The Advanced Civilization Of The Adena

We might be able to give some credit to the Adena civilization for at least advancing the use of totems in Native American culture. This civilization is believed to have lived in what is now the United States from about 1000 to 200 BC. At one time it was considered that they were prominent in areas of Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and a small part of Pennsylvania and New York. However, an archaeological dig in Pig Point, Maryland is finding some evidence that at least a community of Adena peoples lived for awhile in the part of Maryland where the Patuxent River converges with its western branch. They have found items that would have belonged to Adena people. It could be that they were traded as the Adena had quite large trading network. However, there are pipes that would have been considered special that were found in trash areas…not something that another people would have thrown away.

The Adena preceded the Hopewell civilization in pre-historic America and some believe that the Hopewell embraced the teachings and traditions of the Adena and then advanced them even further. I am getting ahead of myself, though. The Adena are known for the burial mounds  and other mounds that appear to have had a ritualistic purpose. However, this civilization is also known for its artistic works, pottery making, and agricultural practices.

advanced civilizations
Advanced Civilizations of Prehistoric America: The Lost Kingdoms of the Adena, Hopewell, Mississippians, and Anasazi

There are specific motifs that the Adena created in their works that were continued by the Native American traditions that came after them. They started using the cross, circles, and weeping eye that we still see in Native American art today. The connection that I thought was interesting was the art that was created showing humans turning into an animal and then back again. I wonder if this was a way to show what your totem was by having a piece of this animal art on your person. It is typically practiced that way now showing that the animals spirit is with you. It would appear that the Adena might have at least started showing the totem connection in their artful jewelry.

I think that it is exciting that they are finding evidence that the Adena along with other civilizations have inhabited more land than originally was thought by scientists. The Adena were so advanced for the time that they lived here on earth that their society actually had skilled tradespeople who crafted items for the communities use and also items that could be traded with other peoples who lived in other areas. Far from the primitive way that so many people think of pre-historic people to have been.

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related

Native American Basket Symbols

Have you ever wondered what the Native American basket symbols mean when you see them? Sometimes it seems obvious if the symbol is of an animal, although the meaning might be different than you might expect. I just saw a most incredible collection of Native American baskets and it gave me the idea for this post. I have listed some of the meanings that I have found and hope that you find them interesting.

frog basket symbol

Feathers: A single feather on a basket would designate honor or it is also the symbol for prayers. A circle of feathers woven into a basket symbolizes the sun and also our Creator.

Frog: If a frog is woven into the basket design it represents fertility and also the season of Spring.

Bear: If the weaver placed a bear in their basket design it represents power and strength along with it being the symbol of leadership.

Deer: When sister or brother deer has been woven into the design of a basket it represents the protector of the home along with being the symbol for sacrifice.

Turtle: Weaving a turtle into the basket design represents a long life and can also be placed in a design to annoy Coyote (the trickster) who does not appreciate the slow and steady progress of brother turtle.

Apache Basketry

Apache Basketry

Whirling Logs: Often times the Whirling Logs are misinterpreted to be a swastika. The direction is reversed in the whirling logs design and actually signifies the circle of life and the four seasons of the year. If you look closely you can see one in the Apache basket above.

Certainly, there are many symbols that are found in Native American basket designs. I just touched on the ones that I see the most often in my encounters. Perhaps you can share with us a symbol in a basket that you are familiar with and what it represents. Feel free to leave it in a comment below.

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related

Grandmother Spider Gets Fire For The People

Choctaw tradition tells us that when People first came up out of the ground we were sheathed in cocoons.  Our eyes were closed and our limbs were folded tightly to our bodies. It is said that this was true of all People; the Birds, the Animals, the Insects, and the Humans. Great Spirit took pity on the People of Earth. He sent help down to unfold the limbs, dry each one off, and opened their eyes to see. The world was a dark place with no sun, moon, or stars at the time so the opened eyes saw nothing. The People had to move around by touch, hoping to find something to eat that did not eat them first. They ate their food raw because there was nothing to cook it with.

