Category Archives: Spirituality

Carl Jung’s collective unconscious and Native Americans

Carl Jung’s collective unconscious and the Native Americans

Hello all!

I have been thinking for the past few days about what I could possibly write about. Nothing came to mind, nothing was inspiring me. Then I remembered a book I read a few years ago, Dancing Between two worlds: Jung and the Native American soul. I remembered its message and how it combined my background in psychodyamic psychology and native spirituality and culture. That book is one of those that changes your life. At least, it changed mine (more to come in a future post about another book that changed my life). But first let’s look at Carl Jung and the notion of the collective unconscious.

Jung and the Native American soul

Carl Jung

Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist who also found a love for analytic psychology and

Carl Jung

Carl Jung

therapy. The beginning of the 20th century in Europe was dominated by the analytic movement, which was first led by Freud (well there were others before him such as Breuer and Charcot but Freud was the most well known one). Carl Jung’s ideas and writing were not always easy to grasp and led to differences in opinion with Freud for example. However, Jung did contribute to the field of personality traits, where his concepts are still used today in personality inventories. One of his main contributions and I think one of the most relevant ones in regard to the Native American culture, was his notion of the collective unconscious. I do not want to bore you with a lengthy explanation of it, because I could go on for a while here…..

But what is the collective unconscious?

We still have to cover some basics so you can understand how it pertains to the native culture and the concept of intergenerational trauma. According to Jung (a brilliant man for sure), there is a collective unconscious shared by members of a species. A collective mind, of experiences we have all shared. Whereas Freud discussed the notion of a personal/individual unconscious (my thoughts or emotions or experiences that I am not fully aware of), Jung argued for the notion that as a species, we share common unconscious experiences or emotions. This collective unconscious is inherited from previous generations (we come into the world already sharing this unconscious) and it contains symbols or concepts (Jung called them archetypes) that we all share. Symbols such as the Great Mother, The Old wise man. In other words, we carry within ourselves experiences from past generations, we come into this world carrying the life of our ancestors.

collective unconscious

The Native American collective unconscious

I don’t know about you but I feel like Jung was certainly right. I mean, I have mentioned before that what we do affects the next seven generations. In other words, I am carrying the history and experiences of the past seven generations. Some will say that it is not fair, that it means I am carrying baggage. But you have to remember that it goes both ways. I am also carrying the beauty, strength and knowledge of the past seven generations. Sometimes it is also about remembering or investigating where we come from, so we know better who we are today.

The history of the Native Americans is sadly filled with trauma and what I would qualify as genocides. Massacres such as Wounded Knee, need to be remembered as they affect the soul of all. Such massacres also affect the land they took place upon. The memory of what happened lives within the Earth. The bodies, the blood lives within the soil. If you think about how Native American culture emphasizes the connection to the Earth, a wound to the Earth is a wound to the people. It is a wound to the earth-connected side we all have, thus a wound to the soul. The feelings and the hurt of those who passed away on the battlefields do not die with them. They remain in each of us. The Land holds our stories, the land will evoke our personal and collective stories, it will remind us of them. As the land is also living. Violence to the people or the land led to the suffering of the following generations, as it is stored in our collective unconscious or psyche.

Intergenerational trauma

So in a sense, the notion of collective unconscious is related to the notion of intergenerational trauma. Where trauma is passed down from one generation to another. But knowledge, ways of survival are also passed down from one generation to the other. As I stated, it is not all negative, there is some positive in storing our ancestors’ story and experiences within ourselves. Jung and the Native American soul talks about how each of our soul is touched by what happened to our ancestors. Sometimes, getting in touch with their experiences is a way to remember who we are. A friend of mine said to me recently “I don’t know where I belong in this world. I don’t belong within our culture today, I don’t belong in the white culture, I don’t know where my place is”. It seems to me like that would be an old feeling, a collective feeling, an unconscious ancestral feeling. Maybe getting in touch with what our body remembers, what the land remembers is the way to go here, to know where we belong.


