I Am Not an Activist


An activator for many things, perhaps. But, never in my mind or heart have I identified as an activist even while creating change in systems unaccustomed to the same.

However, there appear to be others–many of them– who feel differently and have paved the way for me to join the #noDAPL protest in Cannonball, North Dakota. I’m not sure even they, though, would use that term.

When Nicholas Black Elk appeared in my world last summer, he made it clear to others that I knew something that I didn’t know and, to me, made it clear that I needed to speak. About what, I vacillate between being absolutely sure of and never quite certain.  Even when he would interrupt someone’s visit to the ladies room, saying, ‘Ask her. She knows.’ Sometimes he and the others in my entourage gently say, “Speak, child. Speak.”  Other times, with a sense of urgency they shout “SPEAK!”  And, again, I often don’t know what it is about.  And, conversely, I often do and my retorts are laden with frustration and sarcasm; “What do you want me to say?!  Don’t kill people?!  Duh, folks.”

So when Black Elk let me know that I needed to go the Standing Rock reservation last summer–at the time the #noDAPL protest was in it’s merely-an-idea stage–I had no frame of reference, no context, breathing-human or other connection to understand why I was being asked to go.

The context was not revealed, either, when cohorts of Nicholas Black Elk joined my growing council of many as the months went on.  They include Chief Red Wing (Mdewakanton), Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa), Touch the Clouds (Minneconjou), Chief Red Feather ( Sans Arc), Chief Red Cloud (Oglala) and others who are not Sioux, not chiefs but men of great standing in their day. Some are carriers of the medicine way. Some warrior, some purposeful peacemakers but they are with me in scores.  And, somewhere in the mix, allied but not as visible (but certainly visceral!) are the Old Ladies.  Those women who rattled my cage to get me moving toward the Dakotas last summer and on July 28 this year–nearly 13 months to the day that Black Elk first introduced himself to my world.

Even when I got on the road, I had no idea where I was going. I had some awareness of the #noDAPL protest because I follow the Indigenous Environmental Network  but it seemed to me that being sent there was too simple, too easy or obvious–because often, even with maps and roadsigns given in vision, the people or places with which I’m to connect don’t always appear so clearly or quickly. And, again, because I don’t identify as an activist, it didn’t make sense.

I drove in the general direction, guided by the ancestors of a specific, breathing  Mandan associated with thisness, whose ancestors wove me into his world less than 24 hours before I was to leave.

Less than 14 hours before I was scheduled to leave, a phalanx of invisible riders astride painted horses arrived on the wind, letting me know that they–and others–were waiting for me, wherever I was going.

And at 4:00AM the next morning, we left Helena for Twin Buttes, ND, and unknown points beyond in what many call an act of ‘blind faith’.

Mr. Mandan (not his real name) and I spent two days working together and part of our discussions included celebrity and Three Affiliated Tribes’ involvement in the pipeline protest but, still, there was no clear ‘click’ for me as to why I was being sent south.

As I moved past the Red Warrior Camp heading south, my only comment to myself and my invisible entourage was ‘Well, there aren’t as many people as I thought there were.” I drove on. Still wondering.

I stopped in Fort Yates, ND, the seat of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, to see what there was to see, and if clarity would visit in the form of a person or road sign.

When that failed to bring the desired result, I made a beeline to the visitor’s center.  Every now and again, like then, reservation visitor’s centers are like one-stop shopping for spirit-related wanderings and one question can lead to all answers. I walked in and began vibrating with the space and the young woman who listened to my story said, “Oh!  You need to go to Sacred Stone Camp” and drew me a map to a place I called home for over two weeks and will continue to do so as the seasons roll on.

Why? I didn’t understand it when I got there and, even still, after being gone a week, my surety waxes and wanes while the connections expand and I’m pulled back and being permanently planted.

Without the guidance of my human helper at the Visitor’s Center, I would have not known even where to go. The timing of her direction was such that I rolled into camp and immediately learned that I really could cook for a small army when thrust into an empty kitchen and a reported 300 people to feed.

For days, I cooked and I cried and I cursed and rolled my eyes when Old Ones tapped in.  Brought 1000 miles to cook and do dishes? Funny what happens when you think things should appear a particular way, eh? And funny how we forget to unravel the definition of sacred so that we can see it in the shit-ton of detritus.