A great Council was called for all the People to meet and decide what to do. The Animal and Bird People took the lead in the meeting while the Human People stayed in the back. The Animals and Birds decided that life was not good. It was cold and miserable! Can we fix this? A voice from the dark said, “I have heard that the people in the East have fire.” Many voices asked, “What could fire be?” After much discussion, it was decided that if fire was warm and gave light, they wanted it too. “But the people of the East are too greedy to share with us,” a voice was heard to say. The Bird People and the Animal People came to the conclusion that they would need to steal the fire for themselves.

Grandmother Spider volunteered first but no one listened to her tiny voice. First the council sent Opossum to hide the fire in his furry tail. He came back with no fire and a tail that no longer could grow fur.

Even though, Grandmother Spider offered to go again, the Council chose Buzzard to go next. At the time, Buzzard had lovely long feathers on his head. He planned to hide the fire on his head amongst his feathers. The People really did not understand how fire worked. So, Buzzard returned with no fire and no feathers on his head and would forever have a red and blistered looking neck.

Crow was known to be very clever so the Council sent him, next. With his sweet singing voice and snow white feathers Crow could surely find a way to get the fire. He stayed too long at the fire trying to find the best piece as is the way with Crows. His white feathers turned to black and his voice changed from the smoke into the “Caw” that we know today.

Grandmother Spider used her loudest voice this time, “PLEASE, LET ME TRY!” The Council felt that she would fail too but were willing to give her a turn. Grandmother Spider walked toward a stream where she had found clay. She created a tiny clay container with a lid that fit perfectly.  She placed a tiny notch for air in the corner of the lid. Placing the container on her back she spun a web all the way to the East. Grandmother Spider walked on her tiptoes until she came to the fire. She was so small that no one noticed her. She placed a tiny piece of fire in the container, covered it with the lid and used her web to get back to the Council. “Grandmother Spider brings no fire.” the People cried because they could not see anything.

“No,” she cried, “I do have the fire!” She gently took the pot from her back, lifted the lid, and the fire flamed up into the air. All the Birds and Animals began to confer as to who would get this wonderful warmth. Bear burned his paws on it and decided fire was not for animals. The Bird People saw what happened with Buzzard and Crow and decided it was not for them. The Insect People were intrigued with the beauty of the fire but wanted no part of it for their people.

The Human People were not very well thought of by the other People of Earth and had remained quiet through the proceedings. They asked if they could have the fire with Grandmother Spider’s help. So, Grandmother Spider taught the Human People how to feed the fire with sticks and wood. She showed them how stay safe from the fire and not to let it spread. Grandmother Spider taught them how to use the fire to cook their food and make utensils from the clay using fire.

I shared this legend with you today because when fire is used responsibly it provides us with warmth, light, and cooked food. When used negligently it can cause devastation. Last week, some children were playing with fire and caused one fine woman who many of us admire to experience A Total Loss to her home. Perhaps we can all find that inner flame inside us that sends the warmth of human kindness to help Susan and her family recover from this tragedy.

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related

Smoke Signals And A Revolution

Last week, I talked of the Sacred Path lesson of Smoke Signals and the message of Intent. Today, I would like to share a little history with you about Smoke Signals and the first revolution in what would become the United States.  Remember that Smoke Signals are an unspoken language?

Around 1680 the brave and peaceful Pueblo Indians were slaves to the invading Spaniards. The Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico had formerly been known as Aztlan. Long before Cortez and Coronado started their quests for gold the Aztecs had called this place home. Each Pueblo had a different set of laws and a different language. They all lived in peace with each other and in harmony with the Earth Mother and had for centuries.

A Pueblo Medicine Man, Popi, united each Pueblo and helped to orchestrate a revolt that crushed the old of the Spanish after many years of cruel domination. His brilliant plan signaled the return to power by those who had lived with the land instead of taking from it. Runners were sent to the first Pueblo with cores knotted in a certain way but were caught and killed by the Spanish. The Smoke Signals that told of revolution were sent out three days later. Sending the runners was pure subterfuge and the plan worked. The Spaniards tortured the two young runners and were told that a revolt was to take place on the fourth day after the runners were shot. The real plan was begun on the third day and it happened with the sending of the Smoke Signals.

