Situated at Long Grass Creek in the curve of a meandering river, our village is flanked by the water on one side and the forest on the other. Most of our tipis are in this area but the lodges of the Elders are where the river divides into two for a short way, its waters almost surrounding them. Our Medicine Man has his lodge amongst a small group of Silver Birch trees, looking out to the mountains beyond. Here the younger children like to play and their mothers feel happy, knowing they are safe. To the south is the forest which stretches for many miles and to the west, the vast prairie where the great buffalo herds roam. It is there we can view the distant storms with their long jagged flashes of lightning cutting across the sky and lighting up the horizon. We hear the thunder roll over the lowlands and echo loudly through the mountains to the north. These mountains are the Black Hills and they are sacred to our people. Looking out to the Great Plains we can see the swaying grasslands dancing in the wind, as if waving to the sky.
The part of the river flowing past our village is not too wide and has small streams running into it from the woodland. Our ponies graze between two of these streams which they seem to accept as natural boundaries. We are able to leave them there untethered, to wander around quite content. They are handsome looking animals, their smooth coats showing different coloured patches of white, browns and fawn. They
have a well-defined head with clear bright eyes that hold an expression of loyalty and trust, mixed in with a rugged independence and they are swift and agile with slender legs and long tails. Just like our dogs, our ponies are very good at bringing our attention to anything which is unusual or threatening, for they are extremely alert, being quick to respond to danger.
The dogs are also adept at guarding our children, as well as being their playful companions. They are truly faithful, for living close to the forest means there have been a number of occasions when the great bear has appeared and the dogs are usually the first to try and chase him away. What a magnificent beast the Grizzly Bear is – and how we admire his courage and greatness. Only if he becomes a constant threat, do we feel right in tracking him down. We send out special prayers to encourage him to stay away, but sometimes his visits continue and we realise that maybe, the time has come for his spirit to journey home. Then sadly, we are forced to do what is necessary for the safety of all, yet we continue to honour him and wear his coat with pride. Both he and Tatanka the mighty buffalo, are a symbol of strength and power and we consider ourselves privileged to walk in their domain and witness their presence. When we hunt Tatanka, it is to feed and clothe our people and only the weak and injured are taken. Every part of his huge body is used, for it would be as an insult to him if anything were wasted. Before we take his life, loving thoughts are always sent out to him. We ask the Great Spirit to help Tatanka travel safely across to the Spirit Land, where he can once again roam forever free, grazing upon windswept grasses beneath far-reaching skies, in those wide open spaces we have seen within our dreams.
My constant companion is the Hawk whom I found as a young fledgling born early one spring, when the snow still covered the ground and the soil lay hard and bare. He was weak and lost . . . and made me his friend. I have loved him ever since. He
is a free spirit, born to soar in the air above and my own spirit rises up with his, whenever he moves across the sky or skims over the flowing waters. How I envy him as he rides those high thermals and my heart beats so fast when he swoops downwards again, to level out and fly swiftly along just above the valley floor. I then watch him circling around before veering upwards into the trees, never once faltering on his set course. When I walk through the forest, he is my eyes and out on the prairie and in the tall grass, he lets nothing take me by surprise. We like to rest, he and I, on the banks of the river until he glides gracefully down to the water’s edge, where he flaps his wings excitedly, as I plunge into the coolness of the deep pools. This river originates in the Black Hills, with their pointed peaks and deep gullies and brings with it, not only the fresh water from the mountain streams, but also the memories of our forefathers. These mountains are a place of great beauty, a place befitting to hold their mortal remains. When possible, we make long journeys into their foothills where we stay and meditate, before continuing up into their loftier heights. Whilst there, we feel the peaceful presence of our passed loved ones, blending with the natural elements found all around. We are at one with ourselves and each other, knowing how our Ancestors are close and that they enjoy us being where their own memories lie, for when on Earth, they themselves would spend time amongst these wild and rugged peaks.
