Native Americans ethnographer, Robert Vetter, says the medicine wheel can also teach us how to approach life. This is done in four stages, with each stage relating to one of the four directions: The first step is sacrifice. A sacrifice is necessary to overcome a crisis. Contrary to western thought, where we try to get something for nothing, Native Americans spiritual teachings stress that when we want something in our lives, we must pay for it deeply. In former days, sacrifices involved cutting off strips of skin or fingers, while today they usually consist of fasting, and going out alone on vision quests to confront one's fears.
The second step is prayer. In the Native Americans spiritual traditions, people pray deeply for what they need. During a sun dance, for example, a person may fast, pierce their skin, and dance for days for someone in their family who is sick.
The third stage is transformation. Vetter notes that there are many stories of miraculous healings that take place spontaneously as a result of prayer.
The fourth step is most important and least known. This is the stage of thanksgiving. When a person is healed, there is an obligation to give back to the community. "In the case of Vetter's adopted grandfather, Pahdopony," he says, "Whatever it was that healed him would become the power that he would use in healing other people for the remainder of his days."
Brother Soaring Eagle reminds us that the medicine wheel is a powerful object that has inspired noble acts in the United States. The U.S. Constitution was founded on its principles. And towards the end of the Second World War, Roosevelt based the United Nations on its doctrine. Basically, the medicine wheel says, respect your views; you respect my views. I would never do anything to hurt you because, in fact, if I were to hurt you, I would be hurting myself.'
Unlike Indians who were able to attain full peace during the time of the alliance of nations, the world today is constantly at war. Brother Soaring Eagle believes that embracing the principles of the medicine wheel, and teaching them to our children at an early age, will prevent arguments and wars. "Instead, we will have a way of understanding each other, just like the Indians did for 150 to 200 years. We will know how to take responsibility for what's happening to us, instead of blaming it on outside circumstances."
Recently, satellites at the Eros Data Center, near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, photographed the Black Hills from above. When the pictures were developed, scientists were shocked to learn that the Black Hills were the exact shape of the human heart. You could even see the chambers, veins, and arteries.
This finding gives new meaning to the statements of Lakota elders, the former guardians of the Black Hills, who said all along that the Black Hills was the heart of all there is. One might wonder how the ancients knew what the land looked like from above before the advent of airplanes. Ben First Eagle, who lives in the center of the Black Hills, says that mystics had ways of seeing that are in the realm of the unbelievable. But, for the average person, this scientific data confirms the stories they were told.
Over 65 million years in age, the Black Hills are the oldest mountainous region in the nation, with an important spiritual meaning. Ben First Eagle reminds us that just as every biological being has a heart, every land has a heart too, a region that keeps the movement within it flowing. The Black Hills is sacred for this reason, and the Lakota's often come here to pray.
The land also has important physical lessons to teach all people, as Natives and non-Natives alike are faced with a desperate environmental crisis. All suffer the consequences of polluted air, water, and land. We need to understand that Mother Earth is our home, and that we must take care of her, rather than cause her harm. In the past, settlers would abuse land until it was no longer usable, and then move westward. Today, Native peoples watch other nations travel to the stars or into the depths of the oceans, and wonder why people still aren't satisfied with their home. Rather than seek an escape from our problems, we need to see that by taking care of the planet, we will have good food, water, air, and shelter here on earth. We will have everything that we need.
Ben First Eagle offers this analogy to help raise the consciousness of modern man: "What would happen if you were to go into your mother's home, walk across the living room floor, and throw down a can of pop? Your mother would be all over you. She would tell you to pick it up, and take care of your home. Well, it's the same here.
"I'm also making a prayer for humankind and the land all around. I make a prayer for all life. I look at what's happening all over, and I will notice that people are having a hard time in Florida with floods and hurricanes. I will make a prayer to help those people and animals, and the land that's affected. I will ask for pity from this place. I'm not a rich man so I can't send a lot of money to help them, but I can send a prayer."
Unlike western cultures, where people choose whether or not they want to become doctors, a person receives a calling to become a Holy Person or medicine person. Sometimes this ability runs in families, and other times one naturally feels summoned to enter into this work. John Grim, author of Patterns of Religious Healing Among the Ojibway explains that the term Holy Person refers to a practitioner, from an indigenous culture, who has had an exceptional experience of the cosmic power that pervades the world. These individuals are able to bring this power into rituals to affect healing experiences.
