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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Finding my heart for the Native People of Turtle Island

Finding the Creator's Heart at The Battle of Greasy Grass, "Little Big Horn"

When I married my husband three years ago, I knew he had a heart for the Native Americans. Early on in our dating, Danny had shared with me how he had attended a gathering of Indians and “Europeans” at Celilo Falls where his heart had broken for the Indians and had then expanded to embrace a love for them. I do love all people but did not have the same depth of love for the Native Americans that Danny had. Frankly, I didn’t even know much about their history, culture, or even the hardship they continue to experience in these modern times. I only knew bits and pieces of the skewed information our history books taught us--the first Thanksgiving, westward expansion, the French & Indian War--or what I saw on movies--Tonto and the Lone Ranger, war parties, Pocahontas.

I just didn’t have that some yearning for this people group my husband had, but, since I loved my husband, I asked the Lord to give me that same heart. I thought God would just plunk that love into my heart, but instead, He sent me on a vision quest, a journey to gain the love for America’s Host Nations.

The journey began as a 3 week, 7,000 mile round trip to meet my new husband’s relatives and friends and for him to meet mine. It was going to be a people trip, not a sightseeing trip because we had a tight itinerary (part of which involved arriving at our host’s home right around dinner time!) Our first visit was to my dear friend Stephani’s home in Lakeside, Montana. While visiting the quaint town of Big Fork, Stephani snapped a picture of Danny and me standing by a brass statue of a chief astride his horse. This was the beginning of the thread of the Native American theme woven throughout our trip.

On day two of our journey, we visited Danny’s friend Lockley, a Black Foot, Native American pastor, and his family on the Flathead Indian Reservation in St. Ignacious, Montana. I had never stayed overnight on a reservation; I’ve only passed through reservation land or bought fireworks on the Muckleshoot Reservation here in Washington. In my white mind and background, I had no idea what to expect. Lockley and Traci’s home was just off the freeway. It was a nice home in an average neighborhood surrounded by beautiful Bitterroot Mountain scenery--not a tipi in sight. That evening as we sat around a fire pit and shared stories, our backdrop was an orange Montana sunset. Lockley said most of the choice pieces of property on the reservation was being bought out by non-Indians. As we spent the night at their home, I somehow felt like I was an interloper.

The next day we headed to Sundance ,Wyoming to visit my dad and step-mom. Danny drove our economical Prius while I had the responsible job of chief navigator. This meant I got to use my handy dandy 2004 travel atlas to keep the driver apprised of our whereabouts, point out significant land marks, funny town names, and crazy billboards as well as acting as the lunch chef and water bottle supplier. While we travelled through southeast Montana, I spotted The Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument on the map. “Isn’t that where Custer had his last stand? Oh, Danny, can we please stop in and see it? I know we weren’t going to do much sightseeing,’s right off the freeway. We don’t have to stay long.” This decision to make a quick stop along the freeway was life changing for me.

As soon as we got out of the car, Danny and I could feel the solemn heaviness of the atmosphere. A park ranger was in the middle of telling the story of what transpired on the fateful day of June 25-26, 1876. The ranger didn’t tell the brief version I had learned in school, but told a balanced story of soldiers who had to unwillingly follow their arrogant commander, Indian scouts who had warned General Custer that they would be outnumbered if they proceeded into battle, and many separate Indian tribes who fought to protect their families, their homes, and their lively-hoods.

Danny and I somberly climbed the hill where Custer and many of his soldiers had died. Aged white gravestones marked where the troops had fallen. On the top of Last Stand Hill stood a obelisk commemorating that fateful day. Visitors spoke in hushed tones as they began to understand the gravity of what had transpired 137 years ago almost to the day. Danny and I began to read the information kiosks. On this hill, the soldiers shot their horses in a desperate attempt to protect themselves. Indian braves shot arrows from down below to protect themselves and their families.

When the smoke of the battle cleared and the arrows ceased to fly, 210 of Custer’s men, 53 of Major Reno and Captain Benteen’s men, and 60-100 Indian braves had lost their lives. The Lakota and Cheyenne removed most of their dead from the battlefield that day. Two days later, the bodies of Custer and his command were hastily buried where they fell. In 1877, the remains of eleven officers and 2 civilians were moved to eastern cemeteries; the remains of the rest were buried around the base of the memorial. In 1890, 249 white headstone markers were erected on the battlefield in memory of the soldiers. It wasn’t until 1999 (109 years after the battle) that the National Park Service began erecting red granite markers at known Cheyenne and Lakota warrior casualty sites which finally gave a “balanced interpretive perspective of the fierce fighting.”

As I carefully walked on the trail--I sure didn’t want to run into any of the rattlesnakes the signs had been warning me about--I came to a red gravestone. It read: “Ve Ho Enohmenehe ‘Lame White Man’ A Cheyenne warrior died here on June 25, 1876 while defending his homeland and the Cheyenne way of life.” From this hill, I could see across the vast landscape--rolling hills, a few low trees, and the stream some of the soldiers had made an attempt to reach. The only sound was the wind rustling through the prairie grass. My chest began to ache, my stomach began to twist and tears trickled down my cheeks as the enormity of lives lost hit me. Both sides had lost loved ones....this was a solemn, grievous place. In the heavy quietness, I heard God’s voice, “It grieves me too.” I felt I could start wailing in grief at this point but held back, and just stood hunched over, allowing myself to feel the pain.

