Jan 1, 2006 to Jan 24, 2006

January 24, 2006   I have several copies of the Four Winds Project book, The Sacred Tree,  and I have given several away to  people who have expressed an interest in learning more about these spiritual traditions.  I decided to compose a personal introduction to the book and enclose it as a letter to the reader.  This is that introductory letter:


An open letter to the person who is looking at this book (The Sacred Tree)
from Gerald at Friendly Forest

I have made this book available to you as a free gift. I ask that you consider that all gifts we receive, from whatever source, originate with our Creator / God, and are meant to be shared with others. So please be prepared to share it with others who have an interest in its contents.

I came across this book shortly after it was first published. It was a companion to a full curriculum intended to support renewal programs for young people or other people in rehabilitation programs, people who were probably of Aboriginal heritage, but who knew little or nothing of the spiritual traditions and cultures of the northern plains and central woodland areas of North America. Because it is intended to be more general in its use, it does not exactly fit the spiritual beliefs or culture of any one First Nation. In fact, as one learns more about these spiritual traditions, one finds that there is a lot of diversity about details of belief, ceremony, and the cultural expression of those beliefs within First Nations peoples. That is normal and healthy. Because of this, the authors of this work, avoiding the differences. do not deal a lot with the ceremonial expression of prayer or spiritual belief. You will have to go to other sources or to knowledgeable people to learn more about these things.

I understood the things in this book well enough that I was able to use some of these ideas in my discussions and counselling of aboriginal students in trouble while I was a High School Principal. I was able to talk about the teachings of the Sacred Tree, of the need for balance in how we live our life on the Sacred Hoop / Medicine Wheel. I tried to show how we could use these ideas to better understand what would have to change to eliminate the problem that brought the student to me in the first place. I valued this resource, as it helped me understand the traditions of many of my students, but it did not become something I really understood until several years ago.

That happened for me when I was privileged to attend a Sundance at Whapeton First Nation and saw a people celebrating their spirituality in that four-day ceremonial prayer. I learned that these teachings of the Sacred Tree and the Sacred Hoop were not things, they were not ideas, they were not even beliefs, they were a way of living and a way of connecting to our God / Creator in both a personal and collective way. The grace I was given seemed to place me on a fast-track to growing in my own way of knowing, and communicating with, the God who made me and was calling to me.

Then I was able to go back to this little book and gain from it a richness that I had missed before. That reminded me of how the Judeo-Christian Bible affects people. A person can read parts of the Old or New Testaments and learn a great deal about what is being described, taught or prayed there. But it is only when one already has a prayerful connection to the true author of those writings that one can read those ancient writings and recognize within them God speaking to us as part of a wonderful dialogue.

It is my understanding that there is only one God, one Creator, one Great Spirit, and that this spiritual power is the same for all beings, human and non-human, regardless of when or where we came into existence, regardless of what culture or age became our culture and age. That same Creator has been in communication with human beings forever, and humans have sought to respond and communicate with God in prayer and ceremony. It is natural for us to express ourselves in the language that we use, in the cultural patterns that characterize us, and to express ourselves together with those with whom we live and share common material and spiritual experiences. There have been major traditions and major cultural expressions of these spiritual beliefs and connections. These "religious” traditions have supported the spiritual journey of billions of peoples over many millennia. Difficulties have arisen when human beings have decided that the way they have come to know about God is the only valid way for all people. People who share ceremonial expressions of belief tend to create “religions”. When they forget that “religion” is supposed to support the individual’s journey through life to that person’s Creator, and instead, act as if the only purpose of the individual is to support the structures of that “religion”, serious difficulties arise.

I have found that the Old Testament part of my Judeo-Christian tradition, especially the “pre-temple period” of the Old Testament writings, is very much an “earth-based-spirituality.” God / Yahweh / Elohim was recognized in all elements of God’s creation, and prayer, worship and ceremony was strikingly similar to the expressions that occur in many North American First Nations spirituality and ceremony. Jesus of Nazareth was born into an earth-based tradition. The New testament has many references to this, and Christian writers and Saints like St. Francis Of Assissi have been eloquent spokespersons and advocates for connecting to God through an earth-based spirituality.

A Dene Elder is quoted as saying that if all of the Dene peoples were eliminated from the earth, and not one Dene person lived to pass on Dene traditions or beliefs, and then if some other person came to wander onto the traditional Dene lands (Denedeh) the power and spirit of the land would make that person into a Dene person.

I had always had a close connection to the land and the creatures of the land, but for many years the way I lived and worked largely removed me from those connections. When I was brought to Friendly Forest that connection was able to be renewed, and something similar to what the Dene Elder spoke of happened to me. I found my connection to the power and the spirit of the land and I found that this was the power and spirit of the God who had been with me all of my life. It led me to build stronger connections and it led me to want to express my prayer life with an earth-based centre as well.

First a Dakota Medicine Man came to be a teacher to me, and later a Dene Medicine Man also came along to teach me. I was brought a Sacred Pipe for prayer, I was supported on a Pipe Fast / Vision Quest, and I have been taught to do Sweat Lodge Prayer Ceremony. These have been great gifts to me and they have helped me to grow into the relationship that began the moment I was conceived many years ago. I have found no real contradictions between my Judeo Christian heritage and what I have found in traditional North American spirituality. There are differences in how things are expressed. There are differences in what is a focus for prayer and ceremony, and the rituals of prayer, both individual prayer and community prayer are different, but I understand those differences as being rooted in different human cultures.