Often healers experience some illness in their youth that leads them to be withdrawn and introspective, and causes them to seek out their advice of an elder. The person will become reflective and begin to feel a special obligation towards the work of helping others. This is a tremendous responsibility. A person must develop and maintain a special relationship with the spirit world, and bring that special relationship with spirit to the person or situation in need.
Many times, the Holy Person will receive revelations concerning particular objects to be used in rituals. These can vary and may include something from nature, a song, or a combination. Items can accumulate over a period of years, and are known as medicine bundles. But medicine bundles are seen as more than material objects; they are a collection of experiences. More specifically, these represent encounters with the sacred world that have been revealed through particular objects.
Medicine bundles are very personal and private, and meaningful only within a cultural context. Grim notes that it is inappropriate for non-Native peoples to place medicine bundles in museum out of curiosity, as these are an integral part of tribal identity and transporting them from a people would inflict deep wounds upon their heritage and identity. Besides, outsiders can never fully appreciate their significance. However, it may be appropriate for non-Native people to try and understand the significance of medicine bundles to Indian cultures to increase an awareness and respect for their customs and traditions.
Plants play an important role among medicine objects. Many indigenous healing practitioners had a profound understanding of local plant life based on a sacred classification. In other words, they understood how one should approach a plant, which parts of which plants are to be used for treating specific maladies, and the idea of reciprocity, respecting the plant as a being of equal worth, being thankful for its help, and leaving an offering, such as a prayer, for the plant that is taken. A deep intimacy of exchange exists at all times.
The understanding of how a Holy Person functions is difficult for people of western cultures to understand, as their views of the world are so different. Yet it is something most people today need and yearn for. Grim explains: "What makes the Holy Person's role so fascinating, in the late twentieth century, is the cosmological setting in which a Holy Person functions, namely, Holy Persons bring people into the presence of the spirit beings who are in the world and in the cosmos. This is something very beautiful. It's so difficult for us to understand in mainstream America where our cosmology, for the most part, is either the story of Genesis or the story of science. While the Genesis story is seen as very meaningful for Christians who hold that as their cosmology, it does not have the immediacy of entry into their daily life. It's a cosmology which tells where the world came from, and perhaps explains early parents, the fall, why women suffer in childbirth, and why we were driven out of the garden. But it is not a cosmology that brings spiritual presences to our lives today. It's a story that explains. The scientific cosmology is also an explanatory story, but one without interest in sacred or spiritual meaning. Scientists are reflective, but they work within certain limits. Their cosmology is a description of the world as it appears to them through their empirical observation.
"We live in this world, then, where the cosmologies that are available to us provide no intimacy. And yet we experience constant intimacies with this seasonal world, with this world of resources, with the clothes that we wear on our back. I want to suggest that the human is constantly interacting with this world. And our interaction demands some respect and attention. That attention can be trivialized or it can be deepened. And Holy Persons are personalities who live in deepened relationship with their cosmology, and who assist their people to deepen their own personal and community relations with the world around them.
"We yearn for that in mainstream America. We yearn for intimacies of exchanges with our world. Does that mean we become Native Americans? That's a foolish thought. It means we need to recover our own cosmology. Well, what is our cosmology? I think that's what we need to re-explore. We yearn to recover that Holy Persona presence, that capacity to literally draw healing capacities from an exchange with the world around us, to literally heal our communities. Environmental degradation is woven right into these questions we're talking about. One reason why Native people are connected with this issue is that they have intimacies with their homeland. They have regard for that mountain, desert, body of water. When one reverences something, quite often one doesn't trash it. So, these natural exchanges between a people and the life setting in which they find themselves, those individuals called Holy Persons, I tend to see as a mode or way of being that all people are being called to recover. We are being called to bring this sense of wonder back into our daily lives. So, the Holy Person journey is not simply someone sitting with a drum, or a group of people withdrawing and taking drugs in order to get into some altered state. The Holy Persons personality is a challenge to the late twentieth century to recover right relationships with our bioregions, to begin to understand the earth again as something that has always nourished us. It will continue to provide for us. But it also needs our care and concern. That is the Holy Person ritual now."