We stay for many days, taking in the immense freedom and exhilaration that is experienced in such splendid surroundings. Standing quietly on the edge of the great precipices, we view the land stretching out before us, with the never-ending plains and prairie and the lush green of the wide valleys and woodlands. The rich grasslands provide the hay which feeds our animals throughout the long bleak winter days, as well as keeping both them and our people warm. From this great height we can also
see the blue of the river leading to our own village, which nestles in one of its many bends and is partly hidden by the trees at the edge of the forest. During the long hard winter months these trees offer much needed protection from the bitterly cold winds and the forest gives us wood for our campfires. It shields our ponies and helps the surrounding wildlife to survive.
The winding river is the life-blood of our village and we are ever thankful for its constant flow, for although its many streams may freeze, the river continues to run and quench our thirst, no matter how deep the snow may lie. It waters the land when the rains are gone and carries us safely to distant parts. It both refreshes and uplifts us, for along it can be found small waterfalls and hidden coves, where it is good to pause and relax – or maybe just sit and dream. The river’s flow is the pulse of our everyday life. Many animals and birds enjoy its cooling balm and drink gratefully from it . . . and from its small creeks. Upon the fertile banks grow different kinds of herbs, flowers, berries and grasses. Fish swim in this river but the larger fish tend to be in the deeper waters, further south. There, the ground is more barren and has large open stretches of much calmer water.
To the west are the rapids and it is on them the young men of our village delight in testing their skills. They ride the churning, white-topped waves in their strong and carefully made canoes and even the daughters of our Tribe are quite taken with the thrill and excitement of the many challenges set. They appear in little groups, as if from nowhere, shyly talking together as they watch the battle between the fast swirling waters and the young men, who are desperately trying to manoeuvre their canoes through the boulders and rocks, eager to show how courageous and energetic they are. I am one of these young men . . . and I too am anxious to impress those who are now cheering us on. My friends and I are fairly well matched with each other – but not with the forces of nature. More often than not, our
adventure ends with us clinging to our overturned canoes, quite convinced that on the next attempt we will do better. Maybe one day we will, but for the moment we are winning not the battle to stay afloat, but the more important battle for knowledge. This time we are learning respect for the immense power of Mother Nature.
Although I am just like the rest of the sons in our village, I am maybe not quite as impulsive as most of my friends. The reason is that I tend to balance the thoughts in my head with the words heard from deep within, for I enjoy the company of those whom I know walk here unseen, from times long ago. They talk to me often and in various ways . . . by the touch of the breeze or the rustling of leaves, through the soft murmuring stream or the gushing waterfall, in the cry of a bird or the howl of the wolf. They may come on the scent of a flower or on the wings of a moth and I know they are all a part of me – and that I am a part of them. As a youth, I have not yet found my position within our community, but that will be decided upon soon enough. Like my parents, I am tall and slim and have brown eyes and bronzed skin. My hair is dark and worn loose around my shoulders, although sometimes I braid it into one long plait, which then falls down the centre of my back.
My father is the eldest son of our Medicine Man and I hope that one day I will be able to walk in my grandfather’s footsteps and share in his learning. My ambition is to follow his healing ways and to inherit his understanding and love for all things . . . but only time will tell. At the moment I am relishing the life of a young North American Lakota Indian from the Oglala Band of the Great Sioux Nation, living on the edge of the Plains, with the sky above me and the richness of the red earth beneath my feet. I have the sun to guide me in the day and the moon and stars to follow during the night. The moon holds a special significance for all our people. Its penetrating light reaches out
through the darkness, its beams forming a pathway for our eyes to follow . . . a path leading up to the vastness of the Universe. It takes us to a place far beyond the view of our worldly sight and far beyond the understanding of men, yet to ponder on it stretches our thoughts and helps each one to look deeper into the hidden beauty which lies above, as well as around us. The twinkling stars shining so brightly, are like the tiny fireflies glowing in the quiet of night, reflecting the silver glow of the moon itself.
