Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Here's a little something that was e-mailed to me shortly after my dad passed away that I thought would be great to share on his birthday. I add this to the blog as my daughter watches "Pocahontas" for the 3rd time in the past two days; while all the other girls her age are glued to "Cinderella" and "Snow White"! And this is how I know in my heart of hearts, that his spirit truly lives on.

Years ago, on one of the many opening mornings of hunting season that your Dad and I shared, he revealed something to me that I've never forgotten.

I had dropped him off before dawn so that he could wander back into a particular hammock. He had chosen the spot for his morning hunt on opening day. A mist shrouded, grove of stately live oaks draped with spanish moss on long drooping branches. A beautiful place, where the air was heavy and moist and still. Where the only sound was that of the owl, the whip-poor-will and the drip, drip, drip of heavy dew falling from the trees to the forest floor.

It was a wonderous place, a place that any outdoorsman would love. But a place where, for one reason or another, we seldom saw deer. For that reason, I was puzzled by the his choice. After all, opening morning was the best chance you would have all year to take a buck. Why would he pick a spot where his chances were so poor? And so when I picked him up later in our old jeep, I asked him why he had chosen his spot.

Your dad explained that he chose it because there was a tree in that hammock that he liked. A perfect tree, he said, to sit under and wait for dawn. And, as dawn broke, a perfect tree to lean back against while he began the season by reading aloud his prayer. Until then I wasn't aware of this ritual. I asked him about the prayer. He told me that it wasn't really a prayer to most, it was a letter written by an Indian chief to the President of the United States. But to your Dad the words were significant and embodied much of what he believed. So, he used it as his own special kind of prayer.

As you read this please understand that your father very much enjoyed studying the ancients. He was also captivated by the spirituality of those people we might refer to as primitive. He strongly believed that in many ways they were far more spiritually connected than modern man. I do believe that he felt a connection to them.

Keep in mind also that while this "letter/prayer" holds the sense of loss of a people on the fringe, I think it held special meaning for your father for that reason. I think he sometimes felt a kinship and a similar remorse at seeing a world going in a direction he could not favor.


The president in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The ideas is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
One thing we know: our God is your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know-there is only one God. No man, be he Red or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all.

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