How a Hopi Elder Changed My Life

Secluded in the Painted Desert of the Southwest the Hopi are a private but open-hearted, indigenous Nation that have preserved one of the most ancient cultures in North America.

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They are essentially an oral tradition people which means that they have other ways of keeping their history than written words that includes dances, songs, and storytelling. They even have a word, ‘Navoti’, which refers to the information that can only be exchanged through the spoken word, it has to do with the silent space between words, the feelings and gestures that can not be transmitted in the written form. This why I am usually hesitant to write about my experiences with the Hopi (along with a history of cultural appropriation and misunderstanding from anthropologists and spiritual seekers from the ‘New-Age’). So rather than attempt to write about the Hopi culture, which I am not qualified to do, I am compelled to share a story from my 20 years of experience and friendships on the Hopi Mesas.

“Hope” is a video representation of Hopi Prophecy Rock
Tribal culture is often more focused on the community than individuals, and any wisdom that individuals posses is generally considered the collective wisdom of the tribe. This can be a sensitive issue when elders speak out beyond the village, or draw attention to themselves, but there are times when it is necessary. Famed Hopi artist, mythical archaeologist, and poet, Michael Kaboti once explained to me, “Sometimes, in order to keep a tradition alive, you have to break the tradition. For that reason we have clowns as the accepted tradition-breakers.”

Nature, the First People and the spirit of our ancestors are giving you loud warnings. Today, December 10, 1992, you see increasing floods, more damaging hurricanes, hail storms, climate changes and earthquakes as our prophecies said would come. Even animals and birds are warning us with strange changes in their behavior such as the beaching of whales. Why do animals act like they know about the earth’s problems and most humans act like they know nothing? If we humans do not wake up to the warnings, the Great Purification will come to destroy this world just as the previous worlds were destroyed.
Grandfather Thomas Banyacya, speaking before the United Nations in 1992

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Above: Grandfather Martin Gashweseoma wearing “Pahana Chief” vest
The elder who changed my life is not a clown, but he has always been a trickster in my life. With the exception of Thomas Banyacya, who was the first elder to share Hopi Prophecies with the world, he may be the most well-known Hopi elder to outsiders. His name is Martin Gashweseoma (left), and he is known as the Keeper of the Sacred Fire Clan Tablets. I first met him at an international gathering of indigenous elders called Belonging to Mother Earth in the late 90’s.

Martin

Many of the attendees had really hoped that Martin would come to the gathering but he had declined. On the second morning of the week-long event there was a sunrise pipe-ceremony held on the beach. During the ceremony, we were visited by dolphins who swam in a circle just a few feet from the shore during the whole ceremony. I instantly felt they were visiting us and aware of what we were doing though logic would say that it was a coincidence. Still there were no dolphins anywhere else along the beach but right in front of us.

Later that evening we received word at the gathering that Martin had called in and had changed his mind and decided to come after all. His reason? He said that dolphins had visited him in his dream and told him he needed to go to the gathering… Arrangements were made and he arrived the next evening.

I was at the gathering hosting youth activities and workshops all week with my company, Living Folklore. We had been invited because of our history working at schools and reservations using art, circus performers, stilt walkers, and clowns. Every tribe around the world has some sort of clown character, so mimicry, puppets, and playful games are a great way to entertain audiences from different cultural backgrounds that don’t all speak the same language. On the evening of Martins arrival, one of our performers was invited to a birthday celebration that a bunch of elders would be attending. Martin stole the show when he asked her, Giggly Sprout the Clown, to marry him. It was beautiful to see the power of laughter as a universal form of relating between all of these elders, many of whom spoke different languages.

During the next day Martin and his translator, Emory, shared many stories and prophecies to a small gathering of people. It was a profound experience and a great responsibility to hear this wisdom, but it was many months after the gathering that Martin began to work his magic on me. I had a recurring dream for weeks and in it was Martin laughing at me. Sometimes I could hear him laughing but I couldn’t see his face, other times he was looking directly into my eyes and laughing. At first I assumed it was just a strange dream and then I began to wonder what it might symbolize.


