By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com
Chapter 19

Wash the Pain From My Soul

A week, 10 days, 15 days, then 17 days go by and I’m thinking these staples sure hurt and I’m noticing a green discharge through the bandages. I never got a call out to come to medical to remove them so I went to the clinic at a lunch meal. I told the nurse on duty that I clearly heard the surgeon tell me the staples were to be removed in a week or ten days and here we are at 17 days, so she would either take the staples out right now or I would pay someone to do it in the unit. So they take me in the back and the P.A. decides to use this as a teaching moment to show another P.A. how they remove the staples. The flesh has already begun to grow over the staples so he has to nick the flesh to get to them. This was painful, but they grudgingly took them out and washed the wound with peroxide for the first time since the surgery.

By this time I was back to work but had been given a “sit down” job where I am still to this day. I went on about my daily life, working in the day, building jewelry at night, and trying to plan for my future. The weeks went by and the incision still wouldn’t close. Green pus kept coming out and it just plain hurt, so I went back to medical and the nurse practitioner took a culture of the discharge. Turned out I had a staph infection in my spine. It was pretty deep, so they immediately put me on some super antibiotics.

The first course didn’t work so they rushed me out to the neurosurgeon to look at it. When I told him I had gotten absolutely no wound care or dressing changes he was visibly shaken. I believe his exact words were, “What the hell is wrong with those people?” He tells me the situation isn’t good and said he would try 5 more days of the oral antibiotic and if that doesn’t work he will have to admit me to the hospital to fight the infection as it could be doing irreparable nerve damage. So we do the next five days of these super antibiotics and they seem to work. The wound starts closing up and not leaking the green nasty anymore.

Then several months down the line from the surgery, like November, I started having another problem. My legs would just go numb for no reason and I would fall. Sometimes a pain shot thru me that even forced a release of urine, not a lot, but enough that I knew this was not right. At first I figured it was just part of the healing, but finally I went to the doctor through sick call again to ask about it. He first said it could just be healing and that can take months.

When the doctor heard this I suppose he immediately scheduled me for a return visit to the surgeon. A week or so later we’re at the sweat lodge and the chaplain comes out calling my name. They want me at the lieutenant’s office, so I go up there and they inform me I’m going on a medical trip. By this point my trust level is nil; I’m sick of the bad treatment, I’m sick of the lack of after care, and I sure don’t want any more medical mistreatment. I’m just not willing to go through whatever they have in mind and get another infection.

So I refused the medical trip, signed the refusal and went back to the sweat lodge just in time for Ghost to conduct the ceremony and to partake in it. After all the hassle they had been putting me thru I needed the cleansing and the healing in the one place I knew to get it – in the sweat lodge, praying to the Creator for others and letting the raw and pure power of prayer soothe and wash the pain and anguish and negativity from my soul and being.


It was during these weeks that Ghost Dancer let me know of his wish to do a traditional Hunka Ceremony for me. I was beyond honored and wholeheartedly accepted. To help me tell this story, Ghost agreed to write about the ceremony and all that it means.

                          HUNKA CEREMONY

By Ghost Dancer

The Native community is not one that seeks out others to come. Neither are Native American religious circles. We tend to just do what we do. We aren't trying to recruit others to our way of life. We tried that centuries ago. It cost us millions of lives, homes, lands, personal property, our leaders, and sacred peoples all being destroyed or taken from us. Our freedom means more to us than our very lives so we tend to stay to ourselves. No one ever wanted to pay attention or listen to what we had to say anyway. 

Oh, we have risen since then and won the legal rights to practice our religious beliefs, but we still are not accepted or respected by main stream society and most definitely not by any main stream religious communities. Yes, we still have to fight for our beliefs and practices every day. This is a fight just to survive and live for there are many who still do not want us alive or around. They still want what is ours as always. 

In the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota way, in the old days, a Hunka adoption ceremony was to help someone who did not have the status of a highly respected family or clan, but truly deserved the opportunities that would come with this change. 
Now not saying that anyone is lesser than anyone else, but having an adopted uncle or father makes it so much easier for a person to gain higher respect, honor, acceptance and opportunities that otherwise would not be available to them, especially with all the clan relationships.
Almost all tribes and nations had these types of ceremonies, including the Muskogee, and as all Muskogee know, clan and family is everything. The decision to adopt someone into a clan was always made by the women and was always done with much celebration and feasting. 

When I met Walks On The Grass in the spring of 2019, I learned he had been adopted at birth. He grew up in a very fine family, but they were not of his people, so he never got to enjoy and live the kind of life that I had lived. Growing up he was not provided the opportunities that came my way in learning from the ancients and elders. But still, he honored his heritage and did his best to learn the traditional ways, ceremonies, songs, prayers and the meanings in their original languages.

Walks On The Grass has shown his true spirit and heart, something that must be seen before any decision like this is made. In the old times custom, an adoption ceremony, making someone your family, is very important because family is everything and must be done knowing the person is worthy of this act. Now Walks On The Grass needed this special adoption to help him in many ways. He is a good man and I was very honored to do this for him. 

Any adoption ceremony of any tribe or nation, requires several things:
1. The person adopting the new member must inform all of his/her family 
2. Fasting. With any real ceremony fasting is generally required and Muskogee people purged as well using the black drink. 
3. The ceremony must be done before and in front of others; the meaning and purpose made known to all present. 
4. Sacred adoption songs are sung four times for each direction and sacred prayers are made for all four directions and then for above and below. 
5. The person being adopted is then presented to the people and all the spirits to recognize this person now as one of this family, this clan, this tribe and this people.  

I have been adopted twice in this way, once by Grandmother Ruby and once by a highly respected Lakota green shirt elder. This was many decades ago, but I still remember both times vividly. 

In today's time more than ever these old ceremonies and ways need to be used again. Too many young ones have no one to help guide and teach them, explain things to them. So many have no parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents to rely on. I was so fortunate to have a wonderful family and so many who love me, teach me, guide me, train me and help me in so many ways. And yes they still are for we are never too old to learn or need counseling. 

We held the Hunka Ceremony for  Walks On The Grass on our sacred grounds before we did our sweat lodge ceremony. I let all my family members know. Now he has the standing, love and support that he needs as well as the respect and honor that comes with it. I know this means a lot to him and it does to me also. 

Respectfully, Ghost

Yes, I badly needed the old ceremonies and connection to Creator at that point in time. I knew I wasn’t fixed, my back wasn’t right and the deterioration in my spine was getting worse, not better. Eventually the numbness did get better, but I was just not strong enough to face what it might take in here and at this place to fix it. Since I had been here at Talladega, several people had died due to misdiagnosis or lack of proper treatment in a timely manner, and I didn’t want to die. I had too many unfinished plans.


Verse 1.
 If you don’t like the way the world is,
 Then change it, just change it, 
 But do it one act at a time...

Verse 2. 
Don’t be afraid of the way you feel,
You’re the one at the potter’s wheel,
So mold it how you want.

And it won’t hurt,
And you won’t feel pain,
And in the end it could change the game...

Verse 3.
Let’s start with a random act of kindness,
Send hate and anger into blindness,
Sacrifice for the betterment of others ,
Remembering every homeless person has a mother. 

Stop what you’re doing,
And lend a hand,
Pitch in and clean up,
For your fellow man.

So if you don’t like the way the world is, 
Then change it, just change it,
But do it one act at a time...
Yea, if you don’t like the way the world is,

Then change it, just change it, but do it one step at a time....

Then Change It lyrics © Steven Maisenbacher (Walks on the Grass)

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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