Manataka™ American Indian Council
FEATURE STORY 3
by Norman Cordova
I think I have always had the heart of a hunter.
As a young boy I fashioned bows and arrows from willows and spent many hours scouting the trees and corrals that were in our back yard in mock hunt. The animals were my teachers as was the wind which blew through the cottonwoods. The spirit was with me, calling me and coaxing me to something beyond which made me strain to embrace and yet panged me because I was not there yet. My companions were my dog brothers and I ran with them. As a pack we moved and hunted, nothing, anything. They were comfort to an old soul and friends to share the warmth of the sun which sparkled on frozen, crusted snow or the coolness of the shade on a summer day.
It often takes time for life to settle our thoughts so that we can see in clarity the difference between what is on the surface of experience and the wisdom that lies underneath.
A hunter often lives in a place of tension between knowing the magnificence of an animal and feeling a kinship with it, yet killing that very same thing. As a hunter I have always felt this. It has only been until recently that I have come to understand that I have not been alone in my experience. Many aboriginal cultures exhibit this inner tension through the rituals of the hunt, expressions of the collective consciousness of the people. In Native Ways there is often the need to prepare oneself for a hunt, in a manner which purifies and focuses ones intention. In this way, the hunt takes on a spiritual dimension beyond rudimentary survival of the fittest. Among aboriginal cultures, there is often the need for atonement to the animal for taking its life. While foreign in western culture, a holy reverence is paid the animal who gives its life to the people as a bloody, selfless sacrifice only to be resurrected through spirit and born again. The animal becomes in essence the Spirit, who gives itself in sacrifice as food to the people only to be resurrected to be killed again.
In my own understanding, I acknowledge the spirit of the peoples; whether it be the deer people, the elk people, the bear people, the hawk people or the dog people. In the hunt I have always intuitively tried to be cognizant of the animal people whom I was hunting, not wanting to offend their tribe by disrespecting the sacrifice their people may give so that my people can live. Unfortunately, this type of respect has been overshadowed by the modern sporting industry which thinks only in terms of a “winner”, a “looser” and the “bravado of victory” replete with animals as trophy.
In the modern world many have lost touch with what is hard, with what is difficult.
During a time when food is abundantly displayed on shelves and walk-by grocery coolers it is difficult to fathom the hardship of a harvest or a hunt. To be sure, there are hunts which are pleasant days, moving through western sagebrush after a light snow, looking for rabbits with a good dog and a crisp trigger on a shotgun. These are good times and make for fine memories. Yet there are many, many more hunts which test character, endurance and the life within oneself. These are hunts of walking endless miles, feelings of frustration, loneliness in solitude and bitter freezing winds. These are the hardships that can shape an individual in the way of vision quest or dance. In each is the struggle to be present and aware without expectation or listening to the threat that ego will shatter if not coddled. It is during these hard hunts that I am reminded of the saying, “life is hard, anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something”.
It is spring time. I felt the cold of winter long enough. Yet even as my mind drifts to budding trees, green grass and new flowers, my heart looks past the summer and into the fall. I begin to sing my song inside and my heart beats steadier. For even now I am preparing myself for the hunt. My arms will be ready, my legs will be ready, my spirit will be ready and I will pray for the animals. I will pray that their people may live so that my people can live. That is how I will live, because that is my way, I am a hunter.
Norman Cordova is a New Mexican who grew up surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges. He was taught to hunt as a young boy by his grandfather and father. He has been blessed to have many good teachers along this journey and to count “Bear” as one of them.
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