Wuan Geronimo Flores claims to have inherited the gift of his great grandfather, Geronimo: the ability to heal through the movement of energy. Flores has the capacity to speed up his own energy, and to transfer this quickened force into a patient, thereby, helping a person to become spiritually centered, so that their ailments can disappear.
Flores does not need to know the nature of a person's illness, because symptoms are physical manifestations, and Flores works on a more subtle level. He will look beyond appearances to get to the root of a problem. He says of his work: "The healing, which incorporates Native Americans and universal [principles], takes place in a sacred space. This is the part of an individual's home that is special to them, a place they gravitate to, where they feel the most secure and comfortable. We go to that place and the person lies down. Ever since I was a child, one of my talents has been getting people to relax deeply by putting them in a trance-like state. Then there is the actual moving of energy, the speeded up energy from my body going into theirs. All the while I am concentrating on the individual, and that can be achieved through different ways: through chants, prayers, or just through central focusing.
"This is very visual for me. I start seeing a picture of the person. As I concentrate, the image of the person gets transposed, until there are nothing but stars floating in space. I see the exact same body, only now it is made of nothing but starts. I see metallic dots of blue, silver, purple and black filling up the space and raining down on the person. The colors are calming and cooling, almost as if they are utilizing a certain frequency for the person's relaxation. Once a person has calmed down--they may even fall asleep--the energies that they were holding on to are easily released.
"I will see different things, depending on the person. One man had AIDS, although I didn't ask him what he had or how he got it. But on an energy level, he looked like a meteorite, an asteroid, a cavern. He was submerged in a swamp, with tiny pollens ticking away from the inside. That's what his body was going against.
"Once that was removed, his body naturally healed itself by reproducing cells that he needed to get rid of the disease. And sure enough, about two weeks later, his cell count went from 4 to 300.
"So, that's what I do. I work as a guide, and I work on a very deep level. My aim is to release energy blockages so that a person's own energy can take over and restore balance."
George Amiotte, an Ogalala Lakota from Pine Ridge, became a healing professional after a near death experience as a marine in Viet Nam. Upon his return home Amiotte searched for ways to restore his own wounded spirit and for a direction in life, when he was guided by Lakota elders to pursue a career in medicine. This was a tall order to fill as Amiotte had only just gotten his GED in the Marine Corps, but he was able to enter and successfully complete a graduate program as a physician's assistant. At the same time Amiotte studied medicine with Lakota elders. He, therefore, has a unique background that combines modern and traditional healing modalities.
Amiotte specializes in helping veterans overcome post traumatic stress disorder, a term used to describe combat fatigue. Most of his patients are Native Americans although he sees non-Native people as well. As a guardian of the sun dance, part of Amiotte's work involves the use of the sun dance ceremony in healing. As a result, Amiotte has been able to achieve success where standard Veteran's Administration programs have failed.
When an interested doctor from UCLA visited one ceremony, and was confused by what he saw, Amiotte explained to him that healing is more than a physical manifestation. Healing takes place on the physical, mental and spiritual levels, and a medical practitioner needs to consider all three aspects for optimum success. This is something western medicine fails to do.
Amiotte was then invited to see patients with gastrointestinal disorders who weren't responding to contemporary western medicine. In a year's time, his four patients responded beautifully to therapy, and the UCLA Medical Society woke up to the advantages of healing from a Native Americans perspective. Amiotte is now a member of a team of doctors that study and incorporate alternative healing methods into their western medical practices.
In a recent interview, Amiotte shared with me his philosophy of working with patients. His approach is to look at an individual on three levels. First, he checks to see that there are no physical problems, such as an organic disease; second, he interviews the patient to assess their state of mind; and, third, Amiotte looks at a person's spirituality. Analyzing these factors helps him to put together an effective healing protocol.
"I don't have one way of working," Amiotte says. "If a Native Americans wants to be treated by ceremony, I will set one up. That requires setting the stage for the individual to come to an alter, a physical area that is represented by earth, wind, fire, and water. Sometimes we use drum music. We acknowledge the universal laws, natural laws, our ancestors, the earth that we stand on. And we call in the healing aspect of this psychologically, physically, and spiritually.