Martin Explains the First and Second Prophecy Rock

I went through a lengthy series of initiations that involved clowns and masked characters on various Hopi villages before I was told where Martin lived.  After a while I visited him and was greeted at the door of his home with the same laugh that I had heard in my dreams. I asked him if he remembered me and he said that he always remembers his dreams… From this moment I actually began to believe that it might be possible for people to travel in their dreams and visit others. I have continued to study and work with dreams ever since.

Once, while showing me the Second Prophecy Rock, Martin spoke of the “technology that came from our DNA”. At the time I was not a fan of technology, I saw it as the source of so much destruction on our planet. I asked him, “You mean that computers, cell-phones, and internet can help humanity heal the planet?” He responded, “If only those with bad hearts use this technology, we will have big problems. We need people with good hearts to use this technology to benefit Mother Earth.” It is true that the technology we have came from our imaginations, our dreams, our DNA. Computers are nothing more than circuit boards made from crushed rocks and plastic from decaying fossils. Tools aren’t inherently good or bad, it is the intention with which they are used.

On a subsequent visit with Martin he told me that he had just returned from Japan. I teased him saying, “That isn’t very traditional for a Hopi elder to fly on an airplane.” He responded that indeed it was his tradition because they asked him to share the prophecies and that is his job. So I asked him what he told people in Japan and he responded, “I told them to leave before the tsunami comes.” This was over a year before the tsunami that crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant happened.

On the evening before the tsunami in Japan I saw Martin in my dream again. He kept appearing in different dreams saying the same thing. This time he wasn’t laughing. He said again and again, “It is time for these things that we have spoken of, it is time to wake up.” The following day Japan was hit with a devastating tsunami. Many will call this coincidence, or claim that it is a made up story. I do not believe that I have any special powers, I believe we all have the power to pay attention to our dreams. I believe we have much to learn if we do so. I believe that the earth wants us to wake up, I believe traditional elders have much wisdom for us should we choose to open our minds, our hearts, and listen. What do you believe?

Hopeful Prophecy Enacted Part 2

Ancient prophecies in modern times have already come to pass, setting the stage for a much needed global transformation in consciousness. Can humans self-fulfill our prophecies and dreams for the future? If so, do obsessions with Armegeddon and the apocalypse serve us? It is fatalism and laziness to assume that we are doomed so that we don’t have to do anything about it or take responsibility for our current situation. If we dare to dream bigger and envision a better future on the planet, we have a lot to learn from the elder cultures of this land.

After the Hopi Eagle Dancers spread their wings at the base of The Pyramid of The Sun on the spring equinox, they learned that they had fulfilled a 500-year-old prophecy kept since the time of Montezuma. Indeed, there had been migration and trade routes stretching from far in South America all the way up through Canada. Montezuma, knowing that his people had an ancient knowledge and culture to preserve and that that he could not defeat the Spanish, instructed his people to scatter to the four directions. These migrations dispersed the ancient knowledge in many tribes throughout the region, where it has been kept ever since. It is no surprise that The Hopi runners arrival in Mexico City was seen as a return of their relatives with a message that:

Now is the time to awaken the dream.

Central American Native runners then proceeded to spread the message of the return of The Eagle from the north (Hopi Eagle dancers) all over the region for many months, bringing with them a sacred fire. It was decided that representatives of Central American tribes would make a return run, re-tracing migration routes to the north and west, symbolically re-igniting the ancient flame of knowledge and reconnection between these ancient cultures. The run from south to north would go through the pueblo villages of Isleta, Acoma (Sky City), Zuni, Dine (Navajo), and end up at the oldest villages in North America on Hopi in Arizona.

Fellow filmmaker and friend, Brian Hardin of Knewways Media picked me up to travel with the runners as they made their way through Texas, New Mexico and ending in Arizona. Brian exemplifies the philosophy of using media to tell important cultural stories. Capturing these stories in a respectful manner and developing close friendships with many along the way has been a wonderful learning adventure for the many artists involved in Culture Collective.

