I am Bob Gray Wolf of the California Clan. I am like any other man, no better and no worse. My center is Cherokee.
I am a member of the Manataka American Indian Council. I am a member of the Tatanka Okolakiciye (Buffalo Society) and "Honorary Alumni" - both at Ogalala Lakota College. I am a member of the Native American Rights Fund (in Boulder, Co.). I have been a teacher and have a Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Illinois in Chicago. I prepared a CD/book which is in most of the libraries of the Native American Colleges, entitled "Vanishing Animals of North America". It shows the animals in our sacred hoop from a Native and environmental perspective. I have an interest in herbal medicine and also in Native American spirituality. I have read Red Hawk's book "The Tao of an Indian" and found it to help in my understanding of our Cherokee ways.
I am a Confederate member of "The Algonquian Confederacy of The Quinnipiac Council". Quinnipiac is the Anglo name for the Eansketambawg (meaning "We, the original, surface-dwelling people") a Native American Nation of the Algonquian family who inhabited south-central Connecticut in the area around what is now the present-day city of New Haven and New Haven harbor. Before the white man came, there was a great confederacy on the East Coast which included Cherokees, Quinnipiac, Iroquois, and the Hurons. The Quinnipiac still survive. I sit at the Quinnipiac Grand Council Fire as "Tsalagi ambassador", representing the United Cherokee Nation. It is a great honor that they have bestowed on the UCN, through Chief "Iron ThunderHorse", the Quinnipiac Principal Chief. I take great pride in being Cherokee and being a friend to the Quinnipiac Nation. I try to walk the Red Road, which the traditional Cherokee call the "White Path of Peace".
The words for white path are Unega Nvnehi. (This would sound like OO ne ga Nu ne he. The g would sound like the g in go and the u would sound like the u in hug.) The White Path is a good road to follow, and I offer it here, as I have been taught, in the form of "The Lodge of the People".
Wado - blessings and Peace on your journey
Gray Wolf's Bear rug from the "Southern direction"
Paleolithic Bear hunt in the "Dawnland" of the Northeast Quinnipiacs; drawn by “Big Heart - Little Bear” Wagner
Old stamp of Yosemite Park (in California) which was handed down to me by my father.
The Lodge of the People is much more than just a shelter from the elements, for it , as do most terms in our culture, has symbolic significance and lessons to teach us and the generations to come.
There are fifteen poles in the average lodge and each one has symbolic meaning attached to them, each one carries a lesson for us:
1. Obedience: obedience in following the traditions and teachings that were passed to us by our ancestors and the elders of today.
2. Happiness: Happy heart, mind and soul to share our homes with others, our home literally becoming theirs.
3. Respect: Respect for all living life forms, the two-legged's, the finned ones, the creepy crawlers, the solid ones...or standing ones. To allow each being to be as they are without judgment or ridicule, to their face or behind their back. Respecting them for who they are, where they are, at the level of growth and development that they are.
4. Humility: knowing we are no less and certainly no more than another, knowing that we are only a small part of the total whole, one strand in the massive web of life. Know that all life was created by a higher power and knowing that we too make errors on our life walk.
5. Acceptance: Accepting all life as our relations, knowing that we are truly connected to all life forms and to all two legged's as well.
6. Strength: Showing patience in times of stress, not complaining but learning to endure, knowing we will eventually understand the over-all picture. Strength of character, of mind, of soul, of spirit and then strength of resolve and body. (Bravery and courage in adversity and hardship.)
7. Cleanliness: Clean minds, clean spirits, clean hearts and clean souls lead to clean bodies and actions , along with thoughts within and of that body.
8. Rearing: Caring for, teaching, protecting and being proud of the young, the youth and the child. They are the future and must be prepared to care for the ones that will follow in their footsteps.
9. Thankfulness: Thankful not only for our blessings, the bounty of Earth Mother, the beauty that surrounds, our health, our relations, but...also thankful for our lessons, tragedies, trials and tribulations, for they serve to polish us like gem stones....to remove our flaws and to create the polished, shiny results.
10. Hope: Hope for the future, for the return of the traditions. for the peace of the world?s peoples and for unity of all living forms.
11. Sharing: freely sharing our blessings, our basic needs, our love, our teachings, our traditions, our dreams and our visions. Sharing all willingly, sharing all that makes us who and what we are, what we have been and what we will become.
12. Protection: Protection of not only our body, life and limb; but protection of the values, principles, teachings, customs; protection of the physical, but even more so of the spiritual, ceremonial, traditional and sacred.
13. Love: the ability to give of your heart to others, to love others or even yourself. Unconditional acceptance of another just as they are, knowing that everything has a Divine purpose and is of by Divine design.
14. Faith: An inner knowing or level of trust that things are as they should be. That challenge will result in victory, that hurt will result in growth, added understanding and added depth and wisdom. Faith in the Creator, His ultimate plan, His direction and His constant companionship.
