Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
August 12, 2000 - Issue 16

Now Is a Time of Renewal and Honoring
of the Female Spirit
by Long Bear Standing Chief
published in the Yakima Herald

This is the time of earth renewal and the people are giving honor and respect to the Great Holy Being, Ii-tsi-pah-tah-pii-op (the Source of Life). It all started in April and May for those of us who are called Plains Indians.

When it first began to thunder and lightning we were called upon to open our sacred bundles of holy objects. We were instructed by ancient teachings that it was time to honor all life and call it awake after a long winter's sleep. With the hide and bones of birds and animals, plants and other things representing life in the world, there is among those to be honored the female spirit. The one that is the sacred vessel of being that brought us into the life of this world where we humans live. Among other things we thanked the female spirit for she carried human beings into this earthy life.

The first holy bundle that we open with a smudge, prayer, drumming and singing is the Beaver Bundle. It is the first bundle opened when the mother beaver brings her small children out into the world for the first time. The little ones were born in the earth lodge of mud and tree branches. It is as it has been told, we come from the earth and we appear on our earth from the depths of the water. We humans who are born out of the same water appear on this earth from the womb of our mother. This is the symbolism of our holy ceremonies. We give honor and respect to the earth mother and our earthly mothers and all that lives here.

We pray and celebrate to honor these gifts from the Great Holy Being, who is also the Grandmother Spirit. Our non-Indian relatives talk only of the male spirit being God. We know that is not true.

The Creator, Maker of All Things, gave woman the power of the pipe. We pray with the pipe so we might worship in the proper way. The pipe, this female gift, is our assurance of a long, happy and healthy life. If it were not for women, our ceremonial life, as we know it today, would not exist. We know this because the male and the female must be together because, for example, they give the spark to make life given by the Power of All Things.

Women have always been important and have had a prominent role in the life of our people. The spirit and the power of the female is prayed for and to, in order that their power will help us, and thereby save us, our world, and our universe.

All Indian nations always held women in high honor and respect. It is a mystery how stories of Indian women being the slaves, so-to-speak, of our society ever got started and why these false stories persist.

It is important to my people that we have women to whom we can point as examples of respect and honor for our daughters to model their lives after. This is crucial to us because without a respected, loving, caring, honest and trustworthy mother, we could not have our Okan, the holy lodge of our Sacred Sleep where we seek spiritual guidance for the rest of our life. At this time of year this is what is happening. We are holding these ceremonies and the female spirit is our focus. Only a woman can make the vow to serve as the sponsor of this ceremony, what is known as the Sun Dance.

It is time the false stories end that say Indian men do not hold their women in high esteem. Men must give honor and respect to women. Boys must honor and respect their sisters.

Women must respect themselves. The women must keep in mind they have a valued place in our nations' society. The name "woman" must be held sacred.

Long Standing Bear Chief, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, is a writer, educator and lecturer. Now living in Xuupinish (Sahaptin for Toppenish), he can be reached at or by calling 865-5704.

Visit his website at:

Blackfoot Nation

The Smithsonian has put together a book list of books about Native American Women:
Native American Women



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