Note: This story can be translated into other languages, such as Spanish and the thousand indigenous languages from Mexico to Patagonia. Too often we neglect to realize that indigenous are hemispheric and not just from California or other spots across America.
(BASKET OF PEACE)
nChinawa nChinawa is an indigenous name for the Columbia River
Ah’juma Ah’juma is an indigenous name for Pit River
Sul’ma’ejote Sul’ma’ejote is an indigenous name for Fall River
In the season of summer, in early mist when village was just waking, there was Enun (sister) sad and tired from worry. Tired creases were painted upon her face in the shadows. There was agony within her. Enun would not speak of this, but the village knew there was enmity between herself and her Apawi (brother). There was an injury as jagged and sharp as a razor-thin obsidian slab. It was bitter and it had been this way for many seasons. There was no medicine the people could do to bring them closer, for theirs was a wounding of their spirits.
Season changed from summer to Autumn. Autumn’s spirit painted the leaves of the forest russet and red and gold, yet peace was not known to their dwellings. As pine trees danced in the winds of winter and mountain tops whispered through a blanket of snow, there was no peace. As snow turned to freshets and moon and sun spoke softly over the world of a new season coming, and geese flew high in blue sky calling to the world, to people and to all of life, peace was yet a stranger between them.
This is how it was. Enun searched within herself.
Her nights were of no sleep and her days were only agony. Her world melted without song. Quickly she grew old. Apawi walked within a black shadow whenever she was near. It seemed that there was no way for friendship to travel with them, hand in hand, as it was in the season of their laughing youth.
When there was no way to be kind to her apawi and in the season when she weakened, she had a beautiful dream. Dream spoke,
“You must make titaji.”
“Make a basket?” Her spirit questioned dream.
Once again dream spoke,
“You must gather roots from huge dancing pine, strip them and wind strips into twine, then go to the rushing waters and select good willow for ribbing and take bark from red bud. Gather these things in the season of fresh spring. As you gather, here is the song you must sing:
Apona’ha meemoo’ischi’ee (Great Wonder, we are your children)
Apona’ha meemoo’ischi’ee (Great Power, we are your children)
Apona’ha, meemoo’ischi’ee (Great mystery, we are your children)
Apona’ha meemoo’ischi’ee (Great Spirit, we are your children)
After you have gathered these things, cure them by hanging them near roof in your dwelling. Do not stop singing, for as you move upon the world by day and you dream while stars dance, you must think about the peace and friendship that will belong to you and your brother when basket is finished.”
Enun did as instructed. She gathered the material for the basket in the appointed season. She placed her material in her dwelling near roof. She sang to Apona’ha every moment.
The season came for her to begin weaving. Her heart grew sweeter with each sunrise
Darkness. As she was beginning to sleep thinking peace and friendship, there danced across her vision the design of tita’ji.
With new happiness the spirit of her hands began working basket. Apawi looked upon her with dark curiosity. From her dwelling the people learned this song that never changed. When spoken to of what she was making, she said, “Tita’ji.” They began to think she was growing into childhood again and thought she was speaking truths and maybe doing that which was child-like harmony.
She sang “Apona’ha” and her basket grew. Enun began to wonder, “When giving this basket to my brother, will all be well between us?”
She hummed “Apona’ha,” and little song weave its way around and through the dwellings of village even as her twine wrapped itself around the ribs of tita’ji.
As fire danced she looked over tita’ji, a pattern of love. Enun’s spirit grew big and warm. A tita’ji given to her in a dream that would bring everlasting peace to her and her brother. Tita’ji would be finished next sun. She smiled a beautiful smile then dreamed.
As she breathed softly and last spark blinked out and village was deep in dreams there came a vision to her and a peaceful voice said,
“You must place tita’ji upon waters of rushing river.”
Startled she wondered, “Is this a terrible dream? Is this a bad message? But if I put tita’ji upon the rushing river won’t tita’ji go away to outer ocean?” All these things she thought quickly within herself.
