The morning promised to be warmer with
the mud drying up in the back of the
house so I decided to go to the river to
seek some guidance.
I dressed as quickly as I could layering
my clothes to help keep out the cold air
and yet allow me freedom to move around.
Pulling on my old boots and lacing them
up I got out my nap sack and filled it
with a bottle of water and some bread
In the back of the cupboard I found a
small bag of dried meat. Tossing it in I
pulled the top string tight and went to
the door. Very carefully I opened the
door, the old leather straps that served
as hinges always made a kind of creaky
noise and I did not want to wake anyone
Stepping out into the cold of the spring
morning I felt the cold wind whip at my
hair. I took out my scarf and wrapped it
around my head and face to keep warm
then headed off down the road to the
My hands were jammed deep in my pockets
and the back pack strapped across my
shoulders felt good. I had the whole day
ahead of me and did not want to waste it
sitting in the house.
My had brought
digging stick, and a small basket
in case I found some early spring
treasures were all I needed. The sun was
crawling up over the pine trees on the
other side of the river and crows were
scolding in the oak trees.
At the end of the road that leads right
up to the river I made a left turn and
continued to walk along the deep cut
path where deer and other larger animals
came down to drink. The path was
slippery with wet clay and I had to hang
on to the low hanging pine limbs to keep
The river was running high along the
bank hiding the homes of musk rats and
small river animals.
I sit for a while under one of the old
trees on pine needles that were as dry
as summer and soft and warm.
The over hanging low branches serve as a
water barrier and protect the ground
under the trees. A good place to curl up
and wait out a storm unless there is
I have sit here many times while
old pine tree has seen many years
of my family and we have enjoyed camping
out here in the summer months.
It was here that my friend Tony Tree
Spirit, now in spirit, came to gift the
council drum he had made from the
He said it was like the hearts of the
women who gave and gave of the sweet
teachings of life. I miss him and made a
pryer for his now long departed spirit.
Back out on the path it was getting
lighter and the way a bit easier, I
continued walking until I saw the open
Near the old bolder that sits out in the
point of the beach I cut back into the
deeper woods. The path into this area is
over run now with berries and other
vines. There along the path are May
flowers peeking out from under the wet
rich floor of leaves and rotting plants.
Soon they will bloom into wonderful
smelling flowers that were used to
decorate the baskets we hung on May Day
After some climbing up the side of the
hill I come to the clearing.
It is quiet here. peaceful, and
undisturbed as it was hundreds of years
The trees grow in a natural circle
around the clearing. They are close
together like dancers and shield the
circle from prying eyes.
In the center of the clearing are the
remains of a stone ringed
It is here that I want to be and sit for
a while. The stones have been tossed and
turned by the winter snow. I pick them
up gently and replace them in some form
All the while I am singing and talking
to the stones and plants that grow among
Next I clean out the old charred pieces
of wood from the fire pit and lay them
aside. Deep down in the center of the
pit I see a soft red glow and dig out
the branches that lay on top of it.
Very carefully I lift the small glowing
ember and place it on a dry piece of
I must look hard to find dry wood this
morning as all is soaked from yesterdays
rain. I bring pine needles to the fire
pit and more dry wood. After careful
feeding and fanning. the ember bursts
into flame and there is a bright fire in
I put down my poncho and spread the
blanket I have wrapped around me on the
ground. I sit there and drink my water
and eat my bread and dry meat. I think
of the time in the time past when this
was a sacred site for the people.
After a while I fill the fire pit with
an arm load of dry branches and bring
more to place beside the fire.
The air is silent and the birds are
still you can feel the sound of the food
steps on the land.
I take my blanket back to sit by the
trees and wait.
Soon I hear the sound of a snapping
branch in the woods and then more and
more sounds as they come like shadows of
light through the trees.
The Gray Hooded ones, the Silver Hooded
ones, on and on they come Gold, brown,
all the colors of the Sacred Wheel they
march into the circle and stand around
the fire. The chanting goes on and on as
the water drum is sounded to the rhythm
of their foot steps.
The sound of the voices and the drum
fill my heart and mind. Once again the
old ones come to tell the stories of
First they start with the old story of
the elders who left the sacred council
fires so many years ago.
They speak of the time before time when
the people did not listen to the elders.
It was then that the elders held a great
council and agreed to speak no more at
the fire until the people listened. It
was to be for seven generations that
this would hold true.
The seven generations are now gone and
the new world is starting to appear.
From the damp floor of the land the
people are returning to the sacred fires
and the elders sit ready to share the
They sit wrapped in the blankets of
spirit and clothed with the skins of the
deer. The bear gives its hide for them
to sit on and the
fire dances in the night.
Soon the circle is full and all is
silent in waiting for the Elders to
Then from the circle stood a man who was
taller than the rest. His face like that
of the hawk and his eyes were black as
He stood tall and quiet and waited for
the words to come.
The first words he spoke were, "In the
time before time, we gathered like this
in many lands".
Holding his hand up he continued to
"The great council fires held more
people than fish in the waters. Our
nation was great and our men and women
were strong and lived in a good way.
The children were loved and the elders
He folded his arms across his chest and
walked a few steps into the light of the
He continued to speak. "It was in this
time that great changes came to Turtle
Island many were sick and died. Many
left the ways of our people and went to
other lands. Soon we were few and we
were sick in our hearts."
Hanging his head he continued in a low
deep voice. "Our women lost their path
and the men gave their souls to the ways
of the strangers. In time the hoop of
the people was broken."
The other elders sit in silence, and the
people hung their heads in shame and
Again the man spoke to the people who
" Tonight we come back to the sacred
fire because it was found and the last
burning coal was honored lit the sacred
fire once more."
"We had all but despaired of this ever
happening. Now we are all here at this
fire. All through the nations other
council fires are being lit from the
sacred fire of peace."
"It is the beginning of a new time a new
world and a new peace.
Listen well, and remember the old ones,
and the sharing of the wisdom."
Honor your elders and your teachers keep
them close and safe from harm. Rebuild
the long houses and join as one under
the big blue bowl of the sky."
He continued saying, "here we are one
and here we are all brothers and
sisters. We will share what we have, and
welcome all to sit and eat with us."
After a long pause he spoke again, "The
great peace maker has come once more and
will walk with us into the place of
peace love and truth once again."
With this he sit down and motioned for
the dancers to come and sing and rattle.
The old songs were sung and the elders
spoke one by one to the people who came.
The children played around the fire
throwing in small hands full of wood.
The fire burned long into the night as
the story tellers shared the time from
In the morning the food was shared and
the people slept until the sun was high
in the sky.
When they woke up the fire was burning
just as bright as it was the night
before. The elders were gone but they
left their robes of color all around the
circle of the fire. Each night they
returned to share more until the people
finally remembered the old ways.
I gathered up my blanket and pack and
back away into the trees so not to
disturb the gathering. My feet step on
the wet damp earth and make no noise.
Back along the slippery river bank I
climb, and hurry home to the warm wood
fire and a hot cup of tea.
Now on nights when I cannot sleep my
mind drifts away to the Sacred Fire and
I can hear the old ones speak.
My mind remembers the old ways that call
to me, and again my feet are walking on
soft damp earth. It is in these moments
that I can see my path.
This is the time we all must rejoin
around the sacred fires and share our
hearts and wisdom.
Nupah Makah L. Cota
Copywrite (c) 2009 by Nupah Makah L.
publication rights reserved.by Grandmother Maka Nupa L Cota