May 31, 20012
I have been asked to respond to “what the Elder’s Gathering Means to Me.” I am happy for the opportunity to share this with others because you see, the Elder’s Gathering is more than meets the eye and I am sure other elders would say the same. I will begin as follows.
There is a prophesy among the American Indian Tribes that we have known forever. The prophecy is “that the day would come when we were to share our spirituality with all people.”
This was difficult to foresee this as happening at the time when the U. S. Government made it a crime for American Indians and Alaska Natives to perform any of our spiritual ceremonies openly. Punishment was to be meted out if our people did not adhere to this order. This is the time that the ceremonies and the passing of the medicine had to be done in secret. This caused some of the ceremonies to be lost and parts of it to be changed in order to carry them out in secret. The important thing to note is the essence of the ceremony would not be altered.
With the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in the late 70's this allowed the ceremonies and teachings which had been done in hiding and privacy to once again be practiced openly in our communities. With the advent of this action the elder’s began to do just that and to begin the fulfillment of the prophecy – to share with all people.
Medicine people and American Indian elders began to share the knowledge and information. My husband and I worked together with other medicine people and elders to design the first conferences for Traditional Indian Medicine. Many non-Indians came and were exposed to American Indian spiritual ways. They learned that Traditional Indian Medicine is a way of living. This was one of the ways that the prophecy was being carried out. The sharing of this way of living began to be shared and continues to be shared.
The Peace Village in Vermont is the first modern peace village that I know of. The Peace Village is a replica of a Cherokee traditional peace village. The dream of creating this in modern times was carried out by my clan sister and had been a vision of her grandparents. A place where spiritual elders and medicine people of many nations come together to carry out the prophecy. Spiritual elder and medicine people who come here know that these agreements were made by each one even before we came to earth and is a fulfillment of our commitment.
Just as the elders are aware of what they are doing with their sharing of these teachings those who come to the gathering with an open heart, mind and spirit are also carrying out this prophesy. Why is this such an important prophesy? One only has to look at what is taking place on our planet to see that people are hungry to know what is available for all without dogma, exclusion, and teachings are done with love and compassion. Therefore,we can see that we are all important to weave the fabric of the help for all peoples and the planet. The sharing of the Elder’s shows how we can live together in harmony and peace. That peace and love are not just words - theyare powerful ways of being. The Elders show this through the way they live the teachings of old.
As each of the people attend these teachings and embrace some principles of the old teachings it creates change within an individuals way ofbeing. It creates change in that person, their family, their small community and the larger community. I call that the “power of one”.
Many people do not know why they call the spiritual elders who are invited to the Gathering Grandmother or Grandfather. This is importantfor all to understand. A story to illustrate this is as follows: Upon being introduced at a non-Indian gathering as Grandmother the woman was asked at a break by a participant, “what shall I call you”? She answered, “my name is Mary and I am very comfortable being called Mary." She knew that the real question was why was she called grandmother. She then asked, “Do you mean why was I introduced as Grandmother Mary"? The response was yes, why? She explained that in the American Indian Tribes it is the practice that when an elder was observed truly living the teachings in a deep way they were then called by that title. They did not presume to call themselves by that title. Others must recognize them. It also does not necessarily have to do with the age of a person. The person questioning Mary called her by her name. After several months of meeting with this non-Indian group, one day the person who questioned the title began to call her Grandmother. He had observed her and felt that the title was appropriate.
This same process happened in the tribe when members observed the people and saw that they lived the teachings authentically. They could not earn them, they lived them. Even those who went through their Grandmother, Grandfather Ceremonies must be observed living the teachings before they receive the spiritual title of Grandmother and Grandfather when living in a community. The Teachings were done in a much different way than they must be done now. Now there are presentations and people listen and decide what they accept. We are too scattered to do it in the “old” way. The time is short so it must be done as it is now. However, when living in a community, the elder ones were observed and watched. As it could be seen that they then observed the elders living the spiritual values and the wisdom in their daily life. That they shared with others by their example, and then they were called Grandmother or Grandfather. It was not something that automatically happened.
Many people are searching for the core values of our Creator. We were given this world that contains everything we need for food,water, beauty, medicine as well as our spiritual connection with Creator. We share that for those who want to receive it.
I have now shared “What the Elder’s Gathering” means to me. May each of you receive what is shared with an open, joyful heart and may it enrich your life and that of your family and those around you. Wado! (ThankYou) Ga Ee le ee Gah! (We are grateful).
With Love and Light,
Patricia Downing DeAsis
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