Monthly Archives: January 2015

Old color photos of Native Americans

Hello everyone!

Just a quick post to share an article I recently came across. Such beauty! The beauty of Native people really comes across in those pictures colored by hand. Such strength and pride. People who deserve to be respected and traditions that need to be continued and celebrated. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-ratner/rare-old-color-photos-of-_b_6513044.html

 

All my Relations

dreamcatcher

West Coast Native Americans

West Coast Native Americanswest coast art

Hello all!

Today, I wanted to discuss West Coast or Pacific Coast Native American art, products and traditions. In the past week, I have attended an East Coast Native american ceremony and a West Coast Native ceremony and was able to observe major differences in style. To see videos of those ceremonies, please check out my Facebook page and like it to see more upcoming videos!

East Coast/Prairie Native Pow wow

If you have checked out the Ceremonies tab in the menu, you have probably seen the page about Pow Wows. What you can see on this page, is a description and images of an East Coast/Prairie style Pow wow. As you can see, costumes are very elaborate and colorful. Big drums are played and singing is deep, piercing and seems to come from the soul. People sitting around the drums beat it while singing and others dance following the beat. Women can wear jingle dresses, or have ornate colorful blankets that they twirl around as they dance. Men join them, stomping their feet. The energy is high and people dance from their heart, set free by the music. 

West coast style 

The West Coast Native American style is quite different. I am including here a few pictures of artwest coast art from the West Coast. As one can see, animals are prominently used and represented in a more abstract but still intricate manner. Although still ornate, the West Coast style is more subdue, colors mostly consisting of red, black, white and blue. Animals and birds, such as the raven, the eagle, the wolf and the bear are used to tell a story. They are represented within ceremonies with masks, capes and costumes. Dances have a story oftentimes involving those animals. If you watch the videos on my Facebook page, you will be able to see this. 

west coast art

 

 

West Coast celebration

The West Coast ceremony I attended last night, was meant to be a family celebration. The troupe dancing and singing included men, women as well as young children, all equally participating in the celebration. Some women even had young babies strapped to them as they were dancing. Such a beautiful sight!  As it was explained, youngsters are encouraged to learn the dances and songs, as they will be the ones passing down the traditions and the stories. With teaching songs, children are taught the dance and rhythm of the music. 

west coast celebration

Entry of the dancers

 As you can see from the picture above, individual drums rather than big drums are used. As in the tradition of a Pow Wow, dancers and singers make their entry, women sweeping the floor with their capes, as a way to bring good energy to the floor. Each song has a different meaning (as it is the case with any native song) and a specific dance. Last night, specific women and men dances were performed. Men and women alternate on the dance floor, representing either a raven, an eagle, a wolf or a snake (animals can vary according to the dance. I was once a frog….).  It’s almost a mating dance, where a mate can be chosen based in part on their dancing abilities (which can infer to their strength). Although songs still come from the heart, they are softer. One has to listen to both type of music to fully appreciate the difference between the East Coast and West Coast musical style. Once again, I encourage you to look at the videos on my Facebook page.

I also want to mention the location of most ceremonies discussed here: the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Center society, a wonderful venue that provides culturally relevant free activities. You can also click on the picture above for more information. 

In the spirit of the last night celebration, I had First Nations inspired nails. Enjoy 🙂 Click on the pictures to see where I get them done!

first nations nail art

glossy nails 

Finally, for great West coast style Native art and products, check out this page on Amazon.I am particularly fond of those wonderful silver earrings

Or once again, check out this site for Pacific Coast style jewelry and other products. 

All my Relations

Native American Medicine Wheel

Native American Medicine Wheel

Hello all!medicine wheel chart

I know I have been alluding to the concept of the Medicine Wheel for some time now. Soooooo, the meaning of the Medicine Wheel is the topic of this post. And where to begin!! The Medicine wheel is the Great Symbol for Life and is such a central concept within the native culture, embodying and representing a series of beliefs. It is basically the center and the source of all other concepts.

Well, as you can see from the image on the right, the wheel is separated in 4 quadrants. Those four quadrants themselves represent more than one concept. Let me explain. The quadrants represent the phases of life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood, Elder), the seasons of the year (spring, summer, fall, winter), the four cardinal directions (east, south, west, north) as well as our four sides (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual). Although the picture provides you with a lot of information, you will also find variants of it, especially in regards to the colors (their location) as well as each side associated with each position. The way how one looks at the wheel however, never changes: one always starts at the East direction going clockwise.

