Thursday, April 22, 2004

Native American Calendar

Native American Calendar

No North American Indian tribe that I am aware of had a true calendar--a single integrated system of denoting days and longer periods of time. Usually, intervals of time were counted independently of one another.

 Events were recorded in pictographs on buffalo hides, symbolic beading into the clothing, and passed down through tribal tradition by story telling.

The day was a basic unit recognized by all tribes, but there is no record of aboriginal names for days. A common device for keeping track of days was a bundle of sticks of known number, from which one was extracted for every day that passed, until the bundle was exhausted.

Longer periods of time were usually counted by moons, which began with the New Moon, or conjunction of the Sun and Moon.

Years were divided into four seasons, occasionally five, and when counted were usually designated by one of the seasons; e.g., a North American Indian might say that a certain event had happened 10 winters ago.

Among sedentary agricultural tribes, the cycle of the seasons was of great ritual importance, but the time of the beginning of the year varied. Some observed it about the time of the vernal equinox, others in the fall. The Hopi tribe of northern Arizona held a new-fire ceremony in November. The Creek ceremony, known as the "Busk," was held late in July or in August, but it is said that each Creek town or settlement set its own date for the celebration.

As years were determined by seasons and not by a fixed number of days, the correlation of moons and years was also approximate and not a function of a daily count. Most tribes reckoned 12 moons to a year. Some northern tribes, notably those of New England, and the Cree tribes, counted 13. The Indians of the northwest coast divided their years into two parts, counting six moons to each part, and the Kiowa split one of their 12 moons between two unequal seasons, beginning their year with a Full Moon.

The naming of moons is perhaps the first step in transforming them into months. The Zuni Indians of New Mexico named the first six moons of the year, referring to the remainder by colour designations associated with the four cardinal (horizontal) directions, and the zenith and the nadir.

Only a few Indian tribes attempted a more precise correlation of moons and years. The Creeks are said to have added amoon between each pair of years, and the Haida from time to time inserted a "between moon" in the division of their year into two parts. It is said that an unspecified tribe of the Sioux or the Ojibwa (Chippewa) made a practice of adding a "lost moon" when 30 moons had waned.

A tally of years following an important event was sometimes kept on a notched stick. The best known record commemorates the spectacular meteoric shower (the Leonids) of 1833. Some northern tribes recorded series of events by pictographs, and one such record, said to have been originally painted on a buffalo robe and known as the "Lone-dog Winter Count," covers a period of 71 years beginning with 1800.

Early explorers had little opportunity to learn about the calendrical devices of the Indians, which were probably held sacred and secret. Contact with Europeans and their Christian calendar doubtless altered many aboriginal practices. Thus, present knowledge of the systems used in the past may not reflect their true complexity.


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Totem Animals of each Month

These are the totem animals and the months they have greatest power according to Bearded Wolf.

SNOW GOOSE (Dec. 22-Jan. 19). This is the Earth Renewal Moon, and Snow Goose is the animal totem. From him, we learn beauty, tradition, transmitting, receiving, ceremony, and gregariousness.

OTTER (Jan. 20-Feb. 18). If you are born during this period, you are in the Rest and Cleansing Moon, and Otter is your totem. From Otter, people can learn to be playful, nurturing, prophetic, noble, curious and humanitarian in nature.

COUGAR (Feb. 19-Mar. 20). Those born at this time are under the Big Winds Moon. From your totem, Cougar, learn the lessons of initiative, speed, grace, territoriality and mystery.

RED HAWK (Mar. 21-April 19). This is the time of the Budding Trees Moon, and the animal totem is the Red Hawk. From him, people can learn the lessons of awareness, insight, truth, adaptability, prayer and openness.

BEAVER (April 20-May 20). This is the season of the Frogs Return Moon, and the totem for this moon is Beaver. From Beaver, we learn security, contentment, industry, balance, affection and patience.

DEER (May 21-June 20). The totem for the Cornplanting Moon is Deer. From this beautiful animal, people can learn sensitivity, grace, alertness, creativity and heart and spirit connection.

FLICKER (June 21-July 22). If you are born in this time period, you were born in the Strong Sun Moon, and your animal totem is Flicker. He teaches us protection, courage, joy, rhythm, harmony, loving and nurturing.

STURGEON (July 23-Aug. 22).This is the time of the Ripe Berries Moon, and the animal totem is Sturgeon. We learn these from Sturgeon: determination, teaching, leadership, knowledge, depth.

BROWN BEAR (Aug. 23-Sept.22). Those born at this time are born under the Harvest Moon, and the Brown Bear is your animal totem. He teaches us caution, bravery, fairness, organization, curiosity and leadership.

RAVEN (Sept. 23-Oct. 23). Raven is the totem for those born under the Ducks Fly Moon. Raven, very wise, teaches people spirituality, intelligence, community, duality and balance.

 SNAKE (Oct. 24-Nov. 21). This is the time of the Freeze Up Moon, and if you were born now, your totem is Snake. Snake teaches the lessons of mystery, adaptability, femininity, transformation and healing.

 ELK (Nov. 22-Dec. 21). Elk is the animal totem associated with the Long Snows Moon. The regal Elk teaches us to be confident, strong, joyful, agile, wise, and responsible.

The Trail and Beyond

Remember, this was but four generations ago.

