PLACE: Pipestone, Minnesota
Sponsored By: A.I.M
Some of the people I came to know while there:
Harry "Charger", Medicine Man to the
rumor was this would be the last Sundance
for Harry as Medicine Man. upon
my arrival in the wee hours of the morning on that first day, there was no time to decide
set up my tent. Harry, told my companion and I, too sleep in
his tipi. So, it should of been realized by me, this was the
beginning of something very special and personal...as I got to
sleep in the Medicine Mans tipi. Little did I know...wink
Harry "Bird" another elder and respected Medicine Man,
Clyde Bellecourt, Dennis Banks, Elli,"Eagle Hail", of
the Oneida "wolf clan" a Medicine Woman,
for short of the Yankton Sioux, a elder of high regard and
respect, Scott, "Brown Eyes", grandson to
Crow", "Miko", of the harmony circle a young
warrior who slept on the ground outside my tent
one night, ready
to assist me I was ill in the early morning hours of the last day
of the ("Sundance"),
and there were also many others; but
these I would come to know personally for different reasons.
Ok, I promised to tell a little about my
personal experiences while at the "Sundance". I
will start out
by saying this, it's not for the faint of heart,
it's not for wannabe's either. If that's what you are, you
will be quickly discovered and weeded out and, never get to the
actual part of the participation of the Sundance itself.
There are strict rules to be adhered too and no one is exempt from
away if you break them. It is by a personal
invitation alone from a Sioux brother or someone who will
the actual participation of the "piercing" and not by
public announcement of "we are having a...
Sundance Ceremony...date...time...place is, like some of the
Sundance Ceremonies that are held in
other areas. This is
not open to the public. It is sponsored by A.I.M., American
where you will get to meet the founders of A.I.M.
It's a very intense an Sacred Ceremony. If you
want to get
the full feeling of it, you arrive several days ahead of the
actual commencement of the
Sundance Ceremony. The entire
time being ten days if your a early participant and help in the
preparations needed to be done. Besides setting up your
encampment, there is a endless days
work of cutting and splitting
wood for all the fires for the sweats held daily, the cook shack
fires, the "Harmony" circle fire, etc. Along with,
cutting tipi poles, stripping them for anyone who needs them,
hauling the pipestone from the quarry and splitting it, setting up
the arbor, the circles, the sweat
lodges, and it goes on.
Your day begins before sunrise (between 3am, and 4am) when you are
awakened with a "bullhorn"
wake up call to breakfast,
(all food is donated or by cash donations); you have a brief time
to eat your breakfast and all meals are quite the
selection...there is no dally time, you eat and your put to work.
The sun and heat are extreme, over 100 degrees, there is NO SHADE,
and only the water you bring
in for personal use as any of the
other water is strictly for kitchen use...the flies...well if they
you up and fly you off somewhere to dine on they are in
your food. And there are thousands of them,
not the occasional fly
here and there. They take over your tents or tipi's.
It is not uncommon to
suffer heat exhaustion.
Each day holds sweats for men and women, and mixed sweats as well.
However, when your not
doing a sweat you are working non-stop
except to eat, from sunrise till sundown. Everyone, has a
assigned chore and works...no exceptions. You have to go
into town to public areas for showers.
f you decide to be a actual "Dancer" get pierced (By piercing...
Some are pierced on their backs, near their shoulder blades and tethered
to Buffalo skulls instead of tethered to the Sun Pole and they will drag
the Buffalo skulls. Sometimes it becomes necessary to have children sit
on the Buffalo skulls as they drag them in order to break their tethers
to the Skull) there is
special things you will need to do and
will be given to you.
There are occasional talks given at breakfast by A.I.M. leaders to
inform you of who they are
and what's expected, and you will be
introduced to the Medicine Man, Clyde Bellecourt, and
Now, for actual events that happen during the week, I may not
cover them all here but I will try to
get to most and give my
personal reflections on them as I go.
During the week, there is held a "Woman's Circle", the
"Blessing of all Pipes", going to the place
"Three Sisters'", cutting of the actual "Sunpole
Ceremony", (if any of you have seen the
movie "A Man
Called Horse", this is basically what the
"Sundance" is about), the raising of the
over the entrance, guidance for those who will do sweats, or have
and a sort of intense initiation by our Sioux
brothers to try to weed out the less desirable individuals.
