Traditional Medicines

A Sampling of Herbal Medicines Used by Eastern Native Peoples
Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 11

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

In many places today, Native peoples still practice living in harmony with nature and trust these ways before they will go for modern medical treatments because they actually work. So for those of us who do or want to walk this way, I put together this small list of medicinal plants and other practices. These ways should be preserved and kept for the people who need them and want them. 

Key to tribes: Cherokee (C), Muskogee (M), Iroquois (I)

When something is listed as Muskogee remember that this can be applied to all or most of the tribal nations of the Southeast, the Creek Confederacy and its allies. This would include tribes from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, parts of Tennessee, Arkansas, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

Medicines for Women

Slippery Elm – (C) Bark boiled in water (decoction) to treat prolonged labor, to soothe a pregnant woman’s stomach and bowels and assist in a dry birth.

Eastern & Carolina Hemlock – (C) Roots boiled in water (decoction) used to make afterbirth come out. Bark made into a poultice was used for any type of itching or a decoction applied externally to all types of skin problems.

Catnip – (C) A tea for female obstructions.

Gopher Apple – (M) Roots and leaves made into tea to relive labor pain and strengthen labor.

Cabbage Palmetto – (M) Used the seeds and berries for weight loss, fever and headaches.

Flowering Dogwood – (M, C, I) Used the bark to make into a tea for back aches and as a wash for pregnant woman’s belly to ease swelling pains.

Purple Angelica – (C) Root made into tea for difficult menses and fever.

American trout lily – (C) Leaves and stem (not root) eaten raw as a contraceptive.

Canada Wild Ginger – (C) A tea made from the whole plant used for painful menstruations or to help start menstruation. The tea was also used as a wash for swollen breasts.

Red or Silver Maple – (C, I)  A bark tea for cramps and female complaints.

White snakeroot – (M, C, I) Root made into a tea for prolapsed or irritated womb.

Rich Weed – (C) Leaves and flowers mashed together used as deodorant. A tea made from the whole plant for swollen breasts.

Royal Fern – (M, I) Whole plant made into a tea and a wash to reduce odors during menstruation.

Sassafras – (M, C) A bark tea to drink 4 times a day to lose weight and maintain drinking each day to keep weight off.

Fox grape, frost grape, summer grape – (C, M) pick leaves, let them begin to wilt, then lay on the woman’s breasts to draw out any soreness or pain. Also use the juice in the grape vines to make  a wash for the breasts to help let the milk down. 

White & Prairie willow – (M, C) Make the bark into a wash for the hair to help it grow long and strong. Use the whole plant to make a wash to help sore nipples.

Virginia tephrosia – (M, C) Decoction of the root made into a wash helps with irregular  menstrual cycles. Also roots pounded and boiled to make a wash used as a shampoo to prevent hair loss.

Hobble bush – (C, I) Roots used as a tea as a fertility aid.

Large-bracted plantain, narrow-leaf plantain, common-leaf plantain – (C, M) Make a tea of the whole plant to use as a douche. (May add the oil or juices from flowers or fruits for fragrance.)

Wand black root (Pteroculon virgatum) – (M) Use the whole plant to make a tea for menstrual cramps, pain and excessive bleeding after child birth or backaches during pregnancy.

Flameleaf sumac – (M, C) Make bark into tea to help breast milk to flow strongly.

Soaps and Shampoos – Take wood ashes, mix with a little grease, cook until it turns soupy. Add your fragrance  of choice using apple juice, plum juice, rose oil or mashed up petals, honeysuckle petals, blackberry, wild grapes, melons, or basically any good smelling scent or oil. All these were and still are used by traditional Native women.  They also used honey, syrup, walnut, hickory nut, corn oil, pecan, and morning glories. The difference between soap and shampoo is  how strong you make it. The stronger mixture is soap and a light mixture is your shampoos.

Perfumes and Lotions are made simple by taking sunflower oil or corn oil and adding these same fragrances.

Makeup is made by making a paste from oils and dried roots, berries or clays to get the desired color or look wanted.

In the old days we all used wet red clay and river bank clay to rub on our bodies. Women especially did this and let the sun dry it on to help draw any impurities from the body and tighten the skin to appear younger. Once the clay hardened and became powdery, the face and body were washed clean with water.

The clays also acted as a dye and helped shade the skin evenly. The term redskin came from this practice when the whites saw the people with all this red clay dye on our bodies.

Medicines for Men

Red cardinal (M) Take berries and root to make a decoction, use for weak stomach, constipation, urinary problems. Also take the inner bark and berries, boil in water and take cloth, dip in the water , rub this on your joints, arms, legs, and whole body for all aches, pain, numbness and stiffness .

Virginia tephrosia (M) Use the root to make an infusion wash for penis and drink the tea for males who have E.D., lack of interest, and for impotency.

Coastal plain willow (M) Take the plant to make infusion (tea ) and a wash, use for soreness in the body, stomach ache. Use the wash and tea both for menstrual sickness (this means close encounter with a female on her moon cycle), not because she is cursed but she is very powerful medicine at this time and her spirit could overpower his and mess him up.

Also use the root to make a tea to drink and a wash for all your clothes, weapons and body for hunting medicine. Note: there are many plants that are used for hunting and fishing medicine. I’m only listing this one and the next one below this as examples. It is important you notice that they not only washed their clothes , but their weapons and even drank the teas. This is so their sweat would release the odors of the teas.

American trout lily (C) Chew on root spit juice out on all fishing equipment including the hook, spears, baskets, nets, and then spit juice in the water where you will be fishing as a fishing medicine.

Appalachian mountain mint and hoary mountain mint (C) Make wash out of the whole plant to bathe inflamed or sore penis.

Live oak & willow oak (M) Take bark and soak in water to make a wash. Used for aches, pains, back, limbs, cuts, wounds, for all warriors and athletes.

Sassafras (M, C) Take bark to make into a tea. Drink (4) four times a day to lose weight and continue to drink to keep the weight off.   

Steam – There are numerous plants and roots (some considered poisonous) that can be used in steam to help limber the joints, help you have good wind and extra strength and agility. It may be surprising to learn the use of steam was a common practice in the old times to help warriors have endurance, and agility to do things that most people could not do.

Red bay (M) Play flute and sing over these leaves and name the girl that you love and she will come to you.

Canadian lousewort (M, C) Take root, chop it up good and then grind it up fine. Put this in food as an aphrodisiac.

Crinkle root (C) Chew this root if the love medicine you made is too strong. This will help dilute it in you.

Shell bark, sand & mockernut hickory (C) All of these work! Make a wash by steeping the bark.  Place wash on arms and legs to make them more flexible.

American ginseng (M) When your wife divorces you and kicks you out, take this plant and rub on your whole body and clothes. (Make sure you do this before you see her and you know you are fixing to see her) – that is if you want her to take you back.

Quinine (C) Make tea from plant for impotency.

Common St. John’s wort (C) Take roots make into a tea to drink to prevent being sterile.

Medicines for Babies and Children

American basswood (C, I) Use branches to make a wash for babies legs and feet. This is for baby who should be walking but is not for some unknown reason.

Canada goldenrod (I) Use the tubers to make a tea for when a baby is suddenly startled and wakes up from sleep for no reason.

Christmas fern, (C, I) wash made from the whole plant, applied to feet and back. This is for sore back, spinal problems or sore feet. Using the leaves and root, smash them up to make a wet poultice. Placing on top of baby’s head is to stop convulsion. Take root to make tea. Give to baby to drink to stop cramps.

Rattlesnake master (M) Take roots to make tea, give to babies for diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite and bird sickness.

American spikenard (M) Root, berries used to treat colic in children, make tea and add sweetener.

Pink sundew (M) Take the sticky glands of plant rub on ringworms.

Downy milk pea (M) a tea from roots mixed with mother’s milk to get baby to suckle. Also used in a tea for the babies, children for vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headaches, and loss of appetite.

Honey locust (M) make into a decoction, using the thorns, branches, and twigs, to make a wash and bathe baby or children to prevent them from getting smallpox.

Also using the pod only helps babies and children with many complaints.