I will now go through the concepts as they were explained to me. This is another version of the wheel, which summarizes the concepts as I will explain them.

medicine wheel

The East direction 

The East direction, Spring, is associated with beginnings. The yellow represents the light of the sun in the Spring, the light of the innocence of childhood. As beings, we begin in the spiritual world and the East direction represents our arrival in the physical world. It then represents new growth, the conception of a new day, of a new being. It represents creation. We move, exploring the new world that we are in.

The South Direction

The South direction, Summer, is associated with experimentation. The red represents the heat of summer as well as adolescence and its associated growth spurt. It is a direction of growth, ofFour directions learning, of building one’s identity. As we all know, it is a time of differentiation and separation from our parents, of growing outward. This separation involves our emotional side.

The West direction

The West direction, Autumn, represents our adult years. It is a time when we build knowledge and wisdom. We throw away the “shoulds” and “should nots”, as they are no longer needed (well sometimes they are…). We empty our life of those should and should not (black) and fill it with wisdom (white). As adults, we form our own opinions and develop our own values, we live our own life rather than someone else’s. It is a time when we fill our bucket to feel fulfilled. It is a time of maturity, where our mental side is exercised.

The North direction

The North direction, the direction of the color white (which, when we think about it, is an accumulation of all colors, think of white light here, and your high school sciences classes). It is a time of enlightenment, where we become Elders. It is a time of refinement and purification. We wear the crown of white on our heads and enter a more spiritual life. From the North we are renewed, light and darkness mix and accent one another. We return in the spiritual world where we came from.

Balance

So there you go, the four quadrants of the Medicine Wheel, the meaning of the Native American medicine wheel. Even though each quadrant is associated with a different side, we all strive to find balance between those four sides, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Ways to accentuate or connect with each of those sides could be to attend ceremonies, sing, drum, meditate, spend time with friends and family, pray, smudge, talk with an Elder, exercise, fast, etc.

four directions

But wait there are 2  more directions….

Yes there are. Well what are they, I am guessing you are wondering! Well, the native culture actually speaks of 7 directions. Yes 7…. So far we have covered 4, east, south, west and north. However, we have to remember where we come from, Mother Earth, the fifth direction. Our Earthconnection to life, represented by the color Green. And finally, Father Sky (blue), the sixth direction, representing our present world as well as the world we are moving toward.sky

 

 

 

And…. the Seventh direction: YOU. Both the physical and spiritual you, at the center of it all. At the center of the medicine wheel. So not only are we striving to find balance and a connection between our four sides, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, we also are striving to achieve a connection between what was, what is and what will be.

medicine wheel

All my Relations

 

 

 

 

Native American feather tattoo

Eagle feather tattoo

Hello everyone! beaded eagle feather

So far I have touched on numerous concepts associated with Native culture and beliefs. We have discussed the concept of All my Relations and the Eagle and its spiritual meaning. As well as briefly touched on the concept of the Medicine wheel (see this post for more info ) and the importance of balance in our life (and how one on the Red Road strives to live a balanced life).

As I have explained before, I do try to live according to the concepts of the Red Road and All my Relations (even though I am not first or second or possible third generation native). it is my way of life and I strive to be on that path every day (but yes I fall and stumble at times, I am not Super woman… :)). But you might have noticed a few pictures here and there on this site of a tattoo I have on my foot. As I was recently asked its meaning, I thought I would explain it here. To give you an example of how I tried to incorporate the teachings in my life (and well, on my body!).

Its meaningfoot tattoo All my Relations

Based on what I have discussed so far, what could an eagle feather tattoo mean or represent? Well as we know, the Eagle and the spiritual meaning of the eagle is one of a connection to the spiritual world. Indeed, the Eagle, like the drum, connects the physical world to the spiritual world and brings our prayers to the Creator. The Eagle looks over us.

As you can also see there are four beads at the base of the feather, each a different color. Yellow, red, black and white. Those are the colors of the four quadrants of the native american medicine wheel, representing our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual side, as well as the four seasons of the year and the four stages of our life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood and elder). Yes I know that was a lot of information at once! But the Medicine wheel is a complex concept (yet very simple at the same time). For now, let’s just remember that we (myself included) are trying to find balance between those four quadrants.

