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?

Eagle and Condor: A Story of Hope

Hopi Eagle Dancer

Emergent stories that create hope, and inspire people to action are of the utmost value at a time when many traditional systems are failing. The Eagle and Condor Prophecy is multi-layered with diverse people from many tribes interpreting and enacting variants of the story. Whether it is the Hopi running with sacred waters to perform an Eagle Dance at the foot of The Pyramid of the Sun, or Aztec retracing migration routes with the Sacred Fire there is an awakening happening of epic proportions. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, a story of hope isn’t complete without delving into the darkness and destruction that is threatening all of life on our planet. The forthcoming film, The Condor and The Eagle does not shy away from the struggles we face in order to reach our goal of healing Mother Earth.

The Condor and The Eagle weaves together the stories of four individuals (2 from the US and 2 from Canada) who in their way take a stand against corporate pollution, organizing communities where they live and as they travel to South America, meeting other Indigenous communities impacted by similar extractive industries. Each person is involved in the #‎TarSands struggles of their community (Northern Gateway, KeystoneXL and other pipelines, Houston-area chemical refineries, and ocean oil tankers).

The film addresses the following issues: – The rise of the environmental movement – The Indian genocide caused by the modern and industrial machinery – Climate change – Intercultural awareness – Women’s leadership – Values of respect for nature – Community organizing strategies.

Author, activist, and economist, John Perkins has helped to popularize the Eagle and Condor Prophecy. Perkins is a co-founder and board member for The Pachamama Alliance which integrates indigenous wisdom with modern knowledge to support personal, and collective, transformation that is the catalyst to bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet. The Shift of the Ages Film also helped to bring this emerging dream forward.

The Sacred Tree (which is narrated in the trailer below) was written by beloved Chief Phil Lane of The Four Worlds International Institute. The project is called The Take Off and they will be releasing a 15 minute version of the film to launch their crowd funding campaign on the 24th of January in Martinez, CA. Tell your friends and stay tuned as to how you can help make this wonderful film become a reality. The story is growing, it is not only to be told but to be LIVED!

Indigenous Kogi on Global Webcast: Restore Balance or Perish

We have seen the metaphor played out in recent films like Avatar and more recently Interstellar but now it is time to recognize that it is actually happening in real life. Human beings with all of our promise and ingenuity are causing irreversible havoc upon the delicate natural systems that sustain all life. This is only a doomsday scenario if people choose to do nothing about it. This message is echoed through the teachings of all indigenous tribes who hold nature and our place within it to be sacred. The Kogi People of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are probably best known through the BBC’s film A Message from the Heart of the World or the independent film Aluna. This pristine and original culture lives close to nature. Having retreated from the advance of civilization for hundreds of years keeping their ancient teachings alive,they have decided that it’s absolutely necessary to communicate to the rest of the world a basic message; Change the way you live, or the balance of Nature will be broken. It is not a new message but the concept of them speaking it live via webcast this weekend is absolutely unprecedented.

Often called ‘The Elder Brother’, the Kogi see modern cultures and technological civilization as ‘The Younger Brother’. That we allow the complete desecration of forests, oceans, animals, and fresh water merely for pieces of paper called money is actually quite telling of how childish our “modern” culture really is. Yet if we are to harness our technology and use it in a responsible way to restore and heal our planet while taking care of all life, then we will have something hopeful to work towards. Some call this powerful combination of ancient wisdom and respect for nature working together with modern technology the fulfillment of the Eagle and Condor Prophecy. Regardless if you believe in prophecy, the opportunity to hear elders from some of the most ancient villages on the planet speak live via global webcast is some sort of history in the making. Perhaps we are witnessing the birth of a shared global story an initiative for turning the tides and bringing the healing that is so desperately needed?

This is another step in a process that began years ago. This particular journey began as a response to the disaster at Fukushima. The message we are bringing is that we are living in a state of imbalance. It’s now time to take action, conscious action, to begin to restore balance to Mother Earth.’

The journey is actually the third part in a four part journey. The first leg took them to the ‘Four Corners’ region of the USA in late June/July of this year. There they met with the Native American keepers of that land and did ceremony and unified with them. Then, together with the representatives of the Diné people from the Four Corners, they went to Japan to raise awareness and do ceremony for the disaster at Fukushima. Most of the time in Japan was spent near the sacred center of Mount Fuji, where they met with local elders and representatives. The fourth, and final part of this journey will be to the volcano of Mount Etna in Italy.

‘Our guidance is telling us that we will reach Mount Etna by sometime around May of next year’. Nelson told us, ‘This whole journey is but a part of a much bigger process that is reaching out to raise awareness about the need for Earth restoration.’

