Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
March 11, 2000 - Issue 05

Journey of the Sacred Hoop
by Richard Simonelli-White Bison.Org

The Journey of the Sacred Hoop across America is about to begin.

From April 2, until July 10 of 2000, a Hoop of 100 Eagle Feathers will be carried from Los Angeles, California to Washington, DC on a Walk dedicated to bring healing from drug and alcohol abuse and an ending to domestic violence in American Indian and Alaska Native communities everywhere. But the addictions and domestic violence epidemic we live with is not confined to Native America. All four directions or ethnicities--the Red, the Yellow, the Black and the White--are cordially invited to make the walk with us and to share in the conferences and other wellness events along the way.

A Journey of 3800 miles begins with a single step. That step will be taken on Sunday, April 2 at the Southwestern Museum in Los Angeles after an opening ceremony and Blessing featuring wellness advocate and actor Danny Glover, Native American Elders, and ceremonial support from local California Indian tribes. California Governor Gray Davis has been invited to participate at the send-off. Walkers based in California will then carry the Hoop across the desert to Blythe, California where the caravan will be met by their counterparts from Arizona. In the manner of a sacred relay, the Hoop will pass through some 10 states and become the centerpiece at eleven wellbriety conferences between Phoenix, Arizona and Washington, DC.

The Sacred Hoop

What about the 100 Eagle Feather Hoop which is such a powerful rallying point for this historic walk? In 1994 an Indian man had a vision. In his visionary experience, he saw a small willow tree shed its leaves and form itself into a circle of about four feet in diameter. As the vision continued, he saw the feathers from both Golden and Bald eagles fly through the air and arrive at the willow hoop. One by one the feathers attached themselves to the hoop until a total of 100 feathers were fastened around the circumference of the willow. As the days and weeks passed after his vision, he understood that he was to facilitate the construction of such a hoop inside a sacred American Indian purification, or sweat lodge.

After speaking about his vision with elders in order to understand its significance, word went out on the "moccasin telegraph" that eagle feathers were needed. One by one, they began to arrive from Native peoples from around North America and even from around the world. The visionary Hoop became a reality.

The 100 Eagle Feather Hoop is the vision and inspriation of Don Coyhis, Mohican Nation, who was raised on the Stockbridge-Munsee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin. Coyhis is also the Founder and President of White Bison, Inc., an American Indian non-profit organization of Colorado Springs, Colorado. White Bison is the hosting or facilitating organization for the Journey of the Sacred Hoop Walk. White Bison has been facilitating programs of sobriety, recovery and community healing and change in both native and non native communities in the US and Canada since 1988. Coyhis will be participating on some of the Walk.

In 1995 a gathering of indigenous elders from all four directions took place in Janesville, Wisconsin. At an empowerment ceremony during the gathering, the elders placed the following four gifts into the new Sacred Hoop: 1) The power of healing individuals, families, communities and nations; 2) The power to instill hope into all who spend time in sincerity at the Hoop; 3) The power to create unity among people and activities inspired by the Hoop; and 4) The powers to forgive the unforgivable.

Since 1995 the White Bison 100 Eagle feather Hoop has been brought to hundreds of native and non-native communities in the US and Canada so that individuals of all ages might pray in their own ways in the presence of the Hoop. The Hoop came to be called the Hoop of Nations as it traveled to the many hundreds of Indian nations in North America. Wherever it goes, it carries the gifts of Healing, Hope, Unity and Forgiveness. Now the Hoop is about to pass through hundreds of native and non native communities as it wends its way on the Journey of the Sacred Hoop Healing Walk.

The Conferences

The Journey of the Sacred Hoop is like a traveling university. In addition to hosting hoop ceremonies and feasts along the route of the Walk, eleven communities will be sited for special educational conferences, each teaching specific information about Recovery, Treatment, Prevention and Intervention regarding substance abuse and domestic violence. Here is a glimpse at the conferences.