Finally, All my Relations. Well I hope that by now, you remember the importance of the concept…. As it means we are all related, connected in some way and therefore what I do affects you and what you do affects me. So we treat all living things with respect and dignity as we are all brothers and sisters.

So there you go, in a nutshell, this tattoo encompasses the essence of the Native culture. All on one foot! Not bad not bad….Kidding aside, I just wanted to give you an example of how native concepts and beliefs can come together. No need to scar your body for life with them, that was just my way of having a daily reminder 😉

All my Relations
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dreamcatcher

Walking the Red Road

Walking the Red Road

Hello all

I just had a walk along water to reflect, meditate and recenter. I put on my head phones and listened to pow wow music for 2 hours. Below are some pictures I took.

We all need to reconnect with nature, with the water, with the trees, with the birds. With the natural elements. That is what I did today 🙂

water

beach

I listened to the sound of the waves, the rhythm of the ocean, the cries of the birds. And I took deep breaths. ocean

I try to take one day at a time, to focus on feeling peaceful and focused. Am I always successful? God, no!!! I have my moments of frustration, of sadness, of despair. But I let it ride, I take action and I ask for guidance and strength.

365 days of walking the Red Road

Yesterday, I remembered a book I bought a while back. 365 days of walking the Red Road. The Native American path to leading a spiritual life every day. In this book, you will find daily quotes, inspiration, historical facts and reflections. You can find it in the books section of the Resources page. I will make it my daily routine to read it every morning when I wake up.

The Red Road

The Red Road or the Red Path is the Native spiritual path. Walking the Red Road means living in the moment connected to all that surrounds us, respecting all of our relations and Mother Earth and Father Sky. It means finding a balance between and attending to our four sides: spiritual, physical, mental and emotional. It means taking care and respecting ourselves and the Creator. It means being thankful for what we have, to only take what we need and to give back. To give back to those around us and to the spiritual world. And to remember where we have been, to remember and honor our ancestors. It is walking in the right path of life, where we do the right thing even if it’s freaking hard at times…. Its opposite would be the path of self-destruction, aka the Black Road.

Simply put, the Red Road is a road of respect, humbleness, truthfulness, spirituality. It is believing that there is a power higher and greater than us who has a path for us. Each step on our path will be shown to us in time. It certainly does not mean having a perfect life. We can fall and stumble on the Red Path, but we also get up and keep going. We discover ourselves as we walk and learn from mistakes we have made. We grow and evolve. But the goal is to live a balanced life 365 days of the year. To balance our commitments to our family, friends, community, work, spirituality and to ourselves. Not an easy task! But one to strive toward.

All my Relationsred road

Native American medicine bag

The wonders of the medicine bagmedicine bag

 

Hello everyone

Today I wanted to discuss the Native American medicine bag or Native American medicine pouch and its purpose. When thinking of a medicine bag, think of how you were as a child. Remember when we use to collect all the “treasures” that we would come across (often getting an eye roll from mom or whoever was taking care of us…..)? We would guard them with our life, put them in a secret hiding place or our pocket even. They would remind us of our experiences when we looked at them and we would cherish them as they had a personal meaning.

Well, the same can be said about the Native American medicine bag. It is where we store our meaningful possessions, our memories, our traditions. It is where we store inner strength, the inner strength we get from what is inside the bag. If we think back years ago, Native people often traveled long distance, were gone from home for long periods of time. They would need to carry inner strength (or Mashkawisen) in their bag to finish their journey.

Medicine pouches would carry herbs and/or medicine (sage, tobacco, cedar, sweetgrass to smudge and give back to Mother Earth) that the carrier would use to connect with the spiritual world, the Creator. The bag could also include personal possessions such as belongings of family members or special mementos.

Your personal medicine bag

You can put whatever you feel like putting in your bag. It is your personal bag. For example, I have two bags, a small pouch and a bigger one. Here they are

small medicine pouch

medicine bag

You can also find simple ones or adorned ones in a number of materials.

As you see there also beaded medicine bags like my small one. This one I carry with me all the time. The bigger one I keep at my home and I look through it when I need strength. What is in them? Well, as I said, you can put anything you want in them. Not going to reveal all my secrets here but… In mine, I have herbs for protection and cleansing. I also carry stones such as amethyst (for protection, spiritual wisdom, humility) and obsidian stones (a lava stone, to block negativity and protection). They look like this.

amethyst

obsidian stones

Finally, in my small native american medicine pouch, I carry a very small bundle of buffalo hair for strength. I also have a few personal mementos. Your medicine bag grows with you, with your identity. Look at its content, see what it says about you, about your strengths, your weaknesses, your light and dark side and if and how you are finding balance. Carry what gives your strength, what makes you grow.

