Pipe Fast / Hanblecheyapi, for June 2004

Request for support for Hanblecheyapi made by Candesna Cun Wakan Oksina / "Hoop Boy"


Materials to gather and prepare:

Disclaimer:  I present this information with no claim to authority or special knowledge about the issues.  What I am presenting is my current understanding about the topic.  These notes are presented to explain something about the significance of each item that I assembled or prepared for the Pipe Fast.  If a reader discovers an error in what I am writing, I would genuinely appreciate an email  to point this out to me. Contact Gerald

 

Note from Gerald / Hoop Boy: I have found that this page gets more visitors than many others in this section. It is important to note that while I list and try to explain the various elements that were part of the preparation for this very sacred ritual, these are still just ritual objects or procedures, and are not the essence of the Hanblechyapi experience. It is a time where the seeker / one who cries for a vision, opens self to a wonderful encounter with the Spirit World, with Creator and the many Helpers Creator gives us to support our Journey on the Sacred Hoop. I am sure that Creator's love for each of us is so great that the supports we need will always be there for us, whether we are privileged to be part of this Sacred Rite or not. What the Hanblechyapi has done for me is make me more aware and open me up to better cooperate with that loving support. If the reader of this note wishes to communicate about this larger consideration, I would also welcome contact and further communication.

 


1. Make 405 red tobacco / prayer ties on a continuous string (Note 1)

9. Another 1/2 metre of red flag  (Note 9)

17. Smudge and Pipe Ceremony materials. (Note 17)


2. Obtain 1 metre of each of red, yellow, white and black flag materials ( Note 2)

10. New clothes to be given away after the pipe fast. (Note 10)

18. Skull of Brother Bison and two hump vertebrae and a rib (Note 18)


3. 1 wooden bowl to hold a ball of wasna (Note 3)

11. Blanket or buffalo robe (new) (Note 11)

19. Clothing and sleeping mat and bag. (Note 19)

4. I ball of chokecherry Wasna / Pemmican. The cherries must have the pits in and then be ground or crushed. (Note 4)

12. My helper will provide a canvas cover for a shelter (Note 12)

20. Two bunches of cedar branches to spread below the tarp on the ground (Note 20)

5. One Eagle Feather .. Don will provide this feather (Note 5)

13. A Dakota Canupa was brought to me to care for on March 5, 2004. This will accompany me on the Hanblecheyapi. (Note 13)

21. 5 chokecherry sticks for the corners and front centre flag posts (Note 21)

6. A 6 inch X 36 inch red felt strip (Note 6)

14. I request that a Dakota woman make a pipe bag for me. I provide a package of tobacco and the buckskin and red cotton. . (Note 14)

22. Six willow stems with branches and leaves to make the shelter frame (Note 22)

7. One round shell with holes (Note 7)

15. A location is eventually selected and visited on the north shore of Tobin Lake near St. Hubert’s Lodge. (Note 15)

23. Crowbar to make holes for posts  (Note 23

8. 2 pouches of tobacco (Note 8)

16. A jar of chokecherry syrup and a braid of sweetgrass with which to break the fast. (Note 16)

24. Two bunches of Sage for Gate (Note 24)

The starting date for the fast will be Sunday, June 6, 2004.

 

25. Prepare traditional feast items of meat stew/ soup, bannock, berry mix, tea ( Note 25)

 

Explanatory Notes for Materials assembled for Pipe Fast:

 

 

1. (Tobacco / Prayer Ties)  I knew what tobacco / prayer ties were, but did not understand their function until I was asked to make 405 of them.  I learned that they consist of a small square of cotton cloth (about 1.5 " X 1.5").  In my case they were to be red.  A small pinch of tobacco is placed in the centre and it is either folded in a special manner or the corners are  pulled together and then the small bundle is tied off with cord.  Since I was to string all 405 on to a continuous cord, I needed to find a way to loop the cord  secure and then continue on to the next one.  That took a bit of learning and a bit of web searching on how to make a double half hitch knot.  The real significance of the tobacco tie is not the materials, but its assembly and purpose.  The tobacco is "medicine" in a spiritual sense.  As a gift of Creator it is sacred and used in prayer and represents our prayer.  As I prepared each tie I focused a particular prayer to the tobacco and symbolically enclosed that prayer intention within the tie.  After a while I invited my friends to suggest prayers they would like to have included in one or more ties.  In this manner the string of ties would include not only my prayers, but the prayers of my supportive community.  The role of the 405 ties was to create the perimeter of the sacred location within which I would remain during the Pipe Fast.    In this way I would be surrounded by my prayers for my community and the prayers of my community for me. 

