How The People Kept Their Power
When the Grandfather spread his hair, sparks from each strand became the stars. It was he who made the Sky Father and the Earth Mother. Also the Moon Sister, whose life cycle affects us all. I am old and do not believe in all the stories as they were told to me, yet know the universe is vast. I also know the universe is a bubble, and we are on the inside where there is no way out. It is the Circle of Life, and the Circle of Life is what we are.
The Moon Sister was pretty, yet was barren. The Earth Mother was not. It was she who made the bear and bird, the fish and wolf, and all other creatures. She made man and woman, for we are also animals, and her knowledge is found in the heart of all things. This made the Moon Sister angry and jealous, so she hid her face until the Sky Father spoke to her and asked that she smile, which she does now once a month out of joy. She knows the Sky Father loves her.
The anger and jealousy of the Moon Sister, what she kept hidden, soured, and a Black Warrior rode the darkness to infest the Earth Mother. This happens now and again. It was I who fought the last Black Warrior. I was young and impatient.
Mountains rumbled, the Earth Mother shook, it seemed she had a secret to tell. It was I who went into the mountains to listen, to touch the spirit of the Earth Mother. The insects were frightened so did not bite. I am always grateful for small favors and thanked them. Snakes were to be avoided, for they were angry and would remain so for several days. I was on a spirit quest so took no food. I had nothing to drink, but knew I would find water enough to quench the most powerful thirst. I sheathed my knife, and also my pipe, so I could take council from nature.
I climbed to the holy places, and when I looked down between my feet, I saw Grandfather Peyote. I pulled the button from the soil and ate it, for contained within Grandfather Peyote is a powerful medicine. It makes the heart beat strong, and the spirit open like a spring bloom.
I found sweet grass, which I cut. I gathered wood and made a fire with the back of my knife, striking it against a stone, and smoked the sweet grass to purify my spirit and body. When my clothes had vanished, I knew my prayers had been answered. The spirits would protect me as long as I was not foolish.
I was thirsty and could hear water as it tumbled toward the grassy plains below. I found the stream and drank. And as I drank, I saw in my reflection the wisdom of two. Two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs, man and woman, body and spirit.
I had been told to beware the spirit world if I was unprepared, so I asked the spirits if I was ready, and was answered. A black bear tore through the trees, then lumbered up to me and spoke.
"You are unsure," the bear said. "Perhaps you are not the warrior I seek. Do you have any food to eat? A bear is always hungry."
"I have no food for you. Are you the Black Warrior I must face?"
"I am, but you do not possess the strength to defeat me."
"Then I must call to the spirit of the grizzly bear, for he is more fierce." And so I called to the spirit of the grizzly. It came and I was the grizzly.
We stood and roared our challenges. I knew my words and deeds were strong and clear, and charged the Black Warrior. His claws raked my chest and his bite was deep, but the fur of a grizzly is thick and his skin tough. We rolled on the ground biting and clawing each other until dirt flew into my eyes. I quickly cleared my vision, but the Black Warrior was gone. I was myself again. The wounds bled, but I found the yellow root at my feet which ceases the flow of blood. Once again the Earth Mother had provided.
I climbed further up the mountain and found some snow and danced. I did so to live. I danced and an eagle’s feather fell at my feet. The feather was wide and long. I picked it up and asked the eagle for his power, and danced so to commune with his spirit. I listened to the wind whisper that I could ride the currents, and heard the cry of my sky brother. There was love in his voice, and when I closed my eyes, I saw with his eyes a puma, watching me as I dipped and wheeled in joy. This was the Black Warrior.
I was the eagle. I dived down and tried to rake the puma’s eyes with my strong talons. His paw swiped at me, but I tucked my wings up against my body and rolled out of reach. With each beat of my powerful wings I climbed higher into the sky vault. It was then I truly understood the Sky Father.
Water makes the clouds. Lightening tears the clouds. Clouds water the earth. That which is given birth will die and be reborn. Life is an endless ring with no beginning or end. The joy of being.
I whirled to attack but the puma was gone. In his place was a rattle snake. This was not the Black Warrior, but a temptation he had put there. To fight an angry rattle snake is foolish.
I let my sky brother go to fly where the wind would take him, and noticed the sun was tired. I was tired, and gathered much wood to throw onto my fire. The night would be long and cold for a warrior without clothes.