If you look in the Resources section, I have included links to buy stones as well as medicine bags similar as mine or click here on the image below for a great site for native jewelry, bags or arts. 

All my Relations

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Women warrior song and Highway of Tears

Hey all!

A bit of history

So far my posts have been about the Native culture, practices and beliefs and today I want to switch gears for a bit. As with the Native culture, also comes trauma. Actually years and years of trauma. There will soon be a section specifically about historical trauma but I thought I would introduce the notion here. Historical trauma or intergenerational trauma is trauma that is passed down from one generation to the other. Our behaviors are learned, as children we learn to behave a certain way. To copy someone, to protect ourselves, to survive. Violence, substance abuse and mental health issues have a higher prevalence in the Native people. Violent ways or substance abuse issues are passed down from great grand-parents, to grand-parents, to parents to children who keep it going with their children. Remember the saying about what we do affects the next seven generations? Well this is what I mean. In order to survive, those unhealthy patterns are repeated.

The effects of events such as the introduction of alcohol by the white man, the loss of the lands, the residential schools system and the welfare scoop of the 1960’s, to name a few, still have a major effect on the Native people. Who are trying to sift through the trauma they themselves went through as well as their ancestors. Some ceremonies have a healing purpose, such as the healing circle. Some stories, some of us would not believe  are true. But they are, they are. Such violence and such pain. But the traditional native way of healing, called the Red Road or the Red Path, offers a way of life that is healing. And it is much needed within that culture to break the cycle so that they and the next generations can be healthy. 

smudging prayer

Missing women and warrior song

In Canada, of the women who go missing or are murdered each year, 80% are Aboriginal. Some were without families to miss them or report them missing. In British Columbia (BC), many of those women have disappeared on what is now referred to as the Highway of Tears, a stretch of highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert. The murders of those women, committed between 1969 and 2011, are often referred to as the Highway of Tears murders and still constitute an open investigation. The Native world, as wide as it can be, is also a small world. And chances are that if you talk to a Native person in BC, they will have known in one way or another, one of those women from the Highway of Tears. For more information, you can visit:

http://www.highwayoftears.ca/

The Women’s warrior song below, is a song in honour of those missing women across Canada (notice the eagle circling above them). I first heard it at a pow wow a few years ago. At the time, I did not know what the song or its meaning was. Nonetheless, I had a strong reaction to it. I suddenly felt ill, struggled breathing and started sweating. Until I focused on a little girl dancing in her moccasins around the drummers. When I told an Elder I had a strange experience, without me saying anything, he described how I had felt. I asked him how he knew. His answer: because you were visited by a spirit and you felt its pain and energy. An experience I will never forget. To this day, I still have chills every time I hear it.

All my Relations

Bannock time!: recipes, including mine!

Bannock time: Recipes!

Hello all!

How is everyone doing? We have been blessed with beautiful weather on the Canadian West Coast for the past week. And it is only the beginning of April! That’s crazy, Grandfather sun in the sky, not a cloud in sight, our relations in nature blooming 🙂 I am fighting an infection but I am feeling fantabulous! And as I am about to make some bannock again, I thought I would share some bannock recipes, including mine. For those who have asked me for it on my Facebook page. So here we go, let’s talk about bannock, how much I love it and what it represents for me.

my bannock

My bannock

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10 pieces of wisdom and quotes

Hello all!

Not too long ago, I came across this and wanted to share it with you.

elder

http://higherperspective.com/2015/01/native-american.html#fA50aqgsjsuyLpeH.99

Wonderful page of quotes. Some of my favorites pertain to the concept of All my Relations. For example:

The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our father but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the grounds, she returns to us. – Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki Algonquin

Another quote is made by a well known Native chief from the West Coast, Chief Dan George, of the Coast Salish nation.

Chief Dan George

May the stars carry your sadness away,

May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,

May hope forever wipe away your tears.

And above all, may silence make you strong.

I could place more quotes here and you will see me posting some in the future but I will let you focus on those for now.

All my Relations