‘Restore the Mother Earth’s rights to her Natural Constitution’

‘The essential message can be distilled down to the phrase ‘Restore the Mother Earth’s rights to her Natural Constitution’. We will speak more to this in the coming days. We will speak about this at UPLIFT. We will speak about what we mean exactly when we say “Natural Constitution”. The way that Modern Society is based on extraction of minerals and natural resources has to end. We have to think of the generations to come. We have to listen to the Original Peoples that have maintained a connection to nature and realise that we have become disconnected. It is time to reconnect with nature. -Translated by Nelson Caraballo

If this tickles your curiosity then you should consider tuning in to the global webcast this weekend through UPLIFT Festival, where you will also experience many other exciting and inspiring presentations that will give you hope for things to come. Sometimes the bad news can be overwhelming but it is each one of us who has the power and ability to become the good news. This can happen in the smallest of ways by showing kindness to those around you, honoring a sacred place in nature, spending time with your elders or playing with a child who looks up to you. Each of us was placed here at this time for a very special reason, there is much work to be done!

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Photo Courtesy of Brendan Shoebridge

2012, The Power of Prophetic Fiction

Everyone is talking about December 21, 2012, but beneath the hype and conjecture about fate there are some very deep and interesting cultural phenomena emerging. Between economic meltdowns, religious wars, institutionalized corruption in the highest places of government, accelerated technological advances, rapid deforestation along with the pollution of water and air, it is clear that something is coming to a head on our little planet. Even if there was no Mayan Calendar, I’m sure we’d all be talking about these changes. It just so happens that this enigmatic historical date in time has become the focal point of the discussion. It is my hope that the discussion will continue long after December 21, as we are needing to make some dramatic shifts regardless of “ancient prophecies” if we’d like to continue inhabiting a healthy planet.

“Don’t play with rubber-bands or you’ll shoot your eye out!”, we’ve all heard statements like this. Sometimes we tell stories to emulate what “could happen if…” and through engaging the idea of a possible future, we may make choices in the now that change or create different sets of future possibilities. We all used our imagination as children the way a little boy is a fireman with the garden-hose, or a little girl pretends to be a mom with her doll, it is human nature. Just like an architect with a 3D model on a computer, or a scientist that turns a theory into an experiment to test a hypothesis, this type of visualizing or play is vital to problem solving.

The western mind is a written-centric mind. To make things “literal” from the late 14th century meant, “taking words in their natural meaning” (originally in reference to Scripture and opposed to mystical or allegorical) or (“of or pertaining to letters or to writing”), from Latin littera, litera (“a letter”). The notion of a “literal” statement is a cultural lens. It is entwined in all religious doctrines and is still being played out today in religious wars between monotheistic faiths who have different core books and followers who take every word written literally. This “written justification” was also used to label natives with non-written languages as “savages” to be enslaved or forced from their ancestral lands.

Conversely, indigenous peoples tend to come more from an oral tradition rich with allegory, symbol, and metaphor. To say that, “the river speaks to the land with the tears of our ancestors” is a statement full of truth for many Native Americans though it might sound ridiculous if one were to take it literally. The notion of taking the end of The Mayan Calendar literally as “The End of The World” is a cultural misunderstanding though it may be helpful in making us consider the path we are currently on. It may be an inaccurate “literal” western projection of apocalypse or armageddon, but the truth of our current situation on Planet Earth can not be ignored.

Some prefer fatalism, it’s a great coping mechanism for anyone who thinks the problems of the world are insurmountable. “If the worlds gonna end and it has already been prophesied then I don’t have to do anything about it.” Some prefer to blame man’s problems on God who will enact a just punishment at the end of time, and some use science to show us that there is absolutely no proof that the world will end. Yet deep inside we all know that each of these approaches is skirting the truth of our own role and responsibility in shaping the future. We can light a candle, burn some sage, pray with all of our holy books and fund science until we are blue in the face but none of it will matter if we we don’t address the choices we are making now and how they will effect our future.

The world we live in now is filled with technological gadgets that are beyond the musings of a great science-fiction novel from a half century ago.Martin Cooper, has stated that watching Captain Kirk using his communicator on the television show Star Trek inspired him to develop the handheld mobile phone. We humans have dreamed worlds into being yet we are still quick to draw limits on what is possible.

The light shines bright and the shadow has grown dark around us as we reflect on our manufactured triumphs and tragedies. December 21, 2012 has become more than a date, more than a prophecy, it has become an emergent cultural milestone for considering our global future. Will we take full responsibility or stick our heads in the sand? If we don’t like the hole we are in, maybe it is time to stop digging…

These next 2 weeks will be filled with discussion about 2012, The Mayan Calendar and prophecy. One meme has gently been planted in my mind and I can’t help wonder what it might sprout into. I’ve seen it on Twitter, and Facebook #unify the initiative at unify.org has taken the notion of prophetic fiction to new heights. Though it may be a lofty notion, an unreachable goal, who am I or you to place limits on what is possible? Am I foreshadowing my next article? Of course!

