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/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
14 / A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
Medicine Grizzly Bear Lake,
Karuk shaman from northern
California, found out through a
frantic phone call from his wife
that his young son, Wind Wolf,
was deathly ill. Only six years
old, yet this frail child's fever was
so high that he was convulsing
and drifting back and forth into
periods of unconsciousness.
The emergency room person-
nel at the local hospital could
not determine the reason and
worked frantically to keep his
temperature in check while
waiting for a specialist doctor
to fly in from Seattle, Washing-
ton to diagnose the illness. They
were gently packing him in and
among mountains of ice bags.
The Medicine Man was in
great fear for the life of his son.
He prayed unceasingly and had
a frightening vision of sorcerers
and witch doctors digging up
family burial grounds to burn
human bones in a cave. He was
convinced that this was a direct
assault by evil spirits on the lin-
eage of his wife, a traditional
tribal leader and Indian doctor
from the Yurok Tribe, also from
northern California.
In times like these he need-
ed the strength of a `high place'
and stronger power, so entreated
me to drive him to the foothills
of California's Mt. Shasta. This
massive monolith dominates
the eastern horizon and is con-
sidered a `power center' and an
object of reverence and devo-
tion to the local Native tribes.
I honored his request without
We let his wife know our plan
and headed into the moonlight.
Bear wandered into the forest
singing and chanting ancient
sacred healing songs. I felt a deep
stirring in my heart as the words
and music wove themselves
among the stones and trees. All
of this was of the Earth.
He broke off his sonata and
asked me in desperation, "Did
you bring your pipe? The `spir-
its' are telling me that I have to
make smoke!"
"It's in my medicine bag." A
Holy Man had given me an old
and precious medicine pipe. It
was just a grey stone bowl with-
out a stem, but was deeply to-
bacco stained from ages of use
in sacred ceremonies. I kept it
wrapped in white deerskin and
carried it in a rough hand spun
wool purse Thomas Banyaca,
the keeper of the Hopi proph-
ecies, had given me some time
He loaded my pipe with to-
bacco, then resuming his song,
walked back into the forest. I fol-
lowed at a respectful distance
and saw him as he climbed over
a small rock ledge and scrambled
down the adjacent hillside. Out
of sight, I heard the most pain-
ful and heart-wrenching moan.
In fear for his safety, I ran to the
rocks and peered down into the
moonlit depression. He was on
his knees in the dry earth, hands
apart, looking skyward in total
"Are you okay? What hap-
"I broke your pipe in two!"
He held up a piece in each
hand, tears streaming down his
cheeks. "This is a terrible, ter-
rible sign..."
I tried to console him: I could
repair the pipe... I never used it
anyway... It would be okay... It
was an accident... A little Super
Glue, and all would be just fine.
My words fell on deaf ears as he
held the shards against his chest
and was lost in prayer.
"We've got to bury the piec-
es! Here in this place!"
"What?" Do you know what
you're saying?"
"The mountain said that she
would accept the pipe and send
her power to help Wind Wolf."
I was flooded with mixed
feelings. I did not deny the sin-
cerity of his statement... but it
was my pipe! More than that,
it was a special gift from a very
exalted person. Even if it was
broken, it still had value to me
as a precious artifact and col-
lectible. Something to keep in
the family.
"We have got to dig a hole
and bury it..."
The ground was as hard as
concrete. Years of northern Cali-
fornia drought did not make the
earth easy to work
with... and a person
does not necessarily
have a pick and shovel
in his vehicle. Thoughts
raced through my mind:
Would a jack handle
He began to kick
at larger stones and
the hard ground. "Find
something to dig with!"
Despite misgivings, I
turned in compliance.
"Wait! We're okay. Look!"
Beneath a stone he had
kicked over was a small open-
ing; possibly a former tunnel en-
trance for a ground squirrel or
an old unused snake hole. The
pieces of my medicine pipe fit
easily into the gap and could be
pushed well below the level of
the ground.
He covered the opening with
dry earth, sprinkled tobacco on it
as an offering, and then replaced
the rock. He then stood up fac-
ing the Holy Mountain, lit the
end of a piece of Icnish (Grizzly
Bear root or Angelica), and sang
his Mt. Shasta prayer song.
Within minutes, large dark
clouds shaped like bears began
to gather over the crest of the
snow covered peak. Then light-
ning and thunder roared and
seemed to be moving rapidly
northward. Unsure of what ex-
actly was going on, I felt regret
knowing I would never have a
pipe again and wondering what
this had to do with the illness of
his son anyway.
While we were on our prayer
vigil, Wind Wolf's fever broke
and he was recovering in his
hospital bed. Later, we found out
from his mother that his fever
broke the same instant my pipe
was buried; and strangely, light-
ning and thunder and a driving
hail storm raged for over an hour
-- but only over the area around
the hospital!
I eventually resigned myself
to the fact that one of the most
important pieces of my Native
American collection was lan-
guishing away in a hole some-
where in northern California.
Months later I was having lunch
with my spiritual advisor and
wife of Medicine Grizzly Bear,
Tela Starhawk Donohue, in a fast
food restaurant.
Two Indian men came in: Tired
looking, unkempt, and smelling
of diesel fumes. I found out they
had been riding a freight train in
an effort to get to warm weather
before the winter set in. I did
feel some compassion for their
plight, so when they returned,
I struck up a short conversation
with them, much to Tela's dis-
As they turned toward the
door, I asked if I could give them
a `donation' to help them as they
continued their journey. They
gratefully accepted the money
and inquired if there was a mini-
market nearby where they could
buy some food for the road.
The larger man turned back to
me, and with soiled hands and
dirt-filled nails, made a circular
bridge with his fingers, reached
over and held them near me,
smiled, and said simply, "What
goes around... comes around."
I mulled over his comment,
and wondered what that had
to do with anything. I soon
by Stan E. hughes, aka ha-Gue-A-Dees-Sas
(As published in Medicine Seeker, Northern Lights Press, Spring 2010)