In Memory of Bear Heart. Part 11.

English: Frame for sweat lodge at Lake Superio...
English: Frame for sweat lodge at Lake Superior Provincial Park, Wawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
June 30, 2013
by Jerry Alatalo

“So the living God is one God. There are many ways people worship God, and that’s why there are so many churches of different denominations-their rituals are different, the order of services are different, but it is the same God. Whether you go to a Catholic church, a Jewish temple, a Protestant service, or a Native American ceremony, if you are strong in your belief and your faith, you don’t have to fear what anyone else does.”

Bear Heart said that there is only one Creator; there is not many gods.

He describes the Sacred Stone People’s Lodge or sweat lodge. This is a ceremony where stones become heated to red hot in an open fire, brought into the lodge, steam gets produced by throwing water on the rocks, and toxins are released when we sweat. The sweat lodge is a place to communicate with the Creator.

The sweat lodge is not a place to show others how much heat you can take, but is a sacred place. Here a person becomes purified and cleaned to communicate with the Higher Power. The differences between a sweat lodge and a sauna or steam room is that the sweat lodge involves a spiritual aspect. There is no reason that when one takes a sauna or sits in a steam room that the experience can’t be a form of prayer and spiritual.

Whether it is the sweat lodge, sauna or steam room the main cause in communicating with Creator is humility. With the sweat lodge you have to crawl through the low doorway to get inside and that is showing humility. The seven stones which are used in the lodge represent the Creator, the Earth, the four directions and one more for all living things. Bear Heart said, “So, when we sit there, we are in a little universe. And in that little space, we can pray for any situation on our planet, we can add our love, our concern for the whole world. There are many things that we can pray for from our churches and our little lodges and it doesn’t matter how great or small the structure because the One we appeal to has the greatest power of all.”

He describes prayer as communicating from our hearts to the One who will listen no matter what our station in life. He talks about the elders praying for people who have experienced disasters of some type. They pray for orphans so that someone may express good thoughts to them, give them food or toys to play with. Bear Heart said, “We can pray for these things if we are spiritual. The spirit just works, it doesn’t think in terms of distance, it doesn’t think in terms of time.”

When the drum was used there was an awareness of the spirit inside the drum. The wood of the drum was once a tree while the skin of the drum  was once life. The drum represents the heartbeat of the Creator, and when people danced to the drum all were in harmony with our fellow-man.

“The spirit of the One who gave us life, the Life Form of all life forms, is being called upon, and in time, that person’s heartbeat is going to catch up with the drumbeat. You don’t have to be a great medicine person to do this. You just have to have a lot of love in your heart to be able to do it, a lot of concern for your fellow-man. That’s why the drum is a sacred instrument for us.”

The fire where the stones become heated is attended to carefully and gently. The fire that burns is the eternal fire and is the sun lighting our way.

Bear Heart goes on to explain the meaning of the circle or Sacred Hoop. Sweat lodges and tipis are round and represent the circle without end, without any time element. People who gather in a circle experience oneness and a sense of the sacredness that is inside us all. The Sacred Hoop is the circle of all life and includes the four directions, the Earth and every living thing.

“Everything is part of the Sacred Hoop and everything is related. Our existence is so intertwined that our survival depends on maintaining a balanced relationship with everything within the Sacred Hoop.”

He said the circle represents the universe, all of creation united as relatives. The circle, the Hoop has been broken many times through history as man has ignored his fellow-man, the Earth and living things on her.

“In today’s culture, the Hoop has been broken in many places. What we’re trying to do is repair it. The circle brings us closer together in harmony with a sense of blending, forgiving, loving, tolerating. If we can live that way, then perhaps our world, which is the greatest circle, might be a better place.”

Bear Heart talked about the responsibilities of leadership where human beings have been entrusted to your care. The leader is responsible for every soul and every problem. It is a large responsibility.

He goes on to describe the use of peyote in the Native American Church. He noted that peyote has many healing properties, science has determined that it is not habit-forming, and that it has medicine value. Natives view it as medicine which cures all kinds of mental, emotional and physical problems. It is not taken to “get high” but because we need help, direction, strength and encouragement.

There isn’t any hallucinating with peyote, but the seeing of visions that teach.

“Peyote still works for our people today. I visited an Otoe man in the veterans’ hospital who told me he had used it to see his son in action during the Korean conflict. He told me, ‘I was home on Saturday, really worrying about my son. The heaviness in my heart for him was there. I didn’t want to go to town because I’d just end up drinking if I did. So I stayed home and decided to take peyote and, in my way, pray. I wanted to hear something good about my son, to see if he was safe. That’s all I was asking.’

“So he ingested some peyote and closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes, he was flying and, looking down, he saw his son with four or five soldiers who became surrounded by the enemy. ‘They were trapped and my son would have been trapped along with them, but I saw him crawling through the weeds and then the weeds seemed to give way and he fell into a dry creek bed that couldn’t be seen because of the high grass around it. He crawled under a fence and got into some trees and made it to a safe area, so I felt good. I closed my eyes again and when I opened them I was still there lying on my bed. I don’t know how long it took, but I saw that.’ ”

Bear Heart mentioned that two months later the man and his wife got a letter from their son describing exactly what the father had seen. He had seen his son in Korea by using peyote and never touched a drop of alcohol again.