15. Mystery: The ability to trust the unknown, to venture into the realms beyond our own, to allow vision to occur and to accept the information as factual from them. The ability to seek and accept the " magic of life and after life".
All the poles and symbolism come together to support the covering that forms the end result.
The Lodge of the People is in fact a life force in it's own right. Let us always honor it as a teaching elder and strive to honor it's lessons.
(by Selma Palmer, and shown to me by my friend Bear Warrior)
SPIRITUAL BELIEFS OF THE CHEROKEE THE WAY OF THE CIRCLE
The "Way of the Circle" has been passed down from generation to generation and is represented in all the Cherokee stories, myths and legends and other forms of teaching.
When you arise each morning, give thanks to the Creator, to the four sacred directions, to Mother Earth and Father Sky and all your relations.
Remember that all things are connected.
All things have a purpose.
Honor others by treating them with kindness; always assume a guest is tired, cold or hungry. Provide them with the best of what you have to offer.
If you have more than what you need, then give the excess to another who is in need.
Your word is your honor, do not break your word unless permission is granted by those you promise something to.
Always seek harmony and balance in all things.
Share with others.
Practice silence and patience.
Practice modesty in all things; boasting and loud behavior is not acceptable.
Always ask permission and give thanks for all received.
Always show respect and be aware of all things around you.
Do not stare at others, drop your eyes as a sign of respect, especially in the presence of elders, teachers or honored persons.
Always greet a friend in passing.
Never criticize or talk about anyone in a harmful way.
Never touch something that belongs to another without permission.
Always respect the privacy of others.
Never interrupt someone talking, it shows lack of patience, control and respect.
Listen with your heart.
Always remember that a smile is sacred.
Live each day as it comes.
Neither kill nor harbor angry thoughts.
Do what needs to be done now, not later.
CODE OF RIGHT RELATIONSHIP (As spoken to the people by the Pale One)
1. Speak only words of truth.
2. Speak only of the good qualities of others.
3. Be a confidant and carry no tales.
4. Turn aside the veil of anger to release the beauty inherent in all.
5. Waste not the bounty, and want not.
6. Honor the light in all. Compare nothing; see all for its suchness.
7. Respect all life; cut away ignorance from one?s own heart.
GOING TO WATER
The waters of the river ("Long Man") were always believed to be sacred to the Cherokee and believe that the water is a sacred messenger and commonly used for purification and other ceremonies. There are two forms - "Going to Water", and "Taking Them to Water". In "Going to Water", the Cherokee wade out into the waters of a clean running creek or river, face the east of rising sun, and dip themselves seven times in the water while reciting prayers. This was done every morning, summer or winter, regardless of the weather. The other form was called "Taking them to Water". This way the Cherokee simply dipped up the water by hand and spread it over their head and body. The rivers, streams or any other natural body of moving water, is considered a sacred sight, and the tradition of going to water still exists today.
KEEPING OF SACRED THINGS
The Cherokee people are very organized about their effects, especially spiritual items. It is believed that when these sacred items are not in use, they should be protected by being wrapped in deerskin, especially white deerskin, or some other material in the color, white indicating a spiritual thing. Peace treaties. Spiritual items were wrapped in white cloth or deerskin. The White Spirits live in the South.
The Cherokee are strong in their beliefs of spiritual beings. Each and every day includes the existence and/or communications, or interactions with spiritual beings. The Cherokee believe that these spirits are very much a part of the natural world. It is known that in some point in time, each individual will have at least one spiritual encounter, while there are others who have continual interactions. Sometimes these spiritual beings are our contact with our ancestors. Some guide us through our lives, some help us in healing and protecting. Some are just the eyes and ears for those on the other side. The most famous of these spirits are the legendary ?Little People.? These are very small spirit people who are invisible to everyone unless they want to be seen. When they make themselves visible they appear to be very small Cherokee people with very long hair. The Little People reside in various places such as caves in the mountains, shelters made of rocks and sometimes in laurel thickets. They love drumming and dancing. They have been known to find lost children, or to help children who are experiencing troubled and sad times. The Little people have been known to be very mischievous and when dealing with them you must be very cautious and you must observe the traditional rules about them. They don?t like to be disturbed and when a person constantly bothers them, it is said that they can cause that person to be ?puzzled? throughout their life. It is said that if a person sees one of the Little People, they are not suppose to talk about it, or tell anyone about it for at least seven years. Also it has been told that the Little People should not be talked about after sunset.
The Cherokee believe that when a person dies, his soul may be chosen to continue to live as a ghost in this dimension, and they will be given the ability to be seen when needed. Some people can see them and some cannot. Some people have the spiritual ability to see them more often than others and some even have the ability to interact with ghosts. Then there are others who have never seen a ghost and possibly never will. A ghost is sometimes called a ?Guide.? Sometimes they will appear to a person when there is a need to communicate with the living world. Sometimes they appear just to visit and other times they may have messages of good or bad health for someone. And sometimes they appear to someone as their guide to help with the journey to the other side.