Since my fingers are rather clumsy and inexperienced in this process, it was slow going.  The full process took over 3 months to complete.  I would stop when I became distracted or tired and could no longer focus my prayers.  By this process I came to realize in a new and profound way the scope of the community to which I belonged and also the great blessings I had been given through this community.

When my aching fingers and hands wondered about the large number or ties I was asked to make I had two thoughts ; -- I must be in need of a lot of prayers and  -- I was fortunate to be asked to make only 405 instead of 405 of EACH of the four colours as I have learned is a traditional requirement!    (RETURN to List of Materials)

 

 

 2. (Prayer Flags) The material should be of natural fibre if possible, though I know that many will use cotton / polyester blends.  I have found that the blends are much cheaper.  The four colours represent the four cardinal directions and the gifts of Creator that come to us and are associated with the directions according to the teachings of the Sacred Tree.  For a while I tried to discover what colours were associated with particular directions and was always finding conflicting commentary both from people directly and from print sources.  I finally discovered that there were traditional applications used by a particular group of people according to their teachings or visions, but that even within that group of people and within the traditional teachings, an individual might have visions that made different colour associations, and that the dream teachings were to take precedence.  For the Lakota the colours seem to be red. yellow, black and white, though sometimes blue or navy blue is substituted for the black.  For me, the associations have become:  Red for EAST, my principle direction, Yellow for SOUTH, Black for WEST, and White for NORTH, Green for our Mother EARTH, and Blue for Father SKY.  During my Pipe Fast the colours were placed according to the pattern of the Spiritual Elder who "put me out" on the fast.  

There are many associations that go with the colours that require more explanation than is appropriate here.   And once again, those associations vary for different people.  For me, I understand that the cloth or colour in itself has no significance in the eyes of Creator, but its significance is in what it represents to me and what it inspires for me. Creator made all colours and is quite capable of sorting out the different associations the two-leggeds make with the particular colour patterns.  If Creator was able to respond only to certain colours I believe that would have been apparent to the people a long time ago, and again, perhaps Creator would only have made those colours.  It is important for me to not confuse my limits with the powers of Creator.  Creator hears my prayers as I utter them in my heart, and knows of them before I utter them.  Creator does not need to see the sign of my prayer hanging from a tree and fluttering in the wind, but when I see it I am inspired to remember my prayer and to repeat my prayer.

These pieces of cloth became "Prayer Flags" that were tied to the perimeter  corner posts of the small territory in which I stayed during the Pipe Fast.  A cloth hung on a tree represents prayer, and placed on a tree, which is a living being and contains the Spirit of Creator as well, the prayer is visible to Creator and Creator's messenger, the Eagle.  When I make a request for help from a Spiritual Elder or Medicine Person, I bring offerings of cloth in the colour that represents the things that I seek, and the tobacco that is a spiritual gift in exchange for the things that I hope to receive.  If the tobacco and cloth are accepted, the person to whom I offered it commits to try to help me.

Although the agreement to support me in the Pipe Fast came as a result of my helper having a vision that he was to be that support to me, at the beginning of the Fast itself we performed the ceremony that begins the process.  This also involved a symbolic presentation of a loaded Canupa / Sacred Pipe along with the offerings of tobacco and coloured cloths.  RETURN to list of Materials

 

3.  Wood Bowl  I had been instructed that the Wasna / pemmican, which represented a gift to Eagle, should be placed in a wooden bowl that I made myself in my shop.  I made one about 8 inches in diameter out of Birch wood and used bees' wax to finish it.  During the Pipe Fast it was positioned right in front of the opening to my shelter at the base of the Chokecherry wand that held the Red Path Banner.                      RETURN to list of materials

 

 4.  Wasna / pemmican  Wasna or Pemmican is a mixture of dried ground meat, berries and fat.  It  stores well and is a highly concentrated food form.  It was a very effective way of preserving food before the days of refrigeration and travelled well.  I was told to prepare some Wasna  "for the Eagles" as a gift offering.  I had never done it before, but did not think it would be difficult. That was assuming that I could use Saskatoon berries, which I had in my freezer from last year, and I also had ground bison meat, and could save bison fat from other cuts of meat I would use for soups etc.  It was not to be so simple.  I was told that it had to use chokecherries, ground with the pits!  I had steamed out chokecherries last fall and had great syrup that I could have used, but it needed to be the traditional form; ground with the pits.  None of my contacts had any.  I resorted to the contacts my Helper had, and while he assumed it would be easy to obtain, it proved to be difficult as no one had any left.  Finally he found some from a sister  who lived some distance away, and she was willing to part with some frozen berries that had already been ground up.

