NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art ~ Poems & Stories



Les Tate


Each of us has deep within us, hidden in the recesses of our minds and our very being, vestigial memories of the Old Ones who walked this land long before us. To visit with them, you need only relax, close your eyes, quieten your soul and allow it to drift. Listen to the gentle sounds around you, for among them you can hear the footsteps and voices of your ancestors. The spirits which surround you may sometimes extend an invitation to come with them, to warm yourself by their fire, talk about the ancient ways, hear the legends and tales of the Original People, and join in their songs and dances of celebration and remembrance.

If you are privileged to walk back along the path of time to meet them and to pause there for an instant, hold on to the memories of the journey and value that which you learn, for the trips are repeated only for those who are at peace with themselves and in harmony with the world around them.

First Journey

I hold a shard of pottery and a flint point,
Both made by ancestors of long ago;
People clothed in woven fiber,
Animal skin, and the feathers of an eagle.
The shard is etched and painted,
Perhaps the remnants of a forgotten legend.
The point is thin and finely made, ready for hafting.
Its keen edge is surprising, the balance good.
The color of the stone shows it came from far away.
I close my eyes for a moment, thinking back,
Remembering old ones now gone.
The shard and the stone warm my hand.
   I feel the gentle touch of an ancestor's hand
   Guiding my fingers across his/her ancient work.
      It is not difficult to make. We will show you.
   Grandfather has dark eyes,
   Full of experience and wisdom.
   Grandmother smiles at me, friendly and warm.
      Welcome. Sit by the fire. Share our food.
      It is a good life, we have much.
   I need to learn much.
      Smell the grass and trees,
      The water and smoke.
      Hear the children, animals, insects, and wind.
      Feel with more than touch.
      See with more than eyes.
      Learn and understand with your mind and heart.
   I need to learn more.
      We will teach you, but that is enough for now.
      It is better to fully understand a few words
      Than half understand many words.
   May I sit by your fire again?
   I will bring a story about tomorrow.
   Will you tell me, remind me, of things forgotten?

Second Journey

Tonight we sing the old songs, remembering.
The flute is like the wind,
The drums like distant thunder,
Like buffalo on the prairie.
Voices blend together in song,
A blanket woven from eons of existence.
Smoke rises from the campfire into the sky.
This gathering is good,
Seeing old friends from distant homes,
Dancing to the chant and the drum.
But the ride here was long and I am tired.
I close my eyes and listen to the breeze
Whispering about the Old Ones.
   The spring wind blows across the hill
   Warming my spirit.
   I think back to my childhood
   When we made the long trek to this place
   Where the grass is green and the water cool.
   Father Sun now watches the corn tassel.
   An eagle circles overhead.
   It is a good sign.
   My husband and son will return soon
   From their journey to trade for flaking stone,
   For shell and an eagle pipe.
   I continue working on the leather pouch
   My son will wear at the dance.
   The white buffalo looks almost real,
   Like the one I saw in my youth.
   A cloud covers the face of Father Sun,
   The shadow passing over me.
   As the sky darkens, I close my eyes,
   Remembering the gathering last year,
   Old friends returning with new stories
   To pass on to our children.
   The wind as it moves through the trees
   Is like the voices of the People singing as one.
The end of the chant sounds.
I open my eyes and rise.
Tomorrow I will dance again
Wearing the white buffalo pouch
Inherited from my great-grandfather,
Made by his great-grandmother.
As I walk toward our tent,
The night owl calls.
Time to dream.

Third Journey

I stand before the mountain
Gazing at images scratched into the stone,
Colored by traces of soot and dyes.
The Old Ones left this record
To be read and remembered
By others who would come after.
I reach out, gently touching the curves and lines,
Feeling with curious fingers,
Wondering who stood here before,
The painter of life, of time.
I slowly pull my hand away,
   My fingers are stained
   By the colors of fresh paints
   Prepared from the plants and the earth.
   Beside me stands a man,
   Tall, bronze, and bare-chested,
   Painting this year's story upon the mountain.
   I gaze at some of the old images,
   Remembering the voice of my grandfather
   Telling the tales and legends of long ago.
   I give the painter another bowl, another color.
   Below is our village,
   The smoke of the fire and the sounds of life
   Rise on the wind to the Great Spirit.
   The People prepare for the celebration of harvest,
   Thankful for Mother Earth and Father Sun,
   For full bellies and children who laugh,
   For the gathering, the song, and the dance.
   The drawing is finished, another year recorded
   We silently gather the brushes and paints,
   Then together start down the trail,
   We stop and turn to look once again
   At the many drawings on this monument,
   The history of the People in a sacred place.
   The man turns his head and speaks,
   His eyes on me as one well trusted,
   His voice familiar and reassuring,
 Are you ready, my brother?
   I nod and we turn again to the trail.
The wind stirs my hair,
The sound of a voice lingering in my mind,
Perhaps it was merely the wind
Playing among the rocks.
I gaze at the stone wall before me
At ancient paintings and petroglyphs.
The watchful spirits of my relatives surround me.
I am honored to be one in a long line
That reaches from ancient past to distant future.
The wind stirs again,
Bringing the smell of wood smoke
And the voices of family and friends.
I remember and I understand;
Tonight I live again.

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