prophetic spirit….

“I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me”
Jeremiah 33:8

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(image of the prophet Jeremiah by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel)

Despite the distress of our time, we have lost touch with this prophetic spirit.
In fact, the inmost nature of prophecy has become an enigma to us.
We no longer grasp its primary source anymore.

Eberhard Arnold

Where are the voices…
those strong, confident and defiant voices that portend the fate of man?
Those ancient distant voices which proclaimed, declared, lamented, warned and foretold…
Those quixotic ones, from the days of old, whose words spoke of both power and truth …

In this oh so modernly smug time of man, believers are left to silently wonder,
as the non believer ridicules and scoffs.
Taunting the faithful while arrogantly puffing their chests.
For modern man has declared himself his own deity and god.

As Eberhard Arnold pragamatically observes, we have lost touch with that part
within ourselves which allowed us to hear those prophetic voices.
We have grown cold to our spiritual nature…
As we have distanced ourselves to the point of total disregard,
For that innate piece of the Divine that was once very attuned…
Allowing rather the void to be filled by our haughty sense of self.

Those voices however have never been silenced…
Never stopped or cut short over the windswept history of time…
they have not grown cold as the hard stones of earth…
but rather it is man who has grown cold, having lost his ability to hear them.
For man has turned a deaf ear to the apocalyptical.

Yet it is in that same breath of disheartened resignation that
Arnold offers us a bit of hope…

“The attitude is [still] possible only when a different heart beats within us,
different from that which has been in us so far, and when God’s spirit dwells in us,
as Ezekiel promises for these last days (Ezek.11:19).

If the earth is to be filled with the glory of God,
then the triune Spirit must fill and pervade the people who dwell on it.
Only when the Spirit gains influence over us, a sovereignty thus
far completely unknown,
can we expect the social and moral transformation that Mary sings about…”

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

The Magnificat
Luke 1:46-55

“Maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always”
Hosea 12:6

This time of year….

Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.

William Shakespeare

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Scottish saying

Halloween Pumpkins, Witch, Devil, and Black Cat
(vintage halloween card)

What is it about this time of year…
This time of year when we seem to crave the supernatural?
Is it in our nature to lean-in, ever so closely,
to those ancient tales of the “other side”?

Halloween,
what once was an evening relegated to the innocence of the imaginations of children,
has grown to become the second largest commercial “holiday” following Christmas.
No longer is All Hallow’s Eve a single night for young children to don costumes…
all the while as they canvass their neighborhoods, singing trick or treat,
as they amass a small mountain of candy…

Adults have gotten deep into the act.
With Halloween merry making and party going exceeding that of New Years Eve…
For it has now become a month long event….

Yet aside from candy and costumes, which innocently afford one the opportunity to play
dress up as some alter ego,
Halloween has become, more or less, a spiritual excuse.
An open invitation allowing ourselves to taste a bit of a spiritual realm…
But the trouble…
for that is what it becomes, a trouble…
lies in the choice of realms…

Bemused, you may wonder if there is a problem with this yearly interest,
of which borders on obsession,
in this revelry of the realm of the spirits…

And I fear that…yes, perhaps there is.

For you see, we are indeed spiritual beings…
with spirituality being hardwired into our DNA—
And history has proven that it is not necessarily always a need
for a monotheistic God that we seek,
but some sort of spirituality none the less.

Hollywood has long jumped on the bandwagon of our desire to examine spiritual realms,
while at the same time allowing us to exert that odd need to be frightened.
Spook and Horror movies, as well as those tales of witchcraft,
demon possession and specters, have long topped box offices
as we have an almost sick obsession with such.

It is as if cultures worldwide use Halloween as some sort of green light,
a go ahead in affording ourselves permission to dabble in the art of
fortune telling, tarot cards, palm readers, seances, Ouija boards,
paranormal hunting…the supernatural.
All coupled with jaunts to places that are supposedly haunted, creepy and even perhaps dangerous…
and lest we forget the trips to the myriads of haunted / horror houses
which open throughout the month.

Even Disney and Six Flags have each gotten into the act…

So we tell ourselves that that makes it all perfectly safe and harmless.

