Monday, September 3, 2012

Bearing Gifts

When a Chicago friend learned that I was going to the 11th Gathering of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana, he asked if I would present some honor bundles to the grandmothers.

I emailed the organizers and when they gave permission, relayed the okay to my friend. Four days before I left, the package arrived: 13 bundles in white envelopes tied with red ribbon and leaves.

When I registered the afternoon before the gathering was to open, the staff knew of my mission. I was interviewed and advised to be prepared to present the bundles at one of the meal breaks during the program.

On opening day, the grandmothers entered the arena. Their spiritual energy was seismic, reverberating throughout my being. There were prayers and testimony to the grandmothers’ shared mission of peace. The pattern of the gathering was that each grandmother would speak and pray after ceremonies then (often) bless the approximately 600 attending. It was all marvelous but there was no opportunity to present the bundles – not a lunch, not at dinner.

 On the second day, the staff directed me to sit closer to the grandmothers. Again, the day was filled with song and dance and prayer. But again, there was no opportunity to present the bundles – not a lunch, not at dinner.

 The third day was hot – three digit temperatures. Our host grandmother, Margaret Behan, had arranged for riders to reenact the Cheyenne’s Long Ride from the Oklahoma reservations to their Montana home. The riders arrived this morning, accompanied by wolves (on leashes, brought to the reservation for ceremony). The stories about their sojourn, the healing prayers at places like Sand Creek, were intensely moving. That night, the Cheyenne prepared a feast for everyone attending. Once again, the day passed with was no opportunity to present the bundles.

 I was beginning to be annoyed at having been given the bundles, at having to carry them around, at perpetually waiting to present them.

 The last day of the gathering was filled, as the others had been, with wonderful messages and prayers and songs. I was assured that I could present the bundles after lunch. I was seated right next to the grandmothers. There were many presentations. I had about given up when they asked “Mim from Colorado” to come forward. I don’t know exactly what I said. I know it was something about having been asked by a wonderful and powerfully gentle man to present bundles containing the coals from a sacred fire intended to spread the message of peace around the world. I said there were papers in the bundles that could explain more.

 I thought it was over. But it was not. I was invited to present the bundles individually! I held the bundles with two hands, bowing a little as I handed it to the grandmothers. I looked deeply into their eyes. They looked deeply into mine. All of them smiled. Many of them kissed me. It was incredible. There were other presentations after mine and more prayers, then honor songs and dancing. The sacred fire, which had been burning before and throughout the gathering, was allowed to go out. And I had the indelible experience of personal contact with some of the most powerfully spiritual women on earth.

 Bearing gifts, I was blessed.

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