Monday, 22 October 2007

Home Again

Home again and I think I'm over my jetlag, I am still trying to remember everything about the last few days of my trip. The days were long and we were out late in the evening, listening to stories under the stars. This photograph was taken on our last day in Tongue River Canyon, Crazy Horse's place of retreat. It took our breath away as we entered on foot - the colours were just as you see them here. I have been assigned by my new friends to do the "Winter Count" which was the Native American way to record tribal events (in pictographs) during the year. Apologies, my friends, for the delay in completing this record - it will be done once I have cleared my backlog of work.
I had the most wonderful time in America and my thanks go to Serle, Sarah, Tashiya, Gail, Nerry, Maggie, Al, Debra, Paul and Devan for their companionship during the trip. We shared much laughter, many poignant moments and even more tears, in particular at Wounded Knee and we have all pledged to do all we can to help raise awareness of the Native American people who care more about their responsibility to each other, our planet and to our future generations than their rights for themselves. There are lessons to be learned from these warm and wonderful people and I hope to write about them in more detail soon.

Tongue River Canyon

From left, Jan, Neree, Gail, Devan, Paul, Debra

and Al. (Maggie was hiding behind Devan)

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The Badlands

Saturday 13th October

Hello all, we've been out of touch with everyone for a few days with no phones and no internet. Even the American cell phones don't work in the beautiful wilderness of the Badlands. We got up especially early yesterday at 5.50 a.m. to walk up to a ridge and watch the sun rise. It was spectacular - silent except for the song of the meadlowlarks and SO peaceful. I saw my first rattle snake but didn't hang around to take a photo. After leaving the peace of the Badlands we made a really emotional journey to Wounded Knee. I can't describe the emotions we all felt there, but we each left an offering on the mass grave and on the grave of Zintkala Nuni (Lost Bird). I have been there before and knew what to expect but it doesn't make it any easier. The native people here live desperate lives, ignored by the US government, but their strength of spirit and connection to each other and to the Planet is something most of us have disconnected from and is to be envied. We spent an evening on Pine Ridge with Wilmer (Stampede) Mesteth, the highly respected Lakota Spiritual Leader and Historian. He told us all about the problems they are experiencing today and I hope when I come home, I can remember everything he told us. It is hard to take it all in. He told us the true story of the Ghost Dance and drummed and sang the Ghost Dance songs for us - it was a huge privilege. He also played his flute and sang a Love Song to Paul and Debra, the married couple in our group, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary that day.

Last night we returned to stay in Rapid City but we are leaving shortly to go to the sacred sites of Bear Butte and Deer Medicine Rock, where Sitting Bull carved his vision in the rock. We will also be going to Spearfish Canyon (scene of the Dances with Wolves winter camp) and then to Pryor Mountains to see the wild stallions.

Feeling really emotional writing this - I miss my family and wish I could share all of this with them but I will be home soon with lots of video and photographs.

Monday, 8 October 2007

The Journey Begins

Saturday 6th October.

Hi all - The group met up this morning and everyone is really lovely. Today we entered the Black Hills in the traditional Lakota way - through Buffalo Gap. Many moons ago, this was the way the huge buffalo herds entered the Black Hills on their migratory journey. It is a very important, spiritual place and Serle Chapman wanted us to enter in the same way.

We travelled through Custer State National Park in search of wild buffalo and we were not disappointed. We watched them running and playing free and were so close we could hear the bull growling. The bull is about 9ft long and 6ft high but they run so gracefully, it's almost like a ballet dance. There were many buffalo calves. We saw Elk, Deer, Wild Turkeys and Prairie Dogs. The landscape here seems to pulse with a heartbeat - it speaks to those who take the time to listen and as Serle relates the Lakota stories to us, the wind suddenly builds up as if re-inforcing what he is telling us, then it disappears suddenly. We visited Wind Cave, the place where the Lakota Nation entered the Earth - their place of Genesis. In the evening, we were privileged to attend a Pow Wow in Rapid, which was fantastic. The drumming and dancing resonates through your whole body.

Sunday 7th

Today we visited Prairie Edge, Scores Rock, The Needles and the Nest of the ThunderBeings. Then in amongst the trees on the banks of Sylvan Lake, Serle spoke to us about Star Knowledge. Today we are off to Bears Lodge or Devils Tower as it is called by non-natives. This is the rock which featured in Close Encounters all those years ago.

