Manataka® American Indian Council
Manataka Sacred Grounds being Developed
As we hike the trails of Manataka Mountain today, we find no monuments to the gentle people who were once the keepers of Manataka (Place of Peace). Only the Grandfathers now tell the story of the Rainbow Woman who blessed and guarded the Valley and the healing waters of Nówâ-sa-lon, the hot springs.
But this is about to change. On the southeast slope of Manataka (Hot Springs) Mountain, cross the street from Hot Springs National Park, there was a small house built in 1920 that was demolished in 2010. This little house sat on a half-acre, three city lots, of sacred ground; a little piece of the sacred mountain.
Recently Linda Bear Woman Speaks VanBibber of Independence, Missouri donated the land to the Manataka American Indian Council. MAIC received a clear-title deed to this private property for use in perpetuity for ceremonies and other functions. Linda is a retired marketing executive and a member of Manataka since 2001.
"It’s all yours. A piece of sacred land needing much love and attention. I had felt that by cleaning up this small parcel, we would be contributing to preserving the sacredness of Manataka and extending a powerful vibration of love and healing throughout Mother Earth. May it be so," said Linda VanBibber.
Why Manataka Needs Ceremonial Grounds on the Sacred Mountain
For many years, MAIC successfully worked with the National Park Service in conducting spiritual gatherings at Gulpha Gorge. From 1927 to 1945, Chief Benito Gray Horse led ceremonies in the Gorge and after his death, his wife, Napanee Gray Horse led ceremonies in Gulpha Gorge until 1989. From 1989 to 2006, Lee Standing Bear Moore and the Elders of Manataka conducted American Indian ceremonies at the Gorge without incident. In cooperation with the NPS, members of Manataka regularly picked up trash along creek beds and on the mountain, animals and birds were cared for, and visitors to the park were treated to campfire stories and singing.
All that abruptly changed. In 2004, Josie Fernandez was given a political appointment to the position of Superintendent of the Hot Springs National Park. Immediately, Fernandez began a reign of terror against Manataka and other Indian-looking groups. She made it impossible to obtain a religious permit to conduct ceremonies.For several years MAIC has attempted to obtain a permit for a gathering in Gulpha Gorge to conduct ceremony at the foot of the sacred mountain. These permits, however, were withheld due to religious prejudice and bureaucratic demagoguery.
Groping for a reason to deny MAIC a permit, Josie Fernandez, threw a photo of a circle of stones on the table in front of two Manataka elders, as she yelled "this is proof that MAIC destroyed park property..." Later in the meeting she stated that MAIC would be given the same rights as she would give to other "heathens and pagans." Fernandez demanded a huge financial bond after she designated Manataka's sacred ceremonial tipi lodge a "commercial" entertainment devise.
The right of religious freedom guaranteed by the US constitution is clearly being violated. MAIC reserves its option to file federal and state law suits against Fernandez for this and other constitutional rights violations, but the Elders of Manataka walk in peace and refrain from legal fist shaking that tends to sensationalize issues. A lawsuit may fail to change the hearts of antagonistic people, even though it could adversely change their pocketbook. The decision on this issue awaits the Elders.
Still, it is apparent that Josie Fernandez has some fear of MAIC. In 2007, the Hot Springs National Park Service published a book that claims Manataka was never considered a sacred site by indigenous peoples. Poorly argued, starting with the premise of 'what is not', the book was authored by a government park service employee who acknowledges that he was allowed to write the book while on the job. This book was researched, written and published using taxpayer dollars.
Also in 2007, Fernandez played a major role in writing a hate website called 'Manataka Exposed' created a rouge organization called the American Indian Heritage Center (AIHC). The website was developed by a former National Park Service employee. AIHC has no 'center', no address, no telephone number, no members, and no activities,except to promote hate with false allegations.
Fernandez then paid tax dollars to have an elaborate display of Hot Springs history in the enclosed observation level at Hot Springs Mountain Tower. The display lavishly depicts recent history, but thousands of years of American Indian history is barely mentioned, except for one large panel that shows a picture of the holy Mother of the Mountain, Rainbow Woman, and the words “Myth” and “Manataka” in large letters. The sign contains a number of slurs and lies about Hot Springs history. This sign is sacrilegious and an abomination of bigotry at its worst! And, the display also violates Manataka’s legal trademark!