Continued in Part 12…


In Memory of Bear Heart. Part 10.

June 29, 2013 by Jerry Alatalo

393-2Bear Heart mentions that his people did not spend only an hour each Sunday morning to practice spirituality. Every day was considered sacred and holy.

“I thank You for another day. I ask that You give me the strength to walk worthily this day so that when I lie down at night I will not be ashamed.”

He mentioned that when his people prayed it was not for themselves only. Prayer would include children that were growing up now and those children yet to be born. The prayer would include all people, plants, trees, birds and animals.

“Let your every step be as a prayer.”

He remembered as a child going to gathering where the medicine man at the time would ask for a quiet time from all gathered, and communicate with the Great Spirit. He would say that he has tried his best to take good care of that knowledge entrusted in him for the good of the people. He would express gratitude that he had come upon the knowledge that resulted in people feeling good physically, mentally and spiritually.

Bear Heart remembered that this was the people’s church, in nature, where everything, including the birds, became quiet. He said that they were in tune with all of life. After the silence the people would dance all night. It was not what most people consider dancing; a time to party it up and get crazy. This dancing was a way of thanking the Great Spirit and it was a ceremony. This was a sacred ceremony where people would sweat, bathe and fast before communicating with the Great Being.

“They called it pagan, yet it’s my belief that however we make contact with the Creator is of meaning in His eyes.”

Bear Heart goes on to talk about respect for the Earth and all living things. He said that if people took something from the Earth, whether it be herbs, stones, plants or the earth itself, there was always an offering of in return, usually tobacco. Then a prayer is conveyed that the item that was taken shall be used in a good manner.

“My people were told a log time ago, ‘The rivers and streams are the veins of the universe. They’re your lifeline, take care of them.’ Today it’s hard to find good clean water anymore. We’ve been very poor stewards of all that was given to us in its pure form. Instead we have become exploiters and abusers of the very thing that sustains our lives, and we think we have nothing to learn from the world around us.”

He gives the example of bears, who are very playful when they are hunting or fishing. They do not hunt and fish to make a living and make a game out of it for enjoyment. Bear Heart said that humans can learn from the bear’s example. He advises for people to not get into ruts where the joy is not appreciated and experienced. People have made the error of going to work and not making the most out of it through gratitude and sharing joy with others. He advises people to work on their attitudes and make the most of their situations while being grateful.

Bear Heart talked about the manmade pollutants that man puts into the environment which darkens our view of the beauty of nature. Everything is connected to everything else, so the hole in the ozone layer affects one-cell organisms and the plants, animals and other forms that feed on those organisms. This phenomenon goes up the chain of life to affect human beings and the consequences are felt.

The choice by humanity to waste tremendous amounts of paper results in thousands of trees, which hold the soil together, being lost along with topsoil.

“We were told to respect the land. Each blade of grass, every leaf, even one pine needle, is trying to filter out some of the pollution we cause. All of these things help make air more breathable and life more comfortable for us, yet modern society seems to go along without much regard for them.”

He talked about there being much to learn from nature if people would open up their minds. He said that “Until we get back in touch and in tune with nature, we’re destroying ourselves.”

The Four Directions.

“If you have a problem that you have no answer for, you can face East and think about it and an answer will come to you.”

Bear Heart talked about the two planes of the mind; the conscious awareness and right below it the unconscious. He said the unconscious holds every bit of knowledge we have ever received from the time of being born; it sends answers to our conscious awareness to our questions and problems. When we face the East direction we are tapping the unconscious knowledge for guidance and direction.

He said that we can face South when we have lost a friend or relative; someone we have been close to. He saw the South as representing the destiny of mankind. His tribe holds the belief that we come from the South direction, walk the red road during our lives, and walk the blue road, the road of spirit, to cross over to the spirit world. He was taught that when we get to the blue road that there is a white bird that clears our way so we make the complete crossing.

The Wind People then come and push our soul into the next world so the person will not be left roaming but find rest and peace. “If you have lost a loved one and spend a lot of time on that loss, face South and ask for help to keep going on in life.”

He said West is for us the direction of thankfulness and gratitude. He advises us to look to the West at the end of the day and say, “Thank you for all the things that happened today, the good as well as the bad.” The bad holds a lesson for us so we need to find the lesson and grow from it. When we spend too much time focusing on our difficulties we are building a wall around us which separates us from happiness on the other side of the wall.

Bear Heart looked to the North for physical, emotional and mental health. His sharing of a way to deal with issues of health and well-being could be hard for some to take seriously. He told people that by laying on the ground, Mother Earth, with our navel facing her and our head to the North will give us healing.

He gave the example of Crazy Horse, the great Indian warrior. Crazy Horse would stand on Mother Earth barefoot for hours to get energy built up in him. The Earth can heal us.

“So lie there with your head to the North. In the North sits the bald eagle, whose head is white like snow. The white of snow represents purity, and when snow comes we say it covers your path. If you have had difficulties in your life, all that’s covered up-you begin to feel good and sound again and you can make new tracks.”

Continued in Part 11…