Are ‘They’ Spiritually Ill?

A recent exchange on Facebook began with something like this: “Are racists and xenophobes mentally ill?  No, they are ‘sick people’ who are spiritually ill. They have lost their connection to the community, to hope and to love.”

That’s not an exact quote but it gets to the gist. When I asked how ‘spiritually ill’ was defined, there wasn’t a definition but I was asked to contribute to that and how keep each other ‘spiritually well’ and how do we deal with people who are spiritually unwell.  Without doing either, I mentioned I happen to know a bunch of racists and xenophobes who are well connected to their community, have hopes for their children and selves and families just like everyone else and certainly love.

This here is how racism, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and other cliquish ‘isms’, ideas and behaviors begin. The moment anyone separates another person or group of people as ‘not enough like me to keep me comfortable so therefore I must define them as unlike me as I can’ is the beginning of being exactly that which you are judging.

It’s that attitude that has decimated communities across the globe in the name of religion, racism, capitalism, and destiny.  Because brown people aren’t people; because Jewish, Muslim, Christian people aren’t enough of whatever we say they need to be more like us so we can take what we want from them.

My Facebook response:

“Why not just love them how they are, how they show up in the world? Why call them ‘ill’ at all because their experiences have brought them to a different way of understanding the world and their relationship with the things of the world?  Isn’t the ‘medicine’ to the ‘illness’, the healing, in loving them, those we call ‘other’? If their behavior or definitions or identity is that of separation aren’t we doing the same thing by labeling and judging in this way?”

Because when we do, yes, we are.  Prettying up the notion of hate or separation and devaluation by race, class, political ideologies, country of origin, opinions and choices, and illness by calling it anything associated with ‘spiritual’ is what begat Crusades, genocides, abusive gurus, and, perpetuates slavery and the violence we see today.

We can’t change that by echoing it.

Love. Want to help? Find ways to connect with people who are not like you. Take a class on non-violent communication. Introduce your kids to kids in other communities.  Invite your neighbor to dinner. Be kind. Read books by people who are not like you–without arguing about what you’re reading. Mentor a kid. Volunteer with a local NGO. Help a family. Drive someone to run an errand. Join discussion and reading groups. There are spaces and people in every community doing good works. Join them. Or start your own but don’t start with the notion you have to heal anyone who views life differently than you.


The Voices, They Come

They began arriving in August 2017. One and two at a time they came. The choir grew day by day, led by Pihtokahanapiwiyin, Kamiokisihkwew, Shingwauk, Keeseekoowenin, and Isapo-Muxika. And still, they come. Day by day.

Horse Lake, Beaver, Bush, Yellowknife, Salt River, Birch Narrows, Black Lake, Sunshield, Paul Band, Maskwacis, Ermineskin, Louis Bull, Sampson, Montana, Pigeon Lake, Cold Lake, Saddle Lake, Frog and Onion Lakes, Makwa Sahgaiencan, Little Pine, Sweetgrass, Muskeg Lake, Muskeday, One Arrow, James Smith, Day Star, Yellow Quill, Kankewistaha, Pheasant Rump, Sandy lake, McDowell Lake, Lac Seul, Eagle Lake, Attawapiskat,  Garden River, Missanabie, Bear River, and Benoit.

Scuggs, Rama, Bedusoleil, Serpent River, Tetoten, Kwikevtlem, Semiahmoo, Alexis, Chipewyan, Big Stone, Kainai, Blue Quills, Amber River, Busche River, Driftpile, Pigeon Lake, Heart Lake, Horse Lake, and Devil’s Gate.

Big Horn, Stoney, Sturgeon, Stonechild and Sunchild. Swan River, Beaver Ranch, Tsuu T’ina.

They travel far. Their hearts are carried on the leaves of the aspens, wings of eagles, and the songs of sisters. That missed drum beat? Borrowed for this journey.

