Category Archives: Native American

Healing at the Heart of Niagara – Native American Peace Event

Healing at the Heart of Niagara Event, Goat Island, Niagara Falls, NY
Healing at the Heart of Niagara Event, Goat Island, Niagara Falls, NY

Since interviewing Native Algonquin, Mike Bastine, I’ve come into contact with some incredible folks.  Jill Morris, board member of Neto Hatinakwe Onkwehowe (www.netobuffalo.org) is one such incredible person.  She and others are organizing an amazing event featuring local Native American culture and history at Niagara Falls State Park, Goat Island, Niagara Falls, NY.

I’ll be there, and if you’re in the area, I’d love to see you there too.

Here are some of the many events taking place that weekend:

  • Native American music and dancing
  • Native arts and crafts vendors
  • Drumming
  • Local Native lore and legends
  • Native crafting for the kiddo’s
  • Healing arts
  • Sustainable living presentations

There will also be devotional ceremonies to promote healing and peace for our global community and the Mother (Earth).  A hand-holding ceremony for Global Peace will take place at 11:11 am on Sunday the 17th.

The whole event kicks off Saturday, June 16th, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.  The event resumes on Sunday, June 17th, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Everyone is welcome, and I hope to see you there!

Healing at the Heart of Niagara
Niagara Falls State Park – Goat Island – Niagara Falls, NY 14303
June 16th & 17th, 2012
Saturday & Sunday 10 am – 6pm

For more information, contact Jill Morris at 716-480-4418, or email her at jmtmorris{at}live.com

The event is sponsored by the Neto Hatinakwe Onkwehowe, www.netobuffalo.org.  Sponsorship and donations for the event are still being accepted (and highly appreciated).  Offerings go directly to Neto. Visit their website, or contact Allan Jamieson, Director at 716-603-4546.

Neto is still accepting enrollment applications for vendors, so if you have keen stuff to share/sell, contact Jill Morris  for a vendor registration form.  Advertising is also available in the event program, so if you have a service or a business you’d like to promote, contact Jill for that too.

I hope you can offer your support and participation for this worthy Native event focused on global peace.  See you there!

Mike Bastine: Visionary and Educator for the Reform of Consciousness

I recently had the opportunity to interview Mike Bastine, a Native American Algonquin, who has been speaking about the necessity of re-connecting to Nature as a means to reform consciousness.  It was an utter delight to spend time with Mr. Bastine, and equally uplifting to share common views with him.  He’s got revolutionary insights anchored in ancient wisdom.  Perhaps his words in this interview will contribute to your own conscious-reform for the better.  Or, perhaps these views might maintain your own re-connection to the Mother (Nature).  Enjoy!

Mike Bastine, Algonquin Educator
Mike Bastine, Algonquin Elder

The landscape cracks open like an egg in my view.  The bright orange yolk of sun hangs, suspended in the albumen of a clear liquid sky.  I’m driving along a curvy route to a quiet rural town to meet with Algonquin visionary and educator, Mike Bastine.

On the drive, the scenery unfolds like a Monet; billions of auburn-amber leaves splatter like dots on the rolling hills of Autumnal glory.  It’s a two hour drive,  stuffed with Natural beauty.  The soft ride offers ample opportunity for me to ponder the upcoming meeting with Mr. Bastine.

Although diligent about suppressing any kind of pre-conclusions about this interview, electric expectation still amplifies my anticipation.  I am meeting a Native master of tenets that have ignited my own elevated understanding; tenets essential to the broader soul-growth of so many people over human history.

My time with Mike Bastine, however, produces no glamour.  No spiritual huff-n-puff.  No fluffy clouds filled with insubstantial vapors about spirituality.   Rather, Bastine proves to be a Plymouth rock of foundational wisdom.  He radiates reverence for simplicity.  He is rooted in the value of rekindling the heart of humanity; encouraging attunement with the energies of Nature, love and respect.  No fancy juju; just bare-boned wisdom, exposing a soulful, nurturing marrow.

