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The sound–like sleet upon a roof

draws me outside to see

a great flock of European Starlings

filling the surrounding fall trees.

surrounding me.

 

 

 

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Dear Readers,

In two weeks, I am going to present at a fortune 100 company as part of their diversity program. I have a half hour for my presentation and a four-by-eight table on which to place pictures or things. I get to talk about being “Indian”.  (In my case, being a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and having ancestors from the Red lake, Leech Lake and White Earth bands as well.) I suppose my audience will be people I’ve met from a relative’s department, and perhaps some of the big wigs from the company.

Having lived on and off the reservation and having degrees in American Indian Studies and psychology, it would be easy for me to come up with my perception of what being Indian means.  However, as part of the presentation, I would like to know and present two things. 1) What you would like to know about a person/people from these cultures if you are not from there, and 2) what you would like other people to know if you are.

For fellow Anishinabeg, I’m aware that we come from many different  reservations, reserves, places and experiences, and want to take this into account. But I need your input in order to do so. If you would like me to keep your replies confidential, I can do that, as this blog is set up so that I have to approve,  and can edit, your reply before posting it. I would however like to use your reply and at least note where it comes from.

Yours Sincerely,

Russell Littlecreek

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How high does an Eagle have to fly

in order to take your prayer to Heaven?

 

About 3 feet.

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Cemetery

Are the dead meant to fade away?

Are our forebears meant to be forgotten,
when the ones who loved them pass away?

Spirit houses are not made to last.
They are new at the time of death
and old and decrepit after a short time,
a few years.

This so the spirits of those who linger
near the world of the living
have time to transition.

In some of the reservation cemeteries,
there are the newest graves at the front,
with their gaudy plastic flowers and mementos
and bright and shiny polished granite
fading to graves halfway back.

On these, no plastic blooms.
They are the somber, weathered, dusty tombstones;
some in the lichen covered, obsolete limestone,
of those who could afford them.

And the simple wooden crosses
rotting and askew,
of those who could not.

And further back still,
the depressions in the grass
of those old, old ones,
silent and unattended,
unmarked and forgotten.

The lost ones

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Hand DrumHere is a picture of a drum I made way back on December 12th, 1975 (A year out of High School) My sister owns it now.
In a somewhat stylized painting of Anishinabeg drawings, it represents the people of the four directions: Red, White, Black, and Yellow; while also representing the four directions themselves.
Note: I believe it is ok to use this style of drawing in one’s art because the symbols had individual meaning and were the property of their owner and were passed to another as such. They did not have a universal meaning. And, as long as one does not try to pass oneself off as being a Mide’ (unless you are one) this style of drawingis a part of being Anishinabeg.
The horizontal line through the middle represents the separation between the world of the living and the world of the dead.  
The accent lines pointing to the hands and feet of the man and woman in this world represent their power to move, act, etc., in short, their power to do everything that a person with a body can do in this world.
Notice that the spirits of the man and woman do not have hands and feet, which signifies that they lack some of the power that comes from having a body in this world.
On the left is a drawing of Mishipeshew-the great water Lynx. He represents an evil spirit. The red fire coming out of his mouth represents “the fiery darts of the adversary”, which tempt the people of the world.
 
Note the line coming from  his heart to his mouth. This is called the heart line, and  it also represents that what comes out of a person’s mouth comes from his heart. Mishipeshew is also reflected in the spirit world to represent that he has the power to influence the spirits of people there as well.
The tree represents the tree of life, which is a symbol of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (I believe that many of the Mide’ symbols are remnants from the time that Christ visited this continent.) It exists in this world and in the spirit world.
The figure on the right is the Holy Ghost, which operates in both worlds as well. (The Holy Ghost is a little faded because some of the white paint wore off  🙂    )

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Is it a wonder,

 

an Eagle soars where prayers are offered?

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The question is not: “How many spiritual leaders are there in Red Lake?” because whether we see it or not, or whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, the fact is, we are all spiritual leaders.
Rather the question is only: “What kind of spiritual leaders do we choose to be in Red Lake?”

Who is a spiritual leader?

Elders: While some elders never learn their lessons, old age can be conducive to spirituality. Disease, accidents or consequence due to lack of impulse control or wrong choices kill off many of The People in their prime of life.
In general, people who make wise choices tend to live longer.

Most elders aren’t as driven by their hormones as teenagers because they are older. (Elders may not have as many hormones.) They may have little or no sex drive or are not as impulsive because of a lack of hormones.
Elders don’t sleep as much, or as well, so they have more time to think, or do other things.

Parents are spiritual leaders by example as are aunts, uncles, older brothers, sisters,  siblings, and twins.

Teens and pre-teens are spiritual leaders  because their peers look to them for social approval over any other age group at this stage of their development.

Little children are spiritual leaders because not yet having learned the vices of the world, they are innocent, and virtuous. By  being who they are, they teach and remind those of us who may have abandoned some of those virtues as we grew older,  to re-examine and reclaim them.

Whether we want to be or not, Red Lakers are visible because we may look different. It can be hard to hide being Anishinabeg. Therefore, we are spiritual examples of being Anishinabeg whether we want to be or not.

Whether we believe we are participating or not, we are spiritual examples. We are an example of participation in spiritual things when we do, just as we are an example of non-participation in spiritual things when we don’t participate.

How do spiritual leaders lead?
I know where the best wild rice lakes are because someone showed me and now I can show you. Spiritual leaders lead by experience gained through faith and knowledge. They believed that the best wild rice lake was there even though they could not immediately see it, and acting on the belief, searched until they found it. Having gained the knowledge through the experience of their search, they could tell or show you how to get there.

Caregiver, servant, teacher, guide, helper or rescuer are just other names for  a spiritual leader .

One can never be better than others  when one is a spiritual leader because being better than someone else is a false assumption, that is because we can only be better than we were.

I have heard it said that there is no up or down when it comes to spiritual leadership because being higher or lower is a false comparison; as if being better than who we were somehow makes us better than other people. It doesn’t. It is just a matter of  our making individual progress.

It is a common assumption that being spiritual means being good. That is an erroneous assumption. Spirituality is neutral until we place a value on it. Spiritual leaders can be good, bad, and evil.

If a person is a good spiritual leader, it is because they practice being virtuous. Virtuous action is a result of choosing to be virtuous. While one can have ulterior motives to doing things that appear virtuous, usually the reason is because one wants to be good.

If a person is a bad spiritual leader, it is not necessarily because they want to hurt other people but  because they are trying to be good but are making mistakes.

An evil spiritual leader is a person who acts intending to cause pain or suffering, or intending to hurt or destroy another person–whether physically, spiritually or socially.

Connecting with a higher power can only be done by virtue.

Connecting with a lower power can only be done by vice.

We cannot do the one and expect to connect with the other.

 

Just a few stray thoughts.

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