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Sacred space

Crow tribal elder Grant Bulltail conducted the pipe ceremony Saturday morning at Heart Mountain. ‘My people use the pipe to renew the energy,’ Bulltail said. ‘So the earth will be right again.’  Crow tribal elder Grant Bulltail conducted the pipe ceremony Saturday morning at Heart Mountain. ‘My people use the pipe to renew the energy,’ Bulltail said. ‘So the earth will be right again.’ Tribune photo by Gib Mathers

Heart Mountain pipe ceremony brings cultures together

Heart Mountain and the people who revere the mountain seemingly were able to summon an energy jump-start following a Crow Indian pipe ceremony there Saturday.

The ceremony was simultaneously sacred, serious and celebratory for natives and folks of European descent.

“The energy is not working like it’s supposed to,” announced Crow tribal elder Grant Bulltail.

People are abusing and squandering it as though Earth’s resources are infinite, he said. People must live in harmony with nature, the Earth and the universe, Bulltail said.

For hundreds of years, the Crow people’s cultural heritage was closely aligned to Heart Mountain, said event organizer Mary Keller, who teaches history of religions at the University of Wyoming Cody Center.

A couple dozen Native Americans were present, along with 50 or so white people.

“We are here to invent being people together,” Keller said.

As though in response, Crow drummers rattle a big drum, chanting.

Jonathan Pretty On Top kindled a small blaze to light the pipe.

He walked around the group presenting his smoldering pot. At each stop, recipients waved the cedar smoke in their faces to ward off evil spirits.

The air was redolent of fresh sagebrush and now burning cedar; surely, evil was precluded from this beautiful place.

“There is energy in the earth,” Bulltail said. “My people use the pipe to renew the energy.”

The pipe was a gift from the creator, he said.

“My people used the pipe to renew the energy so the Earth will be right again,” Bulltail said.

He sang the sun’s song to release the energy.

His strong voice became hushed. But, like effective religious leaders the world over, Bulltail’s charisma drew the audience to him.

“Now, we will smoke.”

Pretty On Top helped Bulltail fire the pipe.

Bulltail prayed to the East, where light and wisdom reside. South, he prayed for warm winds to keep plants growing. He petitioned West to the setting sun for rest and pleasant dreams. To the North, he prayed where cold winds deliver snow and rain, thus renewing life each spring.

“We are part of the universe, we are part of the Earth,” Bulltail said. “May it last forever.”

It was a solemn occasion, yet full of hope as dreary clouds clinging to the mountain yielded to cheery sunshine.

Even a tree seemed happy.

“My heart is moving well right now,” said a beaming Keller.

“We are proud as the Nature Conservancy to be a part of this,” said Carrie Peters, who runs the Heart Mountain Ranch with her husband, Brian, for the Nature Conservancy.

Japanese-Americans who were forced into camps like the one at Heart Mountain had a tough go of it during World War II.

But “You (Crow) have a long history of suffering compared to us,” said Bacon Sakatoni on behalf of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center.

Perhaps Christianity and Crow beliefs are similar.

Churches designated the term “stewardship,” said Rev. Warren Murphy, an Episcopal priest from Cody and author of “On Sacred Ground: A Religious and Spiritual History of Wyoming.” The Creator is God, and God gave people responsibility to tend the Earth, he said.

In the Bible, a hard rain fell, unleashing a great flood that washed all away with the exception of Noah, his followers and animals aboard his ark, Murphy said. When the waters receded, Noah saw a rainbow that signified hope and renewal. There are sacred places where God touches us.

Heart Mountain is such a place, Murphy said. All people must preserve the land.

“Our task is to seek the rainbow and not the hard rain,” Murphy said.

“The creator created everything on this Earth for us,” said Linda Bulltail, Grant’s wife.

“Do whatever you can for the Earth,” Linda said, choking with emotion. “Pray for the people of the Earth.”

The drummers pound their instrument, and youth adorned in elegant native dress dance.

A subtle orange pigment like iodine encircled Crow dancers’ eyes — like something a rock star would apply before stepping on stage.

The orange war paint signified the power of its wearer, said Jerico Hugs.

Young ladies wore fine wool dresses decorated with elk eye teeth.

“I have 500 (teeth),” said Kaitlin Hugs with pride.

Elk teeth exemplify a father or husband’s accomplished ability to provide, said Jerome Hugs Jr.

Like kids of any and every culture, the Crow youth were beautiful in their native garments and dance. Soon, Anglos and Native Americans are dancing together, some arm and arm. Like children learning to fox-trot in school, the whites were a bit self-conscious emulating their native partners, but their nervousness soon dissipated in the joy of the moment.

The drums, the dance and the smell of Crow cuisine cooking created a congenial atmosphere designed to foster energy for the powwowing people and the land they love.

“Aho,” they said. Thank you.

1 comment

  • posted by Dee

    July 25, 2013 12:35 pm

    Grant, please call Dee Ansbergs.

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