Osoyoos , Okanagan, Tsinstikeptum, People of the Knife, People of the Sand, People of the Lake, People of the Sun. Sweetgrass, Fond du Lac, Pelican Narrows.  Aamjiwnaang, Kettle and Stoney Point, Chippewa, Oneida and Delaware of the Thames.

From Attawapiskat, Aroland, Bearskin, Beaverhouse, Brunswick, Cat Lake, Constance Lake, Deer Lake, Eabametoong, Flying Post, Forts Severn and Albany, Ginoogaming, Kasabonika, Kashechewan, Keewayin, Koocheching, Lac Seul, Long Lake, Martin Falls, Matachewan, Mattagami, Mishkeegogamang, they come.

Cowesses, Piapot, Peepeekisis, Kahkewistahaw, Daystar, Carry the Kettle. White Bear, Standing Buffalo, Nekaneet.  Birdtail, Bloodvein and Brokenhead.

Missanabie, Mocreebec, Muskrat Dam, Neskataga, Nibinamick, North Caribou and North Spirit Lake, Pikangikum, Poplar Hill, Wahgoshig, Wapekeka, Wawakapewin, Weenusk, Whitewater Lake, and Wunnumin Lake.

They are brought by rivers and prayers on the wind and are threaded into this unfolding by all the forces of creation. Tarahumara, Purépecha, Tepeherán, Otomi, Guarijo. Barkindji, Mutthi Mutthi and Ngyiampaa breathe their soul-sounds through drum and didgeridoo. Murrawarri, Anangu, Palawa and Yolngu and Bininj sing together, a chorus crying “Freedom!”

There are hundreds more. They come; flag by flag, soul by soul.

They sing for home, they sing for tribe, they sing for love not spoken and deep sorrow.

Silenced no more, they will be heard.

We live and move and breathe as one.

For them. For freedom.

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.








Walking Between


 Weaving Past & Present with the Ancients

There a several aspects of the work I do. One I hold most dear is what I call ‘the weaving’. The weaving we do is a three-stage process, much like the creation of a hand-loomed rug. It starts with the gathering of materials. Here, though, the weaver is a partnership of Old Ones outside the boundaries of my skin and those within the skin.

The mystical relationship with these invisibles and the purpose behind it requires a unique focus, trust in all things and beings, a release of all preconceived definitions and explanation of things, and the capacity to pivot and flow as the hearted-wind takes us.

In How Do You Know Where You’re Going, I shared that the direction I go is given in visions, dreams, knowings beyond knowing, the call of spirit saying  “Come home’ and the literal call of the telephone or email.

The Old Ones who are my partners in these travels are the ones who provide the requests & direction. Some of them history has recorded–albeit inaccurately in many cases–but each carried, in his time  (yes, most that I’ve identified are male) ‘big medicine’. They were leaders and warrior-healers whose interactions with their people and with those who attempted to confine or destroy them left a lasting impact. Some were those humans who inspired the creation stories of their respective cultures.  Others, like my self-appointed go-fer of things spirit and succor, an Old Missouria-Choctaw named James Eaglefeather, were never written about, though there may be songs of him I’ve not yet encountered.

In this first stage, those to whom the Old Ones connect me  are their kin, those of our generation and younger, who also carry ‘big medicine’. Some of these people have an awareness of their very gifted nature; others do not. Few of those who do, fear making the choice to use it and most are afraid of the judgment of others if they were to fully engage it. Most also share the common thread of not knowing what exactly that gift is or how to use it in the modern context and most can trace their indigenous roots very clearly even though they do not identify as such.  While many are connected to North American ancestry, some have a familial connection to what is now modern Europe, Australia, Asia, Indonesia, Central & South America.

Many still live in communities that were isolated when they could not be eradicated but we are so intimately connected  through our distinct universal thread that when I arrive as a foreigner, we recognize each other as family.