This far-off moon fills us full of wonder. Sitting in the coolness of its shadow, we now hear the haunting cry of the wolf as he sings with the rest of his kind – a song which seems to match the mystery and magic of the moonlight all around. When the air is crisp, it is as though each note is magnified a hundred times, each varying tone echoing across the open prairie. This sound is truly haunting . . . but so very beautiful to hear. It is a jubilant sound, a sound of freedom, for the wolf travels freely with his pack and knows each secret trail, each hidden track. He is like a phantom that comes alive with the fall of night, moving with such stealth and ease. He troubles us not and rarely comes too near. We admire him, for he is a noble creature with the pale blue eyes of a clear mountain stream. As we quietly watch, he and his young family romp joyfully along the banks of the river. They are out on their nightly prowl and have just moved down to the waters edge, to drink from one of the many small pools which lie trapped in the rocks nearby. Even though we are in the season of the sun, their coats are thick and long.
Together with the alpha pair and their pups are four adolescent males, three young females and two older females, who are now becoming tired of exploring this part of the river and are preparing to leave. We silently watch as they turn and retreat, quite certain our presence has not gone unnoticed by the older and wiser members of the pack. They seem to accept we show
no malice towards them and that we are content to simply share a few brief moments of their nightly trek. When we adorn ourselves with the coat of our brother the wolf, it is because he has recently left this World . . . to continue his wanderings in that land beyond our sphere. On rare occasions, as happens with the great bear, a lone individual may stalk our village and then we again have to do what we must, but it is done with respect and love. We admire all creatures – it is our way, for it is the way of the Great Spirit. We know all things are joined by his infinite love for each and everyone. We know the wolf is a part of our natural family and shares this beautiful land with us. We feel proud to wear the earthly coat which he leaves here, knowing how his spirit is once more free and happy to roam much further afield.
I can understand the wolf’s love of this rugged landscape and often wonder if our dogs ever feel tempted to join their wild cousins, out on the distant plains . . . to run with them through the tall grasses and play amongst the foothills of the majestic mountains. Perhaps though, their own inner-self warns them that – outside our camp, they would have to compete for their food, after maybe hunting for many days. Do they sense the security in the care and companionship given to them here and would they miss the chatter and almost constant attention of at least one child? As I think on these things, I wonder if we are guilty of taking away some of their basic instincts, but they are hardly ever restricted and seem happy to return our friendship.
The night is still and the stars in the sky glow brighter as the moon continues to rise, before starting to fade once more from our view. The cycle of life is forever moving onwards – until it arrives back at where it began. Our Sacred Hoop enfolds our people in an eternal bond. Everything within its circle is connected and every tiny thing is a part of the whole, for we are all woven into Mother Nature’s colourful patchwork of life.
The threads of time draw us slowly forward, from springtime to springtime, from today’s sunrise to the following sunrise, from one moment to the next . . . as we grow, experience and learn. Since our arrival from the Spirit Land to our return – we journey on. Truly, the circle is never ending. Our body in old age is as frail as it was when it took that first breath as a tiny new babe, yet our spirit will hopefully be strengthened and enriched with the different lessons it has gained.
I quietly think on these things as we retire to our tipis, to find that magical sleep state which not only refreshes our body, but allows our spirit to join again with those loved ones who have indeed, moved ahead. Perhaps tonight, I will wander through the stars in the heavens above or maybe I will journey with the wolf, enjoying the special freedom that slumber brings. It is not long before I fall into a deep sleep, as the night draws its veil of mystery over those who succumb to its peaceful state, for thoughts now fade. . . as sweet oblivion conquers all.
I am a child of the Universe, no more and no less than my spirit unfolds. I was once the future and will one day be the past, but at the moment I am part of the present, here in this body which represents me. I have learnt many things in my childhood and met with many people, but ahead stretches the most interesting challenge of all – the challenge of becoming a man. My spirit may have known many lifetimes which are now hidden from view, but it is in this present state that I can further enrich its light and thus increase its love.
So now I dream . . . not of the stars, nor of the wolf, but of those mountains to the north where I am ever eager to go. Beyond the mist I see their peaks reaching up to the sky and sense the power and strength held therein. Breathing in the clear air, I enjoy the breezes caressing my face as I listen to the wind whistling along the gullies far below. I am fully aware of the energies flowing in
the ground beneath my feet and of the healing being given from the trees. My Hawk is with me and he circles slowly upwards, drawing my spirit ever higher, allowing me to look down on the splendour wrapped all around, as the colours of dawn start to gradually show.