And yes Halloween, and the thought of spirits,
does indeed course through the blood of humankind….
With those roots traveling far back to Celtic Europe, the ancient Pagan Middle Eastern Kingdoms,
ancient tribes of the Americas, Asia and even Africa—
as every race of people has had that aspect of the supernatural and mystical tied
to their very beginnings.

So maybe we’ve just deem it as all innocent fun as we explore this need of the mystical.

Perhaps we merely convince ourselves that it’s simply wired
deep within the ancient core of our brains…
this odd desire to be scared and frightened…
all the while as we parle into a realm different from our own…

Maybe it’s just something we simply enjoy…

“So what,” we grouse, if it morphs into something else…
something other…
“I’m not scared, I don’t believe in that
hocus locus business…it’s just harmless fun…”

Yet there is just something troubling about it all…
Something actually quite unsettling…
Something actually very dangerous..

For in the naiveté of opening seemingly harmless doors,
we enter into an on-going battle…
an ancient battle for which we are simply not prepared to fight…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-13

the cure

“Goodbye to Rosie the queen of Corona
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard”

lyrics by Paul Simon

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(they say it help / Julie Cook / 2015)

Probably not the image you’d expect seeing on a Sunday morning.
And no, this is not an advertisement for Corona or beer or anything along those lines…
and the truth be told, I don’t even much care for beer.
I’ve always been a bit more hard core but this is not about that….

This is actually the image of a suggestion…
or rather the recommendation of a curative…

And if the truth be told, there has been more than one well meaning
family member and friend who has wholeheartedly and
even joyously made this recommendation.

For some, this is more of an excuse hidden within a recommendation…
For me it’s a last ditch effort of relief from misery.

Part of this is most likely my own fault as I have always been more camel than human.

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(image courtesy of ABC)

I’ve never been one to consume those 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water a day.
64 ounces is a lot of liquid to have sloshing around in ones stomach.
I don’t usually drink anything while I’m eating,
waiting I suppose to wash it all down,
after the fact, with a swallow of whatever has been offered.

I’m bad to nurse a bottle of water on and off for most of the day.
Sometimes I finish it, sometimes I don’t.
I probably run on more dehydration than I do on hydration.

Yet I do know the importance of keeping hydrated—
it flushes out the kidneys, ridding the body of toxins…
it keeps the blood flowing smoothly, the skin nice and plump
and it keeps the brain running smoothly—

So think plum verses prune.

They told me in the ER to drink, drink, drink…

So far today I’ve already finished all of these…

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2,480 ounces thus far, add to that one 12 oz beer and I hope I’m drowning any and all kidney stones
stuck in this body of mine, causing me all this tremendous pain and suffering.

Is it bad that I’m drinking a beer while sitting propped up on a heating pad?

I am however currently watching my beloved Bulldogs playing against UNC, so I suppose
it’s in keeping with the spirit of the game…..

I’m however still putting my money on the disc causing most of my woe…

Yet with all this talk of cure alls, curatives and snake oil treatments….
this business of drinking lots of beer in order to flush out the stones…
It’s all gotten me thinking…

So often in our lives, the cures are often worse than our ailments—ask any cancer fighter who has endured chemo, radiation and radical surgeries all in order to either cure or prolong life…
Chances are that they will tell you first hand that if it doesn’t kill you, those potential cures and helps…those things indeed to help….may or may not help you in the end, but it, whatever it is, will make you stronger…
if you survive it….

We fight hard when told our very lives, health and wellbeing depend on it,
we find ourselves willing to do and endure almost anything for the sake of living…
Despite our not having always tended to those very things we should have early on…
which, more often than not, could have prevented or avoided a bit longer the
precarious health predicament we may be currently finding ourselves in….

Yet what of our spiritual lives and our spiritual health?