I was only one of many brought to the Cannonball River directed by otherworldly means.  I heard stories of recent dreams directing the way, visions from as far back as three decades ago coming into being beckoning for their seers, and more.

I may not be an activist and I may not be Native American (though I can assure the doubters that I’m not the wanna-be that so many of us are painted as) but I have been woven into the community of both by Ancestors, my relationships with the waters and beings attached to them, my relationships with archetypes and myth-inspirers, and my gifts connected to the healing of historic trauma for people and places. This I know. The hows of it unfolding I don’t yet. There will be a time for revelation of these truths in the same manner Nicholas Black Elk’s vision from 144 years is being revealed today.

The lack of clarity does not diminish the truth of the knowings that these Old Ones brought a daughter home purposefully.  They show each step of the way.  With respect, occasional reward and a richness of life like no other alive.









Black Elk and Me


The Old wicaśa wakan and this modern white woman

Walking with the Sioux, Part 2

Many know of him by way of  the book Black Elk Speaks, few know him as family. Until last summer, I did not know of him beyond a name & book, one I hadn’t read. Since then, he has become a stalwart guide and one of the most ‘vocal’ participants in my council.

In August 2015, he announced his presence in my world. Like others who are a part of this journey, he was patient until he was not.  I did not know who he was when I first saw & felt him. The image given me was somewhat foreign and out of context in the living room of client-friend. Even when I discovered the book cover from whence his image was repeated, I chose silence, to ignore his presence in my world. When I did so, ignoring his touch & attempt at integration, he went to someone else and demanded she paint him into my world. And she did. Since then he is prominent thread in my weaving, a stalwart partner, and guide or inner spiral this weaving we do.

In the painting done by Jamie H., he appeared as a reflection of me with a restricted throat. With an awareness of but not a reading of Black Elk Speaks, the image filled me with regret for not being able to speak to and for him, not being able to speak my own truth, and shame for not being able to bring the two together.

I did not have the experience or awareness of Black Elk in my world before I began receiving visions and information that led me to the Sun Dance outside in the heart of the Pine Ridge reservation nor during. I know now, though, that my presence at this particular Sun Dance was integral to being seen, recognized, welcomed and supported as I move deeper into Indian Country.  Holding and being space for the Old Ones wasn’t what I thought was going to happen. I, mistakenly, thought that what was going to happen was about and for me–a specific task or nugget of intelligence that might move from from ignorant foreigner & outsider to wise woman. The Old ladies who brought me language and gifts and knowing didn’t indicate I was to just be. Yet, I was. Just be, just being…yet, not just.

While he may have appeared to me during that week, I did not notice him. I was overwhelmed by the other invisible forces of family, of love, of expectation, conflict, and strangers in a not-so-strange land that individuations of his energy did not register.

I left that Sun Dance at the end of June and by the end of July, Nick Black Elk made himself known and was subsequently identified clearly on August 3. The reasons for his being woven into my world seemed unclear for some time–or at least as long as I chose to deny them. At one point, during an awakening experience at local burger joint in California, a young lady said he appeared to her in the women’s restroom and said, ‘Go to her. She knows.’ I didn’t. Or, said I didn’t. Neither of those, though, were the truth; even in the moment.

I’ll not share much of Black Elk Speaks here. It’s available for anyone who chooses to read it. I eventually read it but not until I settled into Helena this winter and was disappointed.  Although some will say I overstate things here, I believe that John Neihardt’s revisionist perspective in his creation of literature was no different than Bishop Landa’s burning & ‘cataloging’ of a great Mayan and Aztec libraries. There is plenty of scholarship on both so, feel free to dig into each as you choose.

My references here are to how he speaks to me, through me to others, and, if I use them, his words will come from the original transcripts of the interviews between he and John Neihardt.

The summer when Black Elk was nine, during a period when he was ill, he was given a ‘great vision’. Just before he became physically debilitated, he heard a voice say, “It is time, now they are calling you” and he knew that it was spirit speaking to him and the calling spoken of was spirit as well. During the twelve days of the vision, there were distinct elements that included being shown the horses of the four directions, introduced to the six grandfathers; taken to the four quarters and the center of the earth, given specific powers & tools for healing and warfare; and instruction to create (or recreate) a nation. Depending on from what text one reads from, the recreation of a nation is either Sioux-specific or a universal.notion.

