2018 Gathering: A Delegation of Arrows
I was lucky enough to have been blessed to meet Becky Chief Eagle in late 2016 at the Youth Passageways gathering in Los Angeles, and soon thereafter, her Wasani, Dallas. We were introduced by way of the man who knows everyone, Frederick Marx, who invited her to our circle. I’ll be forever grateful for that gesture.
Over the past couple of years, Becky has come closer into the YPW family, most prominently jutting to the forefront of my awareness when she, alongside Hubert BlackWolf, performed a grief ceremony for me in Estes Park, a month after my mom died. It was there that Becky and her husband invited Youth Passageways to come to her and Dallas’s home, the All Nations Gathering Center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The 9 months leading up to that gathering have been a slow and organic process of building trust, of deepening relationship, and of preparing myself, as a child of the western dominant culture, to give into the mystery, to be as Becky and Dallas say…spirit-led.
There is much story to tell and other places to tell it in, but after 10 days in South Dakota, working, dreaming, truth-telling, praying, unburdening, breaking down, building up, and healing, one of my most vivid memories is the end of our time together on a Sunday afternoon when I was honored to stand among 7 others and send our combined prayers by way of arrow into the lands below.
Some of you may know that I’ve been teaching myself traditional archery, with the intention of hunting by the fall of 2019, so as to place at least some of the responsibility for my animal consumption, on my own hands, to take that life with integrity, and in honor of the life ended. So I’ve been practicing as often as I can and showed up to All Nations with my bow and set to practice when a fee moment arose. As it would happen, Dallas had a whole collection of bows and we got to talking about archery and ceremony. He excitedly proposed we all get together with the bows we had and end by making prayer ties, affixing them to arrows, and shooting them out into the land.
So it was that on the last day of our gathering I was gifted the honor of standing among 7 others (Lakota and non-Lakota alike) in representation of each of the 7 generations, and at Dallas’s count, we loosed our combined prayers into the treeline below. As a young man, I sought adrenaline in a great many places, many of which, were destructive and dangerous. Yet, as those arrows flew out into the sky aimed at nothing but the unknown place where they’d find their ground, I felt a rush unlike any before, a sense of reverie and joy in the sheer act of being alive at that moment.
Part of my leaving the land before reintegration home was walking the land and forest line below, finding our arrows, collecting the 35 prayer ties and bringing them together, binding them with Sage and Palo Santo, Becky and Marisa gifted me before departing for safe travel in a new prayer, that whatever may come next, maybe in the spirit of the proverb that has been a core message in Youth Passageways as long as I’ve been a part of it, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
I stand today as I did then, in gratitude and awe of the human, animal, terrain and cosmic spirit. I also stand in the intention that we go far.
*Thanks to Sobey Wing for the video!