Believe me when I tell you, they are not shy or polite when doing
this either, and most leave before
the actual ceremonies begin.
By piercing I mean, for those of you who do not know; the men are
pierced thru each breast an
a bone is inserted through the pierced
flesh. Then to each side of the bone is attached a tether
which runs from it to the "Sunpole", where they are
secured for days, all day, with no food or water,
in the direct
sun until, after at least three days, they try to
"break" or "tear" the bone from the flesh,
dancing rapidly backwards and leaning all their weight into the
tether to the "Sunpole". Some are
tethered to buffalo skulls, which they drag around the circle, if
they still can not "break"
they have small children sit
upon the buffalo skulls for added extra weight to drag.
Woman, if they so
desire can also pierce, however, they are
encourage not to pierce as women have already shed
enough of their
blood through the ages. If they decide to pierce, it is done
on their arms.
While there, I also got to see for the first time, "The
Buffalo Dance", performed very rarely and only
certain circumstances...Harry of course did the dance. It
was at 3am in the morning...when
morning and night are
in the sky together...(sun and moon).
Now although this may seem extremely brutal to some, consider the
cruixifiction. The intent is
the same basically,
prayers are offered for all walks of life for healing purposes,
both physical, and
spiritual. In fact, the "Sunpole"
becomes a symbol of true beauty, as also tied to it are, huge
of colorful ribbons with prayer bundles attached to them
by anyone wishing to tie one to the
special prayer intentions.
The "Sunpole" itself, is chosen by the Medicine Man, a
ceremony is performed, and the tree is first
struck by a young
virgin, then in turn by each woman, then the men; the tree as it
falls, (well here is something some of you are gonna scratch your
heads about) is never allowed to fall actually touching
ground. Even once its branches are cut, the women haul the
braches and they too cannot touch
the ground. The "Sunpole"
is then hauled upon the great shoulders of the men, all the way
back to the
circle where the ceremony will be held. The
women wait for the arrival of the men, and upon the
the "Sunpole" for placement into the great hole that
will hold it upright, women spread
their shawls on the ground as
the men walk in so the "Sunpole" can then be laid upon
still not come in direct contact with the ground.The prayer bundle ties are then attached to it
(Other rope ties are attached to raise the Sunpole). Once all of that
is complete, the profound and most spiritual feeling one can
imagine overcomes you as the raising and setting into place is
done. You hear the great "thump" as it slides into
position, and the prayer banners of many colors are then seen
stretching away into the breeze. I can't begin to tell you
my personal feelings at this point after all the weeks hard arduous
work seeing this being accomplished. As we Natives say,
"My heart was full".
As for the sweats, I was privileged to do a mixed sweat with
Dennis Banks, and you have never done
a sweat, till you do a Sioux
sweat. You feel the heat of the stones before they even are
INTO the sweat itself. Once in the sweat, no one
leaves, NO ONE, till the sweat is done. One small
male child tried
with the excuse, "I have to go pee", Dennis just looked
at him and said..."hold it",
one leaves". This is the way of the sweat. Also,
for your information those who do not
sweat is with men and women, and your naked, sitting only upon a
which is allowed or the bare ground. If you
can't handle the thought of men and women (strangers)
naked together, in the dark, quite simply, your not ready for a
sweat. Its spiritual...not sexual.
Its about the womb,
and how you were born, and drew the first breathe of life.
Unless, your pure in
thoughts and spirit...stay the heck out of a
sweat. YOU DON'T BELONG THERE! If you have health
problems, think twice, a sweat is long, the heat is unlike
anything you have experienced. Not to be
even considered to
be compared to a sauna or steam bath.
THE DANCING: Those who are not pierced, dance under the
arbor in place, on shawls, and the
dancing again is loooooong and
in the heat, some even go to dance under the full moon at night,
like I did on each night, as well as during the day.
Many things, unexplainable, happened to me personally.
Because they are so personal, I will not
speak of them here.