On September 15, 1830, at Little Dancing Rabbit Creek, the Chiefs of the Choctaw Nation and representatives of the U.S. met to discuss the impact of a bill recently passed by the Congress of the U.S. This bill, with all the same good intentions of those today who believe they know better than we how to conduct Native lives, allowed for the removal of all Indian peoples to the West of the Mississippi River.

It had been made clear to the Choctaw, that the Whites in Washington cared little for "the Indian"situation, that either they willingly moved, or by military force they would be moved.

The Natives were not ignorant savages, but industrious farmers, merchants, and businessmen of all types. They were educated people, many were Christians, and had an organized system of government and a codified body of law. Some of these people were not even Indians, many strangers and orphans had been taken in over the years.

The Chiefs and Warriors signed the treaty, realizing they had no option. For doing this the government officials guaranteed, in the body of the treaty, safe conveyance to new homes.

(Do not forget for a moment that in this treaty, the Choctaw traded 10.3 million acres of land east of the Mississipi for 10.3 acres in Oklahoma and Arkansas that were already owned under previous treaties)

Further, it included provisions and monetary annuities, to assist the people to make a new start. One half of the people were to depart almost immediately, the rest the next year.

After the signing of the treaty, many saw their land and property sold before their own eyes. The "conveyances" promised turn out to be a forced march.

At the point of a gun, the pace killed many of the old, exposure and bad food killed most. Rotten beef and vegatables are poor provisions, even for the idle. Many walked the entire distance without shoes, barely clothed. What supplies were given had been rejected by the whites.

This cannot directly blamed on the goverment, nearly all of this was done by unscrupulous men, interested only in maximizing their profits. They government's fault lies in not being watchful of those taken into their charge.

Many of the old and the children died on the road. At each allowed stop, the dead were buried. Hearing of this many escaped. They knew that as they signed the rolls, to be "removed", that this might as well be their death warrants. They took refuge in the hills, the swamps, and other places too inhospitable for the whites.

Even as this ocurred, those in charge reported their "peaceful progress" to Congress, who looked no further.

Those who evaded the rolls were accepted by neither the whites nor the "papered" Indians. Still others claimed to be "Black Dutch," Spanish, Creole, or Black.

(One old granfather later lied to the census taker, saying he was one sixty-fourth. At that degree, he could still live and own land on the reservation. He was "enrolled" at that number and his wife claimed to be Black Dutch). Many others fled to Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana, even into the swamps of the Okeefenokee.

The "fertile lands, alive with game, lush with forests" turned out to be bone-dry and covered in alkalai pits, and a strange black ooze that stank and caught fire easily. Blistering hot in the summer, freezing in the winter, this land was still their own. And then the whites decided they needed more land.

Again, pressure was brought to bear on the Choctaw. By this time the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Cree, Kickapoo, Seminole, Wyandotte, Lenapi, Mohawk, and others whose names you would not recognize, had their reservations shrunk around them.

The Choctaw had only been the first to be removed, the goverment drunk with power and in fit of lust for land, had removed nearly all. The Mississippi Band of the Choctaw had temporarily avoided displacement, but had their land stripped down to 500 acres, but within five years none of that land was in Indian hands.

Already Arkansas had begun to be settled by whites, who ignored the treaties. Even those who fled to California were being displaced by miners, famers and ranchers. The discovery of gold galvanized the vise forming around the Indian people, so that expansion from the East was equalled by expansion from the West.

The altruistic government, in love and charity removed many of the young to "boarding schools" where they were "civilized," which meant being given white names, speaking only English, and being forbidden to worship their "pagan" gods. To this day most Indians, even full-bloods, are not fluent in their own mother-tongues.

My own grandmothers tribal name was changed from Seminole tongue and she was given the last name of "White."

The final blow came when the whites decided they needed the black ooze and again the process accelerated. By that time, Custer, making illegal sorties into the Black Hills, had discovered gold there too. The Lakota watched their lands, cut to almost a third and then again until nearly all was gone.

In the 1880's, came Wovoka, who offered a message of hope and peace. With him he brought the Ghost Dance and all tribes listened to that Siren song. At the peak of this frenzy came Wounded Knee.

There, unarmed and innocent men, women, and children were murdered by scared Cavalry, who never took the time to find out what this was all about. Adding insult to injury, Medals of Honor were given to these men. Every white child knew, "the only good Indian is a dead Indian."

 Remember, this was but four generations ago.


Sunday, April 18, 2004

To Meet an Elder

For those of you who read this site and do not know, I am also a nurse. I normally do not write "personal" information on this site, as I truly desire it to be one that honors the Native American; however, this time I want to include a wonderful experience that I have recently had.

I had the pleasure of meeting and working with a Native American elder and his wife at my hospital. The second that I looked at him I knew that he was Native American. The hairs on my arms seemed to tingle and come to life when I looked up and saw him and it was as if my inner spirit man knew instantly who I was with. I cannot explain it.

I asked him what tribe he was of. He is of the Navajo tribe and I so throughly enjoyed the pleasure of serving he and his wife and listening to the little tid-bits of wisdom he did share.

I would encourage anyone who is blessed by meeting an elder to listen and learn all they can before the older generations are gone from us all. Once the elders are no longer in physical bodies with us, we will have lost thousands of generations of teachings because we did not take the time to learn them.

Losing the heritage of the ancestors and teachings will cause the "life and spirit" of the Native American to become extinct.... the spirit of the Native way will disappear... even if the physical bloodline exists.