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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Elk's Prayer: Meditation for Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving 
here in the United States.

Top stories on BBC
News on this day of thanks:
Unrest, violence, and anger all over the world... 


Occupy Wall Street has spread to major cities around the United States.  As we hail on the Arab Spring, our leadership here cringes at our homegrown dissent of the status quo.  Arrests, pepper spray, beatings, evacuations... 

How do we make sense of it all?  
How do we give thanks?

Well, I know that the only way I can keep a smile on my face is to think small, to zoom into my own back yard and try to make my little world have a positive impact on what's around me.  The supposed domino effect... Everything we do has an impact on the world in some way:


Thanksgiving has become an annual tribute, for me, to the Native Americans who inhabited this land before we white people arrived.  Those first whites would have died if it had not been for the natives who showed them how to plant corn and survive the winter.

I planted a Native American variety of corn this year in my garden.  The stalks grew really, really tall and spindly.  Then, we had a big storm and they all fell over.  I read online that when there is too much clay in the soil, the roots can't take hold and it's a problem...  My uncle-the-farmer poo-poohed the idea of even trying a Native American variety of corn.  "Stay away from that and go with the hybrids that are tested and true."

 Hmmm.....  Maybe I want the challenge...  For sure, I would have been one of the white girls who would not have survived Thanksgiving in those early days...

I don't have Indians on a pedestal, glamorizing the past or seeing them as good while the whites were/are evil.  History happened as it did.  It is up to us to shape the future.  But, I do like the relationship that Natives had/have with the land and how God speaks to us through it.  So, on Thanksgiving, I find one story and think about that for the day.  

On this day, I will be thinking about Black Elk and John Neihardt.  Here is a little ditty about this video:

John Neihardt reciting Black Elk's Prayer. Neihardt wrote the prayer shortly after the 1931 historic talks he had with Black Elk at Pine Ridge Reservation. He was able to capture in poetic form what the great Sioux holy man was relating to
him in Lakota conversation. In 1971 Neihardt recorded his recitation of the prayer. Thirty five years later, grandson Robin composed the music and combined it digitally with John Neihardt's recording. The old photos in the video clip were taken by John Neihardt and his daughter Hilda during the 1931 meetings.

Black Elk's words resonate through time.  But, even more beautiful to me is the legacy that both he and Neihardt left for the future, collaborating together to create peace and understanding, a bridge between cultures.

May we all build our own bridges as we move ahead in history, knocking down one domino at a time.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Black Elk and Neihardt at the Sioux 
Victory celebration at Pine Ridge in September 1945.


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“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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