I fried and dried the ground bison meat, mixed it with the berries and then added the rendered bison fat.  I tasted it, and it tasted great, except I was not partial to the gritty effect of the ground pit pieces.  I stored it in my freezer till the day before my trip when I took it out, reheated the mixture and formed it into a round ball.

Although eagles were present, they did not venture that close to the shelter in which I remained.  Ravens in the area seemed to be debating if they should come that close to check it out for themselves, but they too remained  away from it.  Finally, between the rains, some flies laid eggs on the wasna and by the end small maggots were starting to feast.  Well, I thought, these maggots will turn into flies, and will be food for other birds and even for the fish of the river.  And by the complex food chains that exist in nature, the Eagle will be nourished by this wasna offering.        RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 5.  Eagle Feather   The feather from an eagle is a sacred object and does not belong to me.  It was combined with the red felt and the shell to become the Red Path Banner.  As a sacred object, just as with the Sacred Pipe, the feather is to be returned to the Spiritual Elders at Whapeton First Nations Reserve at my death.  I have advised the executor of my estate about this requirement.  The feather is from Eagle, the Spirit Helper from the East, and the Spirit that carries my prayers to Creator and brings me messages from Creator.

Because of this special character, the Feather and other Sacred objects must be considered to be "on loan" to me for the time being, but are clearly not my property.  This applies to the Pipe and the Bison skull and bones as well.  The responsibility to care for sacred objects and to ensure that they are passed on to the right people or returned to the Elders of the People from which they came, is part of what I undertake  on being initiated into these ceremonies.

I realize that Sacred Objects being in the care of non-aboriginal people is a point of great controversy these days.  The abuse that has happened has led some to call for the total exclusion of all non Sioux peoples from the Seven Sacred Rites and the call for the immediate return of traditional Sacred Objects to the Medicine Men of the Sioux Nations.  I will not enter that debate, but I am grateful that I have been afforded the opportunity to enter this Spiritual Journey with an open acceptance and support from those who have helped me along this path.      RETURN to list of materials

 

 

6.  Felt Strip  This formed the "red banner" that represented the "Red Path"  Life Journey to which I am committed by taking part in these Sacred Ceremonies.  The Red Path meaning that I take on is that spoken of by Black Elk as being a life of integrity, generosity, kindness, courage, faithfulness, respect , prayer and support for the good of the people.   RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 7.  Round Shell    This 2 inch diameter shell with two holes drilled in the centre was part of the Red Path Banner.  As it was given to me at the beginning of the Pipe Fast, I was told that this represents the rock of the earth and all of the sea creatures that  were also present to me in this prayer time.    RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 8.  Tobacco   This tobacco was used to form the medicine that was tied into the top of the four corner flags and the Red Path Banner.  As this was balled up and added to the flag prayers were being said.  They were expressed in Dakota and I did not understand the particular words used.    RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 9.  Red flag material.  ( I do not know what this was used for or if it was used at all.)  RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 10.  New Clothing.  I was told that I should purchase a  full set of new clothing, and that after the fast, these items of clothing were to be given away to other people.  I can understand the symbolism of new clothing;  new clothing signifies a new life, and my new life on the Red Path .  With Christian baptism the neophyte is also clothed with new white garments that are to remain with the person "unstained" until death.  At that time the casket is draped with a white pall which represents the baptismal garment.  With the Dakota ceremony, the giving away of the clothing is in line with the tradition of giving a feast and gift giving after a major ceremony, as a way of  expressing happiness for the gifts received in the ceremony, and a sharing of those gifts with the rest of the people.  At first I considered keeping the items of clothing and giving them to people who sometimes come to Friendly Forest and are in need of some protective clothing.  On further thought, I decided to gift it to some of the guests I had attending the feast at Friendly Forest the day after the end of the Fast.  RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 11.  Buffalo Robe  In December 2003 I purchased a fresh bison hide and brought it to a tanner to be prepared as a robe.  Things have been delayed and it is still not ready.  I had been hoping to take this with me for the Pipe Fast.  Traditionally a young man would go on a Pipe Fast with only the Sacred Pipe and a Bison Robe.  In any case, the robe was not ready even though my helper perceived that it would be there for me and actually told me to bring it to the Inipi Ceremony / Sweat ceremony the day before the actual journey to Tobin Lake.  Along with the Bison Skull and bones it was to be blessed during the Sweat Ceremony.   It was not to be that way.  When we arrived at the place for the Pipe Fast  my friend and our host brought out a new bison robe that he had  and gave it to me.  I assumed that I would be borrowing it for the duration but he insisted that it was to be mine as his gift to my prayer time.  While this is typical of his great kindness and generosity, I was still overwhelmed  by that gesture.  During the period it was often very cold and nearly always raining and windy.  The robe kept me warm and provided a comfort that was both physical and spiritual.  Lying under the robe beside the consecrated skull with the Canupa resting on it I was truly in the presence of the Sacred. 

