It’s pitch dark and steamy, a Lakota man is chanting to the Great Spirit and the person to your right hands you a peace pipe. Do you smoke it? I mean it’s a peace pipe, how can you not? But you also don’t smoke and feel the moment’s ambiance might somehow be ruined if you start wheezing.
That was the decision I faced during the sweat lodge ceremony. In general I’m a heathen for good church incense; it was interesting to note people physically breathing their prayers toward the sky, while doing something that’s been deeply ingrained in my psyche as contraband.
But that whole trip had a lot of thought-provoking questions. Is that really a dog because it looks like a wolf? Is that a twelve year old driving a truck? The stones know, but they prefer to stay silent among the burning sage, listening instead to stories of spirits and sun dances rather than answering questions.
One man I spoke to seemed more comfortable outside than indoors. He talked of hardship and of hunting, and of how he had offered a sun dance in honor of his niece to rid her of bad dreams (which includes fasting and dancing around a pole for days while being tethered to it by a rope pinned to the skin of your chest).
On the Pine Ridge reservation of the Oglala Lakota nation, the natural world held mystery, mysticism and wisdom, a view reflected in the way they spoke. Nature pervades life, and despite all the political battles and hardship the Lakota people have endured, it seems the Indian lives on, for amid familiar jokes and small talk one could hear an ancient wisdom echoing through, the Black Hills calling from beneath Mount Rushmore.
Stones are the oldest and wisest spirits.
They sit and listen to thousands of years of history.
-Larry, our host