Manataka American Indian Council
My Journey to Manataka
My trip to Manataka actually started almost two years ago. I don’t think it was just a coincidence either. It was meant to happen. I was doing some research on the web for wedding ceremonies and came across the Manataka website. The reason for my searching for the ceremonies is irrelevant to the story and hard to explain, so I will skip that detail for now. I ended up sending Lee Standing Bear Moore an email, asking his permission to use the ceremony he had on the site. I always try to get permission from anyone if I intend to use things I find on the web or in the written word.
In all honesty I was not sure when his first reply came back if he was angry or upset but it started a dialogue which continues to this very day. The final word on whether or not to use the ceremony fell upon my shoulders entirely, since Bear told me that the ceremonies did not belong to anyone so he could not give permission for me to use them. However, he did present a moral dilemma for me, which developed into more conversations (via email) with Bear. This series of emails with Bear led to questions about spirituality, religions and various genealogy questions.
Standing Bear was VERY patient with me and all my questions. He was understanding, kind and (as everyone knows) has much wisdom to share! He shared his wisdom with me willingly and openly. I am so very thankful to him for his open and honest answers.
What Bear shared with me during our conversations (through emails) came at a time in my life when I needed it, at a time when I was open and receptive to what he was teaching me. You see, I have tried to go to church, (Catholic, Unitarian, Methodist, etc) but there was always something missing! I am NOT knocking any religion or faith because I would never do that! I am just saying that I personally could not quite find what it was I needed.
My own spirituality was left unfulfilled and I was searching for something to fill that void in my life. I think I had basically given up at that point. I have had a few of what I call ‘spiritual’ moments in my life, and those moments were not in a church but in nature. I eventually filled out an application to join Manataka, openly and honestly writing about my journey of spirituality and faith on the application. Thankfully, it was approved.
So thus was the beginning of my membership into Manataka. It’s been close to a couple of years now. Later on that year, after joining Manataka, my husband lost his job. It was very stressful until he found a new one. My daughter too was going through many changes. The kids made fun of her at school and she was flunking. My family became my focal point for a while (as it should be) but I would always read the Manataka Smoke Signal, from top to bottom. So though my life was a bit unstable, I had not forgotten Manataka nor Standing Bear.
My husband did eventually find a job and not just a job but a really wonderful job. My husband is a hard worker and this company (Juniper Networks formerly Netscreen) actually rewards hard work. My husband travels a lot with this job, so I get to use his FFM [frequent flyer miles] to go places. In fact this company is so nice, they sent us to Hawaii and paid for the entire thing (except taxes). I never would have gotten to visit such a gorgeous place had it not been for them. We are so very, very blessed that my husband has this job now.
Back to the story… Once things got straightened out with my family, my daughter and so forth, I began to think about Manataka again. One day while visiting the web site, I was ‘told’ that I must go to Manataka this year and that I should not wait.
My travel plans for the trip went smoothly and I used my husbands FFM so the cost was reasonable. I even had surgery on May 20 so I could enjoy Manataka even more! Yes, I went through minor surgery a month before my trip! I had wanted to have the surgery anyway, but this pushed me to do it sooner and I am so very happy I did! I did not ignore the message I was sent and looked forward to the Manataka gathering immensely. I also decided to bring my wonderful daughter and make it into a mother/daughter vacation. (One lady in a Hot Springs gift shop, looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears when I told her that. LOL)
I was pretty nervous before the gathering. I had read all the protocols and information before I got there (about 50 times I swear), but I was still really nervous. I wasn't sure if I would 'fit in' or not. I have to say that I truly enjoyed the ceremonies and meeting everyone! I cried during the making of a relative ceremony and after the ceremony I felt part of something truly special and after that particular ceremony, I seemed to settle in and then really, really enjoyed everything and everyone. (I took my oath to Manataka very seriously, so perhaps that was part of why I relaxed once it was complete.) I felt a sense of peace and belonging, which is unusual for me. I honestly felt like I was a part of something beautiful and unique. The Naming Rites Ceremony was beautiful and very touching, my spirit felt lifted... alive! The Bear Ceremony was wonderful! A nice guy named Joe explained everything that was going on so we could understand. It made my child and I connect to the ceremony on a deeper level, so we enjoyed so much more.
Though my daughter and I did not partake in every event, we still had a wonderfully uplifting and enjoyable time. My daughter and I left with a good feeling inside. We missed the trade blanket and I still have the gift I brought, it's a pretty abalone shell with sage and home made soap inside it. It smells great and I put it in my bedroom. Abalone was used quite a bit by the Native Americans in my area.
It was hard to say goodbye and in fact I probably didn't say goodbye to as many as I had wanted to, I was afraid I was going to burst into tears if I did. I don't think I ever felt so close to a group of 'strangers' (but now family) before in my life. I really want to go back again as soon as possible. In fact as I write this I am feeling a sort of strange sadness at being so far away. Apparently it is normal to feel this way and my challenge is to bring that sense of spirituality into my everyday life.
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