Rabbit tobacco (M, C) decoction of leaves and blossoms boil in water, make it steam and use it to inhale the steam for lung troubles, congestions, nose clogged. You can also use the leaves and blossoms and make into a poultice for mumps.

American false pennyroyal (M, C) roots can be made into tea or chewed for a cough or cold. Chew leaves up for teething or toothache and hold juice in mouth. Take the leaves rub them together get the juices flowing and rub on body as an insect repellent.

Glazed myrtle (M) Chew leaves or smash them in your hands, then when the juices are flowing rub these leaves over the body to repel mosquitoes and gnats.

Southern red cedar (M) Take leaves and bark, boil in water, take towel or cloth  put  over head and hold over the boiling pot. Inhale the steam for coughs, runny nose, sore throat, stuffy head. Use leaves to make a wash, bathe the body for fever, chills, eye sickness.

Virginia tephrosia (C) Tea made from root to make children strong and muscular and stay healthy. (This  was one of Maw-Maw Jay Bird’s specialties for me.)

Medicines for Animals

A few of the wild plants used by the Muskogee, Cherokee and Iroquois people for their animals. In other parts of the country there are similar plants that do the same things. This sampling will give you some ideas, but there is a whole lot more you can research and learn on your own.

Virginia snakeroot (C) Used as an antiseptic. Make whole plant into a wash to put on the area needed.

Devil’s walking stick  (M, C) Tea made from root to use as an eye wash for sore, irritated or infected eyes for all your animals or birds. Apply with an eye dropper.

Common gypsy weed (C) Use whole plant to make some a wash and save some of plant to mix in with feed. Use the wash to wipe down a cow’s udders when she is drying up to stimulate milk production.

Spreading dogbane (C) Use whole plant and make a wash for your dogs with mange. Also small pieces of the root can be mixed with feed for horses and cows as a  worming medicine. (this is poisonous, use only small amount).

Canadian wild ginger (C) Make a decoction of whole plant, feed to horses for the heaves or a bad cough .

Fox sedge (C, I) Take root, chop up and feed to rooster as fighting medicine.

American spikenard (M, C) Roots and berries made into a tea or wash as an antiseptic.

Jack in the pulpit (C) Grind the plant up and mix with feed of a mare that is restless and to help induce pregnancy.

Black locust (M) Make a tea give to cows for a health drink .

Flowering dogwood (C) Make a decoction from root bark as an antiseptic.

Carolina horse nettle (C) Add the berries of this plant to grease, fry and mash them up, now rub this on dog with mange .

Common, four-leaf & aquatic milkweed (C) Take the bark scrape it up good, put it in dog’s food to deworm him.

Common prickly ash (M) Take bark to make a tea or wash, rub this on your dog’s nose to help him be better at smelling scents to hunt.

Virginia pepper weed (C) Make a tea from the plant and give it to any of your sick birds, chickens, turkeys, ducks, guineas, etc.  If your birds are healthy and you want to make them start laying eggs, mix this in with their feed.

Fox grape (C) Take root mash it up mix it with the feed to help horse with constipation.

Curly dock (C) Smash root up and mix with feed give to a horse that has belly ache.

White snakeroot (C) Give horse the plant to help stop him sweating .

Feather Solomon’s seal (C) Take root mix it up with your pig’s food to prevent them from getting pig cholera.

Sundial lupine (C) Mix plant in with feed of your horse to get his spirit lifted up and he will fatten up too.

American chestnut (C) Take bark scrape it up and put in your dog’s food this will deworm him.

Carolina redroot (M) Dry root out to make powder. Make a tea, give to your horse to drink as a health tonic.

Virginia water horehound (C) Take root of the plant mix it up with your pig’s feed and this will prevent them from getting cholera 

Spotted lady thumb (C) Take the whole plant and rub on your horse’s back to keep flies away.

Wild quinine (M) Burn the leaves of the plant. Rub the ashes on your horse’s back for soreness.

White & black ash (C) Use as a laxative for horses who ate too much green grasses. Make a decoction from the leaves and bark and mix with the horses feed.

Canadian lousewort (M, C) Rub in sheep’s or goat’s hair or wool to delice them. Also chop up root and feed to your horse to make him fatten up. Also put plant in dog’s bed to delice puppies, and rub on birds to get rid of their lice.

Rich weed (C) Used as a wash to bathe horse with colic.

Knot wood (C) Plant mixed with feed to get cow’s milk to flowing again.

Violet wood sorrel (C) Smash the bulbs up and feed them to your horse so it will run faster.

Partridge berry (C) Mash up berries and mix with food give to your pregnant cat. This will help her with getting her milk to flow. Also give to kittens when they are born to help them want to nurse, by rubbing on mama cat’s nipples and on kitten’s lips.

Cinnamon fern (C) Chop all up mix with pregnant cow’s feed to help her with a rough birth.

This listing of old-time medicinal plants and how they were used is just a little of what I have learned over a lifetime. So if you are interested in learning more about herbal medicines, please, I encourage you to research the many resources available today.


By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on
Chapter 21

Lockdown! And They Mean It

The last day of March, my friend and cellmate of more than a year suddenly decides he wants to move out. I didn’t really know why, but it didn’t bother me much that I would have the cell to myself for a while. Then the very next day… here it comes.

April 1, 2020 – We go in for the evening, all is not as it appears, but the staff knew what the plan was. While I was looking forward to a couple days with no cellie, little did anyone suspect we would all would be on lockdown in our cells for the next 4 months. The Covid-19 pandemic had arrived and with no cellmate, it would be just me and Booger to ride it out alone.

So the next day when we are all unsure what is going on, they brought in food carts and fed us off of styrofoam trays thru the bean slot in the door. The unit manager comes around and slides a piece of paper under everyone’s door. It’s a government memorandum and it says we are being locked down as a precautionary step due to the pandemic and that review of this lock down would be in 2 weeks. We would be let out for showers three times  a week and phones would be brought to the cells in a rotation on a daily basis. End of memo.

Now for weeks we had been under modified operations. All the units were separated and they were trying to figure out what and how to run Unicor. That ended up a total cluster bomb, and they started taking only select inmates to work on a bare bones detail intended to isolate the units and the people from other units from each other, but basically we were in the cells 24/7 with a tentative review date now re-instituted to be “upon the director’s notice.” Meaning indefinite lockdown.

After a while I built a little routine for keeping busy. I would sleep till around 7 a.m. then get up, wash the tray they slid in at me earlier, have coffee (instant made with hot tap water), and listen to a radio program for a couple hours. After that, I would read till lunch, eat lunch, and then do at least an hour of exercises with the blue rubber exercise band someone gave me years ago as “therapy” for my back. Well I’ll tell ya, out of all the wacky contrived methods of use I came up with for the thing, I never once found one that could even remotely be called “for my back.” But hey, I’m locked down by myself with no company except Booger and even he wasn’t keen on the pandemic lockdown, told me “I’m outa here” and ran off to play with his friend the scruffy prison cat.

Anyway, after the massive non workout with the huge rubber band I would generally wash up again and sit over by the door to watch the TV I can see from my cell door window. I’m in the very end cell on the tier so I’m only able to see the one television but trust me one is enough even when you can listen to others every day. It had its special programs and best of all I liked the movies when it would get put on a movie channel in the evening by one of the men who just happened to possess that most sacred of prison tools, the TV remote.

These dudes are like rock stars, only disrespectful. See they think nothing about changing a program in the middle of it without any consideration to anyone else, basically because they are locked in and no one “can tune them up” for it, and secondly, they have the ever-powerful remote. These are the men I truly came to despise while on lockdown but now and again, just once in a while they would get into remote wars, one would change it, another would change it back, then on and on, back and forth it would go till eventually they settled on a neutral channel. This I didn’t mind because inevitably the final channel in the battle was better than either of the others. Smile. So I’m kind of “into” the war, and every now and then I would yell thru the crack in the door, “Change it, change it, change it,” just to try to get a battle started. I know, purely selfish and definitely self-serving but hey, it’s a lock down and I can be as selfish as the next guy.

so there is that, and then there are the staff members who are forced by the administration to act like they have a reason to siphon off hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers money. Like the psychology department, these fine upstanding BOP employees come daily to walk around the units looking in the door and asking, “Are you ok?” Now please don’t bother to say “No” or want to vent any frustrations because they didn’t have either the time or the patience to listen much less any solution to any problem to render. Some genius in the department decided they could slide puzzles under the doors and by doing so justify their $60,000 salaries.

