This month, John Wisdomkeeper, Juliet Waldron's research partner for her Canadian Historical Bride book, is joining up and sharing a short story with us about a First Nations Pipe Ceremony. We hope you enjoy!
Union of the Sacred Pipes
by John Wisdonkeeper
In the hills around Okanagan Lake Valley is a place called Bear Creek. As I hiked through these rocks, the echo of fast rushing water vibrated like thousands of flutes playing to the rushing waterfalls that all flowed into one giant lake. One day I mediated on a large rock in the middle of the Creek - the only access being to jump a log jutting into the water. Opening my eyes to father sky, I watched crows chase a golden eagle. The eagle flowed upward in ever expanding circles, and the crows followed, but the eagle flew higher and higher. A fine mist rose from the rocks and powerful medicine herbs waved in the gentle breezes. The sweet smell of Lavender and the pungent tang of pine filled the air. When I stopped and listened closely I heard the footsteps of the ancestors passing through the canyon - stepping from stone to stone - as they followed the game trails.
One day a white brother came to visit from Texas - a police officer - who loved the culture as I do, and wanted to share the pipe with some of the Native brothers. We climbed a trail through a ravine of rocks to an old sacred clearing. At the entrance to the clearing--a circle of rocks covered by moss and surrounded by juniper and Saskatoon bushes--we stopped and I offered tobacco, asking the ancestors to welcome our visitor. The winds stopped, and a peace settled over the clearing, inviting our entrance. We sat together, on the ground, waiting for some brothers who were pipe carriers to join us.
One by one each brother showed up from his journey. One brother traveled from a rain dance ceremony; another brother came from the sweet grass fields in Montana; a third brother came late, joking that as he had traveled the shortest distance he came on Indian time. My friend from Texas offered a medicine bundle from his home region and asked for prayers for his family. He explained that he had spent a lot of time studying and learning the culture of the Cheyenne, the Apache, the Arapaho and the Hopi nations, and to him it was a great honor to come to this sacred ground where lay the bones of ancestors who had traveled here before, and join with this group of pipe carriers for other Native nations.
Together we sat down in a circle and opened our medicine bundles. Father sky peered over our circle like a bright blue blanket streaked with orange and fringed with white clouds. Wisps of white floated around us as the spirits of many ancestors, gathered around our group as we prepared to share the sacred pipes.
We began by filling our smudge bowls with sage and sweet grass, which we lit and fanned with eagle feathers until the smoke drifted towards Father Sky. Each of us reached into the smoke and brushed our arms and legs and heads with smoke to cleanse the hardships of our travels and prepare ourselves for the ceremony. The pipe carrier facing the North started the traditional song of offering to the ancestors, and one by one we joined into the song, lifting our voices to invite the ancestors to travel across the spiritual realm and join us in our ceremony. As one, we bowed our heads in the circle, sharing prayers for our loved ones and the great nations, asking for blessings for all mother earth’s living and spiritual beings. We offered prayers for the animal kingdom, the plant world and the mineral world. The pipe carriers lifted their pipes, pointing the stems to each of the four sacred directions requesting blessing for the circle, and then the pipes were lit. As we passed the pipes, we shared the stories and teachings of our ancestors, and laughed together at the antics of trickster and the pranks he had played on our friends and elders over the years.
When we fell silent, each of us settled into the peace and harmony that had fallen over the sacred circle. In the darkness the voices of a thousand crickets hummed in harmony, and beyond our circle the coyotes howled to the night spirits. Grandmother moon rose into the sky and shone her light over our circle.
When the pipes were out, we packed our medicine bundles. Standing, we joined hands, offered prayers for a safe journey for the travelers, and returned to each a hug of friendship and a common wish for a future reunion of the pipes.
Sus' naqua ootsin'
The Okanagan includes the cities of Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Osoyoos. During the summer months, visitors are offered countless sandy beaches, hot sun, and a variety of outdoor and water activities. Okanagan Lake provides the valley not only with excellent swimming but is also a spectacular backdrop to the golf courses and Okanagan wineries and popular ski resorts located in the rolling hills of this wine valley.
- See more HERE