Grandmother, and great Mother Earth upon you the people will walk. May they follow the scared path with light, not with the darkness of ignorance. May they always remember their relatives in the four quarters and may they know that they are related to all that moves upon the universe. – Black Elk.



Native American spirituality vs religion

Native American spirituality vs religion

Hi all!smudging

I am continuing on with the writing of the Red Man, the Cree man who helped me write my last post. I have written a few posts about the history of the Native people (see my history and trauma category on the right) and about the philosophy and spirituality (see category on the right too). I have discussed the influence of the White man and religion on the trauma that was inflicted on the Native people. Because although not always intentionally, trauma was inflicted in the name of religion. Not an easy topic to discuss or read about but it happened. Assimilation was the goal, to take the Indian out of the man. In the name of Christianity, traditions were forbidden, beliefs were ridiculed, and cultures were erased. Or at least, they tried to. So today, let’s look at the concepts of religion and Native American spirituality.

What is the Native fight?

Some would say we are on the war path, fighting a fight we might lose if we do not know who we are fighting against. If we do not know, we will fight ourselves and everyone close to us. Who

Chief Dan George

Chief Dan George

is the enemy then or what is the enemy? Chief Dan George once said: “When you came to this land, we had the land and you had the bible. Now you have the land and we have the bible”. Maybe it is time to wake up and smell the aroma of fear. To remember who we are and in a sense, we were not religious. Native people became “religious” as a military ploy, pretending to believe in a religion so the religious ones would stop killing them. Guess what? Even though we pretended, they still killed us.

Native spirituality vs religion

Religion and the Red Road are diametrically opposed to each other in a few different ways. First of all, let’s clarify something. The Red Road or Native Spirituality is not considered a religion. It is considered a philosophy. The word philosophy is Greek for “a love of wisdom”. We love wisdom wherever it comes from. From the White, Red, Black and Yellow man. Indeed, the concept of the Medicine Wheel dictates that once the attributes of the Red, White, Black and Yellow men are acknowledged, that’s when the medicine wheel is complete and whole. All knowledge is important, from all men.

Religion is a doctrine, a system of thoughts where all thoughts and truth come from a book, the bible let’s say. Religion tends to instill fear in people, the fear of hell, of doing bad, or burning in hell. However, one cannot get to the happy hunting grounds through fear. The Bible tells you to fear, to fear the God who has the power to kill you. Rebelling against God is bringing judgment upon oneself, inviting wrath into one’s life (Romans 13). I don’t know about you but living in that kind of fear does not seem like a very serene way of living.


The Priest and the Elder

The difference that I will describe here is bone chilling and beautiful at the same time. The Beothuk Indians, Indians from the tip of the Canadian East coast, are now extinct. But they gave us this pearl of wisdom to think about.

A priest is sitting with an Elder of the tribe. The priest says: “look at your children, running around, screaming and laughing. You had better take the rod to them or they will one day embarrass you in public. If you spare the child the rod, you do not love them. And secondly you had better give yourself to the land or you will burn in hell”.

Beothuk woman and child

Beothuk woman and child

The Elder’s response, is worth a moment of reflection. I will repeat what he said verbatim, word for word. “First of all, we do not hit our children! We have respect for their dignity. Second of all, we do not believe in this primitive fear that you call hell. You brought that here with you and you can take it back when you leave”.

Sense or nonsense, that is the question. In the name of religion, natural Natives were killed throughout the world. The Crusades, the Inquisition. For some, this might be an occasion to ask themselves, why do I know little about my people but a lot about the Bible? You might know the saying “What belongs to Ceasar, let Ceasar have”. Well, maybe what belongs to Jesus and his people, let Jesus and his people have. The people of the Bible only have respect for their ideas and show a hatred for the truth of anyone else. But the land speaks to you and their land speaks harshly to them. We live in the promised land and maybe we should live like we have heaven here on earth. We have our ancestors around us, we walk on their land, the land of our children. Let us live in peace, joy and love. Let us be who we were meant to be, not who we were made to be.

elder quote


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Native American truth and history

Native American truth and history: contribution of the Native man

Hello all!storytelling

Today I want to share the words of someone I will call the Red Man. His vision of the Native American truth and his experience. The Native people have made such contributions to the world, some were never recognized, some were misconstrued. The story might not have been told properly but here I am sharing some raw stuff. Words that come from the personal experience of a Cree man, his words on Native spirituality, on the history and contributions of the Native man.

