The Animals Hold A Council

Winter-FlowersMany of the Holy Ones who have aided First Nations people in North America are both tricksters and creators. They may bring both chaos and wisdom.  Spider Woman is a bringer of culture, a nurturer of community. There are innumerable stories told about them. Most of those stories are owned by specific tribes or families, although printed versions of many stories are widely available. These stories remind us that in at one time all beings were equal and could talk together. We were/are all people, although not all humans. The stories wrestle with difficult issues, often in a playful, even seemingly irreverent manner. Perhaps because they can approach the most difficult of issues, clowns are holy.

In spite of what you may have read or heard, these Beings are still engaged in the world. The stories I tell here reflect my experience of them.

Coyote, Raven, Blue Jay, Flicker, Hare, and Spider Woman were holding council.

Spider Woman sat, slowly undoing a weaving. “It was long ago said the Old Ones will lift the mantel of the Earth and shake it, so the Europeans will all be sent home. Only the First People will be left here on Turtle Island. I suggest we start at the Mississippi. We can divide ourselves into two groups. One can work East, the other West.”

Raven was pensive. “So there are these Reserves all over the place. They are small and inconveniently located. How do we navigate around them?”

Coyote responded, “Well, I guess we can cut along their boundaries and lift the mantel over them.” He held up an enormous pair of scissors.

“Blue Jay, fidgeted uncomfortably. “Do we include the casinos?”

“Hummmm,” sang Spider Woman, ” That’s a tough one. Let’s table it for now, shall we?”

“Flicker raised her hand. “Speaking of difficult, I’ve been trying to figure out what we do with all the urban Indians. Think about it. People live in high rises for Heaven sakes!”

“Yea, and how about the Mixed Bloods? There are millions of them,” chimed in Hare.

“Maybe we can use blood quantum,” suggested Coyote.

“Whose standards?” retorted Hare. “I’m curious though, how do you Coyotes determine blood quantum? I mean, amongst your people how do you figure out whose in and whose out?”

Spider woman spoke again, ” Let’s not let old animosities get in the way of our labor. The task is certainly difficult enough already.”

“How about we gather all the native language speakers in one place. Maybe we could use an island in the Pacific. It would only be for a few days,” suggested Raven.

‘Seems like a rather narrow criterion,” complained Blue Jay, interjecting a string of expletives. “”Maybe we could use knowledge of culture as the primary criterion. We could make up a test.”

“More like 500 tests,” snarled Coyote.

“There are a lot of Indians out there who aren’t connected to a culture. Seems to me our criteria just reinforce the assimilative norms,” Spider Woman suggested.

“This is going nowhere,” grumbled Hare. “Maybe we should adjourn and think about it some more.”

“We’ve been thinking about it for the last 150 years,” noted Flicker. “The problem just gets ever thornier.”

There was a lengthy, pensive silence.

“Hummmm,” mused Spider Woman. “You all have good points. We have a lot on the agenda. As much as I’d like to solve this, I’m wondering whether maybe we should take Hare’s suggestion and table it for now.  We can take it up again next week. ”

And so they did.

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