Saturday, February 17, 2007


You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round..... The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours....

Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.

~ Black Elk


I love living in the west. I pretty much doubt I'll ever live east of the rockies and there is slim chance I'll ever travel much east of the Mississippi. Everywhere I've gone in the west I've touched time. We still have real cowboys, real indians, water wars and argue over grazing and other uses of our land here. I've met descendants of Kit Carson and Daniel Boone. I've found pot shards, arrowheads, petroglyphs and pictographs... it is a genuine enrichment of my world to have these associations. To have those connections across time and to think perhaps that somewhere along the line I may do a good thing or two for folks in my life.

In my doings with tribal folks I've done sweatlodge with many people of many tribes and colors, I've sat through all-night teepee meetings (peyote ceremony) and seen the firebird as it was born, flared and was consumed to coals and then ash while prayers were made and songs sung.

In California I hung out with Grampa Semu a lot off and on over the years and had many friends in the local Chumash community. I remember first meeting Grampa at the Santa Ynez Reservation at the home of two of the last speakers of the Chumash language, Uncle Cheecho and Aunt Tita. I have the negatives for some excellent black and white photos from those days at the rez(mid 70s). I went back many times to that old house as various brothers stayed and took care of the elders until they passed on.

I even did my first subversive act (on US soil) there. There was a dispute about building a massive rest stop with a fancy bathroom for the tourists (this was way pre-casino days) and my friend Two Jays asked me to take my camera and take pictures of certain people and tell them I was with the Santa Barbara newspaper. I did, it was easy to do and man... did I find myself in the middle of a tribal dispute! One of the tribal council members, a woman, let me know in no uncertain terms, that my presence was unwanted. Gack! But it was all good... TJ was a big jovial guy and he saved me from the mob... eh...

Anyway... I'm digressing again... I've managed to stay at least peripherally involved in the Native American world. Sometimes it was the present folks, sometimes it was those who had come before, who had used the omni-present grinding stones I keep coming across.

(photo - Wendy Martin, from Forest Voice, Summer 2002)

At Jawbone I had the great pleasure of meeting Calvin Hecocta who had started coming to Opal Creek most springs to do a land blessing and help us open camp up for the year. In a good way, with songs and prayers and good food and company. And of course, sweatlodge... Woohoo!

Calvin runs a beautiful sweat, he is masterful in his presence with - and concern for - those with him. He is funny and big hearted and accomodating without bending tradition. I've run the fire and carried many rocks for Calvin's sweats at Opal Creek. And hope to carry many more stones his way through the coming years...

The sweatlodge is one of those things that I wonder about. I mean I know folks, professionals, who are scientific minded. Science can explain anything. There is a scientific explanation.

But how do you measure appreciation? How do you measure the change that can come in a human heart when they find the strength to not get out of the sweatlodge; to sit and let go because the voice telling the body "get out! Its HOT in here! We can't take anymore!" is overridden by that hidden power that keeps people in charge of their senses when all about them scream "flee". The sweatlodge is old and crosses all continents and has no color barriers. I've heard it called the first and oldest ceremony.

People sweat everywhere, whether in saunas, temescals or in hidden mountain hot springs... there are traditions of medicine on every continent that involve making people perspire for the benefits to their health. One of my favorite things to do is build a sweatlodge in some remote location next to a creek and spend a few days, do at least a couple of sweats. Down in Central California we did sweats for years east of town off of Hwy 166.

Powerful stuff. I'm hoping to get one in tomorrow down in Blachly with the folks at Nanish Shontie. I hope to, it'll be my first chance to meet these folks. Otherwise I probably have to go practice my lines for my work on an AM radio program debuting soon here in Eugene. But thats a surprise, so don't tell.


Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it.

~ Theodore Roosevelt


Rain Trueax said...

I have never done a sweatlodge but have always thought I'd like to.. and then again maybe not as I have read some of the descriptions of how very hot it is to make it work. I have done the hot springs in the mountains though. Seems like to be part of a sweatlodge ceremony with someone very spiritual is something I should do sometime before I get so old I can't... It's getting close to that now :)

Allan Erickson said...

Hi Rain-

I would encourage you to try a sweatlodge. There is so much more to say about them. I've done extremely hot sweats with men but I've done family sweats (with my friend Lalo in Visalia, a Mokelumne, in an earthen lodge (an Apweeok in Chumash). I've been in sweats where it never really got hot enough for me.

At Paul's... going away party... we did a large sweatlodge and Paul's sister - who had never done a sweat - stayed through all the rounds and she loved it.

It is a rare and transcendant experience. A rebirthing... and a very beautiful ceremony.

Fireplace Repair Tyler said...

Verry thoughtful blog