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In Our Blood
The powwow grounds were bitter, only a handful of dancers and a couple drums brought in the Grand Entry remained. It was a shame to find that it wasn’t a celebration anymore, more like going through the motions of being an Indian. Although it was a powwow, the younger generations of on lookers were oblivious to what “used to be;” it still held a purpose of a gathering nonetheless. Young parents, adolescences and kids walked in circles around the arbor visiting one another. The camp was still alive.
Filled with clueless children at play, no one warned of the thunders coming in from the west. Clouds that covered the horizon were black as night and thick as soil. As they closed in on the arbor, I headed for the car. Passing an elder woman, she poked fun at how pitiful of a powwow it was. My reply to her was that it wasn’t our fault we let our culture slip, but we’re still here.
I felt emptiness in my gut. I missed the days when you could smell the prairie at camp and hear the jingles a crowd of dancers made or the great singing of old timers and eagle whistles being blown for an encore.
As I was leaving, I noticed that there were funnels in the clouds so I drove to sound the alarm. But I was too late. The wind picked up and blew dust all around. Tents were knocked down and these little ones were scared. I wanted to shelter them but I couldn’t do it alone. I felt helpless. I looked up to the thunders and asked them to pity us. I stopped and exited the car to pray.
I prayed so hard I started to cry, “These are all children, pity them don’t hurt them.” My voice loud with fear, I was overcome by my spirit and my prayer turned into another language. In my mind I could understand what I was saying. It was as if my tounge was possessed. This language was so ancient, yet so familiar.
There was an enormous perfect circle in the cloud above me like a window opened up. I thought “this is it.” Thunder cracked above so powerful it brought me to my knees. I continued to pray louder and everything came to a halt. It was so incredibly quiet all a sudden.
Four big birds came out of the storm to find who prayed so hard. These birds were the same size as me. I got so scared of these scouts. But I couldn’t stop watching them as they flew by. They looked like dodo birds. Heavy beak and webbed feet. I connected eyes with one and it landed a few feet away from me. The others returned to the cloud above. I looked away but its eyes looked directly into my heart.
I gave in to my curiosity and looked directly at this bird and she turned into a woman. “He wants you to come home now.” Her voice was like thunder and wind mixed together. I picked myself up from the ground. “I need to stay here,” I pleaded, “who’s going to look after them?” I cried even harder for these kids even the ones I didn’t know. “Who’s going to teach them?” I asked. She said, “It doesn’t matter, he wants you to come, you don’t need to worry about them anymore.”
I didn’t want to leave. I begged for my life here. She seemed withdrawn like she had another conversation going on in her mind. “Okay, he said stay if you want but know your road is going to be hard. It’s going to be that way to keep you humble, to give you the strength you need to help others. You’re going to become pitiful so your eyes stay open for these little ones who need you and to always help. Your heart will beat slowly to remind you how precious life is and you will lead people to live a good life. You will suffer because next time he’s coming to get you himself and he’s going to want you to come on your own. Don’t cry, be happy and live.” The woman returned to a bird and flew up into the clouds.
As I awakened from this dream the pillow was drenched with heavy tears. I couldn’t stop myself from sobbing like an abandoned child. Over taken by emotion throughout the rest of morning, I had a feeling inside to pray about it and offer up some tobacco to give thanks. It was then that I woke up from this dream of life. Today we have forgotten who we are as Indigenous people. Our tongue cut out by immersion. Our ancestors still try to come through. We might be living in a materialistic generation but our history is in our blood. We’re fortunate to be so free and can bring the language back, but it’s like trying to hold on to this dream.
Mary Baker, whose Hidatsa name is Iduishga giaush (Afraid of her Horse), is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. She is a second year student in the Native American Studies program at Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College (Fort Berthold Community College).