            My car pulls into his driveway.  Beyond the weathered, wood-clad exterior of his home, rests acres of maples waving goodbye to their own falling leaves.  Rows of cornfields maze the back yard, their husks brown and crinkly, jutting up to the glassy sky.

My ears perk, hearing a yawning creak from the front screen door as I gather up my notebook, camera, and recording device from the car.  It’s Mike Bastine walking out to greet me.

Mike’s Native blood etches clear evidence of his Algonquin heritage in his appearance.  His skin is naturally tawny, obviously unaided by the sun’s tanning effect, especially as winter begins her progressive swallowing of solar rays.  His hair is long, pulled back in a pony tail.  It shines in onyx iridescence and reminds me of silky crow feathers.

He welcomes me with a smile; a smile that equals the cheer reflected inside his home.  I struggle to pull off my boots before entering. “Oh no, you don’t have to do that.” Mike says, chuckling, as I almost topple over.  “Keep those on. Stay warm. Snow and mud aren’t sticking to the bottoms of our feet just yet.” We both break the initial conversational ice by agreeing how mild this year’s autumn has been.

Mike and I sit at his kitchen table.  Pens and pencils stand at attention in a clean white cup, anxious to be put to use.  Books and papers are neatly stacked on the table too.  Mike thoughtfully pulls out a few of the many articles written about him for me to read.  He pauses for a moment and pulls out a few books for me to look at too.

Pam, Mike’s wife, offers me a hot cup of green tea and a cinnamon pecan danish.  I’ve just met these people, but it feels I’ve been a welcomed visitor in this kitchen for an eternity.  Time is irrelevant.  Indeed, the energy of their home is timeless,  comforting and tremendously safe.  I am calm, I am at home in their presence.

The black pot-belly stove churns out its warmth as Mike begins to do what he does best:  Weave his spoken words into exquisite tapestries.  Native wisdom is his loom, and Mike threads rich value into each sentence spoken.  His voice is a smooth, lulling tenor and his words are framed in the rhythmic compassion that steadily beats within his heart.

For decades,  Mike Bastine has travelled the US and Canada speaking about the wisdom of his Native ancestors, illustrating how Native ways are a catalyst for healing, renewal and reconnection to a higher way of living life.

“I’ve been bringing up a few terms in my workshops lately.” Mike begins, his soft brown eyes sparkling. “Terms we all learned in early schooling.  I ask people how they feel about the phrase ‘Divide and Conquer’ and most people tell me it’s kind of a standard of life today.”

Mike explains that the modern Western civilized mind has been trained to weed out ‘weakness’ and conquer life by working hard at maintaining status quo.  “Mainstream thought mostly adheres to popularly accepted, spoon-fed education and doctrine.” He says in his sing-song dialect.  As Mike talks, my understanding lulls into compliance with his argument with this commonly accepted phrase.

“Today, most people’s perception of strength and weakness is skewed. There’s more strength in the gentle than there is in the bold.  Gentleness accumulating over time – that’s where the power resides.” Mike taps his calloused-covered fingertip on the Xerox copy he gave me of Chief Seattle’s speech. “That’s part of what Seattle is saying in this address.”

Mike closes his eyes, and I wonder what scenes are playing beneath his eyelids. “The idea of ‘conquer’ is equally misleading.” He says, “What is there to conquer? If we each lived aligned to our True Nature, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation!” He pushes back a bit from the kitchen table after finishing this thought, as if sitting objectively – seeing a broad view of the human condition from his wicker-backed chair.

“The idea of ‘divide’ is just an illusion.  Nature shows us different. Nature shows us progress only comes with inclusion, acceptance, absorption.  Nature shows us surrender.  That’s what evolutional progress is about.” Mike lets out a lightly exasperated chuckle, with a slightly discernable shaking of his head.

” I ask these same people in my workshops how they feel about another common phrase we’ve all been taught: ‘In God we Trust.’ I get the same kind of mental agreement.  But I have to question this. How can we believe in ‘Divide and Conquer‘ and ‘In God we Trust’ at the same time?”  Mike’s passion about these points of contention is clear, but his core demeanor does not waiver.  He remains solidly anchored in a place of peaceful contemplation as he speaks to me.