As we were approaching Hopi and the end of the run, Brain asked me the best way to capture the culminating moments of the journey. I responded by telling him it would be best for us to just put the cameras away and be present as I didn’t want to disrespect The Hopi people and appear as tourists. Being present was enough of an honor in itself, and some things are not meant for film. Brian agreed.

As we arrived in the first village on Hopi, Brian was greeted by a man who turned out to be the chief of the Spider Clan. To our surprise the elders wanted this history to be documented and they wanted to direct the filming! they told us where to stand, what to film, what not to film, when to turn cameras on and when to turn them off. The result is some beautiful footage of the most ancient villages in North America and a wonderful sharing across cultures, each with their own way to participate in fulfilling a hopeful prophecy for humanity.

Hopi are a warm and welcoming people, but are also private and protective of their cultural heritage and wish to continue living as they have for hundreds of years. Some of these villages still have no running water or electricity (and they like it that way). Hopi have been living happily and traditionally for over 1,500 years on cliffs above the Painted Desert. It is completely inappropriate to visit Hopi villages unannounced or uninvited, but for people interested in learning more about Hopi culture, please visit The Hopi Cultural Center. If you are interested in helping Hopi to preserve their cultural heritage, you can learn more here.

There are many parts of the story that are purposely left out, for there are much better qualified people to share these parts. The story and history are far too deep and rich to convey in written words here. More videos, and articles from others involved in this unfolding story will be featured on this site in the coming weeks/months. Please get social, by sharing and “liking” these posts with your loved ones. We each play a part in the transformation and healing of our selves, our communities, our nation and our planet. You are here for a reason!

Hopeful Prophecy Enacted

Emanating beauty, a mother and daughter dress in full regalia to welcome Hopi and Aztec runners

*Updated, 1/31/2014*
Many prophecies that are positive and hopeful have been misrepresented or not even mentioned by mainstream media. The Maya 2012 Prophecies have been seen through a Christian, Indo-European lens as armageddon or apocalyptic whereas these cosmologies didn’t really exist to traditional Maya.  Maya are not extinct at all but living in traditional ways by the thousands throughout Central America, and many of their descendants still live in places far from Central America. Now that 2012 is behind us, we can clear away the hype and get to the root importance of this story.

Lucky for us, a collection of friends set out many years ago to learn and document these stories directly from the cultures that created them. What happened was quite unexpected and beautiful as these young film makers collaborated in harmony with elders, combining ancient wisdom with modern technology. This mutually respectful exchange was without the usual “outsider” cultural appropriation that has happened in years past. Everyone deserves to tell their own story in their own words. For cultures that come from Oral Traditions (stories must be shared through dances, spoken-word, ceremonies without relying on books and the written word)  it is not appropriate to have an anthropologist come in and write about them. Documentary footage captured on location directed by the elders themselves is a much better way to have this wisdom shared.

The Prophecy of The Eagle and The Condor is known amongst tribes from the northernmost tip of the Americas all the way to the southernmost tip. So there are many variations and interpretations, but the central theme says, “When the eagle flies with the condor, the north and south will be re-united and there will be peace upon the earth”. It has been well established that before there were state and country borders, native people traded and migrated covering thousands of miles in all directions. This unity ended with the arrival of Europeans upon American shores. Dividing tribes that once roamed free and placing them on reservations was devastating to First nations People, but they have endured with a story for all of humanity to honor and embrace.

The eagle is said to represent technology, physical strength and ironically has become a symbol of American military mite. The Condor is said to represent ancient, spiritual, indigenous/earthly wisdom. Obviously, the technological and physical prowess of the eagle, when not tempered with spiritual wisdom, can be quite destructive. As history tells us through the massacres by Conquistadors and Calvary of days past and current wars being fought on foreign soil. A merging of modern technology with an ancient sense of wisdom and respect for the earth and all of her inhabitants could surely bring a great peace upon the land.