The Smoke Signal

The Smoke Signal
John Mix Stanley
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Seeing the possibility of a victory by the peaceful Pueblo people, the Apaches decided to join the efforts in some areas and the Spanish were ousted from the mountains and valleys of Aztlan. The intent of the Native Americans was to reclaim their rights to their own Knowing Systems and to use their own Medicine. The Masks, Kachina Dolls, Rattles, Drums, Eagle feathers , and other sacred objects had been burned by the orders of the Catholic Padres in an effort to force Christianity upon the Pueblos. The Smoke Signals sent the intent to the People of the Sky Nation as a cry for freedom. The unity of one heart and one mind among the different tribes who could not communicate in each other’s language was accomplished from the unspoken tongues of Smoke Signals and knotted ropes.

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related

Twelve Days Of Christmas: A Native American Version

I can find no specific tribe associated with this Native American version of The Twelve Days Of Christmas. I did read one account that it possibly could have been written by a Missionary for the Huron as a way for them to remember his Christian teachings in a way they could better relate to.  I think it is beautiful and wanted to share it with you:

Gather my children. I have a song to teach you. It will help you remember the sacred things of our Grandfather, the reasons that He came to walk our land as he was clothed in Red Dirt. Remember the things He accomplished for us, among us, and through us. Remember, that all the ways we have walked before pointed us to this moment, when we humble humans are able to walk as sons and daughters of the Most Holy One.

On the First day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… an Eagle sitting on a cedar tree. (The eagle climbs the highest and takes our prayers to the highest places. The eagle is Jesus who was able also to climb to the Sky World.)

On the second day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… two wise owls. (The owls represent both death and sacred messages from the Holy places. They also represent the Old Testament and the New Testament that brought transformation and mercy.)

On the third day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… three sacred drums. (Drums beat out the sound of Mother Earth as we pray to the Grandfather. When you hear them beat, remember the Word creating the earth and the heavens.)

On the fourth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… four talking feathers. (The feathers remind us that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were given the talking feather by the Grandfather to tell His story to all of us.)

On the fifth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… five prayer bundles. (Remember that the Law of Nature is still to be followed, and we humbly submit to it as we offer our prayers.)

On the sixth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… six hawks a laying. (We celebrate the creation of Mother Earth. We thank Grandfather for giving us life. We often use the feathers of this creature to smudge ourselves in preparation of our prayer time.)

On the seventh day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… seven stones for my sweat lodge. (Remember the gifts of the Great Spirit are seven fold. We learn how to walk in these gifts through our awe and love of Him as we pray in our lodges.)

On the eighth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… eight great buffalo. (To remember the beatitudes – the teachings of Jesus. The buffalo represent His provision for our health and our existence. He blessed the people, the meek, those who weep, and the poor.)

On the ninth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… nine precious elders. (As we sit at the feet of our elders we hear how we can walk in the path of the Great Spirit. Our Elders have always taught these truths; we did not know that they were the same truths taught by the talking leaves that the white men have brought to us.)

On the tenth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… ten eagle dancers. (The eagle dancers sacrifice for the people during the Sun Dance. Our dancers dance to protect the people and to keep the people in a state of wholeness. The eagle dancers represent the ten commandments which were given to keep the people whole.)

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… eleven braids of sweet grass sage. (As we light it and send the smell of sweet grass to the Sky Nation, it invites those who dwell in the realm of the Grandfather to enter our world and help us. We remember the faithful disciples who stood ready to do His will and work.)

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Grandfather gave to me… twelve drummers singing. (The sacred drums cannot help us to pray if they do not have four drummers each to beat out the heartbeat of Mother Earth to the Great Spirit. When our people are on the drum, we call it singing, we call it praying. We know it to be much more than just drumming.)

Chippewa woman and child print

Mother and child

Merry Christmas to all of my readers….

~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related.