I contacted the current ruling government and purchased the property site unseen for only half of the moneys I received for my grandfather’s estate. I believed he would have been pleased.
I paid a merchant to take me to my newly purchased property greatly anticipating seeing my future home and the home of other Indians who will share my beliefs.
Within a year, my home was a desert paradise. I was happy, but I was alone. I traveled to Baghdad and mailed notices to reservations all over the world inviting others of various Indian cultures to join me. There were no responses at first, but soon, one by one they came, for they too wanted what I had wanted, to live their lives as we were meant to live, with dignity and self-reliance.
Over time, I met a woman who I grew to love and she became my mate. We had two sons that were four and five years of age. I truly loved my family and my people who now numbered 400 in the land where we lived.
One day while on a hunt, I heard thunder in the hills but there were no clouds in the sky. The thunder continued throughout the night and for many days. We found out from a passing native of the land that the country of Iraq was being invaded and the city of Baghdad was in ruins.
I prayed to the Great Spirit to help our people and the native people of this country. Months later, tanks rolled through our reservation and many hundreds of soldiers came and took our food and mistreated our people without regard for our rights or our well-being. We did nothing to provoke these invaders and yet they afflicted us with a savage disregard for our lives.
After they left we labored to rebuild our homes, but it was in vain. Within weeks more soldiers came and captured our younger men including myself and took us away from our homes. The trucks they threw us into were packed and over flowing with the men from our village. Later in the day, we arrived at a prison where they stripped us and put us in chains. We waited to stand before a judge and discover our crimes, but we were not allowed to have legal assistance.
We worked all day everyday at the prison. After several weeks I realized we were captured for slave labor. There were no crimes. We were not allowed to wear clothes or speak. We were fed spoiled food riddled with insects. Some of our men complained and were beaten. The prison guards enjoyed our disgrace.
One day as I was being taken to my cell, a male and female guard caused many of the men to pile on top of each other in a mound of flesh. I refused and was beaten by the guard, pounded in the face over and over again to his delight. I tried to fight back but this only made him more angry. He took me to a second floor railing, caused me to stand on a small box, placed a black hood over my face and told me if I stepped off the box for any reason, I would be electrocuted. He then attached wires to me which I found out later were not attached to anything. I stood like this for two days until a commander came through during an inspection and had me taken to my cell.
I was released after three months, but it took me ten days to get home, getting rides from people heading in my direction.
When I got back to the reservation, our homes were wasted. What structures remained were bare inside, because the soldiers took everything they wanted. Many of our men were still gone. Weakened and afraid I went to my home and bowed my face to the dirt and prayed to the Great Spirit to give me strength and tell me why this tragedy has happened to us.
After a short time, I had another vision. This time it was of an ancient Indian village being attacked by horse soldiers from the cavalry. In my vision, I saw men, women and children hacked to death by the swords of the soldiers and their huts burned to the ground. As I saw this image I heard a voice in my spirit say to me, you wanted to live the life of your ancestors.
As I thought on this I came out of my vision by my own will, outraged at the Great Spirit for subjecting me to this hell that I had just endured. I stopped praying to Him and focused my efforts on rebuilding our homes. I began thinking about leaving this land and going somewhere else, but our men who were still in captivity could not be left behind. After all, they had believed in me and I could not leave them.
One evening as we lay in our beds, we heard the sound of many trucks in the distance. We were all startled and afraid but we didn’t know what to do. We had no weapons to defend ourselves and no vehicles in which we could escape. Minutes later the trucks came through our reservation and once again the soldiers began to bind our hands and throw us on to the ground outside of our homes. I was in my night shirt, barefoot kneeling on the ground as a soldier put a hood over my head and told me if I moved, he would kill me.
I could hear my wife being manhandled by the soldiers. I could hear the sound of her screams, but I could not go to her. I prayed once again to the Great Spirit to help me and my family. I had lost faith in Him, but now I had no other choice but to ask for His help. I told Him I would do anything He wanted if He would save my family.
After a few moments, I heard the sounds of the trucks starting up again and then the sound of them driving away. After a few moments, my hood was removed by my beautiful wife who had been unharmed by the soldiers. She untied my hands and held me close to her for a very long time.
As she was embracing me, I heard the sounds of a night owl in the shadow of the moonlight. I knew for the first time what I was to do, why I had to endure this hell. I would write these things down so the world would know what had happened here, this very account I am writing now. Those who would hear my words, will either move to set things straight or themselves be held accountable by the Great Spirit who watches everything.
Copyright © 2007 Mark Edgemon
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