I have the robe with me at Friendly Forest and sense that it will play a significant role in my continuing journey on the Red Path.   RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 12.  Shelter Cover   I had offered to bring along a small tent to serve as shelter from the elements, but my Helper insisted that we needed to build a shelter using willow branches and then put a tarp over it.  I offered to bring a light weight plastic tarp, but that too was deemed unsuitable, and it was determined we would use the old army tent that served as a cover for his sweat lodge.  It was made of the very heavy treated canvas.  Since we were using that sweat lodge for an Inipi ceremony the evening before we departed for Tobin Lake, and since we did not smoke the canupa until the next morning just before departing, we needed to wait to remove the tarp and to fold it for transport.    RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 13.  Canupa / Sacred Pipe    I had been reading about Pipe ceremonies and had a growing sense that some day I would also be praying with a Sacred Pipe, and that probably I would be required to carve my own.  I had read Eagle Man's description of how the Pipe could be carved and the prayer and preparation that went into such a project.   Since I work with wood and do know a bit about carving, I thought that Creator would expect me to use these gifts to make a Pipe bowl and stem.  I had even searched the internet for information about where red pipestone  might be obtained.  I had checked out the Pipestone National Monument web site.  Though Pipes were for sale, I thought I should be carving one.

It was about that time that I got a surprise visit from my Helper who drove out to my place from Whapeton.  After some preliminary greetings and discussions and with coffee on the make, Don placed a plastic  grocery bag on my table and proceeded to take out two objects wrapped in red cloth.  Immediately I recognized the shapes.  He started to tell me that for several weeks the Spirits had been telling him that he was to bring this Pipe to Gerald.  Although he had wrestled with the idea, especially that this was a Dakota Pipe and I was not a Dakota and not even First Nations, the message had been clear to him.  It took me a few moments to realize that he was not bringing it to me to show or to talk about, but to present it to me.

I am rarely at a loss for words, but that was one moment when I did not have anything to say. I was awed by what was happening.  I mumbled something about knowing only the basics of how to pray with the Pipe, and that he would need to tell / teach me more  so I could use the Pipe in a proper fashion.  He simply replied that now that the Pipe had chosen to come to me, it would teach me all that I needed to know about how to pray with it.  He was right; the Pipe has shown me.  I inquired a bit about where the Pipe had come from.  I was given the name of the person from whom Don had received the Pipe and that he himself had it for many years before presenting it to me.  The final instruction I was given was that the Pipe was hungry and that I should prepare a traditional feast to feed the Pipe.  I knew what that meant, and that afternoon and evening I prepared the feast and "fed the Pipe."

This was the Canupa that I brought with me to pray during the Pipe Fast.  This was the Pipe that was constantly loaded  and either in my hands or on the Bison skull beside me for the duration of the Fast.  This was the Pipe with which I prayed and which has brought me such blessing over these past months.

I clearly understand that a Sacred Pipe does not belong to its caretaker.  It belongs to all of the people.  It is not property.  Because it is for all of the people, all of my prayer with this Pipe needs to be for the people.  I always need to be ready to respond to others who wish to pray with this pipe, and I have honoured all such requests. 