The conferences with a drug and alcohol focus will introduce the Medicine Wheel and the 12 Steps program which has been pioneered by White Bison. The Medicine Wheel and the 12 Steps is a culturally specific approach to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, rendering 12 Step work friendly and accessible to Native people. This cognitive model of the 12 Steps is a basis of all White Bison's recovery work and may be used by both native and non native people in diverse areas of recovery. For an example, here is a list of addiction recovery programs in Washington, DC.


Very little hard information is available on Native Americans and domestic violence. One study indicates that in cases of severe violence Native people suffer at a rate nearly 36 per cent higher than white families. But it is well known among Indian people that the trauma of family violence in Indian communities is serious and severe. One goal of the conference on domestic violence is to present and discuss those domestic violence prevention and intervention programs around the country which are known to be working. This sharing of "best practices" is a grassroots way of helping a network of domestic violence healing to grow. Talking circles will be utilized to share the traditional ways of dealing with violence and how harmony was traditionally maintained in the community.


The Fatherhood conference focuses especially on native men's healing. It provides resources so that native men may create and sustain men's healing groups in their own communities. The fatherhood conference teaches a four part model for Indian men which includes 1) Embarking on a new beginning; 2) Discovering Feminine Strength; 3) Experiencing Wholeness; and 4) Generosity or Giving Back. The conference will touch on five issues important to native men. These are, 1) Alcoholism and other addictions; 2) Multi-generational trauma and cultural oppression; 3) father/son relationships; 4) Spirituality; and 5) Role modeling and service to the community.


The boarding Schools conference takes on a subject unique to Native Americans: forced attendance at residential schools from the 1870's well into the 1960's. The conference airs the issue of multigeneration historical trauma that affects native people even if they themselves didn't attend a boarding school. The boarding or residential school experience in native culture is one fact directly responsible for the high incidence of alcohol and drug abuse as well as family violence among First Nations people.


The conference on Native Youth Suicide and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome will focus on two well known facts about Indian country. Both youth suicide rates and fetal alcohol rates are far above those of the wider society. Healing youth suicide in native communities is begun by addressing the strong feelings of worthlessness experienced by some native youth. Teaching
youth the skills of self-appraisal and conscious awareness of their own self-talk through the Medicine Wheel and the 12 Steps learning program is one weapon against youth suicide. In the case of fetal alcohol syndrome, the Medicine Wheel and the 12 Steps program especially for women will be shared with conference participants.


Nearly every Native American raised within the Native community has in one way or another been affected by alcoholism even if they themselves have not been a drinker. There are behavioral qualities and characteristics which all adult children of alcoholics (ACOA) share in common. When this well-known body of knowledge is presented in a culturally appropriate and specific way, all of a sudden a person's personal issues around parenting, relationships, jobs and employment and many other parts of life become understandable. The Lost Children of Alcoholics conference will share ACOA information in a culturally meaningful way.


A conference honoring women of the four directions--all women--will be a multicultural meeting place to share the experience, strength, and hope of the women's struggle across ethnicity, nationality and race. Re-asserting women's ways has been an important part of the coming-together time and the environmental and social healing which is happening now more than ever. The Native sisters, Asian sisters, Black sisters, White sisters and Hispanic sisters have their own cultural differences, but the power of the sisterhood is unifying and strong and will be honored in this conference.


Native leadership includes tribal leadership but goes far beyond to include community leadership of all kinds and leadership in nationally-based Indian organizations. The stresses and challenges of leading in Indian country are demanding and severe as well as rewarding, through service to the people. But leading in Indian country will test the sobriety, recovery and further wellness of the best of people. Wellbriety goes beyond sobriety or the abstention from addictive substances. Wellbriety includes self-knowledge and personal growth, especially within the framework of native traditions and culture. Many of the conferences, and especially the conference of Native leadership, present the Wellbriety journey of greater sobriety and wellness.