In 2006, native people from all over the world sent water from sacred springs to the oldest continually inhabited villages in North America on The Hopi Mesas of Arizona. The water, representing the prayers of people for peace and healing, was poured into gourds. Then a group of Hopi ran over 1,500 miles with the water to Mexico City, where they were greeted by hundreds of traditional Aztec, and other local tribes at the foot of Tlaloc.

Tlaloc is a giant stone carving of The Aztec God of rain and water that has been moved to the center of Mexico City from its original home at The Pyramid of The Sun. Ceremony is the traditional way to “awaken” and make real the stories of the people, and when the Hopi runners arrived there was much ceremony between these ancient tribes.

The Hopi were invited to bring Eagle Dancers to the foot of The Pyramid of The Sun on Summer Solstice to fulfill a 500 year prophecy from the time of Montezuma. On Spring Equinox of 2006, the people of central America welcomed the ceremonial and symbolic return of The Eagle signifying the beginning of a great time of change, healing, purification, and ultimately peace.

This was one piece to the unfolding of the ancient prophecies of 2012 as kept by The Maya who know themselves as The Keepers of The Ancient Flame, The Lords of Time (known to Ancient Celts as The Vanir). This milestone also represented an aspect of healing of the 500 year-old wound since the arrival of Columbus, a time when native people would no longer need to hide their ancient knowledge from the world. A time when the world is ready to listen to the ancient wisdom of the original people of this land is upon us. That time is now.

Don’t take my word for it, watch the video and see the actual footage for yourself. With much gratitude to Brian Hardin and Alison Fast for capturing this historic event and to the many native people who have kept the flame of their ancient knowledge alive this footage is now available to the world. There is much ground to cover in the coming months for this is only one small part of the unfolding story. In future posts we will touch on the return run of The Aztecs to the Hopi Mesas of Arizona, hear words from The 13th Generation Keeper of The Mayan Staff as captured by filmmaker, Steven Copeland and much much more.

Evolution is not a spectator sport, get involved and participate, spread the word by “liking” the article, re-posting and supporting the movement to heal our planet and our history for the sake of future generations. Some stories are told, others are meant to be lived.

To learn more about this project, please visit here

 

Reggae in Indian Country With Casper From Hopi-Land

Musicians just love combining diverse cultural elements into creating fresh new sounds through instrumentation, rhythms, or lyrics. Live music has the ability to bring people together across cultures like no other art form. Some formats, like Blues, Jazz, Funk, and Reggae are especially welcoming to diverse ethnic and cultural flavors. After all, Blues was created when The Native American 4-beat rhythm was combined with African polyrhythms as a result of the coming together of African Slaves and Indians in southern Louisiana. Just like a pot of stew, there is an endless amount of flavors that can go into the pot, and an endless number of ways that those flavors can compliment each other.

Music and song are at the roots of every spiritual tradition, as well as dancing and community gatherings. It has the ability to convey feelings, release grief, express joy, tell stories, or even be a prayerful expression of gratitude for life itself. Some musicians are able to draw on such universal themes that they attract audiences across genres and cultures. Bob Marley was one of these artists, a figure who transcended music altogether as a prophet, a spokesperson for the oppressed everywhere. Just as Louis Armstrong’s name has become synonymous with Jazz, Bob Marley is synonymous with reggae.

In The Southwest, Casper Lomayesva from The Hopi Mesas, has become synonymous with Indian Reggae. Casper is not afraid to sing about the troubles of modern life growing up on the reservation or the joys of being alive. One evening I was blessed to catch Casper in a quiet moment to learn about his influences, how a young man from Hopi was introduced to reggae, and the philosophy behind his music. Casper shares his journey of finding a balance between his traditional upbringing and embracing new forms of musical expression, while keeping his ties and respect to Hopi strong. You can learn more or “like” his Facebook fan page here.

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