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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 6, 2001 - Issue 46


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 White Bison Conference Opens with Prayer For Tragedy of September 11


 by Richard Simonelli

Over 450 participants came to the Strengthening Our Families Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota despite uncertain flight schedules and national grief.

Old friends working in Native American community healing, and people who would be new friends by the end of the conference, carried glad expectations for the three days of workshops, learning experiences, teaching circles, ceremonies and feasting to come. But like the rest of America, and the world, they also carried a heaviness in their hearts over the American tragedy.

The White Bison Hoop of 100 Eagle Feathers stood before us on Friday morning, September 21, at the start of the first full day of the conference. This sacred element had been to hundreds of Native and non Native communities since its inception from a vision given to a Native man in 1994. Many thousands around Turtle Island had sought its gifts and offered prayers in its presence after its creation in a sweat lodge in 1995. Thousands felt its gifts of Healing, Hope, Unity and Forgiveness as they joined the Hoop and like minded individuals as it traveled the land on two great Hoop Journeys for healing in 1999 and 2000. And if these four gifts were ever needed, it was at the opening of the Strengthening Our Families Conference in a very sad month of September, 2001.

After the Hoop was carried by four conference participants, and led by two former US Marines from the Oglala Lakota Nation in Grand Entry, the Founder and President of White Bison, Inc., faced the people. Don Coyhis was quiet and thoughtful as he gazed out over members of the gathering. He spoke what was in the hearts of all of us.

What was planned to be a few opening remarks turned into a time of prayer when everyone present could come up and offer their hearts to the healing of the American nation. Here is what he said:

"When the elders put the blessings and powers in the Hoop, they put in Four Powers. The first power is the power to Forgive the Unforgivable. In order for us to come together, that is one of the spiritual tools that we need. It's about forgiveness. They said that inside us are grandmas and grandpas, and their grandmas and grandpas, all the way back to the beginning of time. If something happens and it isn't forgiven, then it is passed on. When I was earlier in recovery and heard about the ancestors inside, I learned that some of the hurt and other things we carry around isn't just ours because we have generations inside us.

"The elders then said that the second power they put into that Hoop is Unity the powers to come together. The third is the power of Healing that we had to each look at healing ourselves. The fourth is Hope, the ability to

"I've been thinking for a few days, and did some praying about what happened on the east coast where the buildings came down. And I've been thinking about how all four directions of people were represented there, and now the children who are without moms or dads, or spouses without their mates. The people in those buildings were not just from our Turtle Island, but there were people from England and Japan, and many, many countries, from all four directions. The domino effect has thrown us all into shock. Everyone I meet is affected and is thinking about it.

"I was thinking that if ever there was a people who knows what they are going through, if there are any people who understand about that hurt, people who know about the massacres, and the many walks and trails of removal, it is we who know about that.

"So I thought that before we got going with our Conference, because the Hoop right here as we know is not just an object, it was given to us by the Creator and thousands of people have prayed by that Hoop, so there are a lot of powers in there. It has a spirit that doesn't know distance because spirit is interconnected. I would like to ask if there are any of you who would like to come up and take some of the tobacco here and offer your prayers for those children, for those people and their families, and for this confusion that is going on now on our Mother Earth. Our Mother Earth is very small now, very small and interconnected. There are a lot of powers and thoughts now and we don't know how they are going. But when it comes from a people who know that hurt, and about forgiving--we know a lot about forgiving, and we know a lot about forgiving again. Maybe the Hoop and your prayers here today will have an affect.

"The elders said that this is what the Hoop's about. Forgiving the Unforgivable, Hope, Healing, and Unity. So we are going to ask the Drum to sing some healing songs, and invite you to come up and pray at the Hoop. We
have a microphone here so you can offer your prayers while the people are praying, but we want the cameras and other recording equipment to be off for that. Whatever your way is, if you want to offer those prayers, you are welcome to do that.

"It's all interconnected you know. What's going on there is going on here; what goes on here, goes on there. So you can come up and pray for all the children, red, yellow, black, and white. You can pray for the women in
Afghanistan, and our women, our children--all people who have been hurt..."

For more information about White Bison, Inc., an American Indian non profit organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, visit the website at or call toll free 1-877-871-1495
This story and photo are available for publication free of charge in the interests of sobriety, recovery and family healing, courtesy of White Bison, Inc.

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