Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Sundance

No cameras at a sacred ceremony, so, no pictures to share. In fact, the elder spiritual leader insisted on no video games or any electronic devices, especially cell phones and car radios. There were days of preparing when these rules weren't mentioned or adhered to, but when ceremony days begin, we were asked to follow instruction or leave. This was no problem for me because I don't use these things when I'm at such a place.

As many of you may know, the Sundance is a summertime dance done in a circular arbor by those that have fulfilled their individual requirements to dance. They go without food and water for four days and dance in sessions during the day. Sometimes, the weather dictates some comfort, but not this year. It was hot and humid most every day and very challenging for all in attendance as well as the dancers. They are sacrificing food and water and doing this in the hot sun to pray to the Creator for the health and happiness of the people, all people. They pray to ask for answers to all the prayers the people have. Those prayers are tied in colorful bundles up in a tree that was put in the center of the arbor a day before the dance started.

People who are not dancing in the ceremony itself are assembled around the arbor at the sides. There is a drum goup beating the drum and singing constantly while the dancers are in the circle. At other places around the encampment, people are listening and watching at a distance. They are sipping coffee and visiting with friends. The cook is cooking some food for the next meal or cleaning up the dishes from the meal before. As many as 40-50 people are eating each meal. Many children of the familes of the dancers.

I was the cook. I brought in equipment and set up a cook shanty village complete with tables and chairs under a canopy. I brought the food and the pots pans and utensils to prepare it. I brought firewood to cook on at the large open stove. I brought many 5 gallon water bottles that we filled aily across the road at the neighbors house so we could have water. We needed a lot of water with temperatures up into the 90's every day. We served a ot of lemonade and kool aid and water. I did not bring the black flies, the horse flies or the mosquitoes. There were a lot of them creatures.

I brought Mrs Spadoman and a friend to help me unload and set up the camp. Mrs S stayed and helped me, then left for a couple of days, only to return with the two oldest Grandkids. Then, she jumped in and helped me again. Others pitched in and helped a little here and there. One good friend helped me when Barb was away and did a great job. I could not have pulled it off without the help from these people, especially Barb.

Between meals, I went to the side of the circle and showed my support for the dancers, the people who were praying for us, for an answer to our prayers. I sat in at the big drum and sang with the others in hopes of giving the courageous dancers some energy by our full voiced singing and hard drumming.

On the last day, it came to an end. The rounds were complete. Everyone came to the cook shack for a feast. We had some great food and iced down juice and beverages for the Sundancers to break their fast. A large bowl of chilled fresh fruit and some delacacies that they asked for like walleye and oranged pork chops, wild rice and goulash made from very lean buffalo meat.

Camps were struck and people left for the long drive home, and for most, work on Monday. When I arrived at the camp, I was the first person there last Friday morning, July 20th. The people came and we had this core of human beings there, and just as they arrived, ten days later they left, and I was there alone again until 6:30 PM Sunday night before we had the last thing packed and closed the door on the van and drove away, leaving only the tree standing in the center of the arbor, festooned with the colored prayer tie offerings that once held their prayers.

I pretty much told you of the logistics of this event. The things that happen to any one particular individual during their time either involved with doing the Sundance, or just attending one and being a supporter of a dancer, or someone who helps with the fire, the food or the ceremony, are each individuals secrets to think about and take lessons from.

I saw a couple of kids that I had met last year, but they weren't ready to form relationships last year. This year, they both became great fiends and I view them as my Grandchildren. They are fond of me and I see it and believe it. I served some meals that people liked. Not a morsel of food in the trash, just empty plates and plastic utensils, a sure sign that they liked the sustinance placed before them at that particular meal. Then there was the naughty lady that left her kids hanging around as she left the grounds with others to go to town for this, or go to town for that. The kids were a little trouble from time to time, and with no mother there to reel them in, we took turns yelling at them.

I had a spiritual experience as well. Some questions were raised and I have yet to decipher the real answers. That's how these things work for me. I must dwell on the situation before I know what conclusion I need to draw. It is a learning process. So far, I can still learn much, mostly about myself. As the days and weeks go on, I'll continue to hear the drum beats in my head and the words to these Dakota Sundance honor and thank you songs. I'll hum along and sing and think of the Sundance and my 12 days there. I'll think about all that had happened and hope and pray that I come out the better for it.

One thing I did decide about is that I will no longer be the cook. I have passed the torch to someone new for next year. I'll be there, but I'll in a lawn chair next to the arbor watching the brave courageous people dance for peace and for the prayers of the people.

I am purposely pretty generic in my attempt to tell you about Sacred Ceremony. If you are truly intersested and want more information or have specific questions, please ask via e-mail. Thanks for coming to my blog. It's good to be back home.


billie said...

welcome back my friend. :)

Mary said...

Welcome home. It's always good to hear of your travels and experiences.

Fuzzylogic said...

Wow!I have heard a lot of this Sundance ceremony. It must be a great feeling to be a part of it!

Anne said...

sounds like an enriching time,joe.
nice to have you back.

Adrie Adrie Anna said...

Papa Joe,

Read your most recent blog...I have compassion for the level of stress involved with cooking for a big bunch. Whenever I'm tasked with preparing a meal at the firehouse, my thoughts usually turn to you...

Some of my best memories of "Joe Spado" are of all the great meals you've created that I have enjoyed. I've eaten some bad chow at work, it only makes me long for a Spado creation. Some people just should not cook ~ you're not one of them! However, I can appreciate the desire to enjoy a festival as a participant.

So glad you're back to the blog, if even infrequently. Say "Hi" to Mama Spado for me. Much love,

Adrie Anna

Unknown said...

I believe you probably didn't have time to turn around. But one day I'm going there. One day I will.