Manataka American Indian Council




By Lee Standing Bear Moore and Takatoka


The Sacred Mountain and Valley of the Vapors



(...Continued from previous page)


The vapors that once blanketed the valley have vanished. The wondrous rainbows covering Manataka have not appeared since government bureaucrats decided to "preserve" the springs from pollution and the escape of radon gas.


The so-called scientific preservation basis for covering the springs can be disproved by any high school freshman.


The pools of healing waters are hidden with garishly ornate bath houses for the rich.  Over the years, the U.S. government has systematically attempted to wipe every trace of Indian culture from Manataka. They deny this place is a sacred site and twist history with much authority to discourage our people from reclaiming our heritage.


One National Park historian recently wrote a report claiming Indians were afraid of the hot waters because they came from the devil. The idea of 'devil' is foreign to American Indian beliefs.  The fact is, the land and waters are too commercially valuable. It is for greed, not preservation they hold hostage our Great Manataka.


The federal government has covered up the Story of Manataka for over 200 years.  Government agents were especially aggressive in this effort just prior to and immediately after the Removals (Trail of Tears) when hundreds of ancient artifacts and religious objects were either sold, lost or destroyed.   Regardless of this fact,  the NPS curatorial collection today still has over 414,000 objects, nearly 46% remain un-catalogued, stored in dilapidated, unsecured and leaky buildings. 


Their lust to remove all traces of indigenous cultures has gone from frenzied greed, to sordid indifference, to outright denial that our ancestors were ever here.  A more insidious tactic used in recent times is to craft promotional material about the park that states, "People have used the hot spring water in therapeutic baths for two hundred years."  -- as if no one was ever here before then.


The Tula Indians - Keepers of Manataka, also known by the Conquistadors as the "People of the Great Waters", made their home at the confluence of five rivers and along the Caddo River near what is known today as the town of Caddo Gap, located approximately 45 miles southwest of Hot Springs (Manataka).  Today, a large statue of an Indian stands in the middle of Caddo Gap declaring the area was known as "Tula".  


There are no plaques or statues designating this area as Manataka (The Place of Peace).   Yet, the bureaucrats know this is its holy name.    



Today, there are no monuments at Hot Springs National Park to the people who made pilgrimages to Manataka. The are no plaques, artifacts, or pictures. There is barely a remembrance of the spiritual power the Great Manataka gave to the people. This sacred ground held great meaning for all native people and is part of our ancient lore.


Will Manataka always be held captive by government bureaucrats never to breathe again? Will the Rainbow Woman who sleeps deep within the mountain awaken once more? Will the giant of American Indian spirit reawaken and its awesome strength be unleashed to give life back to the people of the land?


Today, there are many signs showing the great resiliency of native cultures. Our sons and daughters are returning to the old ways in search of peace in their daily lives. Everywhere you look there is renewed interest in native culture. It was foretold that this would be so.


It is our prayer the people of the land will return. We long for the day when the tribes of many nations will journey to these grounds again. They will not come as tourists looking for wondrous sights, but as brothers and sisters seeking healing and guidance while showing reverence and faith in the Great Spirit who dwells in this sacred place.


We yearn for the time when the tribes will come together, not to achieve some political or economic purpose, but to learn from each other and share the strengths of our cultures.  We pray for the time when the leaders of our nations will once again hold hands in the Great Circle of Peace and give thanks to the Creator.



Should the American Indian be angry about the past?  Should we do to others what they have done to us?  At Manataka, the answer is No.  Why?


No, because we are sacred water given to us by the Creator of All That Is.  We were born in water and our bodies are composed mostly of water.  We must drink water to restore us.  Water is necessary to life.  But, sometimes the water comes in floods and washes away our homes and food.  Waters of the flood take away our homes and often bring disease.   We are sad after the flood waters leave.


No, because we are the sacred wind given to us by the Creator of All That Is.  Every cell in our bodies contains the wind.  We must breathe the wind every moment in order to live.  But, sometimes the wind comes like a tornado and blows away our homes and kills our loved ones.  We are sad after the tornado leaves.


The white European Christian culture came to us like the wind and water.  They flooded us with filth and greed and killed indigenous babies and grandmothers in the name of their religion.  They came to us like the tornado bringing the whirlwind stench of war and the shame of false ways.


Should we hate the ignorant white invaders who came like a senseless flood and washed away the homes and sacred places of our ancestors?  Should we hate those who flooded into our homes and stole the land?  Do we hate their children who continue to violate our sacred Mother Earth and reek terrible injustices upon us?  Should we despise the government that came like a terrible tornado and killed our people and defiled our sacred places? 