The concept of truth

I am tired of sitting on the sidelines watching the world pass me by, the world and my life. Over nativethe years, I have learned a very valuable lesson, and the lesson is this. If you want to change, you must change your relationship to the resources available to you. Now you probably think I am talking about the land when I mention the word resources but no I am not talking about land. I am talking about the one resource that is hard for some to find and that is the resource called the truth. The truth will really set you free.

The truth is freedom

Men pray to be free all the time. The shackles and chains of ignorance smudgewere strapped to my history. The fire of truth was taken away and hidden in books that my people had a very difficult time to read. The theoretical spirit of the Red Man got trapped in a book. Do not take the fire away from the Red Man so that in seven generations, it is cold. White Man writes everything down, the Red Man does not. His truth flows with the winds of change. The Red Man is cold today because he does not really appreciate just how much his people contributed to the intellectual consciousness. Self actualization means to know who you are in proportion to the world all around you. When you do not know who you are, you are weakened and unbalanced. It then becomes difficult to get a clear picture of yourself, of your ancestors and of your place in this world. “Indian giver, savage, welfare bum” that’s what I grew up knowing about my Red Indian side, nothing good.


The Native people contributed so many good things to this world. Could you imagine an Italian without a tomato? I could not because their culture revolves around it. We gave the Italians the tomato. It took great love and knowledge and understanding to produce the tomato, tomatoes do not grow wild in the bush, they need TLC. We also gave the world corn, chocolate, potatoes, peppers, tobacco. We also gave the world fortified foods such as pemmican; there were pemmican wars for a reason. One pound of pemmican had the nutrients of 10 pounds of meat. It could sustain you for as long as needed. It could be preserved for 10 years!



History, your own history

Your own personal investigation will uncover the Red Man treasure. If you do not know what’s wrong with the world, you do not know your history. Our history is very cryptic but it’s there. Our people contributed much to the history. The Sleeping Giant that is coming to life is how much we have given and how much was taken. It is a cycle that is hard to break. Blood is shed when people fight for land. However, the land will still be there when the last land claim settlement is secured. Until someone takes it away again. Just like our discoveries will be be rediscovered. What came first? That’s a good question. This is not about getting recognition but rather to see how rich our history is, the good that we brought. The good that we can bring to the world.

Investigate yourself to extend to the utmost your knowledge of yourself. To rectify your heart, to regulate your family, to show yourself and the world just how beautiful your natural native self was and is. All races have contributed to the common knowledge, only when we appreciate the attribute of a man can we appreciate the unique race of all human beings. One day we will all share the power, the power to play, to change and to know.

sacred land

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Meaning of the Tree of life

The Tree of life: its meaning

Hello all!green field

Some of you might have read my last post regarding a wonderful little book full of insight and wisdom: 365 days of Walking the Red Road. Well today I want to discuss a topic often mentioned and discussed within that book: the connection we have with Mother Earth. You are probably wondering what I mean. Well, if you remember the concept of the medicine wheel and the 7 directions, you remember that 2 of those directions are Mother Earth and Father Sky. Mother Earth is our connection to our past and to life. Let’s say how that is.

What is the Tree of life?

When one reads the book mentioned above, one can read lessons from the Red Road, to be considered inspirations on how to conduct oneself or live one’s life in a respectful way. The concept of the Tree of life is explained in this manner:

The Tree of life represents all that is life, encompassing all that exists upon the planet. When we walk the Red Road, our journey ends under the protection of this tree. It causes the rhythm of the world to continue year after year, and with each cycle, fruit nourishes those who stand under her boughs. The roots dig deep into history. Those dedicated to this energy know the value of all beings, tend to Mother Earth and live an honorable life in honor of the spirit of the ancient Tree.

tree of life

Tree of life by Azriel hell shoppe

What does that mean? I think it relates to the concept of “we are all related” or “Mitakuye Oyasin”. We all come from the land, we come from Mother Earth. If you think of Mother Earth and the Tree of life, the leaves, the fruits nourish the soil we walk on, nourishes us. Its roots are full of history, guided by the spirit of the previous trees. Like the medicine wheel, it represents the cycle of life. Where one leaf or fruit falls, another one begins its growth. Our ancestors used all the medicines provided by the trees and Mother Earth, to heal, get stronger. Everything was provided by Mother Earth.