I have been told that before I die I will likely be shown to whom the Pipe should be given as its next caretaker.  However, should my death be sudden, I have instructed the executor of my will that this Pipe as well as the other Sacred objects that have come to me, are to be given to the Medicine People of Whapeton Dakota First Nations, and that they will determine what is to be done with them.   RETURN to list of materials

 

 

14.  Pipe Bag.   I knew that the Pipe needed a proper pipe bag, and after a while I also knew that it needed to be a woman who made the bag, and that it would be best to be a Dakota woman.  I thought about my Helper's wife, and after asking her if she would do so, and presenting her with an offering of tobacco and some cloth, she consented.  She made an incredibly beautiful bag from buckskin and red cotton liner.  I had supplied the materials but it was her inspiration and artistic talent that made it so beautiful.  I display it in a special manner in my home as I had been instructed.  RETURN to list of materials

 

 

15.   Location.   From my readings it seemed that the Medicine Person who put out the Vision Seeker / Crier, would select the location for the fast.  Other sources seemed to say that was the role of the Seeker, or a combination.  When I had first considered taking time out for special prayer, I had considered just going off by myself somewhere for a day or two and doing things completely on my own.  It  was later that we determined to do a full Hanbecheyapi ceremony.  That is also when my Helper became part of the site selection.

I had considered three places;  a secluded spot here at Friendly Forest, a place at Whapeton in the Bison Pasture overlooking the Sundance Lodge, or somewhere in the Provincial Forest that was more remote and away from the sounds of "civilization".   My friend Joe had several times referred to two location near St. Hubert's Lodge  along the north shore of Tobin Lake / The Saskatchewan River to the East.  He described the forest and the eagles that nested and found food there, and generally spoke about the forested area with reverence, where sweetgrass grew and as a place of prayer that he would consider for himself.

It was not long before I had a rather good visual image in my mind of all three, and each had something to recommend it.  My Helpr and I soon agreed that it should be a place with eagles, as Eagle is a principle Spirit Helper for me and the East was my principal direction, so I should have a site where I would look to the East.   Although Eagles have come to visit here at Friendly Forest, I did not see them on a regular basis during the summer season as they did not seem to be nesting near by.  However, every time I had been at the Sundance Lodge area, Eagles had come there. My friends had considered this as a special sign for me.  That seemed to narrow it to Tobin Lake or at Whapeton.  The bison pasture might not be a great idea because if the bison were in that part of the pasture it could be dangerous to be there.  Bison are not the most predictable or friendly animals.

It was decided to visit the Tobin Lake locations to see if they would be suitable.  At an arranged time we drove out to visit with Joe and he took us to the first of two sites he had thought about and had told me about.  Immediately I was sure that the first one was the place selected for me.  All I wanted to do was sink to the ground and say thanks to Creator.  While I looked over the Lake, two eagles came to greet us, and later more flew overhead as well.  For my Helper , the visit of the eagles was the confirmation. I would not have needed that.  It just was the right place, even though it was a grey and cold day and the new spring vegetation had not yet come to the land.  The site had been given for me ,and now we just needed to find a time when Joe and my two companions would be available to support my prayer time.   RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 16.  Chokecherry Juice     I had been instructed that the fast would be broken with some chokecherry juice.  I had that from last summer, so that was not a problem.  I had picked chokecherries and steamed them out to make a great syrup.  I also knew that the fast would be broken by sucking the juice off a sweet grass braid that had been dipped into the juice.  (When the fast ended in this manner, I understood why it was so appropriate;  the sweet syrup was just what  both thirst and hunger called for.  The sweetgrass had been used in prayer and was a gift of Creator for prayer.  The braid was dipped into the syrup four times and in a ritual manner I broke the fast.       RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 17.  Smudge Materials.   Over the previous year I had been gathering and drying various smudge materials and had also come to make my own Pipe smoking mixture ( kinnickinik.)   I had a metal bowl that could safely hold burning materials, and I had waterproof matches.  I had also discovered that the small charcoal briquettes that are used in churches in incense thurifers work just great to help keep a smudge going.  I had often seen a ceremony distracted by the need to keep relighting a smudge fire when the smudge materials were too loosely packed or were slightly damp.  The small charcoal disks stay hot for about 20 or 30 minutes, long enough for most such ceremonies.  Although I got mine from a near-by church supply store, I have also found these same charcoal  disks available from e-commerce suppliers of materials for Traditional Cremony... however at a much higher price.