So it was then decreed that a word search or a sudoku or some such paper puzzle would be at least weekly and mysteriously slid under the door by an entity that at that point didn’t even need to see if you were ok, because they had amazingly enough cured your every psychological problem with a puzzle. Thank the heavens for these brilliant and able essential government employees. Now, you may thinking, how does this have anything to do with his spiritual development? Well, forsooth, I will avail you of the link. See these people were so transparently non-caring about our welfare in these cages for a month, two, three, four at a time, that, for me at least, it took great patience and unbending faith in the Creator in his ways and works that I would be able to make it thru even their escapades and antics without melting down.

So I prayed for the strength to keep my thoughts about them to myself and allow the Creator to help me see my way past the frustration and angst they produced in me with their puzzles and condescending attitudes and platitudes that I could hear them sometimes offer or belittle others with thru the door. I’m sure that by now you have discerned that I do not suffer being treated as if I am unworthy of genuine kindness and humane treatment.

There were other daily or weekly fun-filled adventures to help us pass the hours while locked down. One of the very best times was watching the cop roll in with the food cart. He turned around and let go of it. Then the thing kept rolling, right down two steps and turned over right in front of my cell. Awesome! The best part was watching him try to explain what had happened when the lieutenant came to see why he needed 120 more trays to feed us! So all in all, I somehow managed to stay sane or kinda sane.

By late summer the compassionate release program was under way. I applied for a pro bono attorney through FAMM, a prisoner advocacy organization, and a law firm out of Chicago picked me to represent. I truly believed I was going home and writing back and forth with them ate up the last month of the 1st lockdown.

Here comes a slight break, we were to be let out into the common area and allowed to get our own meals from the food carts when they came in, one tier at a time , single file, 1 tray each, don’t try to snag an extra or the tray police will definitely put you in prison, but then again, who would want a second one. It would be almost 5 months before we had a hot meal; they were endlessly cold upon arrival. But here we go, a bit more freedom, now we can use the phones on the wall, the computers as we want to and its better than being locked down all the time, but still no outside activities and no religious services; that was the hardest on me. I am fully capable of prayer in solitude, but it’s always better with a brother or two.

Then along comes a guy, Sterling, who is having problems with his cellmate, “Walks, he says, “Can I move in with you?” Said he was going home soon and he didn’t want to get into trouble and his current situation is, “Gonna make me want to fight this guy.”

So I let him move in. Sterling has since gone home. He was ok and was with me for a couple months, then moved to another unit for work purposes. With him went another guy, so Jason now had no cellie and rather than take the luck of the draw, he agreed to move in with me. Jason was a good cellie, quiet and unassuming, smart enough to talk with and a wealth of information about cell phones and computers and all the techno stuff I’m trying to learn before I need to deal with it.

Now it’s October, there’s another outbreak of Covid and we go back under strict lockdown – back in the cells, not getting out for anything but 15/30 minutes to shower, get ice and that’s it. This goes on for a couple more months. People in the unit are coming down with Covid, staff is bringing it in and all of a sudden I don’t feel so good. I start with a cough that just keeps getting worse. The cough becomes so frightening that I’m scared. I’m hacking all night and all day long. Then this nasty yellow-green phlegm.

I had been here before but never this bad. I have COPD and I figured right off, I had pneumonia, but I knew I had to tough it out because if I say anything they will take me out of my cell and put me in the hole – no property no anything, and certainly no better medical care. Medical is horrible at best in here, so I keep my mouth shut. I know living with me was real hard on Jason, my cellie. He was young and healthy, but he thought I was going to die. Then they decide to let us back out on the flats and Jason moved the first chance he could.  I was as sick as I have ever been and ended up with a real nightmare in the making…

                    DYING ALL OVER AGAIN

Verse 1:
So you say ya wanna start over again
Call it water under the bridge
I don’t think I can do that for you
I’m dying all over again.

Yea, it’s a sticky situation
Please forgive me if I laugh  (HA HA HA HA)
When the walls of this ship come tumbling down
I come out with a rope, dying all over again.

Verse 2:
Does the hate pierce your skin?
Going back, where do we begin?
On my belly at the bottom of the sea
Trying to find my way back to me.

Chorus – Lead

Verse 3:
I walk down this lonely road
With you on my mind
The wind cries out your name
It sends chills down my spine.

Yea, it’s a sticky situation
Please forgive me if I laugh  (HA HA HA HA)
When the walls of this ship come tumbling down
I come out with a rope, dying all over again.

Dying All Over Again lyrics © Steven Maisenbacher (Walks on the Grass)

All shares of my book chapters appreciated!

A Woman’s Last Noble Act

Thoughts from Raccoon Valley, Tennessee

By Edna Peirce Dixon

It’s hard to remember how long ago it was; at least twenty years. I was in my early sixties and had this notion of learning to play some of the old-time fiddle songs Jack and I enjoyed at the annual fiddler’s convention down at Townsend in the Smokies. One year we met Fred Beeler, a real old-time fiddler still going strong in his eighties. On stage Fred mentioned that he gave lessons, so we looked him up and discovered we actually lived very near one another. So wish granted, what could be more perfect?

Fred didn’t read music; he played by ear, so in our weekly sessions he patiently helped me memorize more and more tunes from his vast repertoire. I did fairly well, quickly learned the basic techniques. We both most enjoyed when he played his fiddle with me, nicely covering my mistakes, so even though I knew I would never be a “natural born” fiddler, my lessons were fun and satisfying.

Sometimes Fred’s wife, Dorothy, would sit in on our sessions and occasionally we would visit a little after my lesson. In contrast to Fred’s outgoing vitality, Dorothy struck me as a quiet, reclusive, even frail lady. One day we were all walking across the lawn of their home which sat on a portion of Fred’s family homestead. The old home was gone, but the old-timey rose bush and mature trees gave evidence of earlier generations. A huge tree in their yard had shed some twigs on the lawn and Dorothy made a point of gathering them up. Fred commented on her penchant for keeping the debris cleaned up. I never forgot that moment as it crossed my mind that perhaps, for Dorothy, picking up the fallen twigs and branches after a storm took all the energy she had left.

Now flash forward 20 years. Fred and Dorothy have long since crossed over and here I sit, well into my eighties with my own share of the annoying frailties that creep up or crash down on us as we grow old. This home of more than forty years is my whole world now. I have observed that the row of mighty old oaks between our back yard and the creek and woods beyond seem to be shedding ever more lichen-covered twigs and branches with every storm or stiff breeze sweeping down the valley. Our so-called lawn, more moss than grass these days, still requires mowing to hold the persistent return to wildness at bay, so frequently I find myself out picking up sticks and twigs.

When I do, the words, “The last noble act of old women,” repeat like a mantra in my head. Since time immemorial, I think, women everywhere have quietly gathered up the broken pieces when things fall apart. By nature a woman will do her best to hold on and clear the path for those she loves through all the storms of life. Long after her nest is empty and her strength has flown as well, the womanly impulse remains. So maybe, just maybe it’s true, the last noble act of old women is to patiently gather up the broken bits and pieces after the storms of life have passed, even when it’s only sticks and twigs in her own backyard. 

Edna Peirce Dixon © September 26, 2021

Thanks for all shares!


By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on
Chapter 20

Calm Before the Storm

February 2020 – Our spiritual group had been complaining for more than a year about the lack of materials to re-build the sweat lodge. See, if you are not of the professed faith group of one of the institutional chaplains, getting anything in here oftentimes proves all but impossible. It had been more than two years since the lodge was built and the frame was so deteriorated as to be a hazard when we covered it to use it for ceremony. The lodge should have been rebuilt the preceding spring, but in the federal prison system you must learn to make do, not without, but make do. Finally the chaplain said he had the willows coming in and asked what else we needed. So we gave him the list of all that would be required.

