“But I’m not an Indian!”, I told the Medicine Man from Canada, and went on to explain how I’d come to walk this Red Road path and way of life. How it helped me survive certain destruction from the influences in my life that were slowly killing my spirit. I told him how I didn’t believe the things they told us in church and how the behavior of the people was so different from the lessons and teachings of God.
He gave me the name anyway. He said, “It’s not an Indian name, it’s a spiritual name, and it came to me. Walk with this name and understand what this name means to you.”
My name is Little Buffalo. As I was a strong powerful man through many years of my life, now, I was not as strong and not as powerful. I needed to move aside and let others do some things that I normally did. It was okay because I knew who I was, who I had been, what I had done, what I had accomplished.
Those that I would meet after this day didn’t know these things about me. Those that knew me from before would forget the power and knowledge I once had. I would fade away into my own memory, and even those memories would eventually fade away, and that would have to be acceptable.
“If only they would let me tell them what I know, what I learned along the road.” I would say, thinking that I could still make a difference. The lessons I had learned through experience could be helpful and keep painful things from affecting others.
It made no difference. I was still a little buffalo. It would seem like I am being pushed aside and those that need help will make their own mistakes and learn what they need to learn and let happen what needs to happen.
This is who I am. This is how I think about my life as I turn another page. But I won’t sit and wait to die. I won’t do it. I’ll continue to lead my own life. I simply won’t do what I can’t do. If I have fallen and I can’t get up, I will lay there until I can get up or until someone helps me up, and then I will be where I am supposed to be, laying there, standing there, dying there, but there nonetheless, living until I go and not just being alive.
Many years ago, sometime around 2006, I wrote down what happened to me when a Canadian Medicine Man, Spiritual Leader and Friend doctored me in the Sweat Lodge. That is the day he gave me my Indian Spiritual name. This is what I am remembering as I write this today.
I’m not sure if I ever posted this story of getting healing energy in the Sweat Lodge and my association with Eagle Spirit and the day I was given my Spiritual name, but I found it in my files and I am including it below.
As usual, if you read it, take what you need and leave the rest:
The traditional Indigenous teachings speak a lot about the Eagles. They stand for healing of the spirit and protection. They are powerful birds. One of the largest birds around, it is said that they can fly higher than any other and have a direct connection with the Creator.
In the Ojibwa creation stories, it is the Eagle that flies and tells the Creator when he sees tobacco being offered. The Creator has promised to allow us to live here on earth if we lay our tobacco down. The Eagle sees this, and informs the Creator.
The Eagle is not my personal totem, yet I have complete and total reverence for these magnificent birds. Many people are awed by them. The spiritual elders tell me that when you see an Eagle, it might be the Creator showing himself to you.
I have been learning about animals and our connection to the natural world for quite some time now. I do this many ways, but mainly, I attend Native American ceremonies in the forms of the Sweat Lodge and Sundance.
In an attempt to briefly identify what a Sweat Lodge is, it is a place to pray. Rocks are heated in a fire and brought into a small half dome shelter erected on the ground. It is said to be the womb of Mother Earth. In this shelter, or lodge, water is poured on the hot rocks to create steam. Like a Finnish sauna, the people inside the lodge sweat and this is symbolic of releasing impurities, or purifying, our bodies.
I had been attending these ceremonies that were run by a Native Elder, a Medicine Man, from Canada. He would visit the Bad River reservation often and pour the water for the Sweat Lodge. I lived nearby and knew people who attended. When he was in town, I always went to the ceremony.
I got to be friends with Neil, the spiritual leader. He was close to my age. He seemed to be very intuitive and when I had a spell of sickness, he told another mutual friend, Curtis, to fetch me as he wanted to ‘Doctor’ me in the Sweat Lodge.
That night, we gathered for a Sweat Lodge. In the lodge we used, it was set up in the woods. The opening was facing East. Neil got in first and sat, with his water drum, in the West. The women got in and sat to his left, or in the North part of the lodge. The men sat in the South, to his right.