Love to all.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Rapid City, South Dakota

Well howdy, folks. Long long trip yesterday. I got up at 5.15 a.m. on Friday morning and arrived at my hotel in Rapid at 4.15 a.m. British time. It was quite nerve racking for this old girl, with all the form filling, fingerprinting, immigration etc and then the last flight was on a little plane with propellors. When I arrived at the airport, I phoned the Best Western courtesy bus, which turned out to be the wrong one and took me to the Best Western at the complete other side of town and when I say town, I don't mean the size of Orpington. The kindly driver took me all the way back again to the right Best Western and I collapsed into bed at 9.30 p.m. Dakota time.
I have now been awake since 4.00 a.m. this morning and have bags under my eyes the size of Matalan suitcases but I was heartened when I read the welcome note on the desk in my room. It was this:-
To our guests:
In ancient times, there was a prayer for The Stranger within our gates.
Because this hotel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a money making organisation, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while you are under our roof.
May this room and hotel be your second home. May those you love be near you in thoughts and dreams. Even though we may not get to know you, we hope that you will be comfortable and happy as if you were in your own house.
May the business that brought you our way, prosper.
May every call you make and every message you receive add to your joy.
When you leave, may your journey be safe.
We are all travellers. From birth till death, we travel between the eternities.
May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those who know and love you best.
Some people may think that was really naff - but it made me feel much better about being out here on my own. I know I'm going to be fine!
I'm meeting the other tour members in 45 minutes - wish me luck and love to all.

Thursday, 4 October 2007


I have just found a link on the top left hand side of the Medicine Bowl Cafe site which says "Next Blog".

Please don't click on it. It will randomly take you to other people's blogs which are nothing to do me with me and quite frankly are atrocious and full of bad language. You will be fine all the time you just click on to the Medicine Bowl Cafe but I will look into finding another blog site provider on my return. You have been warned - don't let curiosity get the better of you.

With love

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Elk Medicine Tour

Hi Folks - I'm off to South Dakota on Friday for my second trip to Native America and I can't wait. I am travelling with Go Native America ( who have just been included in the National Geographic Traveller's Top 50 Tours of Your Lifetime. We begin our tour by visiting He Sapa Wakan "The Heart of Everything That Is", the Sacred Black Hills, which is the Holy Land of the Lakota people and we travel through Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, finishing our trip at Yellowstone in search of the buffalo, elk and wolf. I have seen Yellowstone in May but I am told it is beautiful in the Fall, so I hope to take lots of photographs and video. Serle Chapman, the tour leader, is a historian, writer and photographer who is held in high regard by the Native American community. He portrays their side of history and as a result, we are allowed access to their sacred sites and stories which would not normally be accessible to the public.

Last time I visited, our itinerary had to be changed suddenly because we were given the opportunity to visit Chief Arvol Looking Horse. Arvol is the 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Pipe of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Great Sioux Nation - to be invited to visit him in his home was a huge privilege. Arvol was given the heavy responsibility of the C'anupa (the Sacred Pipe) at the age of 12 and has spent his life working towards World Peace. His home is a humble caravan set amidst wonderful meadows - silent except for the song of the meadowlarks and the neighing of the horses playing freely. All his visitors are received here in this over-crowded caravan which has an "extension" to provide extra room - we were welcomed in for coffee and to listen to his words.

He spoke with us about how people misuse their energy instead of putting it to good use. He spoke about how sacred their ceremonies are and asked if we would pray for all of humanity and practice forgiveness and "letting go". He spoke about the importance of loving others even if they do wrong. I have insufficient words to describe how deeply that visit to his small, cramped caravan affected all of us on the tour. I knew that Arvol travels the world in his quest to promote World Peace, so it seemed unreal that we were sitting in his caravan drinking coffee with him.
When I came home from that trip, I ordered a book called "Lost Bird of Wounded Knee" written by Renee Sansom Flood. "Lost Bird" was found as an infant, after a four-day blizzard, under the frozen body of her mother at Wounded Knee. She was kidnapped by a man who was to become the future Assistant Attorney General of the United States, who then adopted her as a "living curio" and exploited her in order to attract prominent tribes as clients of his law practice. Lost Bird died aged only 29 and her grave was traced by Renee Sansom Flood to a sad, sunken grave in California. Her description of the scene at Lost Bird's exhumation in California and subsequent re-burial at Wounded Knee is heartwrenching, yet tender as Chief Arvol Looking Horse and the Wounded Knee Survivor's Association painstakingly bring Lost Bird back to be buried with her relatives. As I read her account of how they returned Lost Bird to her homeland, I was able to clearly "see" Arvol's huge frame, tenderly taking care of the things that needed to be done in the Lakota way to bring Lost Bird home.

I can still picture Arvol in my mind's eye and feel his words in my heart from the special time we spent with him.
We need a great healing,
And we need a Great Forgiving.
But healing can't begin without forgiveness.
We must forgive each other,
Forgive our loved ones
Forgive our friends
Forgive our enemies
Forgive ourselves.
We need to pray even for a person who has done us wrong!
In our Tiospaye, our family,
when two people fight
they are made brothers or sisters.
Forgiveness itself is a powerful medicine
We need forgiveness to create Peace!
(So be it!)
For anyone who has an interest in Native America I would recommend you read "Lost Bird of Wounded Knee - Spirit of the Dakota". Written by Renee Sansom Flood and published by Da Capo Press (ISBN: 0-306-80822-6).
For more about Chief Arvol Looking Horse go to or
I hope to be able to update this blog with my adventures whilst I am away - internet access and spare time permitting (the schedule is exhausting - last time we covered 3,500 miles in 2 weeks) so please check back from time to time. Bye for now..........