It was long before sleep crept within her to curl up like a little mink. Again a sharp vision flashed across her dream and a voice said,
“You must place tita’ji upon waters of river. To have peace and friendship there first must be trust. Before trust appears there must be faith. Before faith approaches there must be a knowing that there is peace and friendship. You must sing the song. You must keep fire burning, always. Feed fire with branches of trees that have not touched the earth, that are yet pure. Do not allow fire to die.”
Enun was surprised but as she listened again to words sent to her from outer world and received by her spirit, she began to fathom the depth of faith it will take to have everlasting peace. Then she slept a beautiful sleep.
First light, song floated over village, over rushing river, over land and around the world.
Enun completed tita’ji and placed it with tenderness upon rushing river’s water. Her people watched it being captured by tumbling current. They stood quietly as it rounded distant bend. Their hearts were sad for their enun who lost her tita’ji upon river. They wondered within themselves why it was none of the warriors tried to retrieve it.
None but she and the whispering power knew that this could not be done.
Enun returned to her dwelling. She sang gift song. She gathered wood to keep fire alive.
Sleeping, a vision flashed across her dreams and a voice said,
“Enunja (little sister), when tita’ji fashioned with dreams and song touches the shores of all countries of our world, it shall bring peace there.
Tita’ji will travel through all of the turmoil of humankind’s own making and when it has delivered peace to every land, it will return to your hands by traveling up river to the place where you put it upon its journey of peace and friendship.
You must not allow fire to die. You must not stop singing. When tita’ji returns take it to your apawi and say,
My spirit’s brother, this is for you. It has traveled all the world and has brought peace to all the lands it has encountered. I made it for you from a dream given to me by Great Mystery. Let this be a symbol of my trust in Apona’ha that there can be everlasting peace between us.
You must say to your people gathered there watching as tita’ji moves from outer ocean up river to your hands,
My people. Remember the song Great Wonder gave to me and I gave to you? Let this be a lesson that we are a people of peace and we have peaceful dreams to dream, and all else we must not allow to hinder our spirits.
We must sing the song for all seasons.”
- - - - - - -
Looking closely, the eyes of my heart sees:
Enunja. She yet tends the fire and sings the song. It has been this way for almost too many seasons. With every sunrise she practices the message that she will deliver to the people upon arrival of tita’ji. That precious song weaves its way through each of our indigenous nations. Faith moves within her creation even as fire yet dances and warms darkness. With the special indigenous faith given to them while they were still a dream of fertile spirit and willing seed, our sisters, mothers and grand mothers, filled with faith, wait, peering down river
Native nations watch technology, the God of invading forces, raise its ugly head and seeing nature in repose, attacks it thinking that natural life is a wild thing that needs conquering. The warriors and Elders, with payer and thought, attempt to repeal the injury. We have lost battles and we have lost wars but we have not been defeated, for the war that we fight is for nature and against encroachment and we cannot afford, for the sake of the world and the universe, to surrender.
A fragment of this story came to me from White Mountain Apache. Then, when she was a sparkling youth, the mother of my twin boys, Danell Rene Garcia, made her first basket which she described as “ugly!” I thought it was beautiful. It had long strands sticking out at random around what appeared to be a nest damaged as it fell to earth. Later I listen to a basket weaver telling how she made baskets from dreams. Those things propelled this story into this form. Since then I have carried this story to many people asking if it is their story. Most people shake their heads saying it sounds familiar but they are not sure if it is of their people, but they all understand the message.
Each autochthenous nation might lay claim to this dream, all “own” it. Looking to the beauty of the message, it matters not from which nation it emerged, but that it did. My mind’s eye sees Enunja weaving tita’ji. It is alive in her dreams. It identifies the separations between individuals of our villages and it paints a vivid picture of the degree of faith we must have simply to keep our peace until baskets returns up our many rivers.
I am awed by the courage and strength that our women are required to have. And after perceiving this story I cannot fathom the duty that is theirs alone. Those beautiful woman-flower-people waiting beside the rivers, tending fires, peering down river in bursting expectation, singing in a thousand indigenous tongues,
The daring and doing California Indian Basket weaver’s Association (CIBA)
And Basket Weavers of sterling dreams everywhere in the world