Danny saw me bent over. As he embraced me he asked if I was okay. I said I was grieving. “You are travailing” he said. “You are travailing in intersession for what happened here.”

God continued to fill my heart and said, “I didn’t want them to die. I want unity between all people.” So on the top of Last Stand Hill, in the middle of Little Big Horn Battlefield, with white and red gravestones surrounding me, and the prairie grass solemnly rustling, God gave me a heart for Native Americans and I joined the Creator in a prayer for unity.

But this is not the end of my vision quest......

Sunday, September 25, 2016

As we watch the world and people of the world there seems to be a shift going on that is so needed. Those people of the dominant culture in America have for the last five hundred and thirty five years been outward looking. The driving force and motivation has been explore, reach out, reach higher and keep pushing for more and more of everything. The problem has been at the expense of inner peace, respect for each other, respect for our elders and disregard for the earth that is our home. The land, the water and other resources were from the beginning placed here for us to steward, honor and be eternally grateful for. The life of all living things depends on water and without clean water nothing can survive. We lift up a song from our hearts and sing of unity between all people, living things, animals, water and the earth. It has become my conviction that the organized church should humbly bow before the Creator and ask for forgiveness and partner with our Native brothers and sisters in turning around this culture of greed. Let true disciples display humility and reach across all the walls that have divided us. Be the examples of lives lived in reconciliation of heart and attitude.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux

My wife and I are settling down to our life in Yakima Washington. It has been my great joy to spend time every week on the Yakama Reservation.

This has been the most difficult time in my life as I underwent surgery to remove cancer near my Pancreas the end of March 2016. I went three and half months without eating solid food. This all changed on July 9th of this year. Thanks to prayer and The Creator I began eating again. I lost sixty three pounds during this ordeal. Having regained my strength we pick up the deep concern and care for the causes our Native Brothers and Sister are fighting every day. Now more than ever our voices must be heard.

We stand with the Protectors of the Water in Cannon Ball North Dakota.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Silver Bells

Thirty-eight silver bells ringing in the night
Thirty pieces of silver the price of injustice
Thirty-eight silver strands holding the weight
Thirty-eight silver bells ringing, ringing, ringing

Weep not for me, I have made my peace
Weep for the silver bells singing
Weep for the injustice and and its might
Weep for the silver strands pulled tight

Sing my song, sing it strong
Strike the drum with gentle beat
Sing my song, with the ground so far below my feet
Strike the drum our honor song you will never defeat

Thirty-eight silver bells chained with hoods
Thirty-eight voices never more to be heard
Thirty-eight memories remain so restless
Thirty pieces of silver the Judas price

Riders in the snow
Ride on, ride on until everyone will know
The silver bells and the memory of those brave souls
To stand for what is right is our aim

Listen in the distance the sound so real
Listen in the distance Yankton Sioux
Listen to the song of the living children and elders too
Listen for the sound of hope and the silver bells we ring

Thirty pieces of silver
Thirty-eight silver bells
Thirty-eight memories awaken the dawn
Thirty-eight  plus two horses to run
Thirty-eight plus two shouts of justice, we have only just begun

Danny J Dean (copyright) 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

We will not forget the holocaust, we will not forget Pearl Harbor, We will not forget 9/11 and we will not forget these brave innocents. We will not forget the Trail of Tears. We will not forget Wounded Knee and we will not forget Chief Sitting Bull who was assassinated on this day in 1890. The beginning of healing is to admit something is wrong. America Remember !!!


Update from Yakima

It is hard to believe a year has past since I stopped to write here.
Today I want to stop and remember a true hero who had his life taken from him today.

On this day in 1890 the great leader, holy man, and Chief of his tribe, of the Hunkpapa Sioux was assassinated.

We remember and rever his great man. Sitting Bull.

Throughout history there have been great mistakes that have cost the lives of innocent ones. Misunderstandings across cultural lines have led to disasters. Another holy man Wavoka received inspired revelations not unlike John the Baptist. As a result of these revelations new hope spread throughout the people. This hope was interpreted as a threat and thus Chief Sitting Bull was caught up in the political confusion of the day. As a result of those people guided by suspicion and fear of what they did not understand, an innocent man lost his life.

We raise our hands to the Creator and give him thanks for the few short years Sitting Bull walked the earth.

Mitakuye Oyasin

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Sound of the Drum

Why does the drum lift my heart like an Eagle soaring higher and higher?
The rhythm of the honor song opens up my eyes to see what I have never seen before
The Grass dancers moving this way and that as all sadness is carried away
The hoop dancers comes to show what has started will have a beautiful end
Such is the circle and such is the scene before me now here in  my heart my Native friend

Like a magnet pulling me in, the warrior circle lifting their song
In this moment I am home, In this moment the sounds of the city are no more
Like a tug on my soul there is no where else to go, I cannot explain
Why my heart is pulled to the plateau people who stand in the gap
Between what was and what is and what should be

     Can you hear the drums?
         Can you hear the elders song?
             Can you feel what life really is?
                 Can you hear Black Cloud?

                              Restoring the land
                             by the Creators hand
                            brothers all, one band
                           with you I will stand