Although trained as a healer, Amiotte acknowledges that healing depends upon God's will and a patient's receptivity: "I am a healer. But the reality of healing is in God's hands. I'm a conduit, a hollow bone, if you will. For a patient to be healed, he or she must be receptive to a higher power. A person needs a relationship to God or a belief in a greater force."
John Joseph, a Holy Person with the Chinook tribe of the lower Columbia River, and a nurse practitioner in Washington State, helps Viet Nam veterans suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, with the purification ceremony: "They have lost their spirituality, and this is a good way to help them find it. The lodge is a safe haven. No one can hurt them. Intrusive thoughts, the anxieties of the day, and the problems of living with post traumatic stress are left outside the door. They are able to speak about things that hurt them during the war and about things that hurt them when they came home. They are able to speak about the triggers that interfere with their lives today, even though it is 20 years later. They're able to speak, cry, yell, regurgitate harmful emotions, and put them in the fire.
Joseph says that that true healing comes from being able to express oneself in a safe environment: "Everything said in the lodge remains there. Nothing is repeated outside of it. This gives a person a real opportunity to cleanse the heart, and to place things into the fire." He adds that the healing is amplified by being in the presence of the heated stones: "There is stone medicine, Inyan medicine; the sizzling and popping from the water on the stones actually gives a spirit direction. There's wonderful healing in that."
"Many vets tell me that they feel considerably better for some period of time after they leave the lodge. Often they will come back and ask, When are we going to do another lodge? I am absolutely stressed to the max.' We do four, five, or six a year, sometimes more, depending on the number of requests.
"Once they start to get their spirituality back, their physical appearance changes. They start to keep their hair. They become neater in the way they dress. Their thought patterns become more cohesive, without constant intrusions. They can even think straight, in many cases. Sometimes children tell me that their dads sleep for two days after a sweat lodge, when they only slept two hours before. So, there's a wonderful release, and a wonderful return of cohesiveness to their lives, after the purification lodge."
Jamie Sams is a Native Americans Holy Person of Cherokee and Seneca decent, who explains that medicine has to do with anything that makes us feel whole. Indians view medicine as a person's gifts, including their inner strengths, talents, and abilities. "When we look at the idea of medicine," Sams says, "we have to embrace the total person: the body, the heart, the mind, and the spirit. When any of these part are out of balance, then there is a need for healing."
The processes used in healing depend on the type of illness. First a person must be diagnosed to see whether their sickness is physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental. Then it is treated accordingly. When the body is sick, herbs, flowers, and other plant matter can be used to promote recovery. Mechanical help is also used, such as setting bones when broken. Spiritual illnesses are handled by medicine people who may work with a person's dreams, or with what they experience on other dimensions that need to be healed. Some tribes also take into account the influence of past lives. Emotional healing for family upsets, a broken heart, or other problems, and psychological healing for mental illnesses are handled differently still. "Sometimes we need to heal our impatience," Sams says. "And sometimes we need to heal our frustrations. Many times we need to heal the internal criticism that our brain is constantly carrying on, which makes us feel less than. But always, we need to take a look at that which does not work in our lives, and makes our behavior out of balance towards ourselves and others." Here, Sams explains important principles of healing for specific circumstances:
"In indigenous cultures, when someone that we care about is dying, there is a very intense need to mourn. When you don't release the mourning, it will make you sick. Certain Anglo cultures have a different concept. If you release the mourning, you are looked at as if you lost control over your emotions. The spirit of the person who has passed away that you cared about is not then free to move on into the spirit world because the mourning was not complete. The people did not purge their bodies of this sense of grief." Sams adds that mourning to Native people is like a bow. The people moving on are the arrows. Mourning a loss allows the spirit to fly into its new non-physical life.
Sams notes how we poison our systems on multiple levels: "Bitterness, hatred, and resentment are toxins from our heart, while jealousy and greed poison our thoughts. Then we harm our bodies with unhealthy foods and artificial substances, and hurt our spirits with a lack of gratitude.
