8-2-11, Santa Cruz
(When the eyes of your heart look into the eyes of my heart seeing only good, and the eyes of my heart look into the eyes of your heart seeing only good, then the words between us can only be genuine)
O’SIAM(honored relatives) SWINOMISH
IT WAS A DREAM OF OUR ANCESTORS, SINGING
It was the 22nd annual inter-tribal canoe gathering, this time rotating to Swinomish, Washington, July 25 – July 31. Aurelia Washington, Swinomish canoe journey coordinator said. “We are reintroducing our traditional practices and the ways of our ancestors. The spirits among our children have come alive and they are enthusiastic about singing and dancing.” On the day of the canoe landing the pavilions were full and rain was sweet but constant. Some of us were very soggy, but it was a welcome soggy as we watched a dream unfold.
My sons, Theo and Soterro Garcia, my cousin Bruce Gali and I, departed Freemont on a marathon run up I-5 to Seattle, then to La Connor and the Swinomish homeland. The drive took all of my strength and I was weary , but, there has never been an Aztec King or Prince nor Tribal Chief, more honored with respect than we were. From the moment we arrived at the Swinomish reservation, we were taken good care of. Our cabins were beside the Swinomish Sound, the fire circle was just out the back door and our food was catered. I was beginning to enjoy the pampering. Over in the big tents the volunteers were usually flying low and in three directions but they were most courteous, giving us directions, explaining some of the all that we did not understand, or simply welcoming everyone. The atmosphere was syrupy sweet. The Staff were usually on a mission, flying under the radar, yet they took a moment to point lost souls in a good direction so we could focus on the best things in life – seeing the power of spirit and pride dancing in everyone’s eyes. Itspo’ee’otise smiled.
The medicine people brought their thunder and “doctored.” The Medicine Man worked on my flu/pneumonia one evening and at dawn at the fire circle I first noticed the sickness was going away. Stacey, a young woman who simply took my heart and danced into the future, had a damaged hand. The same Medicine Man doctored her. Her American doctors said she never would have feeling. “As The Medicine Man moved his hand about 2-inches above mine there was a tingling. Then I knew I would have feeling again.” Such was the magic dancing in every eye, every heart, every moment at Swinomish.
In my youth, in the safety of a mountain valley snuggled between the Great Mountains (*Ako Yet and Yettajenna), at the north end of the Sierra range and under the safety of silver pines, Grandmother spoke at the dancing fire about dreams.
“It is known, if you want your dream to come true, you will take dream to the great river and place it there on the water. Dream will go out. It will travel the great oceans touching many lands. Dream will gather knowledge and wisdom. Then it will return to you and it will be real.”
Standing beside the great silver-misty waters in the homeland of Swinomish at dawn, a dream appeared. A river of long canoes swept by, paddles flashing. As the gathering watched the last canoe vanished around a distant point. It was like watching a dream go softly away. Then silence as prayers and dreams and wishes followed the fleet that followed the stars, “going out” into forever. Then we retired with our own thoughts into our own solitude.
“What a beautiful way to gather wisdom.” One thought said to another. “Yes, we need only wait for the great river of canoes to return.”
“That is how it was in the days of our ancestors. Patience was all that was necessary to live, to dream and live again.”
Apnui (that time when spring is turning to summer and flowers are yet in the meadow: Flowered Summer), Mr. Ray Williams from Swinomish came to my apartment in Santa Cruz with Lauren Texieria from California Indian Storytelling Association (CISA). It must be noted that the National Endowment for the Arts issued CISA a grant making the national and international communications and networking programs to continue with the gathering at Swinomish. We talked about canoes from the Pacific Rim gathering at Swinomish. As he talked my mind saw many long canoes landing on the shore, it experienced happiness and joy. My heart watched a great history unfolding. I imagined many Chiefs giving oratory like Chief Seattle, long ago. I “watched” the medicine people gathering thunder and power, sending it with the fleet to return in the proper season. It was a dream, it was a marvelous dream.
Then my thoughts turned to the establishment of League of Indigenous Storytellers (LIVS) which is emerging as an organization sans perimeters, a bold step, a necessary step, and a move towards storytelling and indigenous history that may attract the best stories the world has ever produced. The purpose and contents of the LIVS document will be openly discussed at Swinomish.