Those that have entrusted me with this sacred work and these relationships have done so for a larger purpose. I may never know why this white woman of no particular indigenous origin or belief system was chosen but that is no longer of import. I do know that it was for a reason greater than my mind can understand but that my heart knows all too well. Each who has come before me has done this work in their place and time. I continue it through this first phase of finding individuals who are here to shape the world in a particular, gifted way.

And so I go where I’m called and requested.

Because if not now, when? If not we, who?

Because our time is now.

Those I work with in this context are people who cannot pay for my services, nor do I expect them (or anyone) to when spirit has led me to them. Some live in the poorest, most ignored places in our country–banished yet still exploited.

I appreciate any help in doing this work, this first stage of weaving the hoop . My only income is through those who support this work or pay for their own. Any donations go to support me and those families with whom I have contact who are in need. If you would be interested in doing either, please go to or donate through Paypal via






by Joy Harjo


a woman can’t survive

by her breath



she must know

the voices of the mountains

she must recognize

the foreverness of blue sky

she must flow

with the elusive bodies

of night wind women

who will take her

into her own self


look at me

i am not a separate woman


i am a continuance

of blue sky


i am the throat

of the sandia mountains

a night wind woman

who burn

with every breath she takes

A Trip to Choctaw Country

Dispatches from the Drivers Seat

Earlier, I shared an experience of my relationship with the elements and etheric that  developed as I moved from Montana to Mississippi late spring. I was led by vision and a new Missouria-Choctaw guide to find an alikchi (medicine man) named James Johnson in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Unlike other ventures into the larger unknown, this time I knew exactly where I was going, who I was looking for, and was also aware that if he didn’t know I was coming, he’d know I was in the area when I got there.

After I’d recovered from 2000 miles of journeying, I went to the tribal offices to find Mr. Johnson’s number or address. The receptionist, who did one better by drawing me a map to his house, added the following to her artistry: “I just want you to know I do not like that man.”  To which I responded with the raised eyebrow. She continued with this: “He goes and he does stuff with those Cherokee and other people. Our medicine is for our people. Their medicine is for them. He should have nothing to do with those people.”

“This my only my opinion, of course,” was added after her vitriol moved from her like the ink from her pen. And, I? All I could do was say, “I see” and walk away shaking my head at the vehement isolationism and racism connected to an unwillingness to share ‘the medicine’.

Where that began for her, I don’t know. The reason we remember & revere great men and women of medicine, faith, justice, healing, love, mercy, freedom, and connection to spirit is not because they have said ‘the medicine’ is only mine or only ours or only for those who are like us or as we like them to be.

Each revered one has known and taught that ‘the medicine’ is of and for everyone, everywhere. It is of the Universe, is accessible and eternal, for everyone. That’s part of their legacy and why they are regarded as wise across cultures and time, the reasons why they continue to speak to us today is because they spoke to/for ‘us’ then.

For me, ‘the medicine’ is love. A tangible, palpable, powerful expression of universal love that, when experienced, changes how we see ourselves and those around us. It is experienced by those ‘of the medicine’ in a number of ways and is a key to bringing fractured communities together.

Segregation and racism are phenomena shared across cultures but as Old Ones and I continue weave this expanding fabric that bridges past and present–particularly as it relates to bringing renewed medicine to The People, the resultant isolation of individuals within and separation between related communities is  heartbreaking.

For me, it strikes to the very heart of the matter–a separation from love and a barrier to gifted individuals accessing themselves and bringing their gifts into the larger community. They hunger to learn and share what they know but feel shackled by secrets and separation. Secrets related to family& community violence, separation grounded in judgements about sexuality, age, tribe, appearance and more.  The stifling of relearning and teaching and sharing . In this time where there is a true desire to return to origins–real ones, the ones before pain and fear and loss and disconnection became the filters of being–we cannot move forward with a stranglehold our ‘our’ or ‘mine’.