In this sickened state, human beings tend to lose balance, and begin to see the world around them as something to abuse as well. "The things that we have done to ourselves internally," notes Sams, "we have also done to the earth, which is our sustenance."
Native Americans realize that living according to right principles not only helps ourselves and our planet, but insures a future for generations ahead. Sams notes that, "When we gather herbs to assist someone, we thank each and every plant that the earth mother sends, and we pass the first seven plants to always remember to leave enough for the next seven generations. In doing that, we are honoring the ninth clan mother who looks toward tomorrow for what our children and their children will need on the earth."
Regarding humiliation, Sams writes, "Humiliation is the one event in human life that becomes unforgettable. The loss of human dignity at the hands of another can be forgiven, but it is rarely, if ever, forgotten. Healing humiliation and the loss of dignity is something that comes from inside a person. No healer, psychologist, doctor, medicine person or teacher can do it for somebody else. Consciously shaming another has dealt many a blow throughout time. Kicking people when they are vulnerable is a tactic of insensitive bullies. The world has been fraught with this behavior since its inception. It never seems to happen when we are feeling strong. It almost always happens when we are dealing with our own self-doubt and self criticism.
"We can heal the need to experience this reflection if we protect ourselves. The key is to notice that if we stop beating ourselves up internally the bullies of the world will quit picking on us externally. In Native Americans thought, we understand that the external world, and the things we experience in day to day life are mirror reflections that show us what we are doing to ourselves internally. If we honor who we are without an arrogance or sense of pride, but do it in a balanced way, and we walk life in a manner that allows us to honor and respect every other living thing, then we don't bring the experience into our lives that would necessitate us being shown how it feels to be bullied or humiliated by another human being."
"One of the things that human beings need to heal is the idea of hypocrisy. We say walk your talk. Don't talk your walk. Human beings have learned over the years that spoken words are cheap and promises are often broken. And that, in many cases, is a commitment that is not being honored. So, many times we ask people who have walked the crooked path to heal their personal integrity. That's a facet of healing that most people do not look at.
In our grandparents and our great grandparents day, a person's word was their bond. But in this modern world, most times, if we give our word, we aren't sure that the person we give our word to, and they give their word back is going to honor their personal integrity, because the sense of self has been eroded to the place where we cannot embrace the idea that integrity is everything, that if a person honors themselves, that promise is made to themselves. When you make a promise to another person, you are making it to yourself. That's another aspect of the great smoking mirror. And when you do not honor your promises to another, you have reflected back to yourself through that great smoking mirror, what you actually think of yourself, which must be very little, because the integrity in your bond and your word was not honored by you, so how can others honor that same thing."
Stories can revive our spirits and transform our perceptions of the world. Even when a story is not be believable, it can contain elements that speak to the human experience. This point is made by Tchin, an award winning Blackfoot and Aragansett artist and story teller from Norfolk, Virginia. Tchin shared this story with me about the creation of autumn, and then told me about the psychological healing such a story can promote:
"In traditional Native Americans culture, adolescent males and females are not allowed to be alone together. A young man and young woman never see each other unless the young woman is chaperoned. Her aunts, her sister, her mother, or someone else is always with her.
"Parents come together, at the right time of year, when the moon is in correct part of the sky, and plan a hoop dance. The hoop dance is where all the eligible young people come together to be introduced. They learn about the clans of the other people, and about who they can marry as well as which marriages are taboo. People dance, and frequently change partners. This way, everyone gets to be introduced to each other.
"During this hoop dance, the parents noticed one couple that did not change partners. In fact, they even heard some of the conversation. The young lady was saying that she worked in her mother's fields during the day. And the young man said that his uncle was teaching him to play the flute.
"The next day, the young man went down to the field with his flute and played a song. People hearing the flute didn't know what it was. They would say, "Listen to that sound blowing through the trees. I wonder what it is.' But the young lady knew it was the young man playing the flute for her. It made her so happy that her heart jumped.
"She wanted to send him a message, so, she went to a tree, and asked the tree for a leaf. After receiving that gift, she placed it into a stream. The stream took the message down to where the young man was playing. He knew it was from the young lady. It made him so happy that his heart jumped. He picked up the leaf, and went home.