I will use a variety of smudge materials as I pray, and different ones when my prayer focuses to a particular  prayer direction;  I use small pieces of a birch fungus which gives off a sweet, musty smell and comes from the old birch trees here at Friendly Forest, Prairie Sage and Pasture Sage which I harvested last summer,  Yarrow from Friendly Forest for its role in healing and medicines,  Marsh Mint from the pond at Friendly Forest, Sweetgrass, dried cedar leaves, and lavender flowers.  I add the lavender on the advice of a Spiritual guide  and as a reminder of my European ancestry, since its use is more common in smudge prayer in the land where my ancestors lived. The main gifts that I use are the pasture sage, the sweetgrass, and the cedar.

I traditionally begin smudge prayer with a bit of sweetgrass to wash myself in the smoke, asking to be cleansed in mind, in my hearing, in my vision, in my speech and in my heart, and that my whole body be healed and made clean to prepare me for conversation with Wakan Tanka.  Traditional teachings that I have found say that all Spirits like the smell of burning sweetgrass, but that only the Good Spirits like the smell of Sage smoke.  I make small compressed pellets of the sage by squeezing it in the palm of my hand and then lighting it or placing it on a hot coal.  When this is burning I raise the smudge bowl or plate first of all to Wakan Tanka in prayer, then either move the bowl around to the surrounding earth, or, if indoors,  waft some of the smoke onto a rock I have placed on my prayer table, and so ask for the support of Maka, and then I pray to each of the cardinal directions.  In my case I begin with the East and rotate sun wise, concluding with another raised  offering of the smoke asking the Eagles to  carry my prayers to Creator and to carry the messages of Creator back to me.  As I do that prayer I always realize that the presence of Creator is within me already, and that my prayer is my effort to see with new eyes, and to hear with new ears and to feel with a new heart  what has already been given.  Each part of the prayer must begin with thanks for the gifts given, and then later I feel free to add special requests, though frequently the special needs I earlier felt were so important to me had become less so when seen against what great gifts I already had been given.  I usually follow the patterns of prayer that apply to each of the directions as I have heard them expressed by others and as I have read about them from the old people of the Lakota and Dakota traditions at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Some day I will write some of my reflections about what prayer is to me, but this is not the place to do so in any depth.  RETURN to list of materials

 

 

18.  Bison Skull     As the time of the Pipe fast came closer I became more and more aware of the significance of Bison  for me on this path.  I had purchased some bulk bison meat from a friend who raises bison and had given away this good meat as Christmas presents.  I then had to purchase more for myself.  it is great meat.  I also had purchased a raw hide from one of the slaughtered bison and had delivered it to a neighbour who does hide tanning and preparation.  I hoped to have this hide for the Pipe Fast.  the friends who supplied the meat also had a skull and some other bones that they were prepared to sell and give away.  I was first asked last fall if I would like some bones to try some bone carving.  I was impressed with the beauty of the bones as they were, especially the  hump vertebrae.

This spring when I obtained my new supply of meat I also got the bison skull , two hump vertebrae and a single rib bone.  I understand that the spirit of Bison resides especially in the skull, and that is why it is often used in prayer ceremony.  I knew that I would have to borrow a bison skull if I did not have my own for the Fast.  The Bison represents all the gifts of Creator that sustain our lives here. it represents the good food we eat and that keep us healthy.   It represents the homes that shelter us and the clothing that protects and keeps us warm.  It represents the tools we need to survive and the medicines that keep us healthy.  Bison stands firm on the earth and is nourished by the grasses and herbs that grow on the face of Maka.  Those plants that nourish the bison will grow when there is water from the sky and warmth and energy from the sun.  Both sun and rain are the life-giving gifts of Creator that makes supports all living things.  In this manner, it is easy to understand how important Bison is to my spirituality.  When I hold the skull or gaze on it I an overwhelmed by the knowledge of the abundance of gifts that Creator  gives to all of us,

The skull and bones were brought into the Sweat / Inipi ceremony the evening before we departed for Tobin Lake.  Special prayers were said and ceremonies performed to consecrate those bones  as sacred objects.  There was a special experience for me during that sweat that showed me how connected I was with Bison.  As a sacred object, the skull is no longer my property, and must be dealt with as the Pipe and Eagle feathers, and be returned to the Medicine  people of Whapeton if I should die suddenly.  I place the skull, now with sage stuffed into the eye and nasal cavities, on the south quadrant during Pipe Prayer.   RETURN to list of materials

 

 