But it’s more…tree of life

Mother Earth is where we come from and where we go back in the end. The Earth is our mother, is contains the ashes of our ancestors, it is full of wisdom from our ancestors. Chief Seattle, a Suquamish chief, was particularly vocal about Mother Earth and its importance.He famously said We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Meaning that it is a gift to us all. We live as children of the Earth but the land does not belong to us, we belong to the land. Chief Joseph advocated the equal rights upon earth for all, as she is the mother of all. The respect of the land is a significant value for the Native people. You always respect all your relations, including those in nature. You respect what the land gives you and only take what you need. It is a lesson that was taught to children. As Chief Seattle said:

Teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our own kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children – that the Earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth… This we know, all things are connected like the blood which unites one family.

Therefore, mother Nature, mother Earth is not for us but rather part of us. Mother Earth is the healer, the one who feeds us. She is our mother. I now leave you with a quote from Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux that summarizes things beautifully:

The white man is far too removed from America’s formative processes. The roots of the tree of life have not yet grasped the rock and the soil. But for the Indians, the spirit of the land is still vested. When the Indian has forgotten the music of his forefathers, when the sound of the tom-tom is no more, when the memory of his heroes is no longer told in story, he will be dead.

chief Luther Standing Bear

Chief Luther Standing Bear

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Native American love and beauty

Native American love and beauty

Hello to all of you!

I hope you are doing fantastic. 🙂 Although I am tired tonight, I do want to share something that is a tad more personal with you. I want to discuss the concept of beauty and love with a Native twist. What I am sharing below are not universal teachings or a universal philosophy. But rather words that were given to me by a person very close to my heart. A person you will probably get to know through me on this site in the next few weeks. I want to discuss the concept of Native American love. But first let’s start with the concept of true beauty. Why am I sharing all of this? So that you see a small part of life, a small part of the world with the beauty that it has. So that you can see, like me, what native love is. A personal version of it yes but one that we could all benefit from.

kindred souls

 To see true beauty

The words below are not my words but rather words that were given to me. I wish to share them with you as they exemplify a wonderful philosophy.

If on your walk through life you are never introduced to true beauty, you will never recognize it. But once you see true beauty in one person, you have no choice but to see that same beauty in everyone you meet. We are all examples of true beauty.

native couple

Isn’t that beautiful? We are all different examples of true beauty. We all have that beauty in all of us. Someone just needs to see it, as we sometimes cannot see it ourselves. That person saw it in me and I am eternally grateful for it.

Native American concept of love

Ok the same person told me about the Native concept of love. A true love.

There are three main sources of attraction in the love of human beings. Attraction to the spirit, the mind and body. To have mutual attraction of the spirit gives birth to friendship. To have mutual attraction to the mind gives birth to respect. To have mutual attraction to the body gives birth to desire. To have the combination of all three sources of attraction gives birth to a real true love. A Native love 🙂

I do not know about you but I find this to be very beautiful and touching. Love is an abstract concept and in a sense, an individual one. We love differently, we love some people differently than others. To connect with someone on a spiritual level is one of the most profound connections we can have with someone. A connection that transcends the physical world. A very deep connection. When that is combined with a physical connection and a more intellectual and emotional one, well then you have something you should hold on to 🙂 It took me a while to see I had that.

indian love

I want to end with a poem, a very sweet poem that touches me deeply. Those words I could not understand back then but can now see them for what they are. I can now appreciate them and love them for the reassurance they provide. A reassurance I felt myself needing.

Sleep my lovely lady, dream such beautiful dreams. Fulfill your every fantasy, dine with kings and queens.

