Eastman, Charles Alexander, 1858-1939. The Soul of the Indian (Ohiyesa), Wahpetonwan Dakota.

Solitary Worship. The Savage Philosopher. The Dual Mind. Spiritual Gifts versus Material Progress. The Paradox of "Christian Civilization." THE original attitude of the American Indian toward the Eternal, the "Great Mystery" that surrounds and embraces us, was as simple as it was exalted. To him it was the supreme conception, bringing with it the fullest measure of joy and satisfaction possible in this life.

The worship of the "Great Mystery" was silent, solitary, free from all self-seeking. It was silent, because all speech is of necessity feeble and imperfect; therefore the souls of my ancestors ascended to God in wordless adoration. It was solitary, because they believed that He is nearer to us in solitude, and there were no priests authorized to come between a man and his Maker. None might exhort or confess or in any way meddle with the religious experience of another. Among us all men were created sons of God and stood erect, as conscious of their divinity. Our faith might not be formulated in creeds, nor forced upon any who were unwilling to receive it; hence there was no preaching, proselyting, nor persecution, neither were there any scoffers or atheists.

There were no temples or shrines among us save those of nature. Being a natural man, the Indian was intensely poetical. He would deem it sacrilege to build a house for Him who may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of the primeval forest, or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzy spires and pinnacles of naked rock, and yonder in the jeweled vault of the night sky! He who enrobes Himself in filmy veils of cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-Grandfather Sun kindles his evening camp-fire, He who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, or breathes forth His spirit upon aromatic southern airs, whose war-canoe is launched upon majestic rivers and inland seas -- He needs no lesser cathedral!

That solitary communion with the Unseen which was the highest expression of our religious life is partly described in the word bambeday, literally "mysterious feeling," which has been variously translated "fasting" and "dreaming." It may better be interpreted as "consciousness of the divine."

Maybe this poem will explain me best:

I am Wamduskasapa Wacinhnuni of the Dakota Isanti
or Black Snake or Crazy Snake to the world's view
Born Native American, I am not, But adopted into
The inner family to be taught of Turtle Island's Coup
By their custom, by their ritual and by council revue

I have been accepted by edict through and through
Born Native American, I am not, that is so very true
But of the old ways that can be practiced, this I DO
There are some who prefer the known path of ballyhoo
But the search and quest of knowledge I do not eschew

I am The Traveler, The Wanderer, The Seeker of the Vision
The Search, The Quest, The Longing that now must begin
For haunted by Great Mystery, Wanting, needing and desiring
To find the hidden knowledge, forced to endure the chagrin
The Wish, The Need, The Craving that exists within

To search, to seek, to wander the worlds, I am now driven
to find the missing pieces, the half of me that was shriven
my mind, my heart incomplete, for asunder they were riven
and now the Medicine Wheel I am enjoined to travel within
no peace, no solitude for never, can I ever, be alone again.

I had sought the greatest gifts, that came thru service to my Creator
Through study and dedication I opened my mind to hidden Treasure
Until suddenly into me poured unlimited knowledge of great wonder
Gates burst open and to my wondrous eyes I was given the Plunder
That what I had sought for so long, I was rewarded without measure.

The greatest gift given was a kinship to assuage any possible hunger
The Nations of the Animal, Element and Plant are now my Sister and Brother
Rewarded and Blessed I am, But Devout and Celibate I must be Forever
My mind, body, heart, and soul ripped, fragmented, torn asunder
For I am Not Ever alone, but without a human companion I now wander

A Little History And The Importance Of Bone Chokers
To Native Americans:


Since the beginning of time, Native Americans have worn jewelry carved from bone, hoof and horn. Carved bone, hoof and horn was actually likely the first adornment people used to fashion jewelry. The bone choker was invented by Native Americans after it become obvious that longer bone, shell and horn necklaces caused problems when hunting and chasing food. So necklaces were shortened and the choker was invented. Since the choker wraps around the neck, it would not cause so many problems when hunting. Bone chokers were first made from bird legs and they served a very useful function. They provided physical protection of the neck and the jugular vein during battle and fighting. Bone chokers are also believed to provide spiritual protection of the voice. By wearing a bone choker, the spirits of the animal they come from can provide protection from all kinds of sicknesses.

It is also believed that the spirit of the choker would provide one with great speaking ability when wearing a properly made bone choker and would cause one to speak from the heart. During tribal meetings, almost all present who would speak would wear a Bone Choker believing that the choker would give them the power to speak from the heart about what was needed to be said. It might be said that the saying, "he speaks with forked tongue," was made by one who either did not wear a bone choker or that the bone choker worn was not made in the proper manner, respect, by the right experts or contain the proper spiritual power to provide the speaker the ability to speak from the heart.

Specific specialists in each tribe generally made various types of bone chokers. Many Native Americans had dreams about a certain type of bone choker and then have their tribe's specialist make it for them. Most of the bone choker makers were helpers to the great Medicine Men/Women and other times, they were the Medicine Men/Women themselves. Rarely would a Native American make his or her own bone choker as it required the specialist so that the bone choker would possess the great spiritual power of the entities present, represented by the items used to make the Choker.

The Sinew used to string bone chokers were usually from Deer or Buffalo. The sinew strips from these main sources were generally not only longer than other animals, there was an abundance of them. At one time, there were more buffalo roaming around America than there were people. Before metal and needles were invented, Native Americans used a sharp piece of filed down bone as hole punchers for the hide spacers often found between the bone beads.

. Originally, Bone Chokers were one or two strands. There is evidence that only Chiefs, Warriors or other persons in special leadership positions such as Priests and Medicine Men/Women could extend the number of strands. Eventually, many-stranded bone chokers became a status symbol along with the other semiprecious materials such as Turquoise stones, shell, feathers and other types of beads used to embellish them. Carved designs and even sterling sliver with gold trim on the embellishments have become common place. Today there are a wide variety of them. Some of them have become very fancy and made with a number of different materials including some bone chokers that do not even have very little if any bone in them. Many Bone Chokers today can be obtained with matching bracelets and earrings. They are worn today by both men and women.

The Number Of Strands On A Bone Choker And Their Meaning
As In almost everything worn by the Native American, there is a meaning behind it and this even applies to the number of strands that Bone Choker possesses. Here is what the various strands mean.

1) One God
2) Affirmation
3) Completeness
4) Earthly Situations / Seasons / The Four Directions
5) Great Spirit On Top and above all
6) Human Accomplishment
7) Spiritual Perfection
8) New Beginning


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