By Thomas O. Mills, May 2012
Author of: The Book of Truth
You have to ask yourself why any Native American Elder would want to talk to us. What good have we ever done for him? What is this deep-seated understanding that he has inside that makes him want to share his knowledge with the people who have taken all the best from him and the land he loves?
His Ancestors had free, clean water in every stream, free housing for every family, free education for every child, free food for every meal, and no fences, bills, pollution, taxes, boundaries, countries, or money. John Lennon dreamed about this kind of life; he wrote a song called Imagine, and many of my elderly Hopi friends still imagine that the world could be this way. They miss, very badly, those old days of peace and tranquility, but that is not the reason the Elders talk.
The Elders see what drugs and alcohol have done to their sons, daughters, and grandchildren. They know that the food we eat, the way we treat our livestock, oceans, air, insects, and fields is not correct and causes many health problems for everyone. They know that government-controlled tribal councils were created to provide a link between the government and the Native Tribes, to steal their culture, land, coal, oil, and water, and then claim that the tribe wanted it that way. They know all these things, but that is not the reason why the Elders talk.
The Elders know that today is our day of plenty. Grocery stores are full of food from all around the world, plenty of electricity and natural gas to heat and cool our homes and business, plenty of land to buy and sell, and plenty of credit to do all of these things, but that is not the reason why the Elders talk.
The Elders were told that a majority of all the people, from all four races, will never understand what they are trying to communicate. They are looking for just a handful of listeners, to hear and help them, but for some reason the majority of the people they talk to have an obstruction in their ears and the words of the Elders do not enter their brains; they just bounce around the room like the sound of a beating drum.
They use hand gestures, lines in the sand, carvings on rocks, paintings, and ceremonies to convey their message but very few pay any attention to them nowadays. Non-Indians try to put words in the Elders mouths and young people of their own tribe even make fun of the elders and call them names, laugh, and imitate their gestures, after they go through the white man’s public school system. But still the Elders talk.
The Elders I knew learned from their elders the prophecies passed down from their elders, all the way back to the Guardian Spirit (Kachina) known as Massaw’u, who gave the Hopi permission to occupy this land after a great flood. He told them what signs to look for in the future to tell when this world event might happen again. Massaw’u was the original prophet. The Elders alive today do not clam to be prophets or try to foretell things as if by some divine inspiration. They are just repeating what was told to them in the past by their fathers and grandfathers exactly the way it was told to them.
Massaw’u instructed the Hopi to repeat his stories to future generations and he also told them that it would be a very hard job for them to accomplish, as very few people would listen to his prophecies in times of plenty. This was their job, and that is why the Elders talk to us today. They do not claim to be prophets, they do not claim to be psychic or have any magical powers. We put those titles on them because they talk about future events and those events are coming true today, just the way Massaw’u told them they would.
A group of traditional Hopi Elders decided in 1948 that Massaw’u’s message was not being heard fast enough. They elected four members to represent the tribe, giving each a sacred prayer feather in the hope that their words would be taken seriously. This was a huge step for these peaceful people as no tribe member wanted to be singled out by using his own name in public. This was completely contrary to the Hopi way of life, living modestly in all ways at all times. After this point, many books were written with the help of the Elders: The Hopi Indians, 1956; Red Man, White Man, 1958; The Book of the Hopi, 1963; Truth of a Hopi, 1967; Me and Mine, 1969; The Hopi People, 1971; and Pages From Hopi History, 1974. Continue reading
A heartfelt, powerful post from Tom Mills:
I explained to them that I would listen to their views, if they would listen to mine. “No problem; what religion are you?” they said.
“I consider myself Hopi, Native American,” I said.
“Surely you do not believe that pagan Indian stuff, do you?” and it was about this time that my wife of 33 years left the room.
I listened patiently about Armageddon, what day was really the day for us to Worship, Salvation, World War Three, and how there was only one right religion and it was theirs.
Before I began to talk, I took the time to look up the word pagan in the dictionary, so I could have my guns loaded for them.
Pagan = Heathen
So I looked up heathen: 1. A person who is not a believer in any of the world’s chief religions, especially one who is neither Christian, Jew or Muslim. 2. An unenlightened person, one regarded as lacking culture or moral principles.
It was true that the Hopi elders that I had the privilege to speak to many years ago were not Christian, Jew, or Muslim, but to say they were unenlightened or lacking culture or moral principles was a bridge too far for me. That is just not the case. Perhaps the definition should be changed to say, not Christian, Jew, Muslim or Native American, when you consider that Native American cultures and religions covered the entire North and South American continent, an area larger than all three of those other religions territories combined.
The Hopi do not have a special day to worship; they worship every day, at sunrise and at every meal. They do not have leap year, daylight savings, hours, seconds or minutes. The Earth’s rotation, the position of the sunrise and sunset, the winter and summer solstice, the equinox, the stars at night–these are their timepieces. If you woke up tomorrow morning and there was no electricity for your clock, computer, or watch how would you know what month, day, or time it was? Most of us couldn’t even fix a cup of coffee.
Native American cultural ways and our cultural ways are two different things but to say Native Americans do not have culture is truly a lack of education and understanding. The elders I knew had more moral principles than anyone I have ever met. Always happy, sharing, giving, loyal, respectful, trustworthy and honest. When they talked, people listened. They knew where we came from, where we are going, and what needs to be done to get there. They never accepted anything in return for their knowledge or teachings, no donations, pledges, money, or royalties.
No matter what role a Hopi takes in a ceremony he or she will always show humility on all occasions to everyone. From The Book of the Hopi, White Bear Fredericks:
“A Hopi traditionalist, who refuses to seek honor and high office, avoids manifesting exceptional talent and ability, and seeks to show humility on all occasions. There are no Hopi priests, properly speaking, to expound any religious beliefs whatever. Every adult Hopi man participates during the year in at least one major ceremony, after which he returns to work in his fields, wearing no vestige of priestly garb and carrying no aura of sanctity.”
To participate in one major ceremony each year is a little more taxing than showing up for one or two practices, singing in the choir, and then performing on Sunday for an hour or so, as many of us do in our Christian culture. Almost all Hopi ceremonies last for 16 days or more, and they involve fasting, praying, ritual smoking, abstinence, preparation, weaving, painting, carving, composing, planting, memorizing, and dancing. The spouse has to grind corn to make piki, weave baskets, bake hundreds of loafs of bread, prepare lunch for all the people that come to visit and all those participating in the ceremony, and take care of the household and the children in her husband’s absence. Most of the people I know participate all year long and not just for one ceremony during the year.
I truly do not understand how they do it. My participation in anything is so small that I find myself longing to help the Hopis when I spend time with them. Their culture is a lifelong commitment and their ceremonies are performed for all four races of man: black, yellow, red, and white. They do not think of any of us as being pagan or heathen; we are all just human.
CEOs of major corporations, and I’ve known a few, do not have the weight of the world on their shoulders, such as the responsibility for the crops and the weather, logistics, timing, nor do they have the problem-solving ability of a Hopi fulfilling his ceremonial cycle each year. I would challenge any one of them to follow in an elder’s footsteps for just one year, day in and day out, winter, summer, spring, and fall, and to be happy just to help the world, bless the crops, and make it rain. No stock options, benefits, vacation, days off, or golf games to ease the pain.
When I look back at history and think of all the tribes, ceremonies, and cultures that were destroyed and lost in the conquering of the Americas, I think I know who the real heathens were. Something very few want to talk about when they come knocking on your door.