"Earth Mother, wind, forest, hear my prayer. Protect me this night that I may finish my battle and defeat the Black Warrior." And made a brush shelter.
I smoked more sweet grass and listened to my stomach complain for something to eat. It was then I heard the call of Sister Owl, who flies with the Moon Sister. I went to where she sat high in a tree and asked her what she wanted. She threw down a hare for me to eat, and flew away to catch one for herself. I thanked her for the gift and skinned the hare. I did not know why Sister Owl was helping me. It gave me something to think about.
The wood I had gathered provided a spit to cook the hare, and as the meat sizzled, I smoked more sweet grass and pondered my fate. I was tied to the black warrior; twins tethered by heritage. The lives of our forefathers flow like many streams. We belong to our ancestors. One nation makes us strong. I had forgotten those concepts. Remembering them was a lesson. This knowledge was earned.
I ate the hare while searching beyond the light of my fire. Darkness is a friend I was taught to embrace, so I did not fear it. Shadows were made to hide our sorrows, and as I thought this, I noticed shadows gathering in the night like mists over warm waters on a cool morning. These shadows took the true form of the Black Warrior, whose eyes had a red glow. He looked like me.
"As with the birth of the life-giving sun each morning," he said, "I am born. As with the death of the sun each night, you will die."
His voice was that of the badger when angered. I was not sure I should speak to him in his true form, but did so anyway. "If I am dead in your words, then I am dead."
"You cannot heal your soul, yet you try to free your spirit."
"I was not aware my soul was damaged."
"You are not free to follow the deer, the elk, what is left of the buffalo, which are free. You are not free to fish any wide river, or migrate like the goose when winter comes."
I offered him a leg and thigh of the hare to eat. It was all I had left.
"I came to fight," he said. "Not to eat."
It was then I heard a wolf sing in the distance, and so did the Black Warrior.
"A wolf will fight to lead his people," I said. "Rarely does he shed blood. His warriors are necessary. A dead hunter cannot catch food."
"Does this mean you will not fight?"
"When Sister Owl gave me the hare to eat, I realized I had won this battle. You see, Grandfather Peyote gave me his wisdom. The Earth Mother gave me her sweet grass to heal my soul, her yellow root to heal my body. When I drank the water I saw the wisdom of two acting as one, and with a child’s wonder, I saw myself as a sacred being in the eyes of the Grandfather. Supernaturals like you, Black Warrior, are the teachers of new wisdom, or like for me, wisdom that has been forgotten. Like the grizzly my skin is thick and my heart tough. The Earth Mother will never forsake her people. We fly like the eagle.
"I understand how the Sky Father makes love to the Earth Mother, and how I should love my people. Temptation will always have fangs, but to give in to temptation is foolish."
"We will speak our languages to our young until the white skins see this as wisdom. We will tell our stories so we as a people never forget who we are. We will dance our dances to free our souls. I will council this. Our history is our heritage, our connection to our ancestors. We may die in spirit on these lands, these reservations, but the dead see things differently, and our spirits will be reborn with each story. With each dance will the people keep their power."
With my words the Black Warrior smiled at me and entered my heart to live as part of me; the part that is just and wise. That was why he looked like me.
The reservations are still our homes, but it does not mean we are not one nation, and we are still powerful. Now our white brothers seek our knowledge, try to learn our ways, and because they were lost to us when the world was young, we give them our understanding. The children of the Earth Mother are tied together like sticks in a tight bundle. What happens to one affects all, or all our songs will remain silent, and our prayers, unspoken.
Go now and remember; peaceful are our lodges in the setting of the sun.
A. They either end up pushing a shopping cart filled with garbage around nameless city streets, or become writers.
Mark Sutton became the latter, and has been writing professionally for several years. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. He's the former Art Director of Knight's Typography, former Marketing Coordinator, Media Associates. Married seventeen years to his lovely wife Lisa, with children, and many cats, he's still sane. Mark has no hobbies other than words, and lives with his family deep in the sticks of Iowa.
His horror novel, Cat's-paw, will soon be available from Double Dragon eBooks.
Mark's touching literary story "Love's Gift" will soon be available for download from Twilight Times Showcase.