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Sit by my fire
Let us smoke
And Tell Our Stories
The Peace Pipe
No rite was more widely practiced by indians than smoking. When an indian lit a mixture of tobacco and various aromatic herbs - called kinnikinnick - in the stone bowl of his pipe his intent was often deeply serious. The smoke that he exhaled was seen as a breath of prayer, and the pipe itself was regarded as an intimate channel of communication to the spirit world. Pipes were also used to sanctify communication between men. An early fur trapper named Alexander Ross noted that pipe smoking was "the introductory step to all important affairs, and no business can be entered upon with these people before the ceremony of smoking is over."

Ceremonial pipes were the personal property of a chief, medicine man or warrior. They were smoked according to a grave and precise ritual to pledge an oath or ratify a treaty, which inspired the white man's phrase "peace pipe."

 The pipes were also used as passports while traveling and for conciliation in even the most private disputes. If a brave ran off with someone else's wife, etiquette decreed that he send an old man to the husband bearing a pipe. If the husband smoked the offering, it meant that he would not take revenge on the lovers. Many men owned an unadorned everyday pipe, because smoking was also a casual habit. But the older men sometimes felt obligated to warn the young warriors against excessive smoking: it could cut their wind and thus reduce their stamina in battle.

 
The Eagle Feather
When the world was new, the Creator made all the birds. He colored their feathers like a bouquet of flowers. The Creator then gave each a distinct song to sing. The Creator instructed the birds to greet each new day with a chorus of their songs. Of all the birds, our Creator chose the Eagle to be the leader. The Eagle flies the highest and sees the furthest of all creatures. The Eagle is a messenger to the Creator. During the Four Sacred Rituals we will wear an Eagle Feather in our hair. To wear or to hold the Eagle Feather causes our Creator to take immediate  notice. With the Eagle Feather the Creator is honored in the highest. When one receives an Eagle Feather that person is being acknowledged with gratitude, with love, and with ultimate respect. That feather must have sacred tobacco burnt for it. In this way the Eagle and the Creator are notified of the name of the new Eagle Feather Holder.

 Feathers notched, clipped, dyed, or otherwise altered were used by the Indian as symbols of specific kinds of exploits, or coups, as shown below. from left to right: 1) wearers first coup upright feather with horsehair tuft; 2) wearer  wounded upright feather dyed red; 3) wearer wounded but killed foes upright feather with quill work bands, (one band per kill) 4) wearer killed foe red spot on feather; 5) wearer cut foe's throat and took his scalp notch in feather; 6) wearer wounded many times split feather; 7) wearer cut foes throat top of feather clipped on diagonal; 8) wearer counted coup four times serrated edge on feather; 9) wearer counted coup five times sides of feather partially removed.

The Wolf
Most Native Americans respected the wolf's prowess as a hunter, especially his ability to always secure game, his stamina, the way he moved smoothly and silently across the landscape. They were moved by his howling, which they sometimes regarded as talking with the spirit world. The wolf appears in many of their legends as a messenger in fact, a great long distant traveler, a guide for anyone seeking the spirit world.

The Wolf was also held in high regard because, though he was a fiercely loyal family animal, he was also one who took the role of provider for the larger community (for carrion eaters like the fox and raven). This was something the tribal Indians understood very well, for in difficult times a man had the dual responsibility of feeding his own family as well as others. With such a strong sense of the interdependence among all creatures and an acute awareness of the ways in which his own life resembled the wolf's the Indian naturally turned to the wolf as a paradigm - a mirror reflection.

To fit into the universe, the Indian had to do two things simultaneously: be strong as an individual, and submerge his personal feelings for the good of the tribe. In the eyes of many Native Americans, no other animal did this as well as the wolf.

The wolf fulfilled two roles for the Indian: he was a powerful and mysterious animal, and so perceived by most tribes; and he was a medicine animal, identified with a particular individual, tribe or clan.

That each perception contributed to and reinforced the other - as the individual grows stronger, the tribe grows stronger, and vice versa - is what made the wolf such a significant animal in the eyes of the hunting peoples. The inclination of white men to regard individual and social motivations in themselves as separate led them to misunderstand the indians. The Indian was so well integrated in his environment that his motivation was almost hidden; his life way was as mysterious to white men as the wolf's.
 

Disease
Before Europeans began inhabiting North America, it was inhabited by an estimated 10 to 16 million Americans. Why   don't I call them Indians you ask? Well contrary to present beliefs, most Europeans referred to the Natives of this country as simply Americans prior to the War of 1812. 

As many of you know, the Europeans brought with them all the of sicknesses & diseases associated with living in dirty  cities with open sewage running in the streets. To make matters worse, they rarely bathed  almost never had all of their clothes off at the same time! Upon meeting "the Whites", the natives thought they stunk & tried to teach them to bathe, but were unsuccessful, as "the Whites" found it immodest!

Tragically, the Natives had never been in contact with these illnesses & were ravaged by them. The bubonic plague, small pocks & even influenza killed them on contact. It killed between 90- 95% of them! (by comparison, The Great Plague in Europe in the Dark Ages killed about 30%) The remaining fled to other towns & villages, which caused the sickness to spread like a red carpet before the Europeans.

Can you imagine the breakdown that would occur to our culture if 90% of us got violently ill and died, just as an unknown culture arrived on our shores? The Europeans felt it was God's will, and even called it God's plague. Understandably many natives lost their will to achieve long term goals, such as planting for the next season etc. They were in disarray.

"Hear me, people, we have now to deal with another race - small and feeble when our fathers first met them, but now great and over bearing. Strangely enough, they have a mind to till the soil, and  possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not. They take tithes from the poor and weak, to support the rich who rule. They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own and fence their neighbors away, they deface her with their buildings and their refuse. That nation destroys all who are in its path......"
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