I was told to come in after Neil and sit immediately to his right, next to him. The rocks were brought in, the flap we used as a door was closed. It is pitch black and one cannot see their hand in front of their face, literally. Some songs were sang as Neil beat the drum. If we knew the song, we sang along with him.
Neil announced earlier, out by the fire, that he would be doing some doctoring in this lodge. He referred to me as “Our brother”. Once in the lodge, with the warmth of the rocks cascading over us, Neil started to chant and sing. He had with him an Eagle wing and some medicines that he was going to use. He had bear root, pine pitch, cedar, tobacco and water. He had “medicine”. He had that Eagle wing, a whistle made from the bone of an Eagle’s wing, a wooden drum that was filled with water, and some rattles made from rawhide and gourds, one was made from a Turtle shell.
In a large pot was this liquid medicine. A tea made from cedar and maple. This medicine would be used as the ‘water’ he would pour on the hot rocks to create the steam. We would also be offered a drink of this medicine while inside the lodge.
I sat on his right and as he beat the drum and sang, he also poured this medicine water on the rocks and fanned hot air towards me with that giant Eagle wing. He sang Bear Spirit songs, Eagle Spirit songs, a Turtle Spirit song and a Sundance Piercing song. Every once in a while, he would touch me with the giant wing and sweep something away from me, using a flicking motion.
I heard him blow a whistle made from the bone of an Eagle. When I heard the whistle, tears started streaming down my cheeks. I couldn’t control the crying. I smelled the medicines burning, smoldering, from the heat of the rocks, the bear root, the cedar, the smoke and flavor of these herbs in my nostrils. He was placing these items onto the rocks. I wondered how many hands he had to be able to do all these things in what seemed like simultaneous actions.
The doctoring part of this particular sweat Lodge ceremony might have lasted thirty, forty or fifty minutes. After he seemed to be finished with me, he would continue to pray, beat the drum and sing more songs. He gave everyone in that lodge a chance to pray out loud to the creator for their own purposes. Many people prayed for me that day. They prayed that whatever was ailing me would leave me and I would feel better soon.
Neil sang a song to the Thunderbird Spirit. He had asked that particular spirit to come and help me. He used the wing and bone whistle of the Eagle to aid him in his attempt to help me. And although there was no rain in the forecast, a small drizzle ensued complete with a little thunder, simultaneous to the singing of the Thunderbird honoring song. The Thunderbeings paid us a visit of recognition, telling us they heard our prayers, by way of a short-lived passing squall.
When the ceremony was over, we crawled out of the lodge and grabbed a handful of tobacco that was in a large birch bark basket sitting on a stump next to the fire. We offered the tobacco to the fire in honor of the healing spirits that came from all directions.
Neil crawled out of the lodge last and while still on his hands and knees, went a short way into the woods. We heard him cough and vomit, continuously, for a few minutes. He joined us later, in the house of the hostess, where we ate a pot luck meal that would be considered our feast to all the spirits that helped us in that ceremony.
When I got home, my wife asked me,”How was the Sweat Lodge?”
I answered that it was awesome and told her about the healing energy that Neil had given me. I told her about the sensations I felt and the visions I saw while staring at the glowing rocks, how they seemed to move and make faces.
Then she asked me, “What time did you go in?” (into the lodge structure)
It just so happened that I changed my clothes, from jeans and a t-shirt into a pair of absorbent shorts, next to my pick up truck. I opened the door and used it as a modesty shield from view of the others. My cell phone was sitting in the console and I glanced at it and saw it was 8:05 PM when I was changing. I guessed that it might have been another ten minutes before everyone was assembled and ready to enter the lodge and begin the ceremony.
“About 8:15” I answered.
Then she asked, “How long did the Sweat Lodge take, the part where he doctored you?”
I answered, “I dunno, 30, 40 maybe 50 minutes. He did some work on me, then he finished the ceremony in the usual way. We were in there for a couple of hours, but he worked on me first, probably for 45 minutes or so.”
