Understanding Native Ways of Thinking

Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 3

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

I realize most of you have never been around old Native elders who believed and practiced the old ways. The mindset that was traditional to the ancestors is totally different from today. How you ask? Well let me show you some differences because taking on these very simple concepts can change your whole way of thinking.

1) To native ancestors there was no “I” anything. It was “WE.” We as a family, we as a clan, we as a tribe and we as a people. This is because when we individualize something, like put ourselves before others, we have now created an ego of negativity. Why? Because now you are judging and comparing yourself to others. We work together, live together, pray and suffer together. We dance together and survive together as a people. As a family and as a clan. This is what is missing in so many people’s lives today – the duty, obligations, love, and respect for each other in our own families.

Traditionally family came first, then clan, then tribe, then people. How many today are lonely and separated from family? Family members not speaking, not helping one another? Too busy to come visit or do things together? Now I’m not just talking about the elders, but young families starting out who have small children as well. Life is supposed to be about family. Children need not only their parents, but grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews too. And all of them need all the children too., this is we! We learn from each other, not only values, but lessons of life, skills, knowledge, family history, and most important, love. This security of family is the foundation of a circle, the cycle of life.

2) Now comes the clan: The clan is responsible for teaching you the clan laws, duties, knowledge, skills, understandings, and ceremonies. Now it is important to understand these are your tribal clan members. But beyond that, you really need to understand that no matter what tribe you go to, if your clan is represented there, they take you in as family, to help you, protect you, guide you. To them you are extended family. So once again you see the WE, not the I.

3) Now comes the tribe: The tribe is your extended family. Every woman is a child’s mother or aunt or grandmother, even if she is a different clan. A child can eat at any family’s home. Why? Well, we all are family and look out for one another. Especially the young and the older ones. Those that are injured, sick, or handicapped. The tribe has stores of everything. That is why there is a community garden. There are goods stored and only issued out by the clan mothers. Extra dried and smoked meats, fish, birds – all kept for distribution when needed . Everyone works together for the common good of the whole. Every single member has a duty and responsibility to each other and to the whole. Not one single member is more important than another. That is the key. If a person is failing in their position as a leader, or in performance, they can be replaced easily.

4) Leaders: These are people selected to guide the tribe or clan in what is best for the clan and tribe. These can be replaced quickly if they do not perform their duties and responsibilities as they should. The best leaders are the ones who look after needs of others before themselves. Never in Native traditional beliefs was it supposed to be that a leader looked after their own needs before the others of the tribe or nation, or clan. Now true, many of the Mayan, Aztec, Inca who came here and started their peoples’ customs did just that, and even imposed these practices on the people. But that changed too. Why? Because of the blood laws. These are what we live by and they are all about balance, love and peace starting within each, to the family, to the clan to the tribe, to the nation.

5) Our concepts also include all walks of life, not just two-legged ones. We did not and are not supposed to believe we are better than the plant people, stone people, animal people, bird people, reptile people, fish people, and on and on. We all have a common factor: we need each other. This is what creates the balance. To destroy and wipe out one is to take a part of you and throw it away. You will always be missing something. It is the same when we destroy a life, a people.

6) Hatred: We don’t hate anything. We don’t do this because if we did we would be hating ourselves. Our belief is we are all connected to everything. Then everything is part of us. Hatred must be taught and forced into you. You are not born with it. It is not natural to you. Just as prejudice is not natural. Prejudice is taught to you just as other bad things and ideas are taught, out of ignorance. Ignorance which is the basis of fear, which causes all pain and suffering to occur one way or another.

7) Failure: Failure is something that is uncommon to us. Why? Because if someone fails in our eyes, whose fault is it? Is it we have placed a standard on that person that doesn’t belong to them but to us? That would be wrong, don’t you think? Do you think our children should live their lives for us, our goals, our dreams, or should they choose for themselves? This is why the clan teaches and guides the children. Our clan is decided by the blood of our mother and the clan she belongs to. Not our fathers!

8) The greatest thing a warrior can do is to give his life for others, our people, so that they can survive. But the greatest battle we, as warriors, fight is our own self. So, our battle is to stay in balance in love and peace, each and every day. Now who are warriors? We all are. We all fight in our own way for different reasons. Having the courage to fight for what you believe is always good. Fighting to stand up for others who have no voice or can’t be heard is vital, and calls you to do so out of honor.

9) When we say we are connected to everything, we mean everything is related to us. This is important for you to learn, understand, and make a part of your very being. The quicker you can incorporate this into your way of thinking, the sooner you will feel the importance of all your family.

Respectfully,

Ghost

Ghost Dancer © 2017

Published by Edna Peirce Dixon

I am an elder in my 9th decade. I have lived an ordinary life, I’ve done all the ordinary and expected things, went to school, got married, raised a family, tried to be a good person. Throughout this life I have also been a seeker, an outsider by nature, always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. Then in my golden years, as I sought to find meaning in my existence, some unexpected things happened and I’ve since learned it took a lifetime to prepare me for the challenge to come. My journey – indeed my calling - led me to come to know a remarkable man who happened to be an inmate in federal prison. Nothing could have been more foreign to my personal experience. GHOST DANCER Communicating daily for nearly nine years I had the opportunity to walk many paths with Ghost discussing our thoughts on many common interests with candor and respect. With enormous generosity Ghost has allowed me to share his wisdom and knowledge of his Native American heritage on Journeys of the Spirit. Over time, Ghost gradually revealed his life story in small bits, like scrambled pieces of some gigantic puzzle. Now, after spending more than 40 years in prison, Ghost Dancer is at last free and ready to tell his amazing personal story. As the saying goes, “you can’t make this stuff up” and as his friend and editor I can say this is a story so big that even after working with him for nearly nine years, I continue to be astonished as he shares new details my mind simply could never imagine. From the very first chapter, Ghost leads us on his journey and invites us to walk with him on his Nene Cate (Red Road). From the day he was born, a happy, loving gifted child, he endured heartbreaking sorrows, betrayals and exploitations. Through it all, Ghost fought a system determined to destroy him by any means, as he struggled to remain true to his calling. Through Ghost Dancer I also met and came to know Walks On The Grass, another federal prisoner whose story is also compelling even though very different. In Journeys of the Spirit, Walks has shared his decades-long journey from deep addiction to wholeness in LONG ROAD HOME and shared other bits of his story in ALONG THE WAY. Now as he approaches his August release into this crazy world of 2022 Walks shares his the thoughts and misgivings as he counts down to the big day in LIGHTS IN THE DISTANCE.

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