Since it had been a rough year previous for me I truly needed the lodge, the ceremonies, the songs and prayers just to help heal mentally, physically and spiritually, so this was welcome news. Before the willow poles arrived and the actual build, we still had work to do. We needed to take the old lodge down and prepare the holes for the new willows to be bent into the dome and just generally do all we could to ease the re-build.  The day we had to work is cold and it’s pouring down rain on us. Did we let that deter us? Not for one second. Ghost, J.D., Jody and myself, just the four of us were there doing all we could in the freezing rain, knowing the next day we would have much to do.

Even with all the right tools and ten men, building a sweat lodge is no easy task. With four men and makeshift tools it is an endeavor. This is especially true when every man that has ever built a lodge will have his or her ideas and methods of doing it. I do need to say there is a wrong way and that is in a freezing rain, so we got as much done as we could, then all we needed was a hot shower, a warm bed, and the next day for the willows to come in.

And in they came, but thankfully they didn’t bring the rain with them, just the cold, but we barely noticed; we all stayed too busy blessing the 16 holes and dropping the willows in them, then packing rocks and dirt around the poles getting ready to bend and join the willow poles. Building a lodge is a sacred endeavor and when it’s coming together the feeling is really special and amazing. You can just feel the medicine power emanating from the lodge as you tie the bent willows together to join them. After that was done we began placing the outer rings.

These willows run around the lodge in a circle, tied to the poles that have been tied together creating a dome-like shape that represents the belly of the mother. The rings are placed around 4 times; when all this is done correctly there will be a star in the top of the lodge formed by the meetings of the poles and the spaces they form.  It’s really cool how the geometry of a circular dome can produce the straight lines that make a star shape. So we had our lodge re-built and ready to go the following Tuesday for its inaugural sweat lodge ceremony. I cannot remember which of us conducted the sweat, but it was a good ceremony. Little did we know we were only to have a couple more before the Covid 19 pandemic.

Despite all the trials of my recovery and getting situated most of 2019 had been pretty good and things were moving along smoothly. Nothing was too out of place or time; I would go outside every day and sit at the tables at recreation and build jewelry. I had been building the nicest things using fresh water pearls, amethyst, tigers eye, garnets, turquoise, hematite, and crystal, even some pyrite and all the various jaspers and all the beautiful agates.

Sings Many Songs and April Dixon selling
Rocks On A String at a church Holiday Bazaar.

These are all medicine stones with their own medicinal benefits and I deeply believe in the healing power of natural materials and stones. I always try to use the sacred Native numbers in the patterns and designs I create, leaving my pieces open to the eventual owner’s use and needs. My hope is that by working with these beautiful gems, I may be able to start a business and help myself with the proceeds from my jewelry line I call “Rocks on a String.” Sings and her daughter, April even set up a booth at a church Holiday Bazaar and sold some of my jewelry for me.

I would take all my materials outside to recreation (the yard) and set up a table, just building jewelry to send home as part of my master plan for my future release and managed to build quite a bit. Working with the gemstones helps me stay calm and focused, while creating things I love. Now the upside is many faceted (pun intended); see when I’m out there I get to see all the fellas. I made friends with a guitar player and he and I formed a band we called “Whatever.” When I was outside, he would come over with the acoustic guitar and we would sit and exchange chops, mine vocally, his on guitar and we managed to write a couple of really decent originals before the “19” hit.

We got a band room slot and while the equipment is really of poor quality it was better than nothing at all. So we drew Saturdays from 12-1 p.m. Another guy was supposed to come in at 2, but he never showed up so we just played on thru till 2 o’clock. Getting back to singing was such a release. We did a prisoner lament song we put together, Try To Get It Right, plus a cover of the rock classic, Stranglehold, by Ted Nugent, and another Walks’ original, an old-west outlaw saga, Ride for the Sun.

 I’ve been singing since I was 15, but as I said somewhere a million miles ago, the best bands I’ve ever been in were in prison and I have been known to sing with a gospel quartet. when I get out I’m planning on shocking some people with walk-ons at open mic nights if I can find any. I’m glad to say I can definitely still hit and hold some high notes, I can sing in key and harmonize at will doing the above line or below line or jumping back and forth from one to another without stepping on the lead vocal line. SMILE!  Yeppers, I love to sing. I think it’s a gift the Creator gives people and if they find they can do it, then they owe it to themselves and the Creator to not waste the gift but to develop it to the beat of their ability. Oh well, makes sense to me. Let the music commence!

Native Brothers 2019

There were other good times too. Like the picnics we had. Sometimes on a Saturday morning, I would get all my little food stuff together and cook a bunch of it up to make burritos. Then I would smuggle them outside in my smuggle-buggy (walker) for all the brothers and we would have a meal outside. By then everyone knew my invisible dog, Booger, and he kept us all entertained with his pranks and hijinks. One time Ghost told him to pee on my foot, said it would cure my foot fungus. Made me so mad I ran him off. How was I to know he was only trying to help?

During the year, I was happy to be introduced to a Facebook group, Ghost Dancer & Friends that had been set up for Ghost. The members included his family and an outside circle of friends. Though I had never met them, it was nice to have new friends. I posted some of my poetry and immediately people seemed to resonate with them. Then I wrote a particular piece called “Off Kilter.” It went over well and Aunt Hazel really was liking the stuff I was doing and even encouraged me, so I said hey, let’s all write a verse to a poem about a certain topic and everyone put their name to their verse and let’s see what we end up with. We called it the “Off-Kilter Poetry Club.” The result was fantastic and we all had a good time doing this. Aunt Hazel became so special to me, I think of her often.

Then just before Christmas I got the best news ever!

I am getting a visit! My brother and his wife, Karen are actually coming to see me on their way to Illinois to see my brother, Bob and his wife, Bab. It was incredible to get this news and all I could think about was how long it had been since I’d seen Mike and how good I would be to meet Karen face-to-face for the first time ever. And to top that off, Ghost was going to get a visit the same day. His mom and sister were coming and it was so cool I would get to meet them as well and introduce them to Mike and Karen.

Now let me tell you, the visit came and it was a great day. Ghost’s sister, Judy was as kind as he had made her out to be and his mother, Joyce…well, to call her an elegant matriarch would be an understatement. When she said, “I’m Joyce and I’m very glad to meet you,” you just knew she meant every word she said, and you had better listen. 

Mike, Steven and Karen Maisenbacher Christmas 2019

When I saw Mike and Karen standing there, I just grabbed my brother for a hug, tears streaming down my face! It was so good to see him; he looked good and so did Karen. What an electric lady she is; super confident and knowing, smart and funny and very pretty, I don’t know how Mike pulled it off but he landed a keeper in her! She is as Irish as a jug of whisky, a very cool woman and I’m a lucky man to have these two in my corner. With my release coming up withing a couple of years, it was good to talk with them about my future and possible release plans to a halfway house near their home in Florida. This was the best day of my sentence and seeing them made my year.

All my outside friends know how much I love to read, so books were high on my Christmas wish list. Little did anyone know how much all the books they sent would mean in the not-too-distant future. Then 2020 arrived and before long we started hearing reports of some kind of strange virus sweeping across the globe. It didn’t raise much of an alarm at first. Some routine safety precautions were instituted in the prison. March goes by, the added restrictions made us uneasy, then WHAM! The unthinkable happens…


I’m tired of waking up mad
Sick of waking up all alone
I’m tired of these damn prison cells
I just wanna come home.
I’m tired of acting happy
When deep inside I’m sad
I’m runnin’ out of smiles
When I’m dying inside instead.

Now half a life wasted
The other half shot to hell
If I’d only listened long ago
I wouldn’t be sittin’ in a prison cell
Trying to get it right...

But ya can’t tell a man anything
When he thinks he knows it all
Just like the seasons change
And he's still stuck in fall.

With half a life wasted
The other half shot to hell
A little girl graduates 
And he finds out from a cell
Trying to get it right...

Well an old man sits alone in his rocking chair
Not a damn soul around left to even care
And he thinks about his days gone past
But it won’t change the nights
If he'd listened long ago
He wouldn’t be in this place,
Wishing he could get it right.

Well half a life was wasted
The other half shot to hell
If he had listened long ago
To what they had to say
He wouldn’t be alone writing this today 
Trying to get it right...