This is your moment in paradise, enjoy it while you can. This is your moment in paradise.

Walk with dignity and pride for you have nothing to hide. This is your moment in paradise, enjoy it while you can.

For when the sun shines bright I”ll hold you tight and kiss all your pains away.

native poem

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Mishomis: The Grandfather spirit

Mishomis: the Grandfather spirit

Hello all!rocks on a beach

In my previous post, I discussed the concepts of Ain-dah-ing and Mash-kow-wisen, concepts introduced in Blackwolf Jones’ book Listen to the Drum. Blackwolf Jones discusses one’s inner peace and strength and one’s home and safe place within one’s heart, portraying a message of healing. Of our capacity to heal ourselves. I have followed his teachings over the past year and I am grateful for them. They have helped me find peace and strength. Therefore, today I wish to discuss another related concept, the concept of Mishomis.

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Spiritual inner strength

Our spiritual inner strength and home within ourselves

Hello everyone!

A year ago I read a book that enlightened me so much that I just have to share some of its

Blackwolf Jones

Blackwolf Jones

content and philosophy with you. The Book is called Listen to the Drum by Blackwolf Jones and Gina Jones. You can also find it in my resources section here. Blackwolf is an Ojibway man and his writing is just simply beautiful and touching. In the past year I found myself going through some tough times and really leaned on Blackwolf’s words and teachings to find my spiritual inner strength as well as my bigger purpose in life. Following the Red Road truly helped me remain calm, serene (up to a point…) and okay with whatever came my way. So let us look at some of Blackwolf’s teachings in regard to inner strength.

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Springtime: The East direction

It’s Springtime! The East direction and its meaning

Hello all!

I know I am a few days late as Spring was officially here over a week ago….But the change of spring timeseasons within the Native culture is important so I wanted to discuss it here. This is a short post as I have covered some of this in my post about the medicine wheel. But let us look at what Spring is, when seen from the East direction.


The Eastern Journey of Spring

Ah Spring! For some of you it means the melting of the snow, the flowers peeking out from the ground, the warmth of the sun getting stronger, the smell of blooming trees in the air. Or it means allergies for some others…lol! But over all, our relations in nature awaken, communicate with us, the birds are singing, the animals are out and about, the trees are green and lush, the sky is blue (generally…). Our cousins, brothers and sisters are alive! There is a fresh smell in the air (not always a good smell but a smell nonetheless). sunlight

The Medicine Wheel and yellow

If we think back about the concept of the Medicine wheel, which is divided in 4 quadrants, East, South, West and North, we know that the East direction is associated with Spring. As well as with the color yellow, the color of the sunlight and of spring. The East direction is also the direction of childhood, of new beginnings. It is where we begin our journey in the cycle of life, where we enter the physical world. It is the direction of the first light, of light of Mother Earth. I am sure you have heard the expression “spring cleaning”, which when one thinks about it, is a new beginning. We get rid of the old, of the excess baggage and start fresh. Spring time, in the East direction is a new beginning, of ourselves but also of nature all around us.

Magnolia trees

With new beginnings come changes in our lives. I personally see it as a more appropriate time for our “new year resolutions”. As it is a time of rebirth in a sense, where as a child we come from the spiritual world into the physical world. That’s one heck of a change! But it’s a more natural transition than it seems. Just like death is, as I see it not as death but rather a change of worlds. We leave the physical world to return to the spiritual world. But I digress…My point is use the East direction as a time of change, a time of improvement, a time to start new projects. Use the East direction to look at how you can find balance within your life, how you can overcome challenges. How you can connect with nature more, a nature which is waking up. forest creekGrow your own herbs, your vegetables, plant flowers to brighten your days. Smell the roses as they say! Embrace your new beginning!



I leave you with two quotes, which I love. The first one is from Chief Dan George, a Coast Salish chief from the Burrard Inlet in BC, Canada (where I am :)).

May the starts 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.

The second one is from Ten Bears, a Yamparika Comanche chief.

