Saturday, August 11, 2007


This is section from a wonderful web page dedicated to the Lushootseed people on the PNW...
and shows a great example of how animist people relate within a sense of place...
please visit and read the rest of their web page here...

"Figures in the Landscape: Spirit Powers and Religious Traditions
For Lushootseed people, the world is full of spirits. Objects and places that appear inanimate, like rocks or weather, are known to be living beings with their own spirits, just like plans, animals, and people. These spirits have played a central role in the lives of Lushootseed people, providing the skills and knowledge necessary to survive and flourish.
The number of spirit powers in the world is limitless. Some are called career spirits, since they help with everyday work. Clam or Duck, for example, help in hunting, while others support the making of baskets or assist in gambling. Loon and Grizzly were among the spirits for warriors, while Wolf and Thunder boosted the careers of undertakers and orators respectively, and humanlike beings provided wealth. In addition to career spirits, curing spirits like Otter, Kingfisher, and a giant horned serpent could be obtained by men and women destined to become doctors.
To obtain spirit powers, young people underwent great sacrifices. Gweqwultsah, or Aunt Susie Sampson Peter, received her power in the 1870s. Eighty years later, she told her story, which was translated by Upper Skagit elder Vi (Taqsheblu) Hilbert and includes comments in parentheses from Gweqwultsah's son Martin Sampson:
My father made life very arduous for me because he was an Indian Doctor. He said to me "It doesn't matter that you are merely a woman, you shall become an Indian Doctor (in keeping with the prominence of your family ancestors).
You will abstain from putting food in your mouth. You will not eat much." So that is what I did. A little bit of bread was given to me, a small portion. It would be measured according to how long my throat was. It would have to be enough to satisfy my stomach. By this regime I was trained. Also, dried salmon would be cut off and measured (along my throat). [Her father said] "Just so much, just enough, will serve to keep you appeased (while training)."
I did not balk. I was maturing enough to understand. I am not sure of my age, however old I was. Maybe I was ten years old at that time. Never once did I come crying to my mother. When the West Wind blew, I was told, "Take off your clothes and run (as fast as you can). You need only to keep on your small undergarment. Alright, you go, run upriver." I did not pout or fuss (though I hesitated). Nonetheless, I took off my outer dress and I ran.
I removed my skirt, placed it beside the river, weighted it down with a rock, and I swam out into the current, away from shore. Out in the stream I floated in the pitch black night. I was not afraid. Nothing was allowed to scare me. So, that is how I found this particular power which always helps me, even as I grow older. Even now sustaining me is this doctoring power.
In her story, Gweqwultsah never mentions what her spirit power was. Indeed, the spirit powers were forces to be reckoned with. Relations with them were governed by strict rules, and they could never be fully understood by mortals; as one elder has said, spirits "wiggle away from your mind like a snake." It was dangerous to talk specifically about one's spirit power, and rude to ask about another person's. Disrespecting the spirit powers could lead to bad luck, illness, and even death.
Spirit powers were most evident during the ceremonies held in December and January, when the spirits visited Lushootseed towns and assisted in the rituals that bound communities together. In the longhouses, individuals performed the Winter Dance, releasing their spirit powers through expressive movements and songs. Naming was also done during this time, with ancient family names bestowed upon younger generations as a link between the past and the future. The ceremony of the Power Boards used carved and painted plaques to cleanse the house and the people present. The Spirit Canoe ceremony, in which doctors from several communities came together to perform a journey to the Land of the Dead to retrieve the souls of ill people, was the most important ritual of all. Along with storytelling, feasting, and giving of gifts, these ceremonies and the spirit powers that made them possible kept Huchoosedah alive."


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Jesse Wolf Hardin

A selection from

Chanting Home:

Recovering Sense of Place

by, Jesse Wolf Hardin

"We are told that we have no roots, but it simply isn't true. We are not rootless, but uprooted--our roots torn from the soil as we struggled to keep up with our restless, roving parents or broke out on our own. They themselves responded to an ancestral instinct they didn't understand, an inherited compulsion to search out the means of survival in specific, cyclic migrations. Fueled by culturally impressed dissatisfaction, we find fault in what is near and seek out the strange, losing affection for each thing as the shine of its newness wears off. We often pull away from any "base" instincts that seem to counter our civilized protocol or suggest a different pace or lifestyle. We jerk away from whatever seems to "hold us down," "ground" us, or threaten us with stillness. But we are not rootless. Our roots dangle out the bottoms of our skirts and trousers, as we drag them behind us through unfamiliar streets and hallways. If we really focused on it we might still feel them, the way an amputee experiences the sensation of a limb long after its surgical removal. We may have been severed from the body-earth, but our roots still protrude, grasp at the ground at our feet wherever we are, seek out with their probing tips the stability and nourishment nothing else can provide.

We are told that to develop this relationship with place, to be or to become indigenous, requires us to be born in the same watershed where we will one day die. Some scholars of these issues claim it takes generation after generation in the same spot before a people can claim a right to be there. While generational overlap undoubtedly deepens one's sense of connection through a history/herstory of place, I assert that the sole precluding requirement for that relationship of
belonging we call "native" is the individual's deepest experiencing of place, their giving back to place, and promising themselves to place. This relationship I call home, like any relationship, is a reciprocal sharing requiring the involvement and approval of both the person and the place. To put it most simply, being "native"--"belonging"--means both gifting to and being accepted by the spirits of the land. Such acceptance requires attention and tim e, but it is ours to find."

please read the rest of Jesses wonderful work here...
as well as see his work on his web page here..