To you, whoever may be reading this letter and whoever may be looking at the content of this book, I pray for you and ask our common Creator to bless your spiritual journey. Know that you are loved in a wonderful, powerful and constant way by your God, and know that if your heart is open, God will lead you to an ever closer relationship and communication / prayer.

If you think contacting me would help you in your spiritual journey, by all means call me. I owe so much to so many others that I know I have an obligation to support those who might benefit from what I have discovered.

God bless, may the Great Spirit always be with you, and may you ever grow into the Mystery that is beyond all comprehension.

Gerald Regnitter / Candesna Cun Wakan Oksina (Sacred Tree Sacred Hoop Boy)



January 22, 2006  Tomorrow is election day in Canada.  We really do need a proportional representation system for elections.  The past campaign is strong testimony about how this system does not allow the views of all Canadians to be reflected in the outcome.  Some decry minority governments.  I support them, and if that were the usual outcome, it would force political parties to start with an attitude of compromise that would bring into play the perspectives of other groups which also got public support.  The older I get the lower is my hope of seeing this necessary reform in my lifetime.

I am nearing completion of my major beading project which is a reworking of the bands on my Face of Creator shirt.  I have used the same designs but have made the bands longer.  It has taken a huge amount of time but I am also building skills and getting more efficient.

On January 14, full moon, I was able to be part of a Sweat Lodge Ceremony prayer.  It was very good.

Two art galleries in which I had my materials on display have recently closed.  That brought back home more of my wood items and has given me the sense that I have enough material on hand for a while and probably can focus on making  some furniture pieces for myself again.  I also recently completed my book keeping for 2005 and it appears I will lose money again on the business end of what I do.  One of a kind things are what people want but are the kind of things where it is very hard to make a profit.  Profits might be realized by making multiple items of the same kind and developing efficiencies because of that, but then the unique character of what I do would be gone too.  Can't win on that one.

January 2, 2006  Keeping my promise to self to do some bead work

The bead containers rest on a support that slides along and over the beading threads stretched onto a 48 inch long frame.  This finished piece will be 46 inches long.  (If I have the patience to actually finish it and start on the next two.)

 

January 1, 2006  Welcome to a new year!  Last night was a quiet New Year's Eve, the way I like them.   I put a heater into the Sweat Lodge for a few hours and then gathered up my things.  I went out and found the inside very warm and comfortable.  I lit a smudge and just focused to the spiritual presences that are with me. 

The structure and the symbolism of the Lodge express such powerful truths about what is and how I am that it really supports my prayer efforts.  After a while I called on the powers of the directions as I filled the Sacred Pipe with the cansasa.  With winter here the grains had become quite dry and that caused it to burn down rather quickly.  It was good prayer time and a good way to send off an old calendar year.

Earlier that  afternoon I  made a trip out to Whapeton I.R. to see my mentor.  He was in reasonable spirits though his health is really shaky.  He and his wife told me about how their grandson was sick the evening before and had a high fever.  The Sacred Pipe was filled and prayer given, and nearly immediately the child's fever broke.  I was a bit surprised that my Mentor had smoked with his very poor heart condition.  I inquired what tobacco he was using.  He told me that he was using the mixture I had given to him and his wife.  Ah, I commented, there is no nicotine in that mixture, so the risks are much less.  He was not using the oxygen for a while  and that safety risk was also eliminated for the time being. 

It gave me real pleasure to hear that  the plants that I had collected from our Earth Mother and had prepared, were being used in this special prayer by the man who brought me the Sacred Pipe that I care for.

The week prior to Christmas was busy with final preparations of wood items that others required for their gifting, and with food preparation and house cleaning for myself.  My Christmas table was seated with 10 of us after there were three cancellations at the end.  We had a good time but it was shortened because I needed to give several guests a ride back into Prince Albert.  That also gave me the opportunity to deliver  a left-over package to one of my expected guests who had fallen ill that morning.

When I had gone in to pick them up I also stopped in at Mr. St. Joseph Home to visit briefly with two friends who are residents there.  The weather and road conditions cooperated.  I always feel so good after visiting in a place like that;  I am able to leave and walk out on my own.  What a gift that is for me.

The week following Christmas was I also occupied in large part with guests and efforts to made a dent in the left-over food.  Things went well in both departments though I did gain a few pounds in the effort.  I also got away to see my mother who turned 90 years of age last spring.

I composed and mailed out a Christmas / year-end letter.  It can be found by clicking here.

A few days ago I put a few boards together to create a beading loom.  With no prior experience and just a bit of understanding from a few pages of a book on beading, I decided to try doing what I had been told I could not learn to do.  It is an interesting experience so far. I undertook a large project that will require about 432 square inches of beaded bands.  So far I have about 36 square inches completed.  I have a long way to go on that one!  Just to give it another perspective, it will require  about 83,000 beads to be picked up in a precise order onto a beading needle and then sewn into the final bands.  There is a legitimate question as to whether my eyesight, finger steadiness and patience are adequate for the task.  We will see.

When I personally undertake to try a traditional way of doing things I develop an acute appreciation for the skill and effort of traditional craftsperson, usually women.  When may Dene friend saw my first inch or so he pronounced it as rather good.  That was a far different comment than my earlier efforts at beading directly onto leather had gained from him.

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