"Day after day, the young man would go down to the stream and play his flute. And day after day, she would go to the tree, ask for a leaf, receive that gift, and place it into the stream, where it would travel to the young man. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, their love for each other grew strong and powerful, even though they never spoke a word to each other.
"Then one day, the young man's uncle came to him and said, Young man, it is time that you stopped fooling around down by the stream, and that you learned how to make a living. I'm going to take you out and teach you how to hunt.' It made the young man really happy to know that he would learn how to make a living by hunting. If he learned this, he could take his place in the village. If he could make a living, he could get married. And he knew with whom he wished to marry. So, with great joy and expectations he went out to learn how to make a living.
"Day after day, the young lady would work in the fields of her mother, and not hear the flute of the young man. She wondered why he no longer played for her. Maybe he had to help his aunt. Maybe he had to do something for his uncle. He had to help the elders. He had more important things to do. As days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, she exhausted all the possible reasons why he could not come and play. And after all of these reasons were exhausted, she came to the thought that he might be playing his flute for some other woman. When this thought came to her, a great pain stabbed her in her heart causing her to fall to the ground. Her parents, who loved her strongly, called to all the medicine people to doctor their daughter. But even in those days, people did not know how to heal a broken heart.
"After many months, the young man came back, very much a new person, with new muscles, and a joyful outlook on life. He ran down to the stream and began to play his flute. But no leaf flowed downstream. At first, he thought to himself,
It's too late in the day. Maybe all the people have gone home.' Then, as he was walking back to the village, he saw the young lady's brother. It made him happy and they talked about all kinds of things that happened to him while he was learning to hunt.
"Eventually, he got around to asking the brother,
How is your sister?" The young brother bowed his head and said, I guess you have been gone for a long time because they placed my sister over there in the rock.' When the young flute player heard what had happened to the young lady, the pain stabbed his heart so great that he fell to the ground.
"The flute player was in tears, saying, "Please take me to where they placed your sister." The young brother agreed, and they walked the distance to the rock, where she was. He left the young flute player there never ever to see him again.
"The young man took out his flute and played a song. Then something miraculous happened because, you see, love is strong, and true love is ever lasting. As that young flute player played his song, all the leaves on all the trees began to fall.
"You know that I am telling you a true story, and you can prove the truth of this story to yourself because around October and November, if you were to go out, you could look at the trees, and you could see that when you look around, all the leaves on all the trees start to fall. This is because love is strong and powerful. Now you know why all the leaves fall off all the trees at that time of year."
Tchin explains that while such a story may not be true, it tells us an event from a perspective that is different from the scientific one, which can be healing. As an example, he met a woman who was grieving over the loss of her son. She was having a hard time dealing with the whole idea of death, and even found herself in the fruitless pursuit of picking up the leaves in autumn, and trying to glue them back to the trees. After Tchin told her the story of the creation of autumn, that part of her was healed. It didn't change her sadness over her son dying. But it made her see the fall in a new way where she looked forward to it. And because it's a story of death, it helped in the process of healing from the loss of her son. Tchin observes that you never know how a person is going to interpret a story, or how it might hit a certain part of their spirit. So, stories can be healing in many ways.
Jamie Sams, author of Earth Medicine: Ancestor's Way of Harmony for Many Moons, says stories are wonderful medicine because they allow us to find ourselves without someone pointing a finger at us. We take what we need from the story to heal ourselves. The stories Sams writes helps people feel more whole, which, in turn, enables them to find inspiration, bring forth their best talents, and help make the world a better place. She wrote this one for children:
"While the river moved over rounded stones, and Night Hawk circles in the twilight, the young mother whispered to the child who suckled at her breast:
You are the blessed that fell from the stars and took root in my heart, little one. You rested inside of my body, and I carried you there for nine moons. It gave me joy to carry the burden of such love. I toiled for many hours to give you birth. And finally, the earth mother's magnitude threw you into your earth walk. Now that you are here, I want you to know how my heart sings. The love I bear your father is the stuff of dreams. He has walked the path of strength and has been strong enough to share his dreams with me as well as his tears. He has lent me his courage. And I have respected him with all that I am. Together we have walked many trails and have faced each challenge heart to heart. In you, I see his courage, his determination, his laughing eyes, and his curiosity. In you, I see my gentleness, my compassion, and my desire to live life with joy. There is a love between your parents that fills each day with song. I want you to remember always that you are, and will forever be, a product of that love."
