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.
Wenona Morning Star Gardner
Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation
The Breath of Life Prayer Circle.
I am coming to you asking for prayer support as I go on my journey to the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages in Washington DC. I will be searching the archives of the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institute searching for Mahican and Munsee languages from my tribe. I will be going to Washington DC June 7-June 22, 2013. I am requesting that you regularly provide your prayers both before, during, and after my trip. I need prayers before I go to get ready for my journey. I definitely need prayers as I am actually traveling during June 7- June 22 since I am physically disabled and traveling poses special challenges for me. I will need prayers to help me locate and find hidden knowledge in the archives. I also need prayers to help me retrieve the information and bring it safely back to my tribe the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation and the rest of the Lenape Nations. Most importantly I need prayers so that the information I get can be implemented and properly put into use.
Prayers that can be shared so that I can see them when I am in Washington DC would be much appreciated. I would like to see prayers written, pictures created, video of songs or music playing posted so I can view and hear them while I am on the road. I appreciate if you chose to pray silently and I am grateful for that. However, I am especially asking for prayers that I can see and hear while I am actually in Washington DC. Please post your prayers so I can be inspired and lifted as I take on the challenge of this intense two weeks.
I am grateful for you being part of my Breath of Life Prayer Circle. I am grateful for all and any prayers. I look forward to see what prayers you have to share.
Anushiik Thank you!
Wiping Away the Tears
I am enrolled in the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation and I was in foster care for a few years. I was told that Native American people who were adopted or went through foster care were considered “Lost Birds.” A longtime mentor brought me to a special ceremony called the Wiping Away the Tears ceremony at Indian Summer Festival during September 2002. The ceremony was part of that Indian Summer Festival’s theme “Coming Home,” which extended honor and healing to Indian adoptees and Indians that were in foster homes. Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe performed the “Wiping Away the Tears” describes the special emphasis the “Wablenica Ceremony”, prayer and pipe ceremony, American Indian adoptees and foster care children are welcomed back to Native culture and their spiritual home. This ceremony also helped families who were separated by adoption or foster care begin the reconciliation process. The Wiping of Tears Ceremony to heal the grief caused by the years of separation from their families and communities. The entire ceremony for all of us Lost Birds in a circle praying and singing together. I hope, if you haven’t had a chance to participate in one, that you have the opportunity to participate in such a ceremony, it’s been very healing and life altering experience for me.
Wenona Morning Star Gardner
Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation
I have been doing research since I was 15 years old on my own. I love interviewing family relatives and doing all kinds of research. I have been doing genealogy research for 24 years. I was accepted into the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages where I get to go to Washington DC to search through the Library of Congress archives and the Smithsonian archives searching for Munsee language. In addition, I am told I can also search for genealogy while I am there.
So what I am offering the opportunity to come benefit from the genealogy and Munsee language research I have already begun and will continue in the archives in Washington D.C. I will be searching for Lenape and Delaware as part of my research. I am sure I will uncover Unami language archival resources. I am inviting anyone who wants to be involved with the Breath of Life project to come join me at Mohican-8. Let me know you are interested in working on Breath of Life with me.
I envision Breath of Life to be an Intertribal Communtiy project on Munsee language and genealogy that can potentially benefit the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation, the Pennsylvania Lenape Nation, the Ramapough Munsee Lunaape Nation, Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape , Munsee-Delaware Nation 1, the Moravian of the Thames First Nation, and the Delaware of Six Nations, Delaware Nation and the Delaware Tribe of Indian both located in Oklahoma.
Wenona Morning Star Gardner
Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Nation
Leader of Mohican-8
I totally loved Julia Cameron’s The Prosperous Heart. Going through the book I saw the value of my BA in Business and Management degree from Alverno and was inspired to begin work on my business plan. I found a friend from my Artist’s Way Circle who lives in Ohio who was willing to go through the Right Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee with me week by week through Google+ Hangouts. So far we have spent 9 weeks working through our business plan. I love my friend and together we explored our our value and laid down our individual prosperity plans. Thanks to the Prosperous Heart I also saw the value of my leadership skills so I signed up for more leadership roles. Thanks to the Prosperous Heart, I am now the Organizer of The Artist’s Way Circle Meetup in Waukesha, the Life Story Circle Meetup in Waukesha, and Waukesha Gaming Group Meetup in Waukesha. I realized Prosperous Heart empowered me to take on these new leadership positions. Prosperous Heart helped me to value my time and the benefit of volunteering to serve others. Through the Counting Tool I recognized I spent way too much money on eating out and so I cut back on that so I could put money towards a trip. Through the encouragement of Prosperous Heart, I also dared to apply for new opportunities and won a chance to go to Washington D.C.to search for my tribe’s Munsee language in the Library of Congress and Smithsonian archives. I loved hearing Julia Cameron explain each chapter. I draw strength from Julia Cameron’s words. I love many of Julia Cameron’s work including The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World, Finding Water, The Artist’s Way at Work, The Writing Diet, and now Prosperous Heart.