I will tell you, I had the immense honor to be included in a very
done for the first time ever while there during
the "Sundance". The Medicine Man explained to
all...this ceremony, came to him in a vision, and he was
instructed to do this ceremony, of which only maybe
five women of
the entire encampment would be hand picked to participate. (I speak
a bit of this
ceremony elsewhere in this website)
One which would start the ceremony first and then the other four
or so to join in. I was the first
woman picked to start this
special ceremony never before done. I didn't even know I was
picked for such a honor when Dennis Banks came over and was
speaking to those around me
about what was about to happen...to
this day I have no idea what it was he was saying as I was
into meditative prayers an dancing to the drum and eagle whistles
with all the others. Never
did I think he was speaking
to...who...ME? Next thing I knew, I was being taken from the
being led by Dennis's hand, to the entrance of the "Sun
Circle" itself, and thinking...
"Ohhhhh boy, what the heck is happening here, what the heck
is this about"? "What did I do now?"
"What am I suppose to do now!!!!".
Not funny when you think, I was just in deep meditative thought
and suddenly taken from that,
an now being led to the circle and
INTO it. I soon found myself, "dancing at the "Sunpole"...
is NOT the customary thing. No one is in the circle, except
those who are pierced. No one
dances at the "Sunpole"
except the ones who are pierced. Hmmmm...so, what was going
I wont go into the details of that special ceremony, except to
say, for a very long time, I was
dancing at the "Sunpole"
and as they say "praying for a vision", and the Medicine
to me three separate times...I will tell of only this
one approach, the last approach that was made and what happened...
remain private as to what the ceremony was about. He took
the Sacred Red Earth from
his paint bowl, and upon my forehead,
placed a circle with a dot in the middle of it...and then said...
"From now on where every you go, Grandfather will recognize
A Eagle Wing Blessing then also took place and when that was
done...I heard as I was receiving
"Wow, interesting, that's never happened before. I just got a shock from you!" Well I wanted to
"Hey, this is ALL a SHOCK to ME".
So, besides the honor of the special invitation to attend, along
with doing a mixed sweat with
Dennis Banks...to be specifically
chosen to be honored with a special ceremony within the circle
itself, never before having been performed...WOW!!!!!!!
"Thank you Grandfather, you have smiled upon me; and I'm
***There is a interesting story of what happened with
"MY" shawl when the "Sunpole" was brought
the circle. Ask me about it sometime and, I'll tell you the
I'm called Autumn Wind Song, and I swear this account to be true
and will smoke the pipe on it.
Crow Dog explains, "This holy woman brought the sacred
buffalo calf pipe to the Sioux. There could
be no Indians
without it. Before she came, people did not know how to
live.They knew nothing.
The Buffalo Woman put her scared mind into their minds."...
At the ritual of the Sundance one woman, usually a mature and
universally respected member
of the tribe, is given the honor of
representing Buffalo Woman.
White Buffalo Woman was also a buffalo--the Indian's brother, who
gave its flesh so that the people
may live. Albino buffalo
were sacred to all Plains tribes: a white Buffalo's hide was a
a possession beyond price.
For those of you who may not know...in recent years several white
buffalo calves have been born and interesting enough....were
MAY 24, 2004 IN FLAGSTAFF ARIZONA, A WHITE BUFFALO CALF WAS BORN
AND NAMED ... "SUNRISE PROMISE"
AND SO THE STORY BEGINS:
(Here I will give "my" rendition "based" on
the story in the book "American Indian Myths and Legends"...
and will adapt this account to reflect the story as was told.)
No one knows for sure how long ago it was when the seven council
fires of the Lakota came
together and camped during the summer
season. Perhaps because it was a hot and dry summer
buffalo found no grasses and were hard to find...the people were
starving...and many times scouts
would come back with no news of
the herd...the Sioux at this time had not as yet learned how to
horses and had none, so scouts always went out on foot.
One day, two scouts while hunting still could find nothing...and
so decided to climb a hill for a better
look into the
distance...upon reaching the top of that hill...they saw in the
distance a figure that did
not seem to walk upon the land,
floating instead of walking and so they knew this to be "wakan"...