At the same time Superintendent Fernandez was suing the Hot Springs Advertising and Tourist Promotion Commission in federal court for trademark infringement, she was stealing the MAIC name and logo. And, she did it to degrade the sanctity of the ancient stories of Manataka. Fernandez lost her federal law suit against the City.
In 2007 and 2008, park rangers continued to harass and threaten MAIC members but much less frequently because the Elders moved gatherings and small events to other locations around the city and performed ceremonies on top of the mountain only at night and other special times to avoid confrontations. Over time, MAIC members and their ceremonies became invisible to Superintendent Fernandez.
As taxpayers, we all paid for the bigoted actions of Fernandez. Born and raised in communist Cuba under Fidel Castro, she learned ways to use government power to destroy indigenous people. Now she wants to erase all memories of the sacred places across this country. Fernandez and her bureaucrat minions say Indians never used the sacred waters. They say there is no history of the Nations gathering here.
But the Grandfathers of many nations still tell of this sacred ground that holds meaning for all First Nations people; a place where pilgrimages were made from as far away as Central America, to join in the great circle of peace, pray, perform ceremonies and await the secrets of life given by the Creator of All Things.
These stories are honored and preserved by the Manataka American Indian Council (MAIC). Each year MAIC offers several educational gatherings, free to the public. But MAIC has not been allowed to obtain the permit necessary to perform the sacred ceremonies that the Grandfathers once performed. Since 2008, Manataka Elders have refused to apply for a permit. According to Lee Standing Bear Moore, the Keeper of Manataka, "We will never ask permission to pray from a bureaucrat." Manataka is a church and the Manataka American Indian Council is a church and we do not ask any one where, when or how to pray."
MAIC persists in the ways of the ancestors and in keeping with the high principals and ethics of indigenous people.
Members and guests of Manataka endured strong-arm harassment, insults and illegal searches by Fernandez's park rangers. Our religious ceremonies were interrupted by loud, billy-club wielding rangers on several occasions on orders from Fernandez. Leaders of MAIC have been threatened with arrest while praying inside the sacred circle. Many of our guests and grandmothers were intimidated and frightened away from the gatherings.
Now that will change. Now we will have a site designated for ceremony on the eastern slope of the Sacred Mountain.
Anyone driving by this property would not consider it of much value. After the property is cleared and cleaned, it will be a slice of sacred ground on which we can pray and conduct ancient ceremony in the way of the Grandfathers. At the same time, all visitors will have easy access to the sacred Manataka Mountain.
It is a place where the past and the present can meet in the hearts of our children.
It will take a lot of work and a lot of love and dedication to turn this property into a place of beauty for the people. Spirit has shown that a Medicine Wheel garden planted with native herbs gathered for healing by our ancestors will be created.
The Manataka Medicine Wheel will have a Peace Pole with “PEACE” engraved in the many languages of the First Nations people who pray here and in the languages of visitors from around the globe.
A Sacred Fire Circle will be built for prayer and ceremony. A purification lodge will be available. We also plan to build a pavilion and other facilities on the land. But we have more Heart than we have money for these projects, so we are asking our readers and supporters for assistance. The grounds will not be used to stage unrelated events or powwows.
Donations of labor, plant material, building material and money would all be deeply appreciated. Excavation equipment and labor donations would also be gratefully accepted. We will need lots of hearts and hands. And if you don’t have any of these to offer, we also need good thoughts and prayers.
If you would like to help, in any way, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you would like to participate. Or to make a donation now, go to: http://www.manataka.org/page201.html -- Scroll down to Manataka Sacred Grounds. MAIC is a non-profit organization and all donations of services and goods are tax deductible.
We are not building this for ourselves. We are building the Manataka Sacred Grounds for our children and your children. We are building for the future of our culture. May the Spirit of Peace that is the essence of Manataka be with you.
Here are some preliminary drawings -- nothing set in stone yet. What do you think?
Entry Walk Way
Medicine Wheel Garden
Stone Council House
Amphitheater with Thatched Roof Pavilions
Purification Lodge and Thatched Roof Pavillion
Designs by David G. Massey
It is our prayer to one day add an American Indian museum on these grounds.
It is our prayer that problems with the National Park Service will cease to exist.
It is our prayer that people of all nations will come to Manataka to give thanks
To the Creator of All Things
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