Walks >>>>>>>>>>

© Steven Walks On The Grass Maisenbacher, February 23, 2020

Going to Water

Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 10

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

In the old days and even back to the ancient times of the mounds, our ancestors had a Sunrise Ceremony. This was our traditional way of renewing our birth connection to our Mother Earth and Grandmother Sun. When we are in our mother’s womb, floating in water, we feel this eternal connection to our birth mother and now even more to our Earth Mother and Grandmother Sun. This connection recycles for all eternity with all of us if we just listen. Even as babies when we are put in water, our memories flash us back to that connection – one heart, one beat, one with all and everything. What mother feels the infant absorbs and feels as well. This connection is the reason all infant’s umbilical cords were saved and dried hanging in the tree of life to dry to become part of the child’s medicine bag.

Now knowing all this you will better understand what Going to Water actually means. Going to water is more than a bathing ritual. It is a religious act to submit ourselves to returning to our Mother’s womb and cleanse ourselves in her life blood (water). This ritual is our reconnection to being born each day as a new born babe to start the day. We greet Grandmother Sun as she rises and blesses us as we stand in the water and sing the greeting song to her and for our Mother. The women have their own place to go and they take the small babes with them, young toddler boys too. Boys old enough to walk on their own go to the men’s place.

Now to truly understand the ritual and the practice, put yourself in this mode. It is early before the break of dawn. The women gather up their personal scents, and cleaning things. They awaken all the children, babies too, and take them to the path that the Beloved Women, Keethlas, Medicine Women, and Clan Mothers are already walking, saying prayers as they go. The men are doing the same, being led by the Beloved Men (elders who are very wise and gifted), Keethlas, Medicine People, and Miccos, to a different path that leads them to water out of sight of the women.

Each group will wait until the Grandmother Sun is fixing to rise and then everyone goes in the water. They submerge themselves fully; the women holding the babies submerge them as well. They feel the Mother’s heart beat while they are in her living womb. They honor the life gifts of air, water, earth, and with the rising of Grandmother Sun, fire is now also completing the four elements of life. We all reconnected to life as a baby, new and fresh, cleansed, not only of filth, but of corruption of the mind, spirit, and body. We sing songs of joy, songs of thanks and then we go about washing ourselves. It makes no difference what the weather is – hot, cold, rain – we still do this everyday. It is our way of life and our life is our religion!

Mvskokee Water Song   

mvskokee uewv yvhiketv

seceyetv  seceyetv  celayetv wace vnokeckv seceyetv 
seceyetv mocv-nettv mekusvpetv momen ometv ohmerretv 
em wace ohnenne nak-vcakv
enka enka  peme opvnetv vpeyetv wace enka enka peme e-
hvsvthicetv hiyomecetv seceyetv seceyetv hahvketv hvmken 
hvtvm seceyetv  seceyetv ofv nak-avcakv ohnene enka enka 
peme e vnokeckv mocv -nettv enka enka peme emetv e 
wace estofis 

Ghost’s translation:

Going into the water, going into the water, 
Touching Mother’s Love, going into the water.

Going into the water today, praying and receiving 
Mother’s precious blessings.

Yes, yes, we dance as we go to Mother. 
Yes, yes, we go to be cleansed. 

Going to water, going to water we become one again.
Going into the water, going into the water, we walk around. 

Yes, yes we give our love today. 
Yes, yes, we give to Mother always.

Going into the water, going into the water to feel mothers love
Going into the water, going into the water to pray and be blessed,
Mother’s sacred way.
Yes, yes, we dance to go to Mother
Yes, yes, we clean ourselves this way 

Going into the water, going into the water, become one again.
Going into the water, going into water in a sacred way.

Yes, yes, we love ourselves today
Yes, yes, we give to our Mother always.

Now, to keep the balance, we also have a sunset ceremony. As we tell Grandmother goodnight and we welcome Grandfather Moon who shines his light upon all of us and all life. We all know how the Grandfather affects all life and even the waters. Remember we are a people of balance; we walk and live in balance. Going to the water and submerging ourselves as before; women to one area and men to another, we cleanse our bodies, say goodnight to our Grandmother and greet our Grandfather who loves our Grandmother and our Mother. He spends his time chasing them both.

Singing our prayer songs and feeling the love from our Grandparents and our Mother too, we all knew we have this special connection to all life in these sacred ways. As we walk back to the town or village, we begin to come back together as a people, all loving and happy. Now it’s time to enjoy stories, dances, and good food; a people all as one, and one with everything as our Grandfather Moon smiles down on us. Sometimes he shows only part of his face; sometimes only the other side. Sometimes he is so big and so close and sometimes he looks new and young. Sometimes he has friends there with him; a council going on. Sometimes he is gold and sometimes blood red. He shows his many emotions and faces to us and we all know he loves us too.

So, I ask you: How well do you know Grandfather Moon and our Grandmother Sun and our Mother Earth? Will you think of these things when you see them? I hope this helps you better understand our ways, Ghost.

Ghost Dancer © 2016


By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on
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)


By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on
Chapter 18

Gonna Be Days Like This

If it wasn’t for Mike Lunsford who gave me the “smuggle buggy” as we named the walker he gave me – and that medical eventually authorized me to have – I would have had a lot more problems, even more pain than I was already coping with. So I’m on Tylenol 3 pain meds for 5 days and that didn’t even come close to covering the pain from the quarter-mile walk to get them. I’m paying someone in the unit on a daily basis to change the dressing and rinse the surgical incision and staples in my back. When I asked medical about my wound care,  I was told, “Oh, you will have to go to sick call.” Nope, we’re not going thru that, it isn’t worth another long trip with the buggy to get it done, so I will just keep doing what I need to do.

It is now day 3 after my surgery. After having slept off and on during the night, I woke a bit later than normal because the sound of the key unlocking my cell door at 6 AM is the alarm for me if I miss getting up earlier for my dawn prayers. So I wake up at 7:20  AM and hear people out and about.  I try to open my cell door and find it is still locked. I figured someone must have forgotten my door so I ask one of the inmates in the block to go get the cop. Fifteen minutes go by, no cop to let me out. Then I see everyone going out the door so I know they called breakfast, still no cop.

So I wait and finally the cop comes and opens the door. I ask what’s going on, I have missed pill line now and breakfast. He said there was a note in the log book from the night officer telling him to keep my cell door locked because he smelled smoke last night down here in this area. What? Now I got upset. I’m in pain and have missed the chance to get my medicine so I tell him I want to see the lieutenant over this.

He said the lieutenant would be here before long and I can see him then. So I go about my business, eat a pop tart and take a few Tylenol, knowing they are not going to cut it. Now it’s 9:30 AM and they scream lockdown for count, so I go in my cell knowing that when I do get out to eat after count I can go to pill line then and get the next dose of pain meds. I really needed something keep me from being in so much pain.

So count comes and goes. It’s a holiday and we wait, and wait, seems like forever to go eat. By now it’s 12:30 PM and I’m starving when they call CHOW! Finally I’m off so I eat and then push the walker over to medical. As I do, I see the nurse heading down the walk. She pauses to say she has been called to the SHU for an emergency.

I say, “But please, I haven’t had pain meds since last night”

She said she didn’t have time but I could just wait and come back later.

“No, I can’t” I say. I know I will never make it back across the compound after this. My pain is excruciating and I’m exhausted after the trip to the chow hall then medical, so I park the walker, and sit down. Isn’t long before the compound roving officer comes to see why I’m sitting there when the compound has been closed and movement is over.

I explain that I’m waiting for the nurse because I need my meds but she had been called to the SHU and I can’t go then come back because I won’t make it and I’m in agony.

He says OK and to just stay there, out of the way and don’t go out on the compound. So I sit, 1:30 PM, and I sit 2:30 PM, and I sit 3 PM. All of a sudden here comes the nurse up the walk. I’m glad to see her.

She says, “I can’t see you now, I have to take care of this.”

I’m now hyper mad, I go straight to the lieutenant’s office about 20 yards away and explain everything that has happened, what I have been going thru and that I have now missed 2 doses of my pain medicine and hadn’t had any relief since the night before. So he gets on the radio and calls her, then he goes into the office gets on the phone to her. He comes out and says she is coming. Soon thereafter she comes out and asks me about my problem. Once again I go thru the spiel about no meds, the locked door, the late chow and the 2-hour wait sitting in the hot sun, hurting and waiting. Now here we are and I still haven’t had any pain meds and this isn’t right!