My heart is filled with joy when I see you here, as the brook fills with water, when the snows melt in the spring, and I feel glad as the ponies are when the fresh grass starts in the beginning of the year.

Happy Spring everyone!

Native American hoop dancing

Native American Hoop Dancing

Hello all!

Hoop dancer

Hoop dancer

If you follow my Facebook page, you know that I regularly attend Pow wows. And I have to say that one of the most spectacular dancing I have seen is Native American hoop dancing. I mean it’s almost like watching an acrobat in a circus but one wearing beautiful regalia and telling a story. I don’t say this in a derogatory fashion but rather with admiration. So today, I want to talk about the story of the Native American hoop dance. And let’s get something straight right away: native hoop dancing is NOT like hula hoop dancing.



Where does the hoop dance come from?

Well there are different versions of how the hoop dance was created. It is centuries old for sure and it is a story telling dance (more on that below). As for its origins, some will say that the Creator gave wooden hoops to a dying man from the Plains, who wanted a gift to leave behind. Another origin comes from the Anishnaabe culture. A little boy did not have the typical male interests as he preferred to be alone and watch animals. Therefore he was shun by his father and earned the name Pukawiss “the unwanted”. However, the little boy continued to study animals and their movement, such as eagles, bears, or snakes. In no time he was copying their movement, spinning like an eagle in flight for example. He then went on to create the Hoop dance and taught it to others to teach them about the ways of the animals. Simply put, it was a hit and everyone wanted in!

hoop dancing

So what does the Hoop dance represent and what does it involve?

The hoop dance is done with as many hoops as 40 and is performed by a single dancer. Yes you read that right. 40 hoops!! Used by one person! The hoops are used dynamically and in a static manner (like the picture above in which you can see spheres created by the dancer). The dance typically begins with one hoop though. If you think of a hoop, well it is a circle and we now know that the circle is a very significant shape within the native culture. It represents the sacred cycle of life, the never ending cycle. The Medicine wheel, the four stages of life. As well as the interconnectedness of us all, the fact that we all are related, part of a circle. The hoops represent all the elements that come together, the elements being connected. Slowly, hoops are added representing different elements, including animals, other humans or the life elements such as water or air or even life events such as marriage. The hoops and movements of the dancer are evocative of animals movements. Indeed, the formations made with hoops can represent wings or a tail for example.

Hoop dancer

Hoop dancing today

Hoop dancing has evolved over time and has incorporated techniques or even accompanying music that can be non traditional.  The dance is now very competitive (and danced with more rapid movements theses days it seems) but for some nations is considered to be a healing hoop dancerdance. Hoop dancers do not take classes or learn watching videos. They learn typically from a more experienced dancer. Not all dancers dance alike and not all of them will share the same vision of the dance. Different styles are then out there.

And dancers do not buy their hoops. You should not be buying dancing hoops in a store. Making native american dancing hoops is an art and each hoop is made by hand. Different colors are used either to match the dancer’s attire or due to a specific significance. One thing is for sure, learning how to make hoops is an honor that one should cherish.

In conclusion, hoop dancing is a form of story telling, it is an expression of a culture, a connection to the past and an embodiment of the concept of All my relations. It is a passing on of traditions from past generations to future generations. It is an art form that will outlive all of us. I leave you with a video of world championship hoop dancer, Brian Hammill. The quality could be better but the dancing is spectacular. You can actually see the animals in his dancing. He also explains his vision of hoop dancing. Definitively worth watching! Wow!!




Apache Sunrise Ceremony

Apache Sunrise ceremony: Celebration of puberty

Hello everyone!sunrise ceremony

After doing some research, I decided to write about a ceremony with a beautiful meaning and spirit: the Sunrise Ceremony also known as a coming of age ceremony within the Apache culture. As information about the ceremony is available online, I felt it was not disrespectful to discuss it here. It seems to me to be more like a ritual, a rite of passage celebrating the coming of age of a young woman. It nonetheless remains a trying ceremony physically as well as spiritually, a ceremony we will examine together.


What is the Sunrise ceremony? What does it entail?

