Program 108: Health and Healing

Sacred Children

Judy Bluehorse Skelton

Judy Bluehorse Skelton

with Judy Bluehorse Skelton

Arlie Neskahi:
This is Wisdom of the Elders.

Relationships are important to all of us, but the connection between children and elders has a special place in our society, particularly today. Here’s Judy Bluehorse Skelton.

Judy Bluehorse Skelton:
Young people, children, hold a sacred place in the Indian community, as in all communities. But in the Indian community, traditionally, the elders would watch the new ones as they came in onto this earth to see what their gifts would be. It’s a perfect relationship with the elders watching the little ones. The parents – the in-between generation – are usually preoccupied with earning a living and kind of frantically caught up in the daily efforts and stresses to survive and provide for the family. But the elders are able to provide that long-term view. They bring a calmness and a depth of experiences that allow them to be with the little ones without judgment. And so they’re open to seeing what each child’s character and gifts are going to be – what they are, why they’re here. And they can cultivate and encourage those gifts and nurture them. And in doing so, the child is encouraged to be who they are instead of being something else that society or someone else may feel they should become.

Qahatika Girl. Photo by Edward S. Curtis. Courtesy of a2zcds.

Qahatika Girl. Photo by Edward S. Curtis. Courtesy of a2zcds.

It’s very healthy for a child to be free to express themselves, to play, to be introduced or invited into the adult world for ceremonies, learning at an early age how to conduct themselves, how to participate. And even the youngest child – two-year-olds – will respond to the circle. They respond to the ceremony. They know that something special is going on and that they are participating. Many times, children are excluded from the adult world as not understanding, or perhaps they’ll fuss or they’ll be impatient. And yet, this is how the children learn to be patient and how they learn that they have a role to play in the larger community.

And when the children get older, there are special ceremonies to initiate them into the adult world – into young womanhood and manhood. When I’m visiting classrooms, I see a lot of young people – high school and college age – looking for something. The concern with alcohol and substance abuse that we see today amongst our young people seems to me to be a desire or a cry from them for ceremony, for the initiation that marks them transitioning from child to young adult. In a society like today where we don’t have the ceremonies anymore, that welcome the young people into the adult world, they search for their own ceremonies. They may not call them ceremonies, but they are searching for that “coming together” that they are validated as human beings.

Music:
Keith Secola
Wassnondae
Composer: Keith Secola
Label: Akina Records

 A Comanche Child. Photo by Edward S. Curtis. Courtesy of a2zcds.

A Comanche Child. Photo by Edward S. Curtis. Courtesy of a2zcds.

A Comanche Child.
Photo by Edward S. Curtis.
Courtesy of a2zcds.

Our society does not treat young people with respect. The high amount of child abuse and runaways in the country, sexual abuse, and distrust amongst young people and the older people is very high.

I will talk about the traditional ceremonies, the initiation ceremonies, and that because we have a lack of those today, that they are trying to find ceremony by creating it themselves the best way they know how. And so they reach for the plants – whether that’s smoking or alcohol or marijuana – in an attempt to feel part of a community and in an attempt to feel like they belong.

Those attempts to create their own ceremony are unsuccessful for many reasons, partly they don’t have the elders there. Initiation into adulthood is conducted by the elders, is conducted by the older people, the wise ones who help lead and help that transformation to happen. So, for lack of having elders in their community lead ceremonies and help them through initiation ceremonies, they have formed their own gangs or their own circles in an attempt to experience this.

A Nez Perce Baby Photo by Edward S. Curtis. Courtesy of a2zcds.

A Nez Perce Baby Photo by Edward S. Curtis. Courtesy of a2zcds.

Full transformation cannot happen without the ceremonies and the elders there. And so the plants reveal their dark side. The tobacco, when it’s not treated with respect and used ceremonially under the guidance of elders and being taught the proper ways to use that plant, it reveals its dark side, which is, it’s very addicting. Nicotine is as addictive as cocaine. Some research is showing that it may be more addictive than cocaine.

And so the person gets stuck in trying to achieve or complete their transformation into the next stage of their life. And yet, without the proper instruction from the community, from the elders, the young people are left to themselves, left on their own, trying to solve and trying to figure this out for themselves. And so this may be an important aspect of why the drug and alcohol abuse is so prevalent amongst the American population. It’s an attempt to achieve a transformation, or to be in ceremony without the proper guidance to lead them through. So they cross that threshold and step fully into the next stage of life.

That is a common misunderstanding that Native people are involved or that marijuana plays some sort of role in our ceremonies. It does not. That’s a stereotype, a myth that needs to be dispelled and doesn’t play a role in our traditional culture at all. Part of that stereotype is that Indian people are smoking a peace pipe and are getting high and smoking different hallucinogenic herbs in the pipe, and this isn’t true. Again, it’s a lack of understanding.

Music:
Keith Secola
Wassnondae
Composer: Keith Secola
Label: Akina Records

Mother and Child - Apsaroke. Photo by Edward S. Curtis. Courtesy of a2zcds.

Mother and Child - Apsaroke. Photo by Edward S. Curtis. Courtesy of a2zcds.

I think it’s significant to know that when someone chooses to walk the Red Road or makes a spiritual commitment to serve the people, to follow traditional ways, it involves keeping yourself in good relationship, in right relationship, and that means not drinking alcohol at all, making the commitment to taking care of the body and treating it respectfully. And so no drugs, no alcohol.

Some individuals may choose to not participate in viewing violent movies, not to participate in using any profanity, not to participate in any gatherings where violence might be involved. It’s choosing to walk a path with respect and commitment, to be the best that one can be for the benefit of all one’s relations. With each breath, with each step, in every moment, may you all create beauty wherever you go. O-sodado.

 

Music:
Keith Secola
Wassnondae
Composer: Keith Secola
Label: Akina Records

Neskahi:
Educator, writer and herbalist Judy Bluehorse Skelton is Nez Perce, Chickasaw and Cherokee. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.