Initially, I began interacting with the Native Americans through the kids. I was a substitute teacher and was sent to a school in Warner Springs which sits among the local reservations. One day, someone wrote "F--- Native Pride" on the blackboard and my class squared off! It was Indians on one side, Mexicans on the other. "You brought E-Coli to the country," one side shouted. "Your dads are alcoholics," one Hispanic boy threw back.
We had to have a student body sit-down to address the issue. These kids are so sensitive to criticism that my guess is that they've absorbed a lot of negative comments over what some of their people have done. That is when I saw what Paul Harvey used to call "The Rest of The Story."
I always knew the history of our country but I never lived near a reservation before. There is a defined sense of lost identity. Relics of their past show up around the town of Julian, like teepees and totem poles. Some of their traditions have merged with the local ways and both are represented at events such as funerals.
The first funeral I went to in Julian was for a young man named Christopher. Indians burned sage throughout the ceremony, beat drums and chanted. It was very moving. They later burned the boy's belongings which didn't go over very well with his family who came later to claim them.
I know they do the sweat lodges here but I believe that those are cleansing ceremonies performed mainly by men, for men. Women do prayer circles/meditation rituals such as all focusing on the same problem or issue at the same time hoping to break down the energy of it.
Some of the native American women meet at dawn on mornings after a rain at a place in the woods near the Vulcan Mountain entrance. There are 10 log benches seated in a power circle and you can see where a fire has been lit in the center. It is a place for prayer or meditation but also a place to "bring" a problem and "leave" it with the group.
One brings an amulet or charm to represent a person in trouble or crisis and places it on a platter. The first time I was invited to watch, there were 8-10 pieces on the tray. Later, items piled up and spilt over. Problems amplified due to what these women called an "energy shift." In it, the power shifted from a male to female base which occurs every 1000 years.
These gatherings feel like church used to. They are uplifting and inspiring. These women are bringing problems forward to solve instead of hoping they will go away on their own. This is a powerful sharing among women-for to share is to expose and that could bring shame. These women are honor-bound to handle the information exchanged with respect.
After a few visits, I was asked to participate and it became one of my favorite things to do. I'm honored that they let me 'play" in their very sacred game.