Manataka American Indian Council











The Standing Nation (trees)

and the Give away bird (turkey)

By Waynonaha Two Worlds

Manataka Correspondent



Last night I lay awake listening to the world of the night. Frogs singing, night birds calling, and the sounds we cannot hear in the day time ever present in the wind.

This morning I woke up to a gray over cast rainy day.

The rain falls constantly now in the spring months, damping the thirsty ground that quickly drinks up the moisture.

Winter has been slow to leave the North Country, challenging the trees and plants that struggle up from the rich soil.

My hands ache to put seeds in the soil and watch them grow.  My feet need to be walking on the earth with nothing between me and my source of life.

The garden spot sits untilled waiting for the dampness to sink deeper into the still frozen land. I listen to the song of the frogs and they say,  “just a little longer to wait then all can be done”.

My daily walks take me along the river where  there are still small patches of ice clinging to the cold rocks. Snow patches hide here and there in the awaking plants and trees.

Soon the salmon and trout must make the journey up the small streams to spawn. The main rivers run high and wild with the constant rain, making it impossible for this to happen.

There has been flooding along some of the low lands this year from the heavy snow fall.

Near the river runs a path that we have been using for many years. My children now all grown, walked this path, warm summer days filled with swimming and fishing along the banks of the River. 

The ancient pines line the path offering shelter under their low branches. Many times I have slipped under these same branches and spent hours, dreaming and remembering.

These times away from the children and the house were my time of gathering the past and making my visions prayers for the future.

Here under my favorite tree I heap up the damp pine needles and place my blanket over them.  Curling up in my old winter jacket I sit and wait for the animals to come and drink. 

As I sit with my back hard against the old pine, a feeling of peace and love enters my body. It was here under this old tree many years ago I planted my son’s umbilical cord and placenta from my body. It is in this tree the Standing Nation ones that he still lives his spirit strong, and standing as tall as the tree itself.

All of my children have a tree that holds the spirit of life for them.  Our tradition speaks of such things when a child is born we placed the placenta and umbilical cord under a strong tree.  My mother placed mine under a large pine tree when I was born as she did all of the others.

My oldest daughter was born in Nevada and my husband and I placed her tiny placenta and cord under a big white pine tree near Lake Tahoe. This assures us that we will never get lost on this Earth, and can always find our way back to our birth place. From this place we pick a small stone smooth and easy to carry. That with the little bit of umbilical cord that remains on the baby and drops off in time is placed in a pouch. This someday will be given to the child as they enter their adult life.

I still carry my cord and Whoti stone from my birth place and wonder if my tree is still living and strong. I think if it were not I would know from my inner being.

The connections to the Standing Nation, or Trees is one we honor and are aware of from birth to death.

The trees give us shelter, wood for warmth, food for hunger, and beauty for our spirits. Many birds and animals shelter and feed from the trees. The Standing Nation records the passing of time in their rings of life. From the rings we can look back on hundreds of years and understand the way things were here on this land during those times.

We choose the tree as the center of our most sacred ceremony it represents out past, future, and present.  The trees are a great part of our religion and healing medicine. 

We honor the tree in our Sun Dance and show respect for all living things that take nourishment from the sacred tree. This tree is the center of our belief and holds all the wisdom that was given to the people.

In the old days when a person passed into spirit some placed their bodies on a scaffold made of trees and left them there for the elements to return their bodies to the Earth Mother. Some burned the body and carried the bones to a sacred burial ground. We call these people the bone carriers. 


There were many ways that the trees were honored in life and death by the people.

I look out from under the low thick branches and watch two wild turkeys walking toward the water to drink. Their feathers shine copper in the light and they are totally unaware of me under the tree watching. Our people called the turkey the give away bird who offered its body for our people to eat so we could survive. Turkey is part of the Eagle family and we as the original people of the Earth respect them by wearing their feathers in ceremony.

As the turkeys step silently through the old leaves and branches, the image of men dancing long ago with turkey bustles tied round their waists, appears out of the shadows.  I watch as these dancers drift in and out of the trees imitating the turkey that one wore the feathers they now wear.

More rain and mist erases the shadows and I finally pick up my blanket and walk back to my home. There in the middle of the path lays a perfect turkey feather I stoop down and offer one of my own hairs and ask the feather if it wants me to bring it home. I leave my hair offering,  and pick up the feather to lay on my alter in remembrance of this day.

Plamaya for the dance Grandfather, Plamaya for the day Grandmother, Wopila to my people for the gift of memory, and honoring.

Some day before the trees gather to many more rings we will once again dance the peace back into the Earth Mother.

Mitakuye Oyasin Waynonaha
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