Keeping the Spirit Alive

"Keeping the Spirit Alive:" these words have become my mantra. They are also my commitment. They call me to walk in the ways of my ancestors, who lived in peace, beauty, and knowledge with all of Creation. The Spirit connects us to all who came before us. Living our life, honoring the ways of our Ancestors, is the way to reconnect ourselves to the source: Creator, Great Spirit. It is also the way that to renew our generation.

“Mitákuye Oyás'iŋ” means “All My Relations.” The Lakota use this phrase in greeting or when addressing a group of people. What does this mean? We have a connection to all things made by the Hand of the Creator. 

We honor our connection, not only with two-legged (other human beings) but also our connection to the four-legged (animal kingdom), the winged-ones (birds), the plant and rock world, the star people, the elements water, air, fire, earth, sky, including the sun and moon and all of the other planets. "Mitákuye Oyás'iŋ" recognizes we are ALL connected to all Creation in a circle, in a hoop that has no end. Knowing this keeps the Spirit alive.

Connect with Grandmother Earth

How does this translate in a modern world? There are many ways. The simple act of walking barefoot — physically connecting to Grandmother Earth and all her magnetic energy fields — brings healing. Scientists today are calling this absorption "grounding" and have produced studies proving extraordinary health benefits. As a Native person, I have always been aware of this because my ancestors walked this way, always grounded to Unči Maká (Grandmother Earth). This is keeping the Spirit alive.

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Act with purpose

Everything our Ancestors did had meaning and purpose. They intentionally built their lodges out of certain materials and in certain shapes. These structures faced specific directions for balance, well-being, and alignment with earth energies. What if we built our homes circular instead of square? What if they were round like teepees to restore our balance in the circle of life? How would that begin to reshape our thoughts? Our lives? Our world? This is keeping the Spirit alive.

To bring the connection back is to practice and participate in the healing ceremonies every day. Sing the songs of our ancestors. Dance must be prayers. Our peace comes about through unity and love. This is keeping the Spirit alive.

Standing together in unity

In 2016, I spent six months as a water protector at Standing Rock, North Dakota, praying and holding ceremonies with my brothers and sisters. We protested the Dakota Access Pipeline and defended Mother Earth. One thing stands out in my mind: the circle of people unifying from all parts of the world and every walk of life — in a common bond. It was a true vision of unity. There were no modern conveniences in the camps at Standing Rock; there was no technology. All we had was the sacred fire that burned night and day. When we met around the fire to share our experiences, stories, truths, or silence, we always knew where to go, what to do, and how to be because the Spirit directed us; our ancestors, Wakȟánŋʼtȟáŋka. No one organized this experience, but people showed up and helped however they could. It was a daily demonstration of people helping one another, not just once, but in an ongoing process, to stand as one people, one tribe, one nation in support of Grandmother Earth. That sacred fire still burns in our hearts. This is keeping the Spirit alive.

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Use the gifts The Creator gave you

It is said, if you're not using the gifts Creator gave you, you're not walking in the way of the people. We must walk our talk. Live our truth. Honor our values every day in the best way we can. What does that look like for you? For me, it is sharing my knowledge of traditional ways with my daughter. I talk. I sing. I pray. I dance — on a daily basis. And even though she is still young, I know she hears it and absorbs it. My actions feed her spirit. Preparing her for the day, she becomes Akicita — a Warrior for her people.

We can channel negativity and despair and allow this to shape our reality, or, despite the challenges we face, we can channel hope and love, choosing to follow in the footsteps of our Ancestors and awaken to the Spirit within each of us. Everyone's circle around them is a little different, but we all fundamentally know how good it feels to come together. We intuitively know how to do it, how to bring people together. The Spirit can't force you to join the circle, but it will keep calling you — praying, singing, and dancing —until you come.  

Wóyawašte (Blessings).

 

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Topics: Stories of Hope, Cultural Awareness and Revitalization

Written by Delwin Fiddler, Jr

Delwin Fiddler, Jr. is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Sans Arc band, and a world-renowned Native American performing Artist. Delwin has performed for two American Presidents and the Royal Family in England. His traditional Grass Dance is on display in a continual loop at the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Delwin’s Lakota name is Hehakapa Mahto (Elk Bear). He is a third-generation grandson of Hehakapa Elk Head, the historical Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe. Delwin is an Alumni of St. Joseph's Indian School, where he attended from 1985 to 1990. Although being separated from his parents and his culture at an early age was traumatic, Delwin credits his years at St. Joseph's as a time of self-discovery as well as academic learning. He says, “The time I spent at St. Joe’s taught me a lot about presentation, manners, and responsibility, preparing me to be successful in life off the reservation.” In December 2020, Delwin returned to his former school after 20-plus years and performed for the staff, faculty, and teachers. It was a full-circle moment for him. Aside from performing, Delwin’s work involves a commitment to protecting and defending Mother Earth. He founded PAZA, Tree of Life to foster healing, reconciliation, and unity among all people. It is Delwin’s hope that restoring knowledge of traditional ways will begin to break the cycle of oppression and inspire the next generation as leaders.