The continued, conscious segregation from others maintains the separation be past and present, you and I, them and Other.  While simultaneously fueling a perception of safety, it drowns communities and feeds the despair and disconnection.  The more one ‘guards their ground’, so to speak, the more the soul of people and peoples is stifled. What you withhold, holds you down.  The same concept carries from individuals to communities.

I wrote the following after being dramatically effected at Ganado, NM, after I returned a young Navajo man to his birth mother in Tuba City. The Hubbell Trading Post is in Ganado andwhat is imprinted, not on National Park Service signs, but in the air, in the things that touch the ground, wind and spirit of the place, is loss; a collective serration from home, from Center, from the spirit of all things that connecting them to hope.

There are things so subtly striking in their absence that the results– of the ecological, sociological, spiritual and psychological —all those things bound in the collective unconscious–that we contend with now, both as First Peoples and the morass that has grown from them, seems obvious.

There is a sense of loss and a lost-ness that are inextricably entwined in this relationship between man and ground, man and his men, the ground and the heavens and those that connect each of these.  To see lostness through the consciousness of others long gone is a  (I never finished this sentence but will later).

A people so connected to the earth that the earth took their pain.  Absorbed it like a rare rain.  and held onto it like it was holding onto their dear lives.

And while the people bleed the interest in life, the earth withholds it. There’s no need to feed & give life if life is no longer wanted.

Starved of connection, they disconnect further.  Run to escape, escape to feel free yet yearn to come home.

If we say we hold the spaces between living and dead, earthly and spirit, human and earth, as sacred and holy relationships, why won’t we do the same with our neighbors, progeny, and brothers.

If we refuse to connect to each other by sharing the simplest of our bounty, ‘the medicine’, we cannot connect to Other–no matter what we call it–and no matter how we dress it up or how often we dress up for it.. That is the ultimate hypocrisy and the ultimate lostness. We can no longer escape that which is right in front of us.


Can I Get a Witness?

The  Power of Being Seen

Aspects of the work I do are profoundly intimate. It’s close enough that men have said, “I feel like we just made love” when clothes are never removed and women have said, “How could you know?” when I merely touch them and am flooded with every.thing because their body and psyche speak to me of the most profound pain.

I have my own. It’s rarely seen by others because I don’t trust others with mine own for any number of reasons, most bound in the effects of 18 years of consistent and profound physical and emotional abuse. Beyond ‘being seen but not heard’, I was taught that asking for help was  bad-bad, that getting attention equated violence or, even worse, the opposite.  But I’ve watched so many of those who come to me and are afraid to engage for similar reasons and another that I think must be addressed.

For those whose lives have developed around significant trauma, especially those have embarked on a speerachul or healing path, there is a lot of embedded angst when it comes to ego. “If I ask for help, it’s just my ego'”. “People will think it’s all about my ego if I tell my story.”  God bless Siggy-baby, but sometimes I want to pull him back from the grave and say, “Fix this thing you created.” Somehow, somewhen, in this effort to ‘be better’, the conflation of a psychological and spiritual concepts meant to broaden the understanding of the human experience, have instead, created a way of deadening the human experience.

‘Ego’ is used as a negative descriptor, an addition to the ‘what’s not enough’ or it’s cousin, ‘what’s too much’ about us. Have you ever noticed that in all the spiritual talk that ego is associated with ugly, undesired, and to be transcended, destroyed rather than a thing beautiful to be nurtured when it hasn’t been or honored because it got you this far?

Common spiritual discussions of ego have created a legacy where aspects of identification, individuation, needs and ownership of gifts are seen as narcissistic assholishness.  Those that have grown up into the idea that they are not worthy enough to be seen or valued or loved buy into that hook, line and sinker. The cycle it perpetuates in the healing process resembles a gerbil wheel of self-flagellation.

Earlier this week, I posted this on the Place of Face:

I’ve been mostly silent the past few weeks dealing with what has been described as Operation Shitstorm which began coming to a head Christmas Eve. Funny the things that trigger pain and the release from it, no?

