Thursday, December 29, 2011

As The Sun Prepares to Rise on Another Year

Today I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Morgantown, WV, far from the view pictured above. I just finished a brief conversation with one of my old roommates, Joel Setal, and started re-reading a really cool book my friend Pavi suggested to me a few years ago. The book is called The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel. I highly recommend it.

Earlier today, Jamie and I took a walk across town to get a little exercise, and because she is going through orientation for a new part-time job. She's going to be teaching aquatics classes at a local fitness and rehabilitation center called Healthworks. I'm excited for her to launch into this new endeavor because I think she is incredibly gifted in both aquatics and with people. Her bosses are being incredibly flexible with her, and have built into her schedule time off to travel with me when I need to be on the road for Nuru.

This year has been incredible, and in the near future, I'm looking forward to posting more details and highlights from the last twelve months. Life seems like it has been speeding up steadily over the last twelve months, and one of my passions that has suffered has been my blog. This year marks the fewest posts I have been able to put up on this blog since I started it in 2005. It's probably the fewest since the first year I started blogging which was 2003 (Unfortunately, those old blog posts are no longer available--the site was taken away).

Over the next couple of days, I'm hoping to spend some extended time writing, praying, reflecting, planning, and resting as I prepare to welcome in the new year. Jamie and I have had a wonderful holiday season, and have had the privilege of being able to spend quality time with many members of our family, as well as many friends. I think we are both just craving more time with everyone (including the people we didn't get to see). As much as technology has made our use of time more efficient, and opened up opportunities that were never before possible for staying connected, I find myself always craving more time with people.

I imagine that craving will never be satisfied on this side of the veil, and I imagine I'm not alone in my craving. As 2011 winds to it's end, and the sun rises on a new year, my hope is that you and I will be able to savor every moment, and make the most of the time you and I have been given.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Prophet's Rock

During my visit to the village of Tippecanoe, a local told me about a place where Tenskwatawa was supposed to have gone to pray and to encourage the members of the confederacy. I'm sure that Tenskwatawa visited this place, as did his brother Tecumseh.

In light of my last post and Willie's statement about a Shawnee walking through this area 200 years after the battle, it was kind of cool to stand atop this rock, look out on what would have been the site of the Tippecanoe (Prophetstown) village, and think about what once was, as well as think about what 200 years hold for all of us on this planet.

I thought you might enjoy seeing some of these photos and taking a moment to imagine what this part of the world might have looked like 200 years ago. Imagine traditional home structures that represented a wide array of cultures (tipis, wickiwas, longhouses, and more).  Imagine large agricultural plots to meet the food needs of a diverse village. Imagine a community rallying together to maintain some semblance of a traditional way of life and a heritage.

It was a rainy day in Tippecanoe, and I am grateful for the ability to walk in this place as well as for the ability to imagine a different world. I think that this is one of the great gifts we have been given, not only do we have the ability ot imagine what the past was like, but we have the ability to imagine, and be active participants in creating a future world, and playing our part to make this world a better place for future generations.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Battle of Tippecanoe: 200 Years Later

On my way back from a recent trip to Columbus, Cincinnati, and Chicago for Nuru, I had an opportunity to stop at Prophetstown State Park and the location of the Battle of Tippecanoe. I have for a long time wanted to visit this site where Tecumseh and his brother were beginning to build a confederacy of American Indian tribes to resist the encroachment of western settlers into Indian territory. Over the last several years, I have made it a point to visit historic and sacred sites for my tribe with members of my family and tribe.

It was a bit ironic to me as Jamie and I took a break from our long drive to visit this historic site. The date we visited was November 7th, 2011--exactly 200 years to the day of the original battle. It appeared there were a number of people who came out for the weekend to commemorate and remember the combatants (based on the number of re-enactors I saw dressed as militia people walking around the grounds).

So a bit about the significance of the battle for me. My family is Shawnee. Tecumseh and his brother were also Shawnee. Tecumseh is seen by many as one of the greatest orators and military leaders in history. He and his brother had begun assembling an array of people from tribes all over North America to stand as a united front against the illegal encroachments of settlers into Indian territory. Not only was Tecumseh a brilliant orator and military strategist, he was also an astute diplomat and a champion of justice. He's one of my personal historic heroes, and holds a special place in the hearts and minds of all Shawnee people.

For every good thing that Tecumseh represented, his brother Tenskwatawa was the anti-thesis. In early November 1811, while Tecumseh was speaking to tribes in the southeastern United States to encourage them to join this confederacy, his brother was making claims to great power, influence, and medicine. And a young American leader named William Henry Harrison began driving a militia group to encamp near Prophetstown, the gathering place of Tecumseh's confederacy. Tenskwatawa told the gathered people in his village that if they attacked Harrison and his men, they would become bulletproof, and the bullets in the rifle's of Harrison's men would roll out of their barrels and turn to dust.

But that's not how it happened. Tenskwatawa rallied people to fight and early in the morning, they attacked Harrison's camp. Harrison and his men were ready. They routed the poorly executed attack of the confederacy (without their leader, Tecumseh), and destroyed Tecumseh's dream of a massive confederacy. It also secured Harrison's political future and he later became president of the United States.

As I stood at the site of the battle, I was overcome with emotion. I can't quite describe it. I began bawling my eyes out when I thought about the lives lost in this place, and the possibilities of a different future for shawnee people that were shattered during this event. After spending a couple hours walking around the battle ground and memorials with Jamie, we proceeded to drive to Columbus, OH where I was able to share the whole experience with my best friend in the whole world, Willie, who is also a member of my tribe.

He had really cool insight for me as I told him about the great sadness I felt standing in that place. He said, "You know, nobody who had been there for that battle could have possibly imagined that there would be a Shawnee walking over that land two hundred years later." His comment put things in a little better perspective for me. It was a bright spot of a different sort. It was a reminder of the power of perseverance.

In my tribe, we have a song called Itcheepon. As I walked the battlefield on November 7th, 2011, I found myself singing it. I'd like to share one of the verses here.

"Now you think that we're gone.
Look around you! Hear my song!
Aren't the skies still blue? Don't the rivers run?
We're still here on Itcheepon.

And as I close this reflection, I'm encouraged in the middle of walking through such a sad place, because there are still Shawnee people walking on this earth. Things look different than could have been even imagined two-hundred years ago, but we are still here. HeYa!