Not without a critical eye, but with a hopeful heart, I have been dreaming that something unexpected and beautiful beyond words would take the world by surprise on December 21, 2012. No longer satisfied to wait for government leaders to drag their feet on global issues that effect us all, no longer can we allow national or economic interests to outweigh our global conscience. We need to find that place within us all that knows we are interconnected and interdependent regardless of our faith, our nation, our beliefs. The time to act is now. We are the ones we have been waiting for and we are not waiting anymore. Is this fact or prophetic fiction?

White Buffalo Day 2012: A Positive Sign

Illustration by R.E. Wall

Every culture and religion has prophecies that concern future catastrophe and/or Earth renewal and rebirth. Maybe these are meant to be fate that is written in the stars, or mere warnings about possible futures. The Mayan date of 2012 has brought the discussion to the forefront of many peoples thoughts. Wether it is nuclear fallout from Fukushima, global warming, solar flares, pole-shifts, economic melt-down or political unrest, the “doom and gloom” predictions seem to take spotlight over the more positive notions of renewal. No matter what you believe, it is clear that we are in a time of uncertainty and unprecedented change. The White Buffalo Prophecy, handed down for 19 generations within the Lakota Tradition, has continued to unfold in magical ways that paint a positive future for humanity.

In 1994 Alison “Tootie” Montana, a prominent Black Indian Chief from New Orleans, had a vision of bringing together many tribes to celebrate their shared history. David Carson, Choctaw author of “Medicine Cards” and Kam Nightchase, a Lakota Pipe-Carrier also shared a similar vision. Reverend David “Goat” Carson of New Orleans led the organizational effort to make this vision a reality at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park. The gathering was called “Sacred Medicine Circle at High Noon” on Aug. 20, 1994.

Black Indians are descendants of slaves who inter-married with local indian tribes, as noted by the scholar William Loren Katz. Indians would raid plantations, free the slaves and escape into the swamps where they shared and mixed their cultures. This union was clearly seen as a threat to the colonists, who did their best to stomp out the resistance and make sure the history of it was also erased.

Congo Square, located in the Treme Neighborhood in New Orleans, was a place where slaves and free people of color gathered to drum, dance and trade on Sundays. The dance, with origins in Africa and throughout the Caribbean, is called the Calinda and is said to invoke the ancestors. Local American Indians had a prophecy that their ancestors would one day return with songs and dances to heal the nations of the world and the slaves were seen as the fulfillment of this prophecy. The coming together of African poly-rhythms with the Native America pow-wow drum birthed the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.

So it was fitting for a sacred medicine circle to be held on Congo Square to bring this history out in the open, bringing people together across tribal lines to celebrate unity and healing. However, the event was considered controversial for bringing up a history that is not much talked about in the deep south. During the ceremony, in acknowledgement of the controversy, Rev. David “Goat” Carson asked for a sign from the Buffalo Nation that this coming together in Unity was good medicine for the people. The event was attended by many tribes, including Lakota, Choctaw, Cherokee and others.

Meanwhile in Arizona, another event had been organized for the same week called The World Unity Festival to honor The Hopi Rainbow Prophecy. This prophecy talks about a time when people will come together from all religions, all cultures and colors, to restore the sacred hoop of life on Earth and bring healing. Neither event organizers were aware of the others event. The World Unity Festival culminated with Drumming Around The World, which included people drumming simultaneously in 38 countries and 42 U.S. States for unity and healing. The drumming was led by the late Baba Olatunji and was attended by members of Hopi, Dineh (Navajo), Havasupai, Apache local tribes and people from all over the world.

During that same week in Janesville, Wis., a White Buffalo was born named “Miracle” thus fulfilling a Lakota prophecy that is 19 generations old. In response to these events the City of New Orleans proclaimed Aug. 27 as White Buffalo Day to be celebrated from this day forward. Eighteen years later, and after many deep and meaningful cultural exchanges between tribes across the country sharing their own stories and prophecies for the future, White Buffalo Day is still being celebrated in New Orleans and all over the world. You can learn more at WhiteBuffaloChildren.org or read the actual city proclamations here.

Please enjoy the video of Chief Arvol Lookinghorse, 19th Generation Keeper of The Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe and Bundle, speak about the prophecies. As he states, “We all love our kids, we all have a gift of compassion and a gift of responsibility.” Political institutions and religious organizations that are supposed to bring unity are currently the cause of so much fighting across borders and religious lines, perhaps White Buffalo is a calling to come together regardless of our backgrounds and create a better world for future generations. As Chief Lookinghorse states, “No one person is better than the other.” It is truly a time to find spiritual unity or we may just inherit a doomsday future instead of a positive one.


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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.

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