More often times than not we live our lives with very little thought to our
spiritual health and well being–
that is until we find ourselves facing a crisis of unsurmountable proportions…
For despite what the critics will say,
we are spiritual beings—
spending the majority of our lives, most often unconsciously, searching for that reunion with our Creator…

It is only, for the majority of us, that when we find ourselves scared or in a tight fix,
that is when we turn our thoughts to God, Jesus and our very salvation…

When we feel backed into a corner, helpless, defenseless and hopeless…
never mind that the majority of time when life was foot loose and fancy free,
that our thoughts were on living life and far from anything “other than”…
We had no need, no urgency to keep our spiritual health in check because we were…
busy…
living…
life…

And isn’t that what life is all about…. living?
Leaving any and all thoughts of spirituality and that of a spiritual need to those in need..
those who are sick or dying…..

And there was Peter, full of Peter, living in the moment of desperately wanting to come met Jesus out on the water—despite the raging storm—
and yet it was that very raging storm that diverted Peter’s attention as he took his eyes,
his faith and his trust off of Jesus…
turning instead to face a fierce and consuming storm…
At which time, he began to sink, crying out for “salvation”

It is exactly when we are happy, healthy and full of life that we need
to tend to our full being—
both the physical as well as the spiritual.

We take our cars in for regular maintenance, check-ups and oil changes because they
are a huge investment and we know that maintaining them prolongs their “life” and performance…

Yet the question begs…
why don’t we do the same for ourselves…?

Here’s to another bottle of water….

But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,’
declares the Lord,
‘because you are called an outcast,
Zion for whom no one cares.’

Jeremiah 30:17

Holy discontent

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
― Ray Bradbury

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Spring has sprung a bit early…so it seems
Temperatures are running 15 to 20 degrees above the average for this time of year…
Early March is feeling a lot like late May…
It is an unexpected delight…yet troubling just the same.

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(shots of the blooming cherry trees complete with bees and ladybugs / Julie Cook / 2016)

We aren’t much for being the creatures of the unexpected…we humans…
we grow alarmed and anxious when things, especially in nature, step out of sync.
We prefer the expected…
The tried and true…
that of the habitual habit…
We know our times, our seasons, our rhythms of life,
and we like for them to be, well, predictable.

The same holds true for our spiritual nature…
Our need to have a relationship with that which is Greater than ourselves.
As created beings we long, most often subconsciously, for our Creator…
For it seems that the need to have a relationship with that God of all Creation is truly hardwired within.

There are those who would argue that point…
As they do not see the correlation between man’s constant discontent and to his quest, nay need, to be made whole…

Those who eschew God for God’s sake, those who defiantly say…
“there is no God”
or
“I have no need for a God” …
Try in vain to fill the void, the empty abyss, with any and all sorts of need filling balms and placebos…

Be it addictions…
Those maddening and seemingly uncontrollable urges which gobble up all manner of ill in a frantic, albeit vain, need to stave the endless hunger of the spiritual void…

Or it might be the endless, yet empty, quest of searching and seeking after any and all things to worship…the longing to put something, anything, at the center of validation and justification of simply… being…
From demons to fatted calves, from nature to man himself…
humankind yearns to put something at the center of its very existence…

As man seeks, yearns, needs to hold something, anything, at the heart of his existence…
his insatiable need goes back to that very moment when God first breathed life into the lungs of the dust created Adam…

And it is to this day…
That we, me, you, us, long to breathe, once again, in rhythm with our Creator…
Seeking, longing, aching to fill the discontent with the rhythmic beating as one…
Restored within the relationship to…
God the Almighty…
The Father…
And Maker of both Heaven and Earth…

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Petitions, Grace and Gratitude (re-mix)

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

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(Image: a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of ST. BLASIUSKIRCHE , Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

***This post was originally published in October of 2013.
Normally I don’t re-publish previous posts.
I had actually shared this particular post yesterday with a friend as I thought the subject was of importance to her and to her current life’s journey. It is a post of literal travels and journeys, as well as journeys which reach much deeper than the mere physical.
Having re-read the post myself, I was moved by my previous words as it is a strong reminder of a faith, my faith, that is so much deeper, so much stronger and so much greater than me or of the current life “journey” I’m finding myself traversing along with my dad as my traveling companion. . .
May you find comfort in the story and the words as well. . .

