Wednesday, December 14, 2016

He Who Holds the Knife - Standing Rock Edition

The Assiniboine had a head chief by the name of He Who Holds the Knife. He was also called Left Hand or the Gauche. He Who Holds the Knife held much medicine. He knew when people were going to die. He knew when he was going to die. He was wica wakan, and he led his people in battle. Because he knew the hour of his death, he did not fear going into battle. In battle his only weapon was his medicine drum. When he beat his drum and sang, his people were victorious.

Edward Denig, the colonial in charge of Fort Union, wrote that the Gauche must have acquired poison from some white man. Denig claimed that the Gauche could predict death because he himself administered the poison - even to himself. In Denig's book Five Tribes of the Upper Missouri, Denig describes Left Hand as an "arrant coward" who sang while his warriors fought. But there was much Denig could not explain away.

How did He Who Holds the Knife always know exactly where the enemy was camped? How did He Who Holds the Knife survive small pox and so many battles? What about the battle where a great fog rolled in hiding the Assiniboine from the Gros Ventre? The Assiniboine warriors were separated one from another, and when the fog cleared, they found their chief wrestling on the ground with an enemy warrior. In the chief's hand was the Gros Ventre warrior's knife. That is how he came to be known as He Who Holds the Knife.

"Who lives, who dies, who tells your story." This is a lyric from the musical Hamilton. Nowhere is this more true than for Indigenous Americans. But spirituality is spirituality is spirituality is spirituality is spirituality (ok, that doesn't have the same ring as "love is love is love is love."). God, the creator, the higher power does not bless one people and leave everyone else on their own. Gifts of the spirit are available to all.

I believe in the power of prayer. I have felt its healing influence in my life. We go to Standing Rock to pray. We join our prayers to those of ten thousand more. We will pray for the earth. We will pray for the water protectors. We will pray for this nation. And selfishly we will pray for ourselves -- to be a little stronger, to be a little more serviceable, to be better citizens of Turtle Island.


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