BELIEF IN GOOD AND BAD DEEDS
The Cherokee believe that if your life is of doing good unselfishly and without the desire of a reward, you will be rewarded with good things. However, if you have done bad then bad things will come to you. Again we must think of the Sacred Circle and the circle of life.
MEDICINE WAYS OF THE CHEROKEE CHEROKEE MEDICINE PEOPLE
Medicine people are still today very active in the lives of the Cherokee people. Cherokee Medicine People can be either male or female. The Cherokee Medicine People are taught their practice for many years. They are required to learn and remember the ancient teachings that have been passed down for centuries by elder medicine people, who learned from their elders. Much of the Cherokee medicine formulas have, over the years, been documented in Cherokee syllabary writing in books and ledgers. The writings in these books are closely guarded and those who have not been trained are forbidden to read the books. It is believed that the medicine will be no good if not read and spoken in the Cherokee language. However, a medicine man praying, who has been touched by the spirit, while praying or healing can talk in a tongue only he can understand, rather than the recognized Cherokee language.
CHEROKEE MEDICINE HERBS
The Cherokee People have been given the knowledge of healing practices and the herbs and created things that assist in medicine and healing by the Creator. The Cherokee believe that a cure and prevention for all illnesses have been placed right here on this earth by the Creator. He has left it up to us to find these cures and to use them properly. A lot of the Cherokee medicine comes from a certain plant or a specially prepared mixture of a variety of plants. Some of the medicines can be used as an incense, mixed as a drink or used in a salve form. Many of the original plants used for medicine in the ancient days are all gone now or extremely hard to find with the coming of the white man. But more and more Cherokee people today are trying to bring back these plants. Caution is used In picking plants for use as medicine. We are taught to conserve as much of this gift as possible so as not to rob Mother Earth of her gifts. So when choosing plants we must first ask the plant?s permission, give it thanks and make an offering of tobacco or a bead. Then when we pick a plant we must only pick every third plant. This allows the other plants to grow and make new plants. It is also important that if you locate a location of medicine plants, you keep that location a secret so that it will help protect that place.
Any person who tries to practice with herbal medicine must realize that some plants cannot be mixed with some other plants without causing a bad reaction. You must either consult a Medicine Person or become very educated on herbs. The Medicine Person also relies on his internal healing powers which may be combined with his breath, saliva or physical touch, using his given life force. The Cherokee also use the powers of crystals in healing. Sage, Cedar, Pine and Eagle feathers are also a strong carrier of medicine in prayer. In the medical practice of today, Cherokee people do still consult their Medicine People as well as modern doctors. Also in the medical practice of today, medical professionals are more and more using herbal remedies and physical healing that has been used by Native people for centuries.
The Cherokee built a small wickiup in which hot rocks were placed. A Cherokee person who was ill would strip and enter the hot house. A solution was made from beaten wild parsnip root and would be poured over the rocks. Today water is used. The ill person would remain until they were in a profuse sweat and choking on the fumes and then they would exit the house and jump into a nearby stream. The hot house is practically the same as the sauna of today. Unlike the Indians of the west, who use sweat lodges, the hot house of the Cherokee was never used for purification.
THE MEDICINE WHEEL
The Medicine Wheel represents the spirituality of the Cherokee as well as all other Native People.
Native People believe the wheel to be sacred because the Creator or Great Spirit created the Sun, the Moon, the Sky and Mother Earth round. Seasons come and go as in a circle. The Sun and the Moon revolve around Mother Earth in a circle, creating each day The circle represents all things in creation. Therefore, we must see the circle as being sacred. The Cherokee as all other Native People dance in a circle to honor the circle of life and mother earth. Our drums are all made in circles. Our fires are made by placing logs in an "X" pattern which causes the fire to burn in a circular pattern.
The Medicine Wheel symbolizes the journey that each of us individually must take in our own life to find our correct and true path. The Medicine Wheel continues evolving and continues to bring new life lessons and the truth of the path you follow. The Medicine Wheel is round which represents the circle of life, from birth, to life as a child, life as a young person, life as an adult, life as an elder and finally death. You must honor and embrace each direction and that part of life and gain as much as you can and give as much as you can for a happy and fruitful journey.
The Medicine Wheel also teaches us about the path you take and the things you do in life can make the circle. If you do good for another, the circle will return good to you. But the same holds true for the bad things you do.
Within the Medicine Wheel are four primary sacred colors, which represent our four sacred directions.
In the center of the Medicine Wheel is the sacred fire, which is the center of all things.
If you have a chance to make life better for others and fail to do so,
you are wasting your time on Earth. No matter what our station in life,
we are here to serve, even if that sometimes means making the greatest
sacrifice of all. (Bear Warrior, Cherokee; February 2007)
White Spirit Bear from the "NorthWest" directions.