4/19/15

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel. It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room. The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow. There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly, bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.
I once heard it put that religion was just something for old woman and children. Pity that…as that must mean that older woman and children are the only ones who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, too arrogant to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside. I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle, my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice. I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances of ancient worship–more than would be expected from my raising. There is a deep mystery which I believe many in our mainstream churches miss. This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age of the technologically savvy mega church. The ancient components to worship lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting, as if ready for the latest block buster to begin, to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements, each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room, I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present. She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation. She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees. The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s. Dark wood paneling with cream colored walls. Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed, acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room. This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings, statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs heralding glad tidings. This chapel is small, dark, ancient and humble. Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross. I begin my “conversation”—it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense of warmth and contentment engulfs me. I then begin my petitions—not for myself, but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey. After some time, I open my eyes. How long had I been praying? I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim. I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…I want to be a part of each moment in time. I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer, watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure, but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers. I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way. I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life, wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice. I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew. I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive. I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes. I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles. I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful. I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door. I make my way back outside, into the light. It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright. The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets is almost painful to my ears. This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment I had a glimpse of the Divine. I feel different for the encounter. Changed. Better. Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate to be privy to something so rich and so special. I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special secret that no one else knows….no one other than that older woman back in the chapel and myself.

A fetish, sorrow, and the wisdom of Chief Standing Bear

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In recent days I’ve found myself pulling a couple of quotes from some legendary native American Chiefs…Standing Bear and Chief Seattle. There are countless Chiefs whose words I deeply respect…be it those well known names such a Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, or even local favorite Sequoyah. I respect these men, their wisdom, their struggles just as I respect the presidents of our own American past.

My blog is not political nor is it one for hot button topics—I can’t tell others how to live as I’m just trying as best I can to keep things “in the middle of the road” for my own family. You may surmise that I tend to be very conservative in my beliefs as my life’s code is based on the belief in a risen savior….an omnipotent God whose Grace is the reason for my very existence. Believe me, I’m old enough to have made enough mistakes and disasters…I can’t go through this life, as tough and as hard as it can often be, without clinging to that saving Grace—for me, without that Grace–its healing and forgiving power–I wouldn’t be here…but there I go digressing.

I preface this little piece today with the above paragraph because there is something in our American drama that has plagued my heart for many years. To some it may sound like tree hugging liberal mumbo jumbo, to others it may sound like a hidden agenda—it is, however, simply stated, the disgust of the treatment of our Native American brothers and sisters throughout the history of this country.

In 1971 the movie Billy Jack made its debut. Due to an initial poor performance at the box office, it was re-released in 1973—that being the time I made my way to the cinema to see the movie. It was the story about a “half breed” former Vietnam vet who comes back to the reservation…kind of a precursor to Walking Tall and Rambo but with the reality of real life drama on and off the Reservation. The movie is set during a time when Indians and whites are not getting along (my question is have they ever??) The movie sparked in me that “do the right thing” mentality. I was a young teen, impressionable and easily riled up to fight for a just cause—the treatment of Native Americans seemed to be it….

But as life would have it–my fight and die mentality ebbed and flowed into all sorts of areas over those growing years. It wasn’t until sometime in the 1980’s, when I picked up Dee Brown’s book, ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ written in 1970, that those old feelings of injustice began rising up, once again, in my veins. I couldn’t even finish the book. I couldn’t get out of the first chapter! When I read how Christopher Columbus and his men, when first coming to this land, “presented” gifts to the Indians and as to how those “gifts” were blankets infested with the smallpox virus—- I came unglued!

The indians had no immunity to the diseases of the Europeans—smallpox infested blankets, an ancient precursor to chemical warfare, were meant to decimate the tribes…….and these native “americans” thought they were simply welcoming “visitors”—these visitors who came with the intent of finding gold and claiming new land for a Queen and her rising empire…there was no “visiting” in the plan—it was the conquer and claim mentality.