Shielding their eyes to see better they noticed the figure coming
closer and began to realize
this was a very beautiful young
woman...she wore a gorgeous soft white tanned buckskin dress,
white the bright sun only made it stand out more...sewn with designs in porcupine quills and in
colors never seen before...she
was indeed breathtaking to behold.
The woman was Ptesan-Wi...
Buffalo Woman. Her hair tied with buffalo and eyes of deep
wisdom...she carried a large
bundle with some sage.
Overwhelmed the two young men could do little more than stare.
One man could do nothing more
than stare in awe, but the other,
became filled with lustful desire and wanted to reach out and
this woman. As he reached out to touch her, a bolt of
lightning struck the young man down leaving
only a pile of ashes
where he once stood...this woman was very sacred and could not be
such disrespect. His over zealous approach, and
weakness of desire to something so scared
was quickly dealt
(To this day. native men are taught at a very young age to treat
all women with a profound
respect or be punished or looked upon
with great disdain...(In some extreme cases even shunned.)
The other scout behaved honorably and remained pure of heart...and
so the White Buffalo Woman
began to speak to him...she told the
young scout she was bringing something very holy to the
his nation from the buffalo people. She then told the young
man to return to his camp
and speak of what he had seen and for the people to prepare a scared lodge of twenty four poles
blessed and cleansed for her arrival. After relating his
story to the chief a crier was sent
throughout the camp announcing
someone scared was coming. That a holy woman would come
they would need to prepare for her arrival. They waited...one day passed and nothing
happened...two days passed and
nothing happened...three days passed and still nothing...but on
fourth day they saw the beautiful woman in her bright white
buckskins approaching carrying a
bundle before her. The
chief greeted her with respect and invited her to enter the medicine lodge
that had been prepared for her...upon entering she
circled the lodge in a sunrise direction and
upon taking her place
the chief then spoke saying...they were honored that she had come
would tell them how to live...
She began to give her instructions...she requested a scared altar
to be placed in the center of the lodge
made of red earth...
(In Pipestone Minn. there is the only quarry that has the scared
red stone used to this day for
making the bowls of the Sioux
pipes. This stone is NOT to be SOLD or BOUGHT...but
even at some of today's pow-wows you see this sacred stone
being sold. Legend has it that upon this
place during a great raid to a village of only women and children at the time, many were
and it was
the blood of these that turned the stone red.
What price can you put upon that and remain
with a sacred intent?
The sacred red pipestone must be gifted...and the giver must not
bought the pipestone either...sooooo keep this firmly in mind
if you should ever come across this
sacred red stone...and act
accordingly with a pure heart and mind...not out of desire or
because if you do...nothing good will come from it.
Each year, in August, at the time of the full moon, it is here
that the Sioux come together for the
sacred Sun Dance Ceremony.
It is NOT open to the public and only by invitation may you
I was honored with just such a invitation one summer
to attend the Sundance Ceremony, an even further honored
with a Ceremony
involving me by the Medicine Man leading the Sundance. I was
brought to the
center of the circle
to dance at the pole where a
ceremony was then performed honoring women.
The medicine man
explained that this ceremony was gifted to him in a vision and for
the first time was being performed that year. It was so all men of all walks could be forgiven for the cruelties placed upon
women throughout the years by men.
The medicine man wept while explaining this vision.During
the ceremony, of which I will not go into all the details as it is
a very personal and scared experience for me, the medicine man
took the red earth and with a mixture from his paint bowl place a
circle with a dot in the center upon my forehead...and with these
words then said..."From now on where ever you go Grandfather
will recognize you."
There was much more to the ceremony, but in that moment I felt
something very indescribable
happen...I have documented this
entire account in my personal journal.
It was also during this Sundance Ceremony, I had the honor of
doing a sweat with Dennis Banks...
who also assisted the medicine
man during the time of the Sundance...for those of you who do not
know of Dennis Banks...he is the founding member of the A.I.M (American Indian
and his account of what brought that
to be is another story and
very personal to him. I will also only
you have not done a "Sweat" or "Inipi",
until you have done a Sweat with the Sioux...you come to really
appreciate what a Sweat is all about
when you do...and I say that
with a sly respectful grin of sorts
upon my face."
Back to the story...