I landed here in Helena the second time this year in the middle of October and for the second time this year finally came to an all-stop; the kind of slamming of physical, mental, emotional and vehicular brakes that created a way for me to do for myself what I’ve done for others. It gave me the space to divorce myself from my family, breathe a little and hope that I’d maybe landed at home.

In all, this has been the most shitty ten in my adult life. Worse than leaving a husband, worse than any bout of depression I’ve walked through. Eighteen years of consistent, repeated, profound physical and emotional abuse is coming to the fore with ferocity and profound purpose. All that I am witness for others, I am in the process of myself. I let the body remember and release the choking, hitting, kicking, burning, bruising, belittling,head-slamming, shaming, grief, rage, despair, fear, desire for death, emptiness, loneliness, invisibility, ignoring and the shame associated with all those things that were needed to survive them.

I writhe on the floor, sink into the bed, freeze in the drivers seat; I sob, I scream even though I can’t open my mouth wide enough to scream loud enough, I mourn, I grieve, I know, I see, I feel–she and me–then and now, I choke on snot and rage and each cut away from hope, love, connection, longing, desire for life and love from the ones that brought me into the world.

I stumble through the deep desire to be fucked six ways to Sunday so I can feel seen, so I can be flayed open and touched by love and desire and grace in those places where violence and its remnants have clung; so that in the spaces left behind in release can be filled with goodness and beauty and light and mercy and witnessed by all things holy.

I roil in the shame of not being able to take care of myself now and liken it to how I felt then; not being able to ask for help but needing someone, anyone to ask the right question, see the bruise, the pain and offer succor and safety.

I crave pretty and beauty–color, sound, breath, food, body, birds, bright, textures, tastes. I need freedom from the poverty that’s incongruous with the richness of gifts my Being brings.

And I want it real. *ALL* real, none of this fake-ass, mannequin-like parading of meme-ified, GIF shit. I want it you to know that I’m reusing toilet paper, rationing thyroid meds, see through your bullshit in the same way I see through mine, don’t even know who the fuck I’m shouting “I LOVE YOU” to when it comes burbling out of my hearted voice. Don’t fucking ask me who I am *exactly* or tell me that I don’t know who I am because you want me to be something you think you know. Don’t feed me horseshit and get pissed when I don’t think it’s savory.

And I lay it all out here as if revelation and witnessing of the pain and shame and fear and hope and betrayal and grief and desire for death and freedom relived again and again, you will see my real strength; the source of the courage; that inexplicable, incomparable *thing* that brings Beloveds across time back home into this body and sends me screaming “I LOVE YOU” into the places others fear to tread.

I didn’t especially post it because I wanted attention, though the attention I got soothed some aching-heart bits. I posted it because holding it all in any more is no longer an option for me.  Living as a profoundly gifted healer whose gifts to are meant for larger audience also, in my opinion, means being open about the shitty bits, how I got here and what it means to others. Each time I share, someone else can relate and, perhaps, give themselves permission to share the scary, dirty, shame-laden bits that hold them hostage, too.  It requires me to trust my own instincts and the loving-kind nature of others.

The former is easy-peasy. I live in a fashion that allows me to pivot directions within a breath as a I move through this world and the ether. The latter?  Let’s just say I don’t do gracefully. Not only have I been taught to not ask for help because that is bad-bad: I’m expecting others to be responsible for me or I’m a whore. When I’ve received help in the past  it’s been couched in a ‘why can’t you just be a productive citizen’ or a quid pro quo down the road that is soul-sucking at best or unethical at worst.

So, for me and many others, learning how to trust others is a struggle and requires the power of witnessing allows us to do so.  When I say, “I see you” I mean I see all of you. The good, the fugly, the fandamtabulous, from whence they come and the future they are taking you to. I’m learning how to see those in myownfineself. I hope we can ride some of this together.