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..........

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