I can’t read about General Custer and the decimation of the buffalo….the “starve them out mentality”…send a species into near extinction in order to “bend a people into submission……my blood pressure is rising just as I type this……

I know, many would argue that many of the Indians were bad—they scalped and murdered countless innocent men, woman and children. You’re right, I agree. There were bad indian tribes and ruthlessness in Native America just as there was and is in “settled” America…..I don’t have any answers to people’s behaviors but we certainly did not help matters by initially trying to wipe them out….didn’t give us the best reputation when our calling card was “here’s a blanket of death”.

I find it almost funny when we all start the debate about immigration—if the truth be told….we are all immigrants—only the Native American Indians are just that, native, and I don’t think they are being yielded to or looked to for any in-put into any of the latest discussion on immigration. But don’t get me wrong–illegal is indeed that.. illegal—so go about things legally and I’m golden…digressing….

On my many adventures I always try to find something to bring back as a reminder of where I’ve been—not some kitchie “Made in China” trinket nor some tee shirt claiming “I climbed”, “I ate”, “I saw”, “I did”……I want something real—that helps to best capture the usual awe and wonder I discover while I’m visiting where ever it is I may be visiting.

When I travel out west, that “something special” is usually a fetish. Being an art teacher I have a real affinity for such as they represent the talents of a person who can carve and capture the personality of, in this case, an animal all within a small stone—as a fetish is just that, a small carving of, most often, an animal out of stone.

These are things that are most typical of the Zuni and Hopi Indians but native American Eskimos are also known to carve fetishes. They are small and are used in various areas of tribal life. It is believed they are indeed of a spiritual nature—the spirit of the animal residing within. When purchasing a fetish it is believed that the fetish picks the buyer, not the buyer picking out a fetish—I have several bears, a rabbit, a raven, known as the trickster, a beaver, which is so up my ally as I always sang the praises of beavers to my students as the most industrious animals in the animal kingdom—good work ethic you know…., and a badger—my personality—tenacious…..

I respect these items because they have a place of honor in the lives of a particular group of people…just as I hope non Christians can respect a cross as it is dear to our worship, just as I can honor a star of David as that is so intrinsic to another group of people….plus, to me, a fetish is also a small beautiful piece of art…..

And then there are those timeless wise words which are left to us all as small gifts intended to enlighten allowing us all to ponder and treasure—those words coming from wizened men who had lived long hard lives—who had great respect for the world around them as it is from that very world from which they drew their strength and very being.

Last year PBS had a special docudrama based on an 1877 legal proceeding against Standing Bear and his people. Standing Bear was chief of the Ponca Nation of Nebraska. They, like all Native American tribes, had been rounded up and forced to a reservation–which most likely was not on or anywhere near their ancestral lands. The Ponca Nation had been relocated in malaria ripened land hundreds of miles away having not been allowed to take anything with them, having to walk on foot the entire journey.

The gist of the story is about Chief Standing Bear’s intent on making an illegal journey back “home” to honor his dying son’s desire of being buried on their sacred homeland. He and his group are intercepted by the Government and are interred. In order to make the Government understand the importance of why he was “breaking” the law and to disrupt the quick decision just to send these people back to the new destitute reservation, Standing Bear, who spoke no english, went to court. It is said that Standing Bear was an eloquent spokesman despite the language barrier and that he won the respect of his captors.

It was Standing Bear who had to prove to the United States Government that an indian was indeed a human being who was also destined to the same inalienable rights guaranteed to all living human beings. He had to connivence a judge that just because he was an indian, a man of a different shade skin tone, he was still a human, as he (and all Indians) was not considered to be a person. Incredulous!!

“My hand is not the same color as yours. If I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you too will feel pain. The blood that flows will be the same color. I am a man. The same God made us both.”

I am including a link to the PBS site with the story and a lovely video. It is this life drama, a father wanting to simply bury his son on the land that had been theirs for hundreds of years, that lead to the acknowledgement by our Government that they, the Indians, are actually human–people….

http://www.pbs.org/program/standing-bears-footsteps/

It is amazing to me that we Americans are not very versed on our Native American History–it is as if it just doesn’t count to our history……maybe some of our states do a better job in sharing their state’s Indian history more so than others. Some of the poorest areas in this country are on the reservations…alcoholism runs rampant as does unemployment. Not a proud life for a once proud people.

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”
Black Elk – Oglala Sioux