She tells me if she gives me a dose then I won’t get any in the evening after supper because it will be too soon to get another dose. Ugh! So weighing the situation, I say I will come back after count and dinner. She returns to medical, closes and locks the door. I wheel back to the unit after not having any pain meds for almost 24 hours and fall exhausted into the bed, where I stayed till after count, then it’s back across the compound again to finally get my meds.

Now there’s a post script to this. After many months, at a time when her quick action saved my life, Nurse Thomas and I  had an opportunity to talk about that day. Many things came to light, the most important being this nurse has proven herself to be a professional and capable nurse with excellent skills and patience.

I learned in our discussion that while I was waiting, she had been in the SHU trying to deal with a medical emergency after an inmate had been pepper sprayed. Some of the spray had made its way onto her which caused her great distress and this is what she was feeling when she walked past me back into the medical unit and locked the door behind her. Now I see her in a different light. She was there trying to help an inmate’s medical distress only to be made to suffer for her efforts. Furthermore, she was the only professional on duty in medical that day! They even had the nerve to ask her to stay and work overtime because another medical staff member wanted to stay home.

Fact is by ignoring their own stated policies, the BOP not only medically neglects and abuses inmates, but they also abuse and exploit their professional medical staff. During my years in federal prison, I have seen so many instances where things went wrong that could have been avoided had adequate basic care been provided.

As for me, the bottom line is, thru the strength of the Creator and my understanding that nothing will be placed on my shoulders that I can’t handle, I have managed to keep my sanity, or at least some semblance of sanity. I believe that all the trials and aggravations of daily life in here are the crucible that has forged my spiritual strength and my ability to become a functioning member of society in the world as it is today. It’s going to take the same tolerance and patience as I mustered that day of no meds, but it will be well and truly worth it. I just need to stay in my walk on the red road and be willing to humble myself to situations I can’t control rather than blow a fuse. It ain’t easy being me, but someone’s gotta do it….


Before the question I knew the answer,
You went thru me just like cancer,                    
I think you know you drove me crazy,
When it comes to love, my mind gets hazy.

Checked the radar, coming up clear,
Void the horizon nothing left to fear, 
The litmus test was too good to be true,
I was wrong, but that’s nothing new.

Shame on me for not seeing it…
Shame on me for not believing it...

Fool me once, screw with my head,
Things you did, better left unsaid,
You plead your case on bended knee, 
But fool me twice, shame on me...

Shame on me for not seeing it…
Shame on me for not believing it...

Shame © 2009 Steven Maisenbacher (Walks On The Grass)

Women’s Role, Women’s Power

Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 9

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

Women today have lost or forgotten their true roles and purposes that used to be. In the old days, everything revolved by and through the women. A child was a member of the mother’s clan. Her blood was all that mattered, not the father’s. In every town, all the land and buildings, everything was the property of the women. The women held the power to make decisions in the best interest of the clan and for the people in general.

They are the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, nieces, cousins of the men and boys. Naturally, they want only what is best for everyone. Men seek to be their best by doing good things, honorable things, helping the clan, family, tribe be its best. Each has its own role. I speak of this first so you can get a better mindset of what each person’s role in the old times were.

Every decision, of everyone’s life was conducted through your mother’s clan and the Clan Mothers – who taught you, which society (war clan for men) you would join, only the women had the power to direct your life. No war, no hunts, no chunkey games, or stickball, fishing, gathering anything, unless the women declared that it would be. You could not even court or date or romance a girl without the women’s approval. Your marriages were arranged by the women. The headmen, council, and warriors all lived by the laws and decisions made by the women.

You ask why. Well why would we question the wisdom of the Creator in giving the women, the power to create life, and give birth to that life, from her womb, because no man has the love, the honor, the respect, humbleness, and generosity that a woman has? No man could withstand the pain and suffering that a woman goes through in labor and during the pregnancy that women must go through to bring new life into this world. Do you know any man in his right mind who would ever willingly take on that burden? Women have so much courage. The Creator knew that for there to be balance and love for all life, that the true power had to be the rightful gift of all women.

Now many women still don’t understand the true aspect of women’s powers. Every woman is so connected to Mother Earth that she is given a Moon Time (a menstrual cycle) just to help her always to be pure and clean, just as Mother Earth does in her winter season. Just as she does in her thunderstorms, floods, or earthquakes! Every woman knows how to conserve and think about others before herself. Women are stronger than men in their minds and their hearts, their courage, their ability to change themselves at a moment’s notice while most men are seen to be stubborn, arrogant, selfish, and egotistic. Pride/ego is the downfall of almost all males.

The gifts of love were bestowed upon the women to teach all men how to truly love. As mothers they nurture us, protect us, feed us, take care of us when we are sick, clean us when we mess ourselves, cleanup after us, because men often never think to do these things. The Women’s role was that of power. The tribe was only as good, strong, or successful as the women were in the tribe. If a male leader failed to do as he was directed, he would immediately be replaced by the choice of the women, because the women thought always about what was best for the entire tribe, and the generations of the tribe yet to come. All the tribes’ belongings were owned by the women only. No male owned anything except his weapons. All males did everything they could to earn the respect, love and generosity of the women, because it was the greatest thing a male could do: to provide, protect, pleasure, and procreate for the women.

All the Plant people talked to the women, to teach them the powers of the Plant people, so did the Stone people, because all these relatives could feel the love in the hearts of the women. It is hard for many women today to see themselves as this beautiful, powerful, loving being. But they truly are! If only they would pick their hearts up off the ground, and see everything in beauty and love, the world could change overnight.

A woman is not ugly, selfish, egotistic, lazy, or dumb! Why, because no woman has ever been created that way! The only way that ever happens is if the woman herself changes herself to be that way or is abused and never ever tapped into her true power to take charge of herself. Because there isn’t a woman alive today that could not use her true power and claim her rightful place in control of the world around her and create herself as totally beautiful and loving in every way. But it begins with the woman herself. She must choose this and claim it in her heart. Once she does then she will begin seeing herself as beautiful, and as wonderful as she truly is. Others will see this too.

When a woman recognizes that she is able to make changes around her, by opening her heart, to Mother Earth, to the Moon, to the Waters, to the Plant people, to the Stone people, she will know how special she truly is.

The reason why women on their Moon, were not allowed around the men, boys, or anything that was used by men (weapons, medicine bundles, medicine bags, hunting and fishing equipment, etc.) or around any areas where men conducted rituals, was because during her Moon cycle her power would cancel out and overwhelm anything of the males. Her Moon cycle was so powerful that men would be violating Mother’s gift to the women to ever question it.

A woman’s Moon cycle is a purification that no man is ever blessed with. Most women hate the cycle now days, because they were brought up to believe it was dirty and nasty, but in truth it is a time of the Creator’s gift that all women can purify themselves from within themselves with their passions, emotions and their entire beings. Most women won’t admit their lustful desires now because of the programmed belief that it was wrong, dirty, or sinful for her to be like that or want that desire filled. Any woman who is true to herself will admit those feelings and longings, and in truth women can more easily get pregnant right before her cycle begins, while spotting or cramping, or at the end to their Moon cycle.

Only through the false fear or beliefs of some religions were these truths hidden and put down by these religious dogmas attempting to silence the women and their roles in life. It was these same religious people who feared the women’s power that they systematically attacked women in their beliefs and taught them that they were a curse and they came from a man and that they are the cursed of the people. Why would women put up with it and deny themselves their true powers in this world, and in all the universes? Balance has been lost and will return when women claim it and choose to be the Love, Light, and Power that you truly are!

The Women’s Moon Lodge

In the old days, clan mothers and women were responsible for teaching the young girls the secret ways of women, not only in duties to the clan, but in everyday life. The women’s lodge, or menstrual house (eposkv-hute) was a place of power. It was not, as some people suppose, a place where women were banished because they were unclean. No men or boys dared go anywhere near this place because of the feminine power.