But dear friend, we as American Indians cannot be angry at the sacred waters and the wind because they are made by the Creator.  We can only be sad.  


In the same way, the white European Christian and their government are also made by the Creator.  And we cannot hate them for they too are made by the Creator.  



At Manataka, we shed no more tears for the past.


Why should we not shed tears for all that has been lost!?  


Because our culture is not gone!  It flourishes and grows stronger each year!  Look around you.  American Indian culture is spreading all over the world.  


We should not cry for our ancestors because they are not gone. They are here with us now. Their spirits dwell within us. They are on our lips as we speak. They are upon our fingertips as we do the work to uphold our heritage. We honor them. We do not cry for them.  We rejoice for them!   


The Great Spirit – Creator caused our circle to be broken.  At Manataka we know the reason. It is for that reason we are here keeping the spirit alive.


Together, we can awaken the great forces of all native peoples by rekindling the fire of Manataka. The hot springs are still here. The medicinal herbs, quartz crystal, precious stones, and beauty are still here. And, the beautiful waters of Nowasalon flow... for a little while longer.


Wakantanka niya waste pelo !




Why did the elders of many nations make regular pilgrimages to Manataka?


Was it to bathe in the healing waters?  Was it to gather the healing herbs, healing stones or healing clay?  Did the great beauty of Manataka compel the elders to travel great distances across raging rivers, through snow storms, sand storms, sometimes facing hunger on the trail, and sometimes losing one of their family along the way?  


According to the National Park Service the reason the people of the land came was to bathe in the waters for their health.  NPS also says they came to make peace with one another.  ("...You know those savages were always warring against each other and for what other reason would this site be called 'The Place of Peace'?")  Other NPS bureaucrats contradict these claims and say American Indian elders never considered Manataka a sacred place and few tribes ever came here.  All these claims are false.    


Do you know why the nations sent their elders to Manataka?


The answer to this most important question cannot be given in writing out of respect for our ancestors, our culture and the sanctity of the Story of Manataka.  The answer  may only be given eye-to-eye, heart-to heart to those who come to this special place of peace in the right way.  The answer to this question will amaze you and fill the remainder of your days with deep respect and understanding of the American Indian way of life.   




In 1996, for the first time in over 150 years, three elders of the Mayan, Cherokee, and Cheyenne people came on pilgrimage to Manataka.


In 1997 and 1998, three more spiritual elders prayed and performed ceremonies on the sacred mountain. 


In 1999, four spiritual elders performed ancient ceremonies at Manataka.


In 2000, five holy men made pilgrimages. In April, the first public Gathering of Manataka was sponsored by the Manataka American Indian Council. The second Gathering was performed in September by Grand Chief Woableza LaBatte, a Lakota spiritual leader who heads the World Council of Spiritual Elders. Over 2,500 American Indians prayed at the Mountain.


In 2001, six spiritual elders prayed at Manataka, two more Gatherings were held and over 4,500 American Indians made pilgrimages. 


In 2002, seven elders journeyed to the sacred mountain and two Gatherings were sponsored by MAIC.  The last Gathering in November, 2002, Zintkala Oyate, Peter V. Catches-the-Enemy, a 34th generation Lakota spiritual leader of the Spotted Eagle Sundance officiated ceremonies.  Nearly 7,000 people, of many faiths and races came to the sacred mountain to pray.  The colors of the rainbow gather again!


Up to May, 2003, five elders had journeyed to Manataka to pray.  In June, the annual Summer Gathering at Manataka will be led by Grand Chief Woableza and Omeakaehekatl, a Maya high priest and Day Keeper who will conduct ancient rites.   The Painted Horse War Dance Society of Oklahoma will act as color guard and perform dance exhibitions.   Chief Gray Wolf Henson (ret.), former chief of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians will lead the Fire Ceremony.  


By June of 2004, twelve spiritual elders came to Manataka to perform ancient ceremonies completing the requirements and setting the stage for a cleansing of Manataka to take place.  The Saginaw Chippewa Warrior Society came with their families to join hands in the sacred circle at Manataka with other indigenous peoples.


The new Superintendent of the Hot Springs National Park, Josie Fernandez notified Manataka that a permit and cash bond would be required in the future before ceremonies could be held in the circle in Gulpha Gorge Campgrounds.


