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The Awakening - Cherokee 

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom,

which God ordained before the world unto our glory; 

-- 1 Corinthians 2:7 

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I 

thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

-- 1 Corinthians 13:11 

"Sing praises to the sky, 

Give blessings to the hills, 

Feel the spirit of the mountains, 

Sacred are the streams, 

Be one with the 

Mother Earth." 

-- J.C. High Eagle, Osage/Cherokee 

"It is for us of the present generation, if possible, to say something 

more of these wonderful people than that ‘they once lived’." 

-- Thomas McKenney, 1825 

"As I think back upon those days, it seems that no people in the world 

ever were any richer than we were." 

-- Wooden Leg, Northern Cheyenne 

Much time has passed since any significant vision quests have been documented. Tracing back through recorded history, several American Indians have followed their ancient rituals in seeking their visions or finding a purpose in their futures. 

Quetzalcoatl, a wise and powerful prophet, told the Toltecs of the coming of the men from across the seas. He spoke of the day when his people would once again regain the wisdom and the spirit of their ancestors, in a time when pride would return to their sacred traditions. 

Laulewasika, the brother of the famous Indian leader Tecumseh, had a vision which led him to preach a return to purity and the traditional ways. He, too, spoke of unification for his people. 

Even more famous of these early visions were the Ghost Dance ceremonies of the doctrine produced by visions of the Paiute Indian, Wovoka, in 1888. His visions produced the general concepts of an Indian Messiah to come, which would bring back the vanished game and the dead Indians. 

The Oglala Sioux medicine man, Black Elk, had a supernatural vision that the sacred hoop of the nation would be broken and scattered but eventually the hoops of all nations would be made whole and joined as one again. 

In the 1976 bicentennial year of the 200th anniversary of the country, where recognition for the American Indian was relatively small or nonexistent, many people neglected to give an awareness or proper respect to the original inhabitants of this land. 

Little beknown to the nation, an event would be sparked to occur that would repeat the prophecies of unity and peace echoed by several American Indian leaders since the first coming of the white man. This event ultimately resulted in national recognition as Native American Awareness Week, October 10-16, 1976, which held a special message for the people of this country, as well as the "red man". 

As scholarly scientists explore the universe for new knowledge about the origins of creation and the mysteries of nature, some tend to brand American Indian legends, myths and ways of life as silly superstition and quaint bits of native folklore. Some skeptics mildly scoff at notions that life can be influenced in any way by a spiritual realm created and ritualized by ancient ceremonies of an aboriginal people. Yet, many of the scientists' findings about the "known" are still not well-understood. American Indians have their own way of explaining things that happen totouch their lives. This is an account of one such happening.Certainly, it is unexplainable by any scientific means, and any worthy scholar would be challenged to attempt a plausible explanation. 

But ask any traditional American Indian, and he'll tell you.... 

* * * * 

Lately, I had grown restless and discontented with the social and political landscape of the country. My mind was captured by several thoughts and reflections of my own future and that of my people. My concentration was disturbed and I wrestled with their reoccurrences. 

The days that turned into restless nights finally ended there on a trail that brought me to the base of Bear Butte, a legendary Sioux and Cheyenne mountain in the Black Hills region near Sturgis, South Dakota. Why had I come so far from my home? What was the purpose of this unknown sabbatical? Was I in search of an admonition that my ancestors were speaking to me, or a dream to tell me something about myself that I didn't already know? 

How foolish, why, this was 1976! 

Yet, there was a power and a purpose beyond that which I could comprehend.\ As analogous to Moses climbing the mountain, seeking and obeying the hand of his God, so I came searching for the guidance and direction of the Indian Spirit, Wah-kon-tah (the Great Mysteries). 

What was to come of this experience, I did not know. It was a good feeling to return to nature, to be close to Mother Earth once again. If a spiritual insight would occur, I was prepared for it. If it didn't happen, then I would be content to commune with nature and replenish my spirit by being close to the greatness of the Earth and sky. How nice it was to be away from the cities' concrete canyons and towering tipis of iron and stone. 

Looking upwards, the early morning sun cast strange shadows among the rocks and inclines. The air was crisp, clear and perfumed by the aroma of wild sage growing along the trails. The only sounds heard were the soft whisps among the tall grasses, stirred by an occasional gust of wind blowing across the buffalo prairie. With eagerness, and without hesitation, I began the long stretch of my journey to the heights of Bear Butte. 

Having no specific purpose in my soul searching, I paused frequently for a catch of purifying breaths and to peer on the twisted trail below. It was a butterfly morning as I moved upward, catching a glimpse of the uniqueness of each rock and tree. Although a stranger and a visitor to this place, I had deep feelings of respect for each piece of this shale-sloped mountain. 