This is a paper-back with 188 pages and tells a moving story about the life of Two Wings, who is a Lakota Indian (Sioux) living in a small village on the edge of the Great Plains. The story itself is fictional, but the Chapter relating to the Sun Dance is taken from my own personal experience, when my husband and I were invited to attend this private Sacred Ceremony, out in the Badlands of South Dakota. It was a great honour to be there and an experience I treasure deeply and always will.
I have admired the North American Indian ever since my childhood and as I have grown, my love for them has increased. This book has been written with the deepest respect.
The story of “Two Wings” is fictional, but in Chapter Eleven the account of the Sun Dance is drawn from personal memories, for my husband and I were greatly honoured to be invited by a Lakota friend to be his guests, when he danced at his ninth Sun Dance.
Our presence there is an experience I treasure deeply and will never forget, for the love generated throughout the four days, was incredible.
These Sacred Ceremonies are not open to the public and he had to ask permission from his Medicine Man, for us to attend. I in turn have now asked our friend if I may include this Sacred Rite in my book. His reply was ‘Yes’, saying he knew I would portray it in an honest and respectful way. This I have done.
Many times my thoughts drift back to the Badlands of South Dakota and to the Lakota people whom I continue to admire and love. Thanks to their friendship, in my mind I can enjoy again and again the spiritual beauty and healing power of their Sacred Sun Dance.
The Plains Indians, especially the Lakota or Sioux as the Whiteman called them, were the most spiritual of all the North American Tribes and their teachings can still be heard today.
Valerie A. Lancaster
I am a North American Lakota Indian and I live on the edge of the Great Plains, where the prairie joins with tall grasslands and where wide valleys and dense woodlands can be found.
I was born in the shadow of the Black Hills, a sacred place for my people and those of our kind. We were a part of nature and moved with ease across the land.
All life was precious and we believed in the love of the Great Spirit. We honoured our Mother the Earth and loved her creatures as brothers. We looked to the rivers with the same respect that we had for the land and we tried to treat all men as equal, for all things are connected.
We knew the flame which burns within is the true person whom we are and how our bodies only exist, while we walk on this Earthplane. Our spirit is the part which journeys on. It can never die and has travelled through many lives, in many shapes and forms and now moves in this being, which is I.
My story is one which you may care to read, a story of those who lived long ago. Our people knew well of the Natural Laws and followed the teachings passed down through Tribal Elders, who openly shared their knowledge of life here and beyond.
I am, I have been – and I always will be. When my earth body dies my spirit will again fly free and one day will hopefully be able to revisit this world, to talk with those of like-minds.
“The Spirit of the North American Indian” “Freedom of the Wolf”
“Something in the Air” “Legend of Tatanka – The Buffalo”
“Lament of the Redman” “Suitably Dressed for the Journey”
“Special Memories” “Learning to Be”
“Early Morning Walk” “Prayer of N.A.Indian” “Indian’s Journey Home”
“Plea of an Indian Chief” “A Mistake”
“Winds of Change” “Controlling the Ego”
“Memories of N.A. Indian” “Round the Campfire” “Bear Butte”
“A Tender Love” “Gaining Experience” “Circle of Life”
“Wild and Free” “Children of Mother Earth”
“Memories of the Sun Dance” “Whispering Cottonwood Tree”
“Words from the Elders”
“Flying Free” “Welcoming a New Day” “Refreshing Pauses”
“Reaching to the Light” “Different Kinds of Courage”
“Beneath Open Skies” “A Meeting of Friends”
“Knowing the Spirit Within”
Across the vast prairie where the eagle likes to soar,
from home to home, I love to roam,
its beauty to explore.
Out on the open grasslands, my companions by my side,
beneath the sky, with head held high,
upon the wind I ride.
Deep in the mighty canyons with their rivers constant roar,
the colours glow, the waters flow,
I quietly stand in awe.