In June 2004, members and guests were accosted and harassed by National Park Rangers who threatened the people with arrest if they came again to pray in the sacred circle.   Many people were frightened away.  During a later meeting with the new Superintendent, Fernandez threatened Elders with arrest and she called them pagans and witches.  Josie Fernandez threw pieces of paper on the table saying Manataka's members and guests violated seven rules and forbade any future gatherings. Elders were not allowed to examine the documents, nor were they allowed to answer any of the allegations. The so-called evidence were trumped up and false allegations. Throughout the remainder of the year and throughout 2005, families and individual members and supporters (anyone wearing Indian regalia or jewelry or appearing to be Indian) who went to the park to have a picnic or pray in the circle were stopped by Rangers and questioned, often times searched.   Fernandez demanded a large cash bond (far beyond the financial means of Manataka) before a permit to perform ceremonies would be allowed.


Throughout 2005, Elders attempted to seek a meeting with Fernandez or her superiors without success. 


In Mid-Spring 2005, MAIC learns of a new website called "Manataka Exposed" operated by a former employee of the National Park Service.  Manataka writes a response to the charges.  Read History of MAIC


In June 2005, as the annual Gathering was about to take place, armed Park Rangers blocked the entrance to Gulpha Gorge Campgrounds to anyone appearing in Indian regalia or appearing to be American Indian. 


In October 2005 during the Fall Gathering held at Bald Eagle Mountain Park a distance of 5 miles from the sacred Manataka, over 250 members and guests rode in caravan to several locations around the sacred mountain and walked over the mountain to the sacred circle in Gulpha Gorge to evade a National Park Service blockade set up at the entrance of the Campgrounds.  Ceremonies were performed in the sacred circle and afterwards, the people quietly walked back across the mountain.  Many more ceremonies were performed in the circle in coming months under the cover of darkness or inclement weather.  Park Rangers continued to stop vehicles appearing to be Indian and issued strong threats.  Fernandez continued to make racial and other derogatory remarks to individuals in the community. 


Secret prayer ceremonies were held each month on the sacred Manataka asking the Creator to bless Fernandez.  


A large number of letters from recognized spiritual elders in North, Central and South America declaring Manataka a sacred site were received.     


In June 2006, MAIC Elders decided to return to Gulpha Gorge to perform ceremonies regardless of the threats and harassment of National Park Rangers.  The Gathering was the smallest yet (due to Gestapo tactics of the NPS) but the Gathering was a beautiful event with Otto Riollano Davila of Puerto Rico delivering a spiritual message.  Park Rangers did not interrupt the gathering in any significant way, but the hovering presence of armed Rangers frightened many families.


Manataka discovers the presence of individuals who joined Manataka but were agents of Fernandez. 


Because of continued Fernandez harassment, MAIC continued to use both Bald Eagle Mountain Park, the sacred Manataka Mountain, and Gulpha Gorge Campgrounds for ceremonies and gatherings in 2006 and 2007.  


In 2007, Elders decided to hold all ceremonies on top of Manataka mountain in locations not easily found or accessible to outsiders.  The elderly and disabled are transported by vans and carried to various locations on the mountain. Many make the journey on foot.  In 2007, Spiritual Elders and hundreds of people continued to journey to Manataka for prayer and ceremony.   




Today's Keepers of Manataka and members of MAIC are watching and waiting for other Gatherings in preparation of the Great Awakening and the Great Gathering at the Place of Peace. Will you join us?



©Story of Manataka, All rights reserved, 1992-2016


Credits: Some material for this article were taken from the Indian Folklore Atlas, Phillips/Long, 1994, U.S. government records, the Garland County Historical Society, stories told Chief Benito Gray Horse and by the elders of many nations.  


Indian Folklore Atlas of Hot Springs National Park

by Marcus Phillips and Sandra Long 


The Valley of the Vapors, Manataka -- The Place of Peace was never told as well before this excellent resource guide was written.  Well researched with dozens of references, this book contains the colorful history of Hot Springs and Indian legends of this sacred site. The Indian Folk Lore Atlas also serves as a tour guide with seven individual walking tours designed to take the visitor back in time to the actual locations where history was made.  This book is endorsed by the American Indian Center of Arkansas, the City of Hot Springs and the Garland County Historical Society.  Experts of the Caddo, Quapaw and Cherokee nations consulted on this book. A wonderful addition to any library.  Great for the coffee table. Dozens of maps and illustrations. 195 pp. Soft Cover.  $42.95 



 A Pilgrimage to Manataka is a journey through the outer world to the inner world.



Navajo Song

Walk on a rainbow trail;
walk on a trail of song,
and all about you will be beauty.
There is a way out of every dark mist,
over a rainbow trail.



Box 476, Hot Springs Reservation, AR 71902




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