I have a large poster over my desk with a beautiful old Native American medicine man sitting in tall grass smoking a peace pipe. It’s gorgeous. It was actually given to me from my little brother years ago. I remember how wonderful it felt to receive a gift from him that I really needed but didn’t realized I needed until I unwrapped it. I love that he must have known that on some level.
It has The Ten Indian Commandments listed:
Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect
Remain close to the Great Spirit
Show great respect for your fellow beings
Work together for the benefit of all mankind
Give assistance and kindness wherever needed
Do what you know to be right
Look after the well-being of mind and body
Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good
Be truthful and honest at all times
Take responsibility for your actions
Whew! That’s a powerful list that I often sit and stare at. Sometimes one of the commandments pops out more than the others, which only tells me that I may be struggling with it, or that this is a day to pay special attention to it. Sometimes, if I’m truly in a state of awareness, I’ll know to ask The Great Spirit to help me understand what I’m to learn that day.
Well, yesterday was Columbus Day…and that hurts my soul. I was surly. Pissy. And wounded. I’m generally wounded but most days I can see and feel myself in a state of healing. But yesterday that was hard to get to. I was cringing looking at the news, waiting to be assaulted by bad ads for “Columbus Day Sales” and off-colored jokes that denigrate the strength, beauty and history of Native Americans in this country.
I look at this list and think, “If this is our commandments, if this is what we strive to live by, then why destroy us? Why ignore us? Why discard us?”
I wish I could I say that these commandments always guide my work at a storyteller. But most of the time, it’s the wounds that I so desperately want to heal that sends me to the page.
But, looking at them today, I guess I’m honoring the commandments, too, though: Be truthful and honest.