Not only was the women’s lodge the place women rest while in their moon flow, but it’s a place where girls are taught by older women everything they need to know about being women, how to attract a good mate and how to deal with the men they would soon be having intimate relationships with. When the time was right, young expectant mothers would have full support from the women of her clan to teach them all they needed to know about pregnancy, childbirth and caring for herself and for a new life. The beauty is that no young woman needed to ever feel alone or confused, wondering what was happening to her. So you see, the women’s lodge was a place where women found harmony with Mother Earth and the universe and the girls of each clan learned the mysteries of making secret potions and charms to attract the man they want.

Now a lot of people may not believe in this kind of thing, but judge not, for it isn’t for you to believe. It is for you to know and learn why this was done in the old times. Understand the clans had strict rules on marriage. To marry any relative, even a distant relation was strictly forbidden, so to assure finding an appropriate mate could be especially difficult. The responsibility fell on the clan mothers to keep track of all the members of each clan, the marriages and such. Each child is known by all clans and it is important that each person, even children know and introduce themselves as belonging to their own clan.

Often Muskogee, Ani-yun-wiya and most eastern tribal women are named after flowers or birds and such that bring beauty, love and strength to the people. When a woman is named little oak she is being called that because she is strong and has her roots sunk in deep. She may bend but she won’t break. If she is named honeysuckle woman she is being named for her beauty and her fragrant scent that blesses all that see her or come in her presence. If she is named little fox she is known for her beauty and cunning. Turtle woman is so named for her steady pace in life and always being protective and never rushing into anything without thinking first. So, yes all these things must be paid attention to.

Envisioning the Women’s Lodge

The house dwelling is built using 8 red oak posts (representing the tree of life of the people). Around the sides, 20 red cedar poles and covering with the red cedar boughs and red clay used as cement with designs of the moon and corn maiden, winged serpent, turtle, and all the clans are represented. The number 28 is sacred because it represents the number of days in a moon cycle. This protects the people all around and keeps this power inside.

The roof is made of red cedar poles and boughs laid on top. Red cedar leaves are scattered over the floor. 28 white water willow poles (representing purity and peace) are laid out and tied together using their own stripped bark soaked in water to make the door with intricate designs of each moon phase and stars aligned to the seven sisters (Pleiades). The door faces the south.

Circles of branches of holly are hung and attached to each direction. A special area is made to collect the absorbent pads, most commonly cat tail tops or washed moss, with the blood flow from the women. Just as mother earth has a cleansing so do the mothers and daughters. They were then burned with cedar and juniper boughs and the ashes later added to the burnt ashes from all the fires in every lodge of the tribe, council house fire, and most important, the tribal sacred fire to be  mixed in with all the compost made from the blood and waste of fish, animals, and birds and spread upon the tribal fields to grow crops. This completes the circle or cycle of life.

A sacred smudge bowl is set by the door and a turkey hen wing fan is used to smudge all who come or go to bring food and water, to teach and to assist can be smudged and washed with a cedar and or juniper tea. A water bag made from the stomach of a deer and a gourd dipper, hang on one wall. A turtle shell rattle hangs from the poles on the roof.

In the center, a hearth fire is kept burning all year. Fire-hardened clay pots and baskets filled with herbs and powdered roots sit nearby along with a set of deer antlers and deer toes.

The baskets, woven from grasses and bark are dyed with many geometric designs. One of the baskets holds corn meal, another, bean husks with dried beans. Another holds tobacco leaves and corn husks and a stone pipe or deer antler pipe. Many dried roots hang all around, each one of them has medicine and power as does every herb, every object, every symbolic design.

Spider woman is very powerful for dreams and weaving webs to capture things. Her webs have been gathered and stored for medicine. A pile of dried and tanned fur pelts stored out of the way ready to bring warmth and comfort. These, along with a number of skulls and bones containing the spirits of animals, birds or reptiles that may be asked for help, protection, or strength. Many a young woman has used these to help herself in difficult times.  Even having to use the toilet is done in the lodge and the waste removed by the ones assisting or visiting. Sometimes during her moon time a woman may suffer cramps or mood swings so special teas were made to ease the discomfort.

Hope this gives you a better understanding of the full meaning and purpose of the women’s lodge as a place of rest and support during the moon time and for young women, a place where they truly learn the traditions and knowledge of our culture. The elder women taught the young women of each village as they came to their first Moon times about the purpose of a retreat during these cycles every month – to reconnect to the Earth Mother and receive her nurturing again every month for those days of her flow. For adult women with children especially, it was a time to get some much-needed rest from the work of everyday life. Sisters, aunties, grandmas etc. would do the household chores for her.

Considered a secret of longevity, when women are filled with the Earth Mother’s love for us, as her daughters, we can make sacrifices for others. But we do not sacrifice ourselves or our health because we take the time each month to be filled with our Earth Mother’s love. With Earth Mother’s love, we can do our work and care for our families and not be used up or weakened.

Today we do not have Moon Lodges in our society, but we can remember who we are and that our Earth Mother is still there for us. We are the human reflections of our Earth Mother, caring for our families and ourselves always. Remember to take some time out for yourself every month or even every day. If you are not healthy and rested, you cannot take care of those you love.

Respectfully, Ghost

Ghost Dancer ©2014


By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on
Chapter 17

Didn’t See It Coming

As the days go on I become familiar with the prison and doing all the things I need to do, but first and foremost in my mind is going to medical to work on getting my back and spine issues resolved and surgery scheduled. So I go to sick call and explain my issues; I’m referred to the physician at the institution at this time. He recommends that another MRI be done and that I will then be scheduled for a consult with a neurosurgeon. I try to explain my history and tell him I’ve already had several MRI’s done and suggest he can pull this up in my medical record. So then he looks and says he can’t get them from Yazoo. Now I have been thru this for more than 2 years, so I know the dance, but what can I do? So it’s, “OK, thanks for your time, do what you can please.”

Meanwhile I’m plotting on what to do next to get these people to fix my back. A few days go by; I walk into the chow hall and who do I see but the warden; the very same warden who made the medical department in Yazoo upgrade my medical status and put me in for a medical transfer to a Care Level 2 facility. She says hello and right there in front of all the staff and inmates in the chow hall, extends her hand to me as if to shake it. This felt really, really strange, but what the heck, I shook her hand and the first words out of her mouth were, “How are you doing? Are you getting the medical care you need?”

I say, “Well, in fact no, Warden, I’m not,” then proceed to tell her about the song and dance they are sending me through over the medical records, the MRI so they can finally get me to a neurosurgeon for a consult, and then sometime down the road, the actual surgery. She asks me to wait and calls over the health services director. The warden tells her she wants me seen by a neurologist within the next 30 days and his surgery within the next 60 days, “Make it happen.”

Now to say I’m floored is putting it lightly; I have never seen a medical administrator put on notice so plainly and with such authority ever before. All the medical services director could do was say, “Yes Warden.”

Then the warden turns and says to me right then, “I want you to come to me when you have seen a specialist, and if you have any problems at all with medical…and Mr. Maisenbacher, I mean any problems, by all means come let me know and we will get them resolved promptly.”

Wow! That’s so cool, now I’m thinking, OK, this warden is going to straighten this place up.

Two weeks later I go to lunch from Unicor. It’s a Thursday I know because we were having chicken. I’m going to sit down when an officer walks up and tells me to put the tray down right now, “Let’s go!”

I’m shocked, “Where to?”

“You’ll see soon enough.”

So I’m thinking I’m on the way to the hole, but he takes me to R&D, to strip me, dress me in transfer clothes, and take me out of the institution. At that time he tells me I’m going on a medical trip. So out we go; he puts me into a white government van. Another cop is driving as the second armed officer and what a trip it was. Now they put the leg shackles on so tight they literally cut through my socks and into my ankles. I also had a belly chain that ran through my handcuffs and my cuffed hands were in a black box.

Now, if you don’t know what a black box is, it’s a plastic box that encases part of the handcuffs to stop any movement or access to the locking part of the cuff. When the belly chain is put on too tightly, the box isolates the hands in a most uncomfortable way, forcing them to be at an odd angle. All this not only hobbles and secures you but deliberately demeans and humiliates you; so I ride in this miserable state all the way to Birmingham and back.

