Pejuta Wakan: Sacred Medicine

I must have been about eight years old when I started having trouble breathing. My dad noticed it at a basketball game when I was running around. He took me to a hospital. They could not diagnose me with anything, and they sent me home with no treatment. My dad then arranged for a healing ceremony with a medicine man he knew up in Rosebud, SD. I have been going to sweat lodge ceremonies since I was a baby, but this was my first healing ceremony. I was nervous and asked him a lot of questions, but he reassured me everything would be okay.

It was a seven hour drive up to Rosebud from my hometown of Sioux City, and my dad borrowed a van from the school board where he worked for the long drive. Before we got out of town, we gassed up and picked up a friend of my dad’s and two cute little puppies. I asked him what the puppies were for, and he just told me that we have to take them to someone.

So we were driving, and I was bouncing around in the back of the van with the little puppies. I was sad that I was not able to keep one. My dad told me they belonged to someone, but I was going to ask whoever that was if I could have one. The puppies were very soft and playful, and they still had that sweet smell on their breath. I played with the puppies for hours in the van until I fell asleep.

When I awoke, we were parked in a dirt driveway in the middle of nowhere. There was not a tree or house in sight except for a trailer that looked like it was about to tumble down the hill. It was hot inside the van, and my dad must have gone inside the trailer. I opened the van door to cool off and stretch when two big dogs came running over to me happily. They looked famished and pitiful, and I felt sorry for them.

I gave them some of my beef jerky and water, and then an awful thought struck me. This is where the puppies are going! I was determined not to let that happen so I hid them in my backpack. My dad came outside with a plate of potato salad, some soup and frybread. Neither of us mentioned the puppies, and we got in the van and started driving.

The drive seemed to take forever, but I was happy that the puppies were safe. It had started to get dark, and my dad was getting just as anxious as I was. I kept asking him, “are we there yet?” We finally turned off a main road and onto a dirt path through the tall prairie grass. I thought, “about time we got here,” and instantly I was nervous about the ceremony. I could see a fire up ahead and a lot of people sitting on a bench near a sweat lodge. We parked and got out of the van to shake hands with our relatives. I recognized some of them from sweats we had back home. This made me feel at ease because sitting around the fire waiting to go sweat was something I appreciated as a child. There was always a lot of laughter and stories without any negativity.

The fire burned down until the stones, or grandfathers, were ready to be brought in. I remember that lodge being the biggest lodge I had ever seen. It seemed that it could fit a hundred people. When all the rocks were in and they closed up the sweat, I got scared. I told my dad that I wanted out, and he held me and told me that I would be okay. He told me to sing and focus on my singing. I did just that. I sang loud and hard and embraced the heat, and the smell of roots and cedar that were placed on the rocks. I closed my eyes tight and leaned against my father, still trying to sing. Then out of nowhere, my energy was drained, and I drifted into a deep sleep.

When I awoke, the ceremony was over, and my dad was carrying me out of the sweat. I asked him what happened. Did the spirits come and doctor me? He told me that they did, and I would be fine. I just had to smoke the pipe. We smoked the pipe and sent our prayers up in the smoke. The smoke clouds took the shape of an animal, but I did not know what exactly. We sat down, and people were passing out food. There was soup, frybread, salads, cake, and punch. My dad came over, and he told me to eat this soup. I started eating it, but I did not recognize the meat. I grew up eating rabbit, pheasant, deer, elk and other wild meat, but I could not tell what this was.

When I asked him, he asked me if I remembered the two puppies that came up here with us. I looked at the soup, but I understood it was what needed to be done. So I prayed for them and gave thanks just as I was taught.

The prayers and sacrifices that were made did a lot of good for me. Since the ceremony, I did not have any more health problems. My breathing returned to normal, and my appreciation for that way of life has flourished. I give all the credit to the sacred medicine that was used.

Brandon LaMere is a first year, first generation student from Sioux City, IA. He represents the Winnebago and Dakota Sioux tribes respectively and attends the Little Priest Tribal College in Winnebago, NE. LaMere shares his aspirations: “to become the first in my family to obtain a degree at the college level and to be a good role model for my children. My goal is to get a Ph. D in Biological Systems Engineering with an emphasis on Health.”

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