Through the majestic Black Hills, their valleys deep and wide,
I feel the peace, my worries cease,
my heart is filled with pride.
Far out upon the Great Plains where our fathers dwelt before,
I find myself, that inner wealth,
which speaks of Spirit Law.
Within the quiet woodlands among the trees I stride,
there healing’s found, from all around
and spirit does abide.
Beyond this time, through sacred dreams, I truly know for sure,
the buffalo herds, in other worlds
drift on forever more.
When I was a child, a long time ago,
I sat with my friends in the campfire’s warm glow
and listened in awe to the words which poured from
the lips of an Elder, I never missed one,
for he was explaining
how life had begun.
When our Ancestors came to this rugged land,
they found it so beautiful, spacious and grand,
from rolling prairies to wild mountains tall,
with woodlands and forests spread round like a shawl
‘neath the sun’s sparkling rays,
giving energy to all.
Spring brought forth sweet blossoms, the summer bright flowers
and autumn showed colours that changed with the hours,
small streams ran through meadows, while rivers so wide
roared through the canyons, touching each side
and waterfalls danced
over rocks and hillside.
Our people were joyful, life was sublime,
but autumn was moving into winter time,
this world we had entered, though beautiful and bright,
was also quite savage within its own right,
the change of the seasons
was causing such plight.
Although we admired all the beauty that flowed,
we’d taken for granted what Nature bestowed
‘til the ground became hardened, then covered with snow
and lakes started freezing and blizzards would blow,
so the fruits and the berries
no longer could grow.
The cold was intense, the days very short,
we felt that our life in a nightmare was caught,
most creatures perished or moved far away,
our Elders felt helpless, children cried in dismay
and so to Wakan Tanka,
we started to pray.
We asked to be saved from the misery around,
our bellies were empty, no food could be found,
but the Great Spirit listened as we called his name
and through his pure love, he banished our pain,
for from that moment onward
the buffalo came.
This Book has the following 34 poems spaced between the different Chapters:
Just the Spirit of the North American Indian
Just the Freedom of the Wolf
Just Something in the Air
Just the Legend of Tatanka, the Buffalo
Just the Lament of the Redman
Just Suitably Dressed for the Journey
Just Special Memories
Just Learning to Be
Just an Early Morning Walk
Just the Prayer of a N.A. Indian
Just an Indian’s Journey Home
Just the Plea of an Indian Chief
Just a Mistake
Just Winds of Change
Just Controlling the Ego
Just Memories of the N.A. Indian
Just Sitting Round the Campfire
Just Bear Butte
Just a Tender Love
Just Gaining Experience
Just the Circle of Life
Just Wild and Free
Just Children of Mother Earth
Just Memories of the Sun Dance
Just the Words of the Whispering Cottonwood
Tree Just Words from the Elders
Just Flying Free
Just Welcoming a New Day
Just Refreshing Pauses
Just Reaching to the Light
Just Different Kinds of Courage
Just Beneath Open Skies
Just a Meeting of Friends
Just Knowing the Spirit Within.
This is a very gentle, uplifting story of a Native American called “Two Wings”. It’s one of those stories that is suitable for all ages, and I know the lengths the author went to in order to be both respectful and authentic. She writes with great care, and this story truly is a work of love and dedication.
It’s a quiet book, perfect for easing the mind and soul when the world is raging all around.
Valerie Lancaster is a housewife with three children and five grandchildren. She has been married for fifty-one years to her husband Bern and they live in a small village just outside Southport in Lancashire. They both enjoy hiking together out in the countryside, through woodlands, along streams and across hillsides. In the past they have climbed all the highest peaks in England and in the Scottish Highlands, but now their walks are more low-level. Valerie loves Nature, with all her creatures and beautiful scenery.
She started receiving inspirational poems, stories and philosophy over twenty years ago and has had eleven small “Just Poems” books printed. However, “Two Wings” is her first published paper-back. Up until 2009 Valerie and her husband coached and ran Gymnastic Clubs for children. They did this for fifty years on a totally voluntary basis and in 2006, they were both amazed to each receive an MBE for their services to youth.