My body cringed thinking about the long drive from Santa Cruz to Seattle, but we packed our bags and turned north. North, ever north we streaked. Finally a big sign, “Seattle ” and we knew we were close to Swinomish. We got some last minute instruction on our cell phone, and eased into La Connor and the Swinomish reservation. Soon I was in bed. Sooner yet I was sleeping. Sooner still I was dreaming.
Dream took the hand of my heart saying, “Come, quietly.” Instantly we were at my Granddaughter’s home in San Jose, California. We slipped into her bedroom. She was sleeping among piles of long, black hair. One eyelash fluttered then she smiled. Satisfied that she was dreaming about us, dream and I magically returned to Swinomish. Dawn, there was a fire circle and sage with much tender and emotional communications between California and New Zealand, Swinomish and Australia, Canada and Hawaii. It was a courteous ceremony and most delicate.
One day after lunch there was a stampede as many people rushed to Tilalip to see the first wave of canoes. My deeper thought were of the canoes returning with great wisdom and knowledge. Destiny was so easy to dream about with seagulls spinning nearby, eagles flying far over the sound and pelican “Vs” searching for a soft landing.
And I again heard my ancestors speak about original people of this hemisphere:
“Jeu hataji (one heart),
Jeu telamji (one spirit),
Jeu himal (one mind),
Jeu tasokjami (one dream)
Jeu Awt’e (one people)”
The day of the canoe landing at Swinomish, we gathered on the shore and waited with bubbling expectation. A voice hollered, “Look!” A great canoe slipped across the silver water, rippling to shore. canoe stopped, The power man hollered, “May we come ashore?” 5,000 hearts as a single voice whispered, “Welcome.” It is true. It was the fulfilling of a great prophecy. It was the fulfilling of our history. It was the fulfilling of our deeper dreams. Gedin’ch’lumnu (This is the way it was meant to be).
Chief on shore spoke, “You are welcome to come ashore, to stand and sing by the fire. Earth is our mother. Please come join us. You have traveled far. We will dance for you. You will eat with us. We are sisters and brothers dreaming under the stars.”
Dream like ether entered the secret chambers of our hearts, looked around at the beauty and wonder of a moment that lasts only a moment but lasts through eternity, too, knelt there and cried.
In my youth grandmother spoke in council. Although we were “warrors” in our hearts who should be chasing grizzly bears and running down antelope, we listened because grandmother often spoke of children. Again she spoke of our dreams.
“Hisnawa (young warriors). Your hearts know dreams. Your hearts know dreams are real and true. Always look to the greater truth and the greater dream and your heart will know happiness. Trust your dreams. Trust your ancestors from where your dreams emerged. Then one day our dreams will sit in council around a fire larger than the sun. Do not forget.”
There is a truth. We are each created different. The elders said, “From the moment stars were sprinkled in the night sky long ago, our destinies were sprinkled there also. Because of this we are similar, yes, but like snowflakes we are each different from one another because our destinies are never created the same.”
As the long canoes silently approached our hearts beat as with a single drummer and our greater dreams danced with Great Powers that stir the universe, and the many universes in the vastness beyond our understanding
My imagination looked and saw a great canoe upon the shining water and watched that canoe with our dreams in it vanish into tomorrow around a distant spit. Coming home they slipped, across the water, canoes from many tribes and nations. I imagined one returned that carried our dreams out long ago. Then my mind decided they each harbored this cargo which is essential to life, and my life enjoyed their power surge, their song and the drumming.
At morning fire, during lunch breaks and at meetings convened specifically for it, the boundless LIVS documentation was discussed and at this moment somewhere in the world (maybe upon the vast ocean in a canoe) its necessity, value, and purpose reaches an urgency effecting all indigenous and many who are not considered indigenous. The positive power surges out with velocity.
The gathering was magic. The canoes gathering was more magic. But we had to get our rented car back to Fremont, CA. Protocol was still in motion and our hearts were bound to sweet friends but we ripped ourselves away like new Velcro, and soon we were on I-5, hurrying south.
There is a term in my language that is used when people are having an exceptional visit and one party must leave. To insure your return and to let the host know the depth of your deeper feelings and your want to return one day soon, the ancient ones in my homeland said: Ina’lum’qotmi (I must go but I leave my heart with you).
As we moved down I-5 past Tilalip I looked back and whispered ina’lum’qotmi to everyone who produced the glitter that made this golden adventure sparkle, from the oldest person on the Swinomish Senate to the youngest dancer in the protocol.
Darryl Babe Wilson