I see the neurosurgeon and he goes over the MRI results that they somehow had miraculously gotten from Yazoo, Mississippi. He tells me he needs to operate and explained what he would be doing, essentially to remove the sheared-off part of the disk in between the vertebrae, then open the passageway to relieve the pressure on the nerves in the spinal column. OK! That’s wonderful, I can’t wait! The surgeon tells me he will confer with the institution and schedule surgery. Then back to the joint I’m taken.

I was glad to know that I’m finally going to at least get the surgery, but I have to tell you, my anxieties kicked in and I did a lot of praying for strength and healing from the Creator. So time goes by and here we are well into August. I get the feeling it won’t be long. Then exactly six weeks to the day I’m called from Unicor to the lieutenant’s office and told I’m being placed in the special housing unit (SHU) pending a medical trip and immediately off we go. It was the worst night I had spent in a long, long time. I was scared and worried, afraid to be put to sleep, but I knew I had to do it.

The next morning it’s the whole chains and shackles deal again and off we go to the hospital. When we get there, they take us (me and two guards) to the prep room where I’m seen by the anesthesiologist. Then the surgeon comes in and explains the goings on and finally they wheel me into the operating room, put the needle to the IV line and its 100-99-98-97—wakey-wakey, 3hours and 14 staples later, they tell me I have to get up, and walk 10 feet, then pee before they can let me go. So I do the impossible and we are off, again fully shackled, back to the prison in record time.

I’m still pretty high, pain-killered out when we get back to Talladega. They ask me if I’m okay; I’m like, “Yeah, sore but whatever, I just want to lay down.” So they call over to the unit to have an inmate come get me and push me in a wheelchair the couple of blocks across the compound to my unit. I get in the bed. After a miserable night, first thing the next morning I go straight to medical. Whatever they gave me at the hospital had long worn off long before and I’m in severe pain.

According to my discharge instructions,  I’m supposed to get regular wound care, dressing changes, and pain medications. So I’m waiting and waiting. Finally the medical services director comes sashaying through. I ask if she could tell me when I might be seen since I have just had surgery and no one has told me anything. Immediately she became irate, raised her voice and spit out, “We will see you when we do, and not until then!” Oh boy, I’m in for a wild ride. I can see it coming.

What happens next? Well, you just can’t make this stuff up. So like I was saying, I’m in sick call to see someone about my surgery, to find out about aftercare or a laying off from work. Obviously I’m going to need some kind of care, but as I’m sitting there I begin to wonder. I know nothing and this woman became totally irate over a simple question that any post-op patient might ask. After she verbally abuses me, I just smile and tell her how sorry I am that life has left her so bitter and hateful and I would wait as long as I have to. Turns out I’m there about an hour before I’m called back to see the doctor.

He shuffles through the paperwork sent back from the surgeon with orders on what needs to be done then says, “Well, this ain’t gonna happen.”

He tells me I’m not going to be given any aftercare, or physical therapy. I’m just going to have to figure that out myself; maybe do some “stretches or something.” He did prescribe Tylenol 3 for pain 3 times a day, but that meant I would have to make the quarter-mile round trip 3 times a day to get it.

Now this was not the only point of some even more incredible indifference. When I was wheeled back to my unit directly after I got back from the hospital, they parked the wheelchair right outside my cell. I just went to sleep as best I could till the next morning. When I got up the wheelchair was gone; the cop tells me they had sent it back to medical.  

I said, “Man, I just had major surgery on my spine, how am I supposed to get to chow or medical?” He too must have gone to the school of “you’ll have to figure it out” because that is exactly what he told me.

Luckily for me there was a guy in the unit who had one of the walkers with wheels and a seat on it he wasn’t using. He brought it to me and said I could use it as long as I needed to. For that I was truly grateful and little did I know this guy would be a huge help later with wound care and dressing changes.

So, the doctor gives me the 2-week lay in for work and sends me out the door. I still had no schedule for dressing changes or wound cleaning or anything other than Tylenol 3 and a lay in.  Incredible as it seems, I’m really in a mess now considering I’m expected to walk a mile a day at least if I want to eat and get some something for pain directly after the operation. That’s the kind of sick diabolical thing we go through in here on a daily basis, stripped of our humanity, treated like less than animals by a system that is so corrupt that you will have trouble believing some of what I will be talking about, but I promise you, it’s all true, you just can’t make these kinds of things up.

Heck, even I with my crazed sense of mental adventure couldn’t make this up, and I even have an invisible dog named Booger that has been with me for several decades. He was there with me in the tombs of USP Lewisburg where for punishment I was held incommunicado for months without ever seeing anyone except a nurse or the cop that slid my food under the door like you would feed an animal.

INSANE, I’m – I’m 

Going forward to get behind		
(Seems like I’m losing ground)
The broken fragments of my whole mind	
(I’m living in a puzzle)
Falsified the facts to get the twisted truth told	
(Battling myself over all these true lies)
Sold your youth so you’d never grow old		
(I can never die, I’m a legend in my mind)

I’m – I’m Insane, I’m – I’m Insane

Telling me this to lie about that			
(Speaking in riddles, losing my mind)
Sleeveless shoes and a wet paper hat			
(Drowning in puddles to get where I’m at)
Newsman said the world is actually flat		
(Inanimate objects dodging these traps)
Everything you believe is wrong that’s the fact	
(Confusion set in, anxiety attacks)

I’m – I’m Insane, I’m – I’m Insane, 
Even the voices in my head don’t like you	    
(Backa – Backa – Backa – Backa – Backa x2)

The sky was black, and the sun was blue		
(Hearts bleeding, but not for you)
I went down the up escalator to get back at you	
(Running in circles, getting nowhere soon)
Three steps forward and four steps back		
(Can’t get ahead without my map)
Your truth is my lies and that's the facts		
(Looking in, taking me back)

I’m – I’m Insane, I’m – I’m Insane, 
I’m – I’m Insane, I’m – I’m Insane . . . 

Insane, I’m – I’m lyrics © Steven Maisenbacher (Walks on the Grass)

Ghost Dancer’s Art

For My Dad – A gift from the heart

Ghost Dancer’s version of “The Good Shepherd”

Over the years I made many items for my dad from a wooden/glass inlaid gun case, gun racks, hand tooled leather belts, wallets,  holsters, a shotgun and rifle case with hunting scenes of him hunting rabbit on one side and deer on the other. He loved all these gifts but there came a time he wanted something special from me. Growing up around my dad, not once did he ever go to church, at least not while I lived with him or was around him daily. Now this did not mean that he did not believe in God or was a Christian. He just felt that nature was God’s church and I know he prayed a lot.

My dad was Native, and he also observed or looked at everything as a Native would. My dad said he would love for me to create something “Christian” for him. Now knowing my dad as I did – and no he wasn’t perfect. He had made a lot of mistakes as we all have – I knew that our Creator had  surely watched over him. He had survived so many hard times and still was able to laugh and cut up every day. Playing tricks or jokes on his family or friends was just Dad being Dad. You never knew when it was coming either. Dad never wanted to be rich like most folks, he just wanted enough to live. He loved animals and he loved teaching kids sports.

So taking all I knew about him and his ways, I started searching in the bible for a scripture that would speak to me about painting it. A picture of the painting, The Good Shepherd, spoke to me and I knew it would fit my dad. Each and every section of the painting has meanings, and as an artist I wanted to create my version so that each person must look at it to find what hidden messages it has so that each time you look at it you will find more that you did not see the first time. Or the second.

Why? Well because we all need help more than one time in our life.  We need to be watched over all the time and no, we aren’t the first and no we aren’t the last. In this painting Jesus is done with the clouds encircling his body as he looks over the flock in the valley. I could say what is hidden but that would take away the purpose of the individual truly searching for the different subliminal messages in the painting. The colors also represent many things. So when you look, look again and again. The more you look the more you will find.

My dad loved this painting so much he had it hung over his bed for the rest of his life. It comforted him in his times of need as it was intended to do. To each person the painting should spark different thoughts and different feelings. That is its purpose because we all are different and that is what makes us all so special.

 Hope you enjoy the story and seeking what you can find in the painting.


Mvto, Ghost

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