“Why are you asking me these questions?” I asked.
My wife told me that she was sitting in the front room of the Cabinette, *That’s the name we called our humble dwelling when we lived on the shores of the Great lake Superior), reading a book. She saw something through the large picture window and saw an Eagle fly into one of the tall pine trees and land at the top. The wind was blowing a little and the pine tree was swaying some. The bird just landed there and stood there.
She told me,”I glanced at the clock, for no particular reason, and I saw it was 8:17. I set my book on my lap and just watched that Eagle. He sat there for a long time. When he flew away, I looked at the clock again and saw it was 8:53.”
I wondered why she looked at the clock when the Eagle showed up. I wondered why I did when I was changing clothes. I wondered about how the times seemed to be so closely in sync.
It was then that I realized that while I was being attended to in the Sweat Lodge by the Medicine Man, the Eagle was perched outside my home and protected my wife. A lot like being in surgery, I was incapacitated as I was being doctored. I could not take care of myself, similar to being under anesthetic. The Eagle saw that no harm came to her, and sat in that tree for the duration. When I was finished and back to my senses, the Eagle’s job was done and he left.
What a series of coincidences. Both of us looking at the clock. The Eagle at my house, being watched by my wife, and the eagle spirit in that lodge, the wing, the whistle, the Thunderbeings showing up and making a small clatter after the healing session, Neil throwing up, getting rid of all the sickness that he had taken from me while we were in the lodge.
The next weekend, I was sitting at waters edge in a lawn chair, as I often did when I lived by the Great Lake Superior, and I spotted something floating in the small waves, washing towards shore. I watched this ‘thing’ and it took quite some time before it actually got to shore. As I noticed that is was going to make the sandy beach, I got up out of my chair and walked down to the beach.
I waited a few more moments and watched as this feather washed ashore. It was wet and misshapen, but when I picked it up and shook the water out of of it, it started to take shape. It was an Eagle feather. It came right to where I was sitting. Lake Superior’s shoreline stretches over 2700 miles. This feather washed up in the space where I was sitting at that moment, on that day.
The gift the Eagle gave to me with healing and protection of both me and my loved one was amplified with the gift of the feather, ever reminding me that the spirits are alive and with us if we seek them.
No, the Eagle is not my personal totem that I know of, but the Eagle played an important role to make me aware of the power of all the spirits in my life.
One last thing, while in that Sweat Lodge the night of the healing ceremony, the Medicine Man was aware that I did not have an Indian Spiritual name. He asked me about this and I told him that I wanted one for a long time, but that I felt it was selfish of me to ask for it since I was not a Native American. Some times I actually prayed that I would get a Spiritual name.
I had stopped praying for a name and followed the most basic teaching, that is, anything I needed would come to me in time and by the hand of the Creator, when I needed it.
Neil listened to my explanation and told me I was Mashkoday Biizhikiins, (Mush’-co-day Be-zhee-keens’) My name is Little Buffalo. It was explained to me at that healing, that I had always been a strong force, a leader, like a powerful buffalo. But now, as I age and get wisdom, my role is different. I am to allow others to do the work, and like a little buffalo, I need to watch things happen instead of making things happen.
I learned a lot about other teachings after that., The twelve steps, my own feelings and emotions and how I reacted. Things changed in my life and I feel more centered, for the most part, and calmer now. Things that bother me don’t last so long and don’t fester in my brain as much.
And I am a Little Buffalo. I sit and watch. I ask for help instead of trying to do things that I should not be doing, physical things, because of my heart. In this sense, it truly was a healing, a doctoring, an operation done unto me for the purpose of fixing something that was wrong or out of place.
The Eagle spirit helped and I will always have a reverence for all of the wildlife, but especially for the Eagle. When I see one, he is reminding me of the healing and protective spirit. The Eagle is the Creator, showing himself to me. I lay down tobacco in seven directions.
East, South, West, North, Above for Grandfather sky and sun, Below for the Sacred Earth Mother and within my own patched up heart.