Many elements and symbolism contained in Black Elk’s first vision have been distinct aspects of my own evolution, though they have not always occurred in the same manner and obviously don’t have the same shared cultural background. Despite that, the meanings are identical even beyond the universalism; experiences with Jesus Christ, our working relationship with the elements–particularly thunder, wind, and plants; being brought to the centre of the earth and sent into the stars, plants, and horses; as well as the paradoxical trust and fear of our powers and visionary capacity.  In addition, his adaptations of faith (many don’t know he was also Catholic catechist and had sprinklings of the Episcopal variety), belief, integration and openness are also shared by yours truly and although they existed before, his role in my life both solidifies and broadens them as my operating systems.

One of his few regrets in life was his capacity to see the nature and purpose of his vision but not feel the capacity to complete it. Before I met Black Elk, I chose, as part of my identity, the label of weaver as it had become clear how I bridge past and present & infinite and individual together; through people, place, space and time. The purpose of that weaving seemed–for the most part–fairly specific and about reconnecting ‘lost’ healer to gift and tribe (see an example of this in A Spirit-Guided Mother and Child Reunion).

Since Black Elk’s appearance, that specificity has expanded in respect to meaning while the purpose remains focused. The shift has been that as we weave the Sioux hoop back together, other ‘hoop’ tapestries are woven as well. Why this has be given to me I may never truly know or understand in a way that would be explicable to the reader.  Most of my experiences aren’t. I do know that this is one of the things I was born for and the time for it is now. I told he and the others last autumn that I would not deny them.  After I did so, when they came through me during a sweat lodge, what they said as a collective to me and the kinfolk medicine man I was with was this: “Speak. For when you speak your heart, you speak ours. There is no confusion at the heart of the matter.”

Many Old Ones that have come to me since my first encounter with my favorite Old Ojib-Cree have been cohorts of Black Elk–leaders and medicine men of their time and (mostly) of the his generation. Although not all are directly connected to reuniting the Sioux Nation, they are part of a larger reunification of Nations.  Those that are  actively part of include  Red Wing (Mdewakanton),  Red Cloud (Oglala), Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa), and Red Feather (Sans Arc). Each, including Black Elk, have connected me to at least one member of their living kin who are gifted beyond measure and carry the medicine for their people now (as well as the burden of the past) and in the future. Others–Siouxan and otherwise–who I have  yet to identify visually are known solely by their presence and, as I follow the directions given in visions, I will be connected with their kin as well.

While these Old Ones tend to announce themselves individually, they appear as a larger council and often work in pairs to bring visions, direction,  and support.  They operate synchronistically, across different cosmologies and cultures because they know this reunification process is interconnected and the relationships are interdependent. It was a Shoshone-Paiute and Mescalero Apache that got me to Ft. Belknap to meet one of the Sioux connections. And two Sioux, Sitting Bull and Black Elk, who put me into the wind to bring me to the Yavapai the day after my birthday. In doing so, they expand the threads across continents knowing that there is a purposeful order in the unfolding.

So I drive into and walk through communities as I’m led to those with whom I am to connect. There is never an accidental encounter and those with whom I do meet, see beyond the skin and recognize not a generalized ‘all our relations’ but family. Unbelievably, yet undeniably family. Be they Maya, Quechua, Koori, Sami, Navajo, Oglala, Gael, Choctaw or Chippewa.

For more information about how I can work with your community or you, go to www.ingridoliphant.com.

THE PRAYER: (From the Traditional Lakota Sioux)

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin …All my relations. I honor you in this circle of life with me today. I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this prayer….

To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.

To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I thank you.

To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I thank you.

To the animal nation that feeds me from your own flesh and offers your loyal companionship in this walk of life, I thank you.

To the human nation that shares my path as a soul upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life, I thank you.

To the Spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life and for carrying the torch of light through the Ages, I thank you.

To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I thank you.

You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.

Thank you for this Life.