19.  Clothing.   This was Saskatchewan in early June, and that fact requires modification to the kind of things a traditional young man would take with him on a Pipe fast.  It is the time of year when we can have temperatures in the mid 30's (Celsius) or we can have frost and even snow.   Having many years of experience canoeing in the wilderness of northern Saskatchewan, I knew what to bring.  I brought one of my warmest winter coats and hats, my winter sleeping bag, rain clothing and shorts and t-shirts if it should be warm.  I brought warm shirts and socks.  As it was most of the time it was very cool and raining, and even in the day hours I could see my breath.  I was able to stay dry and warm, and for those gifts and for the knowledge to be able to do so, I thank Creator through Eagle and Bison.      RETURN to list of materials

 

 

20Cedar branches.  I brought two large bunches of fresh cedar branches that I obtained from a florist friend from Prince Albert.  These were placed directly on the ground under the groundsheet on which I made my bed.  I had assumed that we would be using Sage but my Helper's vision was that it needed to be Cedar.  I forgot to ask him why.  I know that Cedar is also considered to be a sacred plant and that it cleanses and heals and promotes positive Spirits.  That is why I use it in smudge prayer, though I have not added it to the kinnickinik that I make.  I gathered these branches and took them back home with me at the end of the fast, and presented one to each of the guests at my Feast the following evening, inviting them to share in my prayer by either using the cedar for their own smudge prayer, or placing it into a fire I had lit and burning in the grill on my deck.  Some chose to burn it and others took it home.  One guest used it in her own prayer the following day and called me to thank me for it as she felt it had really aided her in her prayer requests.  What was not burned or taken I have saved, dried and will continue to use here in smudge prayer.   RETURN to list of materials.

 

 

 21.  Chokecherry Poles.   These were about  48 inches above ground  when planted and held the prayer flags.  Four were the corner "posts" and enclosed an area about 72 inches X  84 inches .  This was the prayer space in which I remained.  The fifth was planted directly in front of the shelter entrance to the East.  The Red Path banner was attached to this pole.    RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 22. Willow poles .  I was asked to bring six willow poles about 10 feet long .  The branches and leaves were to remain attached.  Since we were putting up the shelter in the rain we hurried.  The crow bar easily made the holes in the ground and we planted the poles in a circular manner.  Then we bent down opposite poles and tied them together  to form the rib supports for the shelter.  The heavy canvas army tent was put over and secured  to the pole bases after a fashion.  Where there were obvious leaks or tears we double folded the canvas.  The fact that it held together and in place despite the wind and rain was a testament to its effectiveness.  Not a great thing to look at, but it helped to keep me dry (for the most part.)    RETURN to list of materials

 

 

23.  Crow Bar The function is obvious, and a heavy steel bar makes hole making a lot easier than it might have been in traditional times.  Another reason to be thankful to Creator!    RETURN to list of materials

 

 

 24.  Sage bunches.  Because the prayer ties marked a sacred boundary to my prayer space, it sheltered and protected me.  However, as I needed to relieve myself, I would need to cross that boundary.  Two bunches of sage were placed across the prayer ties and formed a "gate" through which I could pass to leave the enclosed area.  On my return I would remove  the two bunches of sage and re-establish the  boundary.  Prior to the Pipe fast I wondered if that would even be required as I  had no food or drink for some time before the fast, and without input there should not be output.  Well, my thinking was not complete.  I forgot about the basic metabolism of the body producing water as a by product, and since the humidity levels were so high with the rain, my body did not have to reabsorb as much fluids and the kidneys werre able to excrete normally.  Actually, to me that was a good sign in that it told me kidney function was normal and not under distress because of the fast.   RETURN to list of materials

 

 

25.  Traditional Feast  In traditional times when the faster and his guide returned to the community, the community would gather and bring food for a feast in celebration of the fast.  That was a way of acknowledging that the Pipe Fast was being done for the good of the whole community, and as the community gathered and prayed with the Seeker of the Vision at the outset, now they gathered to rejoice at its completion.  With my circumstances and our distance being further, and not being sure just when the fast would end (we were prepared for up to a full four days but it could have been less) I would have some food prepared in advance and also pre-set a day / time for my guests to come.  We decided to have the feast on Thursday evening , the day after the completion of the fast.  I prepared a bison meat stew with lots of vegetables, bannock with three different additives (cheese, sage and herbs, and plain) a mixed berry  mix and a tea with sage and mint as well as traditional tea ingredients.  My guests brought different things so we had a great meal together.  Not counting the multitude of Spirit Helper guests there were fourteen flesh and blood people at the table that night.  I also had prepared special gift packages for each of my guests.  RETURN to list of materials

 

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