I was careful to step softly in balance upon the narrow trails lest I would disturb the peaceful harmony surrounding me. The spotting of an occasional ceremonial ribbon tied to a shrub or limb of a low tree branch signaledthat others had gone these paths before me. The great Sioux leader, Crazy Horse, had known the way, and determined, I continued across the rock-washed gullies and ceremonial trails. Picking up a rock, I tossed it, following with my eyes as it disappeared below. Breathing deeply, I stopped to rest again. It seemed the rest stops were becoming more frequent. 

At several places along the way, the trail forked in two directions. Wandering without sense of direction on the divided trails, it became apparent that one could easily become lost or go astray. Arranging sticks and stones along the paths, to help guide me, I moved onward and upward. 

Being not so sure of foot and unwise in the ways of trails, I stopped again to bask in the majestic silence and to focus my attention in the direction of a distant eagle plunging and making lazy circles upon the horizon. Working my way up the steep slopes interspersed with dry grass and fragrant sage, I asked myself why this Plains Indian from the prairies and rolling hills of Oklahoma was there among the shadows of such a towering monument to the Indian Spirit. Could a 1976 American Indian still find meaning in the customs of his ancestral brothers, or did they die upon the ceremonial sleds that carried the last dying chiefs to their resting places? 

Taking time to settle against the comfort of a rock ledge, the calmness was disturbed by the air which began again to move. The wind rustling through the tall trees made a mystic music which seemed to carry the chants of ancient voices that echoed all about me. The chatter of the red men, feathers-in-their-head men, who once inhabited this sacred mountain seemed to survive in the songs of the pine needles. If only I could translate their great messages! 

As the late afternoon sunlight struck the westward rising slope, the little shadows among the mountain's edge changed their forms quickly. The air became cooler as I wound closer to the top and to the answers that awaited me. 

I felt so unprepared to seek anything. Shake slow the rattle! The only recent rituals and ceremonies I had practiced and became accustomed to were those of getting up in the morning and charging off for a typical nine-to-five work day at the office. 

Only an echo returned. 

* * * 

Nearing the end of the trail, I could see the top clearly now. Every footstep deserved a faster one and the pace quickened, keeping time with the beating of my heart. At last, I reached the pinnacle just in time to see Mother Earth's daily ceremony of the setting sun as it melted into the western horizon. It was a changing of the heavenly guard by which the sun of the day retired and the moon assumed its watch by night. The last few beams of sunlight were fast fading. The glory of the earth below was sinking into semidarkness and the buffalo settled in for the evening. 

Looking downward, one could see only a hint of patches of civilization. A lighted highway appeared to be a mere thread that someone had let fall to the ground, its form taking the shape of the curves upon which it landed. 

The majestic beauty and greatness of what surrounded me had overpowered my ability to find expression in words. I was captured by a heavy feeling of knowing nothing and yet bewildered by an inner sensation that I would soon know all that was to be known that day. 

As the twilight sky began gradually darkening, the lights of civilization that peppered the prairies looked as if they were reflections of faint stars sparkling overhead in the blanket of nightfall. 

Unskilled in my native tongue, I was helpless to call upon the Indian Spirit with the same speech that flowed from the songs of the ancient arrow makers. 

With the dusk came the clouds and the thoughts of a dancing fire to drive the chill from my bones. Peering from the lofty summit of this famous Indian landmark, my soul yearned to unlock the mysteries of my restless searching. 

My mind was twirling and my ears were sharply pierced by howling winds that foretold of some strong force overpowering me, lifting and freeing me from the earthly bonds. Like a river that could never run empty, my thoughts and inner being flowed upward, yielding to the power as the pine sways to the force of the wind lest it be shaken loose and crashed to the ground for not obeying its command. With a sense of not being alone, excitement kindled within my chest. 

Suddenly, I was struck at the appearance of a brightness in the sky and the ominous clouds turned into an eagle [J.C.'s Editorial Note: Was this the premonition of what I was later to become in my development years, or was it the symbol of the Great Spirit in physical form?]. In a level of consciousness midway between a dream and reality, I listened obediently to the oratory of a reverent voice all over the heavens: 

It is difficult to recollect the dimension of time during those eventful moments. Chilled, hungry and shelterless, I was once again aware of the Earth and my feet among the stones. Somewhat confused and puzzled at what my experience had revealed, I left with enough sunset for me to hurriedly make the climb downward. A short time later, the words that filled my mind flowed to the page as I became a human channel to record the Great Message that would transform this experience into a reality. 

Through months of determination and facing unformitable odds, I know the vision was more than a dream. The return trail finally ended several months later on October 8, l976, where I met with Indian leaders and President Gerald R. Ford to witness his signing of the first national proclamation to officially declare October 10th to 16th, l976, as Native American Awareness Week. 

The first part of my quest had been accomplished and the Message of the Great Spirit carried out. But how could I be certain that these handwritten words which were eventually passed in legislation by the Congress were inspired and guided by the Great Spirit? 

Just ask any traditional American Indian and he'll tell you. . . .