The Algonquin Elder continues his thought-stream about Western culture’s unconscious acceptance of these two statements. “How can we be divided and yet trust in one God?  This mentality is where the breakdown of disconnect to Nature stems.” Mike says softly, sad kindness lacing his voice.   To him, unity is a far more viable solution to living a life of true freedom.

Mike leans forward on the kitchen table to drive his point home:  “Prior generations had Elders to teach us about relationships.  Primarily the marriage between humans and this planet.  But now those teachings have fallen by the wayside.  This causes separation.  We have become distanced from the higher wisdom of Nature, love and goodness.”  Mike further contends this disconnection has lead to an inflammation of humanity’s highest conflict: The conflict between the heart and the ego.

“We must think independently.  We can’t think what we’ve been educated to think, because it’s not what this life is about.  We must observe what’s going on today and rejoin the ranks of our Elders who looked to Nature for assistance with answers.”

Mike Bastine gently illustrates how many of today’s youth are no longer educated by their Elders who have been steeped in the nurturing, honorable ways of the Great Spirit and the ways of Nature.  Today, our youth are educated by capitalist systems whose primary impetus for functioning is money and conformity.  It’s a disturbing observation.  Mike points out a fundamentally flawed educational system that produces fact-filled sheep, designed to follow (and not overthrow) the powers that be, namely, the government.  More unsettling, is the valid observation of mass-media’s role in raising our youth.

“If we look at the bigger picture of what’s happening around the world, and we see the events – how they connect.  How they unfold.  How they evolve.  We can start to see that disconnection is the source of great upheaval.”  Mike’s hands are upturned; his arms slightly raised in a supplicating gesture as he utters these words. He speaks like a man who sees problems and feels frustration because he knows how simple the solutions are.

The furrow in Mike’s brow smoothes back into its customary serenity as he expands his revelations:  “This disjointed gap….the inability to connect human thought and behavior with the deeper functions of Nature….this is the sole flaw that prohibits the flow of peace.”  This flaw, Mike explains,  is aggravated by the lack of unity and acceptance being taught by our modern elders, who are our politicians, educators, doctors, etc.

“I wish there were little manuals written about how to be a good human. How to make choices that honor and respect our world and all that lives in it.”  I nod my head and smile, thinking about how Mike’s ‘How to be a Good Human’ manuals might not be the most ideal replacement for wise Elders in our modern-day global tribes.  But, I silently agree these manuals would be a good start at defining simple steps for reconnecting to the Golden Truths inherent in every human heart.

“When enlightenment dovetails and becomes manifested into the outward happiness of being, do you think something like the definition of ‘a metaphor’ is essential to sustaining that education? No! It doesn’t take rocket science to gain a higher education.  This is about human interaction conducted with respect.”    Mike makes this statement with conviction backed by the wisdom of his lineage.  His faith in the cathartic, healing practice of unifying with the foundational energy of Nature, humility and honor is unshakable.

As Mike Bastine carefully crafts his words and purposefully narrates his perceptions, I recognize him as a visionary educator.  Why?  Because he can see into the human heart and there he greets only the heart’s inherent potential for goodness in spite of the presence of malignant understanding.  It takes a visionary to see the spiritual gifts hiding behind ugly curtains of the ego.

I get the sense that Mike is not entirely aware of his ability to overlook the presence of fear feeding the human heart.  His unsinkable faith in each human’s inherent goodness overrides the presence of fear and pain glaring back at him when he speaks about ‘consciousness-reform.’   In every word and movement, it’s apparent Mike knows the path to higher societal evolution is born from virtue and devotion to the grounding cornerstones of Nature.

Mike continues his mission to reveal the true values indwelling every heart, and how each heart is hard-wired to reconnect with all life in loving ways.   His unwavering belief in human potential makes him both a visionary, and an exemplary educator in the realm of thoughtful unification with elements of life that truly matter.

The warm bubble of the Bastine’s hospitality cannot be popped as I drive back to the pointy edges of city life.  The yolky sun is pressed behind me now, enhancing a sense of warmth and nourishment. Driving back the way I came, my mind turns with the soft curves of the road as I think about our discussion.

My intent for this piece was to capture the essence of Native American wisdom; writing about how the ways of Native Elders provide healing to the human heart – – healing wisdom that prepares each of us for future global shifts we are all destined to experience in the process of living life on this Earth today.

But really, after listening to Mr. Bastine, my lofty intent dissolved into particles of more substantial import.  As the hills of the countryside roll behind me, I think of Mike’s parting thoughts:

“The value of simplicity. The value of independent thought.  The value of re-connecting to Nature and its wisdom. These are small, incremental choices of honor we can all choose to make.  These are the functional building blocks for re-connecting to life’s vitality.”

Ultimately, Mike Bastine helped me understand that it is not so much the intellectual or spiritual path we choose, but how we utilize our faith and educational choices –  that is the true catalyst for global unification and peace.  Essentially, every moment is an opportunity to ‘Unify and Conquer’ rather than divide and perish.

Other pages of interest:

Native American Symbolism

Nature Symbols for Inspired Living

Crow Dreams and Pearls of Patience

Crow Dream Interpretations
Crow Dream Interpretations


For many nights now, a behemoth Crow cackles in my consciousness. She comes dressed in her classic black, iridescent robes.  A daughter of Nyx, dark as soot – her presence equally clingy within my inhaling mind.

Always in moments like these I wonder about the concept of dreaming within dreams, which prompts me to consider reality – and this all leads to a chain-reaction of odd musings that hurl me off-track from my focus.

And what is my focus?

Oh, yeah – right…the dream…

Did you know Crows are mother figures to the Hopitu-Shinumu Indians?  Uh huh.  The Crow is one among the Hopi’s legion of Kachinas.  It descends in the Winter, spitting out seeds like a Tommy Gun run amok – rapid fire and with widespread dissemination being more important than technical aim.  Those seeds represent the promise of the future – the continuation of the tribe.

This makes sense.  In the span of one month, two mother-figures in my life have left this physical life.  Good for them.  But, not-so-good for those of us left behind dealing with the sucking black holes of our separation-issues.

Since these so-called “deaths” of important mother-figures in my life, the Onyx Crow keeps cawing in my dreams, and her symbolism keeps shifting, twisting, morphing.  That’s typical.  It’s the Crow way to be elusive.  She makes us work for meaning.  We must earn the epiphanies.  In this way, our understanding of her presence becomes substantial – galvanized in our psyche.  The lessons learned from the Crow are solid, permanent.

She is shrill and course in her speech.  Her voice pierces like a big-tooth saw heaving through stainless steel, rendering an unearthy sound – metallic, jagged, like reverberating insanity.  Of course, it’s an attention-grabbing technique.  I’ve been numb.  -Nothing like an  other-world “rebel yell” to get one’s attention.

It works.  I become lucid within the dream, the spectral body sits up bolt-straight.

Now that she has my attention, the Crow stills her ripping cackles and shits a pearl in my left hand.  Yes, you read that right.

I borrow hope from the Hopi, interpreting this Crow as a Mother come to rattle my attention until the numb-fluffs are shaken off.

This interpretive approach is underscored by the presence of that white-bright lustery pearl.  In Chinese symbology, pearls are very yin.  They are associated with water, the moon and feminine themes.  I like how pearls are born from an oceanic womb – dark as night, just like my Mother Crow.

I also appreciate how pearls are wrought into existence via  a defense mechanism.  Pearls are formed as a response to an irritant or parasitic invasion upon the mollusk.

This makes sense in context of my recent mental states.  Tons of intruders in the form of rogue emotions/memories/mental frenzies have invaded my space as a result of these recent “deaths.”

I keep my interpretations of this dream rather loose, because I know my Obsidian Compatriot – that crazy Mother Crow will tweak my perception again.  She is every inch a task-master in spiritual learning.  I also know her pearl-pooping symbolism will morph in meaning too.

A prime point to be taken away from this post is this: Sometimes a dream interpretation is far from succinct.  Pat answers simply will not apply to certain dreams/experiences.

There are times when waking and dreaming life coalesce in a weird crockpot, and the symbolic flavors must stew over time before any real sense can be made of any of it.

That’s a tough pill to swallow for some of us.   In this instant-download-push-button-get-it-now world, the concept of waiting for a big picture to formulate does not sit well.  But wait we must.  Sometimes that’s the only option: Patience in the process, and faith in knowing illumination will come when it’s damn good and ready (and of course, when we are ready to receive).

Other stuff:

Mother Symbolism

Raven Symbolism

Six Steps to Interpreting Dreams

Dream Symbolism

Crow Medicine for Laughter

 

Porcupine: A Symbolic Guide Through Grief

Porcupine Symbolism In Times of Grief
Porcupine Symbolism In Times of Grief

My mother-by-marriage (and mother-by-heart) passed away on Monday. 

Her transition naturally triggers a chain reaction for every soul she touched in her life, including me.

It’s been numbing.  Also, it’s been very telling to observe how each human copes so differently with the physical loss of our beloved.

Equally intriguing is the observance of various energies surfacing amidst raw human emotion.

Upon every encounter with physical death, the Porcupine wobbles into my presence with aplomb.  It enters my awareness with a casual authority, squatty legs shuffling through my mind, my meditations, moving through my moods.

I observe those quills as I have in the past, and know with piercing clarity the ability to barb in reactive situations.  So, I become mindful of my tongue & the energy I’m outputting in these moments of crude emotion.  Porcupine quills are slightly snagged at the tip making them neigh impossible to remove.  Once they meet their target those clever darts tend to stay put. 

 I keep my quills in-check these days following the death of my mother; keeping close watch on my behavior so as not to cause damage that cannot be undone.

Thankfully, those quills are multi-purpose.  Did you know they serve as floating devices?  Very apropos.  In murky pools of turbulent emotion, I feel my energetic quills fanning out – filled with air, they keep me afloat.  When waves of melancholy and morose moods threaten to overcome, Porcupine ingenuity keeps me buoyant, solvent, topside.

Also, mom’s passing and the ensuing madness are tailor-made for burrowing, something the Porcupine and I do together in silence.  Retreat.  Withdraw.  Porc’s don’t hibernate, but they are masters at holing up until the sun chooses to show itself again.

Which reminds me, Porcupines are considered solar or fire animals in many cultures.  Their quills are likened to sun rays spanning out from our solar orb.    I take comfort in this, as I am reminded of the radiant nature of my mom, she was a penetrating light and a presence of compassionate warmth to all who knew her – including me. 

I also find it fitting that aboriginal Nigerians paid special homage to the Porcupine, and saw the creature as a liaison to the spirit-realms. I totally dig this association.  With its unassuming candor, the Porcupine is a perfect travel guide through the veils of parallel life/lives. 

My Native American kin tell me the Porcupine is also an “in-between” walker.  With nonchalance, it moves through shadows of life and death…  straddling weird and paradoxical realities with aloof matter-of-fact’ness.

For these and many more reasons, the Porcupine has a stoic calm that proves invaluable in times of excruciating grief.   This totemic guide also opens channels of curious awareness – which, in solemn pits of sorrow can be priceless. 

The Porcupine delivers a childlike sense of wonder, which breathes new life in topics of death.  Adjustable focus, silver linings, awe, inspiration – all effective tools for healing in times like these.

In both life and physical death the Porcupine remains a remarkably effective compatriot:   A reminder, a guardian, a friend, and of course, a consummate flotation device in consumptive, emotional waves.

Other pages of interest:

Solar Animals

Hedgehog Symbolism

Animal Totemism


Thanks to Moosealope on Flickr for the Porcupine image above.