The Apache Sunrise ceremony or na’ii’ees is an arduous 4 day ceremony that an Apache girl goes through after her first menstruation (the “moon cycle”). The ceremony takes place in the summer following the girl’s first menstruation (always begins on a Friday). For four days and four nights, the girls will dance and run into the four directions (symbolizing the four stages of life, beginning in the east). The girls also receives and gives gifts, being introduced to their ability to heal. For over 70 years, however, the Sunrise ceremony was not permitted to be practiced as it was banned by the US government (as were most of native spiritual practices and rituals). With the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, the Sunrise ceremony could openly be practiced on reservations again.

apache girl, sunrise ceremony

Mixture of cornmeal and clay being applied

The ceremony often involves months of preparation and teachings beforehand. Making the girl’s symbolic attire and building the lodge requires time and effort. The girl also has to undergo a physical and demanding regime to strengthen her physical endurance. Her family is also involved, as they provide the food and gifts to those in attendance.

Once the ceremony begins, the girl is guided by the medicine man and her sponsor (a godmother who is spiritually strong and a model of wisdom) through many “events or stages”. This includes hours of dancing (increasing as the days go by) oftentimes in tandem with a partner she chooses. Running is also part of the ceremony with the girl running to the four directions. Overall, it is an intense physical ceremony for the girl. However, it is interspersed with massages from the girl’s sponsor to “mold her” into Changing woman or White Painted Woman (see below). It is also a spiritually intense ceremony, involving numerous hours of singing, chanting and praying.

girl being massaged, sunrise ceremony

Girl being massaged by her godmother during day 2

Finally, as you see from the pictures above and below, the girl is covered (let’s face it is more than a sprinkle) with a mixture of clay and corn meal that she cannot wash off for the four days (a test in mental strength right there!). During the last day of the ceremony, she blesses her people with pollen as well as gets in touch with her healing powers by healing those who seek her touch and blessing.

apche sunrise ceremony

What does the Sunrise ceremony re-enacts?

The Sunrise ceremony re-enacts the legend of White Painted Woman who survived the great flood in an abalone shell and gave birth to 2 sons after being impregnated first by the sun then by the rain. Her sons go on killing the Owl Man Giant who terrorized the tribe. At their return, White Painted Woman let out a cry of triumph and delight, often re-created by the girl’s godmother within the ceremony. Following her sons’ success, White Painted Woman established a puberty rite to be given to all daughters born to her people. When she becomes old, White Painted Woman walks toward east until she meets her younger self, merging into her younger self thus becoming young again and forever repeating the cycle.

A girl who goes through the ceremony of transition into womanhood is believed to be provided with special blessings. It is not for the faint of heart and is taken seriously by the young girl and her family. It involves a lot of preparation and a financial commitment on the part of the girl’s family (in modern days, families often combine so that the ceremony can be performed for more than one girl, reducing financial costs). The selection of a godmother also involves specific steps. Indeed, the godmother is not given any warning as to when she will be asked and is asked in the hours preceding the sunrise. An eagle feather and a turquoise stone are often brought and given in appreciation.

sunrise ceremony

The purpose of the Apache Sunrise ceremony

As one can see, the Sunrise ceremony is an intense one on many levels. Through the re-enactment of the story of White Painted Woman, it helps the young girl connect with her spiritual heritage, oftentimes for the first time. Through White Painted Woman, the girl surmounts her weaknesses and discovers her ability to heal and gets to know her spiritual sacredness and power. The young girl also learns what it means to become a woman. This is done first through the presence of menstruation and with her increase physical strength. I don’t know about you but it seems to me that the young girls going through this ceremony are strong and certainly demonstrate endurance through the training beforehand and the ceremony itself. I would compare it to the Sundance process including the years of preparation and the actual days of dancing.

The Sunrise ceremony, in a beautiful and organic way helps the young girl enter womanhood, experience hard work, heal others and even in the face of hard work and physical exhaustion, to present herself in a dignified and pleasant way. It is a ceremony of giving and receiving for both the girl and the community. It brings people, families and tribes together, providing a sense of unity. Just a beautiful ceremony with a strong meaning.

All my Relations