Another story by Sams is based on the belief that our spiritual essence is the glue that keeps us together. When we are spiritually out of balance, we may try to compensate for a feeling of inadequacy by developing intellectually, physically, or by expressing ourselves artistically. But these can never heal a wounded spirit. The eyes reveal this unsettled state of being, which is why we feel afraid to allow people to look into our eyes when we are off balance. Sams addresses this issue with a short, but profound, story entitled "The Openings of the Orinda."
"The little girl asked her wise grandfather why the Great Mystery gave eyes to two legged tribes of humans. Grandfather smiled silently, remembering her grandmother's eyes that were reflected in the little one's face. And then he replied, "Your eyes can see the world around you and take in the beauty of creation. Your eyes can shed the tears that cleanse your hurt, allowing you to heal. Your eyes were meant for seeing all that the Earth Mother places in your path. So these things can be recorded as memories of your passage in this earth walk. Yes, little one, our eyes have many ways to teach us how to see the truth. Your eyes can betray your thoughts and feelings to others because they are the openings to the spiritual essence.
"One day, you will find a warrior to share your life with. When that time comes, you will be able to look into his eyes and see him with your heart. Through his eyes, the opening of his Orinda, his spiritual essence, you will know if his spirit can shelter you, and if his heart is pure. When you look into his eyes, seek the truth of his nature. If he looks away, he is not strong enough to shelter your love for him. If he looks directly into your eyes and allows your hearts to connect, adding his strength to your own, you will know that he is a courageous man worthy of sharing your earth walk."
Finally, Sams writes about the need to prepare for a move to an age of illumination and peace. This requires that we all work on ourselves to let go of malice, envy, greed, and judgment. The ultimate result of this personal transformation will be a better world society for ourselves and our children. If we cannot do this during peaceful times, a disaster will occur as an ultimate wake up call. In this story, Sams is saying that we can't change society, but we can change ourselves. We can't change others but if they are showing malice towards others, there are times when we can intervene:
"The woman scrubbed herself with sand at the river's edge. After a long winter, the sand washing felt good as the layers of dead skin rolled off the soles of her feet. Lost in her thoughts, she did not notice anything amiss until she heard a little girl crying. Looking up, she saw the child's stepmother scrubbing the child's skin raw. It was bleeding.
"In a heartbeat, she was on her feet, running through the water, whisking the crying child from the stepmother's grasp. She rocked the little girl, whispering to her, and then handed the child to one of the other women. Without any anger, she softly spoke to the erring woman, Feather, I understand how hard it's been for you to raise my decreased sister's child. She was your old rival, the first wife to your husband. I will speak to her father, who was once my brother. He will understand if I lighten your burden by taking the child to my lodge to live.' "Feather spat on the ground and used a hand signal to indicate that she was done with both of them forever and stormed off. The woman stood in the water watching her retreat, thinking of how much effort it must take to be that hurtful. She turned back to the river and made the blessing sign with her hand, showing her gratitude to the Creator for her own medicine and her name, Offers Kindness."
Sams concludes that people have an idealized concept of Native Americans people, but that the red nations are going through the same healing process as the rest of the world. The lives of American Indians changed drastically with the arrival of the white man, partially because local dialects were changed to standard English, and many of the old ideas and concepts were lost. Before the world was seen in a conceptual way, and everything was viewed as a circle. With the arrival of the Europeans, Indians adopted the idea of cutting the circle to divide and conquer. Since these ideas have been part of Indian life for hundreds of years, Native peoples, like everyone else, are in need of overcoming ideas of separation. Sams concludes, "All the peoples of the earth are going through the same thing because we have been in this fourth world of separation for over 60,000 years. It is very important that we encourage the potential and the desire in each and every person that wants to transform, that wants to go beyond the limitation, hesitation, and separation that we have created in our lives. To do that, we have to embrace the realized self, the part of us that can become our potential. When we do that, we are standing at the final frontier. The final destination is always the same--healing and transformation."