As part on my Breath of Life Archival Institute of Indigenous Languages experience, I had the privilege to visit the National Museum of American Indian Cultural Resource Center (CRC) in Suitland, Maryland. The CRC, is home to the extensive collections and research programs of the museum. While at the CRC, I uncovered Mahican and Munsee baskets, bowls, mortar and pestles, as well as beadwork. As a beader myself, I am especially fond of beadwork so in this post I wanted to highlight some of the photos of my favorite Mahican beadwork that I had the chance to see.
I learned from L. Frank Manriquez that the purpose of surrounding ourselves with the original items of our people like our beadwork is because it helps with connecting to our native language. Since our old items and beadwork contain the memory of our language, if we were able to hold them you can feel that memory of our language of our people.
On June 7, 2013 I left for a 2 week trip for the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages in Washington DC. While in DC, I searched the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institute Archives searching for the Mahican and Munsee languages of my Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation. While I was riding on the train from Chicago to DC, I spotted an owl in broad daylight flying over a children’s playground in Chicago. I took that as a very important sign from the Creator. At the National American Indian Museum I wheeled past in my wheel chair and randomly noticed a display of Owls made from various tribes. A couple days later while in my wheel chair, I was rolling through the National Museum of Natural History just quickly passing through by random chance I encountered another display of Owls without even trying to look for them. In my research at the National Anthropological Archives in Maryland I discovered a Mahican story in Mahican called The Owl Story. This is the original version of The Owl Story August 4, 1914 and was in Linguist Truman Michelson’s papers of a story told in English by Mohican Sot Quinney and then is translated into Mahican by Mohican William Dick which is the most accurate version of the story. I felt extremely honored to touch Michelson’s original papers handwritten in Mahican. According to Breath of Life Eastern Algonquian Linguist Conor Quinn who spoke to Linguist and Algonquian Language Specialist Ives Goddard, Quinney and Dick worked cooperatively on The Owl Story plus the six other Mahican stories I uncovered and both deserve credit. Within The Owl Story I learned the Mahican word for owl which is Mcō’ksasan.
According to the National Museum of American Indian This Day in the Mayan calendar, I learned corresponding with “June 25, 2013, is 8 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 8 is a double balance. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them and remember them with purpose. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, ‘the enchantment.’” Personally, I have associated the Owl representing the keeper of hidden knowledge and it seems most fitting to me as I explored the National Anthropological Archives in Maryland. I associate Owls with wisdom and spirituality which I perceive my Breath of Life journey to be focused on. I spent from February to June preparing myself spiritually with regular prayers and ceremony for the healing journey of Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages. I even invited my community to pray with me as I included them in a Breath of Life Prayer Circle. As I shared my research with my online tribal group Mohican-8 I attempted to make Breath of Life a community project so that they too were part of the process of uncovering hidden knowledge about our Mohican people. Owl also indicated to me the connection to our ancestors and I felt that as I touched the old papers in the archives that were handwritten with Mahican words. I have been surrounded by Owl medicine during and after my Breath of Life journey. I am blessed to be in touch with the spirit world and by searching the archives to discover hidden knowledge. I am grateful the Owl has come with me on this sacred journey. I feel blessed. Anushiik, Wenona Morning Star Gardner Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation