Some thoughts

Ode nagdewendemwen…

Some years ago…….

Ya know, when one runs, when it’s time to walk, and one walks too fast when it may be time to stroll along, and further; when one walks, when it’s time to sit and ponder, and maybe just sit and observe awhile, it just might be possible one could miss the whole thing they are searching for in all that hurrying along. I heard an old man talk about that very thing once awhile back now. He spoke of taking the time to sit alongside the road once in awhile, instead of being in too big a hurry, and perhaps waiting for “the right leading” on whatever it happened to be one was seeking.  I interpret “the right leading” as a gut feeling, sort of.

Some of these young folks are traveling way too fast sometimes. They might just over-run whatever it is they may be seeking if they go too fast. That seems to be the way it is today though; rush, rush, rush. When I was growing up the old people always told us to take our time when it came to fasting, or going about some other way of ceremony. It was a ceremony for us to plan and make a pipe, complete with pipe stem, pipe tamp, bag and other essentials. 

I was told to acquire the red catlinite first, then prayerfully choose a design as to how I would carve it. Fashioning it was supposed to be done prayerfully as well, often taking a whole year to complete the process. Going out and choosing the right tree limb for my pipe stem was a process and became a ceremony in itself. One marked the tree, and then went out often to pray to the Surround Powers, and to request the spirit of the tree for permission to use it, and then at the proper time, go out and carefully cut the limb from the tree, without hurting the rest of the tree. This was done usually after the completion of fashioning the pipe bowl. Taking the wood for the tamp was done usually at the same time as the cutting of the stem. 

In the fashion which I have just described, taking of the pipe stem, this was referred to as “lifting” the spirit of the tree, for the general well being of the common people. In this way, the common people had a stake in all the young pipe maker was doing, and if the young person sought a vision and became a successful “Pipe Carrier”, having acquired a “vision” of sorts, the common people benefited from all the young person did. 

Many times the young pipe maker’s family and relatives helped him out with the making of a pipe bag and other accessories of the pipe. In this way, the whole family and extended family shared in the process and the young person often felt the strong support of his community. 

When one is gifted with a pipe, it was commonly expected one would go out and fast with that pipe in due time, but never in a rush. One also looked to their “religious experts” too, when the came  time to go out and sit in the wilderness somewhere to seek a vision. We refer to the wilderness as “megwesegyek” (thick brush). Those religious experts were the old ones who knew the ways among the Neshnabek, sometimes they were also called medicine men/women, and sometimes we simply called them Nakendemwajek, the wise ones. They had the power though and could communicate for you when it was time for one to go and seek a vision. It was thus important to keep them apprised of your plans to make a pipe and one’s desire to go out to seek a vision. 

Those old timers had Nizhokmagejek (spiritual helpers) to aid them in watching over you as well, while you sat out there in the wilderness. All of these things were done in accordance with our Neshnabek Ways and in our language. When you prayed to the Creator, you used your language to do so. I shall share more as time goes on of these things our young people did when accomplishing some of these sacred things of our people. 

Iw enajmoyan ngom,

Nin se Neaseno.

Author: neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

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