January Wolf Moon Symbolism

WolfMoonSymbolism
Wolf Moon Symbolism


Native American wisdom marries every full moon in a month with a specific feature in Nature.   These moon associations will vary depending upon the tribe we are honoring.  This month, January is deemed the Wolf Moon or Cold Moon by various tribes indigenous to the Great Lakes region of North America.

It’s been a tough month for some of us.  I thought it fitting to toss out some symbolic observations about the January Wolf Moon with a goal to offer inspiration to folks facing some challenges right now.

Lunar Symbolism:
Before blasting off into Wolf Moon symbolism, let’s take a look at lunar implications. Subtle, cunning and soft in silky shadows, the moons meanings can be slippery.  But, to those who grasp moon symbolism, great insights follow.  Typically feminine in archetypal understanding, the moon carries themes of cycles and fertility. 

Moreover, the moon conveys a kind of creativity that is born from veiled magic.  Consider the moon’s growth cycles (waxing, full, waning, new).  These phases are wrought from the moon’s movement.  And, the manifestation of her development is made known to us through light and shadow. 

What’s the symbolic lesson here?  Progress is sometimes subtle.  Manifestations of evolution often occur behind the scenes, in shadow – before we “see the light” or the end-product of our vision.

When contemplating this month’s full moon and its partnership with the Wolf, we must not cram our intellect into the void.  Rather, the Wolf Moon asks us to use intuitive instinct in soft ways

 The gifts of this full moon come to our senses like steam rising over sacred waters marbled with frosty stillness. 

Wolf Symbolism & Wolf Moon Solutions:
Strategic, resourceful and incredibly communicative, the Wolf is a noble mentor for humankind.  Wolves have specific protocol and rank within their packs.  This observation is a cue to look to community for creative solutions during this full moon.  Communicate with those in your pack to help you with your challenges.  But don’t break taboo.  If you follow specific traditions in social communication, hold to them.  In fact, use this full moon to honor traditions of your heritage.  Take time to honor your elders too.  Tribal rituals should be heeded this time of year.

Wolves are vastly expressive.  Sure, their vocalizations (baling, howling and barking) are legendary, but Wolves also have an complex system of body language and even eye contact to convey intent and current state of being.   Discipline in the pack is rarely corporeal.  Rather, behavior is admonished or reinforced by intricate expressions.  One look from the Alpha can convey as much power as a physical blow. 

There’s big medicine in this.  Use this full moon to get in touch with your own modes of expression.  Explore your own eye contact and body language.  Examine yourself in the  mirror (yes, I’m serious) as you’re talking on the phone.  View yourself objectively.  What are your expressions conveying?  How can you modify or enhance your body language to portray more authority or power?  Or, perhaps more softness and sensuality is needed.  Too often we are unconscious about our eye and body  movements in the scheme of social interaction.  This is a great time to ponder these nuances of communication.

Wolves are also phenomenally resourceful.  In fact, their resourcefulness is partly why this moon carries the Wolf moniker.  January is a brutal month in the northern regions.  The frigidity of winter crunches life to a stand-still in the wild.  To be sure, it’s a time of “sink or swim” to all wildlife exposed to the elements this time of year. 

Wolves, however, often thrive during this lean month.  They are designed to handle the brutality of cold quite well.  Furthermore, as Wolves are inclined to pick off weaker animals, January offers up a host of feasting options.    Perhaps we can use the resourcefulness of the Wolf to reconsider our options in life.  Maybe what seems bleak or lame in our life is actually an invitation for opportunity.  Food for thought.

I hope these symbolic ideas about the cold Wolf Moon inspire you to take advantage of January’s lunar fullness.  Take a pause on the evening of this month’s full moon to contemplate your own inner wisdom too.  I bet your findings will be illuminating.

Shine on.

Other topics designed to inspire:

Native American Full Moons

Your Native American Full Moon Zodiac Sign

Moon Symbolism

Moon Tattoo Symbolism

Moon Sign Personality Types

Wolf Symbolism & Wolf Totem Meanings


The image above was created by Avia Venefica using her moon photo, and a Wolf image from Dennis Matheson on Flickr (used with permission via Creative Commons).