My name is Wenona Gardner. My Native American name is Wapaan Alaangweew which means Morning Star the symbol of hope. I am Native American enrolled in the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans. We are a tribe of Woodland Indians with our tribal office and reservation located in Shawano County, Wisconsin. Upon receiving my name I increased my activity in participating in various ceremonies and during this time I was taught about wellness through the Native American Medicine Wheel the balance of the mind, body, heart, and spirit.
I also have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. As a person rooted in Native American ways and trying to walk the Red Road and also walking in the world of Western medicine seeking to address the mental illnesses I have, I often feel overwhelmed walking in these two worlds. On top of struggling through symptoms I feel trying to deal with two cultures many times there is miscommunication between the two from my experience. In my Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) I hope will communicate my personal viewpoint on wellness to bridge the gap.
My understanding of the Medicine Wheel is intuitive as I experienced in ceremony smelling the sweet grass burn and calling the four directions for prayer. We are taught to think in circles. That life is circular and flows in cycles likes the seasons. The Medicine Wheel teaches these things and much more. Teachings that have been passed down through the ages orally.
Many Native American people are trying to address such things as the high depression, substance abuse, and suicide rates (according to Federal Office of Minority Health & Health Disparities. “Minority Health Determines the Health of the Nation” http://www.cdc.gov/omhd ) in the native community by going back to the native community by going back to the Native American Medicine Wheel and other traditional ways of healing.
Many Native American spiritual leaders and healers believe that the way to heal many members in the community from mental illness is strengthening all four dimensions of one’s being mind, body, heart, and spirit signified by the colors of yellow, red, black, and white respectfully. Each of these represent the balance of the four nations. These are the colors that I was taught about the Medicine Wheel, though I am aware other tribal nations do sometimes use other colors.
Why the four directions of the Medicine Wheel?
Even though one may have a mental illness they can strengthen their quality of life by not just focusing on their mind, but also other aspects of their being such as the heart, physical, and spiritual strive to achieve the circle. In doing so we are trying to be the best we can be at the highest level of health we can achieve. For example, when one is hospitalized to deal with mental illness issues it would help if that Native American person has access to their Spiritual Leaders. Also, in the Native American ways the use of tobacco is sacred and it’s smoke is considered prayers that go up to the Creator. I heard word that locally they deny patients from having access to tobacco. What if your Native American and believe the use of tobacco carries prayers to the Great Creator, you would be denied access to worship in this way if you are in a hospital that prohibits tobacco use. I am not sure the Western doctors and staff see this from a culture perspective that many Native American Traditional Spiritual leaders do.
I do believe there is such a thing as cultural wellness. I remember hearing the phrase reading about Medicine Wheel and wellness. What I got from the article basically was that respecting someone’s culture in dealing with wellness and in this case mental healing is very real. I strongly believe that a health care systems that respects and seeks out to honor my culture background regardless of prejudicial judgments of my fair skin would be greatly appreciated.
There are ways to learn about the Medicine Wheel and wellness through talking with Native American people. Many Native American healers work within local Indian Health boards and Tribal Health Centers. Speaking to Native Americans is most preferred over books cause our culture is an oral based culture. I recommend using books as secondary source.
There doesn’t have to be a situation as the Native American character played by Will Sampson in the movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” whose only perceived way he could deal with the Western medicine mental health system is to bust through a window and flee like mad from a system that was supposed to be healing. I am hoping the teachings of the Medicine Wheel can be understood as it relates to wellness and be bridged as a gap to help me better to those who want to help work with my mental illness.
I see a great disconnect between the tribal nations and the Wisconsin in terms of the worldivew of Mother Earth herself. I have participated in the Native American science fair for 8 years through the American Science Indian Science and Engineering Society and University of Wisconsin of Milwaukee. I won 8 gold medals at the state level. I was studying to be an Environmental Engineer. I had an internship at the Center for Great Lakes studies. I went with great interest because I was passionate about the study of water. I remember receiving a tour and an explanation of what they do. They said they study the lake by studying the fish. He then took a very large test tube and loaded it up with fish and then gleefully grinding the fish and while maniacally laughing. Total disregard for life, no sacredness for the spirit of the fish. It’s then I saw the truth that the Western world of science sees Mother Earth as inanimate and dead and that is why there is such total disregard for life. That was the day I stopped pursuing Western science. For I was raised in the native traditions that Mother Earth is alive and can feel. That is why the Wisconsin Legislators won’t understand the Native American point of view because the Wisconsin Legislators come from a world view where they think Mother Earth is dead and they can do whatever they want.