The final conference of the Walk will take place in Washington, DC and will focus on family healing and strength. Strengthening our Families will explore traditional knowledge and traditional ways in the healing of first nations families. The traditional cycle of life, including the eight stages of human development, will be a topic of teaching, discussion and talking circles. Knowledge of how to conduct family circle discussion nights for youth, parents and others in the extended family will be talked about. People will learn how to conduct the traditional native talking circle. This last conference of the walk will be a prelude to the White Bison 3 day Strengthening our Families conference to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico from September 21-24, 2000.

Come Join the Walk!

The Journey of the Sacred Hoop across America is a gesture of Healing, Hope, Unity and Forgiveness for native peoples and for North America at large. It sends the message "Stop the violence. Stop the Substance Abuse. Stop the harm and pain in our Nation. Let's begin by wiping away our tears and beginning the healing process together, a commitment that must be made in unity."

Those participating in the Walk and its conferences will have a learning experience and an experience of making friends and allies in the struggle towards sobriety, recovery and wellness. The body of wellness knowledge which is growing day by day in North American society will find a culturally specific voice, friendly and understandable to native people.

Everyone is invited to join the Walk. Check the route and walk with us for short or longer segments as fits your own needs and commitments. If you can't come out to walk, consider keeping a sacred fire in your own community and conducting a learning gathering of your own to support the Walk and provide a resource for those at home. Undertake your own mini Walk locally for sobriety, recovery and an end to family violence.

The Journey of the Sacred Hoop Walk is also a model for how wellness and wellbriety can take root in other communities with specific cultural needs. The 100 Eagle Feather Hoop provides a spiritual connecting point which is culturally appropriate to Native people and others sympathetic with Native Ways. Other communities will have their own special symbols or sacred
elements. It is said that the longest road that we will ever walk is the 18 inches between the head and the heart. The four gifts of the sacred Hoop, and the human bonding that will take place on the Walk helps make that connection. Making that connection, substance abuse and domestic violence will begin to become things of the past.

It is also said that the Honor of One is the Honor of all. And if the Honor of One is the Honor of all, then the Pain of one must also be the Pain of all. There is no escaping it--we are all related and connected on Turtle Island, the land also called North America. Join the Journey of the Sacred Hoop for diversity, unity, inclusion, and the healing of our communities.

We need your support of the Walk with donations of money, resources or participation.

Contact Laura Hom at White Bison, toll-free at (877) 871-1495 to make contact and to find your place in the Walk.
E mail us at < to communicate.
And keep watching the website at for news of the Walk and latest updates.


April 2, 2000 LOS ANGELES, CA Blessing of the hoop journey by elders, special presentations and Start
April 11, 2000 PHOENIX, AZ Conference #1: On Domestic Violence And Prevention
April 16, 2000 GALLUP, NM Conference # 2: (Palm Sunday) On Alcohol And Drugs
April 23, 2000 ALBUQUERQUE, NM Conference # 3: (Easter Sunday) Feast and conference on Fatherhood
May 7, 2000 OKLAHOMA CITY, OK Conference # 4: Feast and conference on Boarding Schools
May 14, 2000 TAHLEQUAH, OK (Mother's Day) Community Feast
May 15, 2000 TAHLEQUAH, OK Conference # 5: On Alcohol and Drugs
May 25, 2000 LITTLE ROCK, AK Conference # 6 : On Native Youth Suicide & Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
June 1, 2000 MEMPHIS, TN Conference # 7: or event to be announced
June 10, 2000 NASHVILLE, TN Conference # 8: On Lost Children of Alcoholics
June 11, 2000 NASHVILLE, TN Conference #9: On Honoring the Women of the Four Colors
June 22, 2000 CHEROKEE, NC Conference # 10: On Native Leadership--if you lead, be sober
July 10, 2000 WASHINGTON, DC Conference # 11: On Strengthening Our Families and closing celebration

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