Upon the altar would be placed a buffalo skull and a three stick
rack for something very holy she was bringing. Once this was
completed, she made a small design in the soft red earth of the
altar and again circled the lodge in a sunwise direction. Stopping
before the chief, she now opened her sacred bundle and within it contained the "chanunpa" the sacred pipe. She
lifted the chanunpa and held it high for
all the people to see
holding the stem with her right hand and the bowl with her left
and sooooo it is
still held this way today. The chief, was
embarrassed that he had no meat to offer this woman and
went on to
say..."We have no meat to offer you, but let me offer at
least this sweet water for your thirst"...he then dipped some sweet grass into a skin of water and offered her a drink.
(Even today, sweet grass will be used to dip into water and
sprinkled upon a person for purification.)
The White Buffalo Woman went on to show how the pipe was to be
used...she filled the bowl with red willow bark (This red
willow is "Pussy Willow" and it's bark is used as a medicinal
treatment for things such as... *sore throat... being like
aspirin*) and walked around
the lodge four times to signify the circle with no end, and the
coming together of all the people from the four
directions...having done that...she then placed a dried buffalo
chip in the fire and from this lit the pipe...
You DON'T lite a pipe with a cigarette lighter...geeeeesh please
people...I have cringed when I have
seen this done...and more
often than not...and one wonders why the term "wannabees"
why our traditions are still kept for the most secret.
Until respect is shown for these traditional and
sacred ways it
will remain so...and should.
As mentioned earlier...she went on to explain that the smoke from
the pipe was the breath of the great Tunkashila...the living
breath of the Great Grandfather Mystery. The White Buffalo
Woman went on to explain the ceremony of the pipe how to fill it
and sing the song of the pipe while filling it...how to
to all directions...she went on to explain that with the pipe the
people would walk in a sacred way...and how by lifting the pipe to
the directions and feet on the ground a bridge is formed with the
"sacred above" as well as the "sacred below",
and how by doing so all things become connected;
in this way we
recognize that we are all related...all that flies, swims, crawls, walks, grows, we are all related and connected as one.
She went on explaining about the bowl of the pipe...she said the
stone of the bowl represents the buffalo but, also the flesh and
blood of the red man...the buffalo because he stands on four legs
represents the four directions and the four ages of creations. That each year he loses one hair and with every time
of the four ages he will lose one leg. It is said that when he loses all
his hair and legs the sacred
hoop will end and at this time waters
will come back and cover the earth.
** Last year "Miracle" the 1st white
buffalo Calf to be born... DIED... (Interpretation: Lost all of
her legs also, she lost all her hair as her hide was removed to
be saved) as we have seen, much water is covering the Earth by
ways of California Mud Slides, Midwestern Floods, Florida
Hurricanes last year being the worst and of course the recent
Tsunami of 2005. Top
The bowl of the pipe represents woman and the stem men...it is the
only thing in which the making of it includes both men and
women...the bowl had seven circles in it for the seven sacred
ceremonies that would be done and the seven sacred fires of the
Sioux. She went on to speak to the women...telling
them...the work you do with your hands and the fruit of your
body is what keeps life...you are as
Mother Earth life bearers and
your work is every bit as important as what the warriors do.
It is for this reason, you also have a part in the pipe.
The White Buffalo Woman had also sacred gifts for the women in her
bag...corn, pemmican, turnip,...instructions on how to make a
hearth fire...she showed them that by putting a red hot stone
a water bag of animal that this would heat the water and would be
used in this way to cook the
corn and meat...she also spoke to the
children...telling them how important they are and what their
parents do for them and they were also children once and one day
they too would have children
and all would come to know the sacred
She then went on again to all the people she said...the pipe is a
red being showing you to walk the red road and death as well as
life is important. The day a person dies is always a sacred
day and the day
a persons spirit is released is also a sacred and
great day...on such a day...four women will become sacred...they
will be the ones to cut the sacred tree...the can-wakan...for the
(At the Sundance...the first to strike the tree to be cut...is a
young woman who is still a virgin...
from there each woman takes a
strike at the tree...from youngest to oldest...a wood chip is then
a gift from the tree to the women...and it is the women who also
carry away its branches as the men bare
the pole upon their
shoulders and carry it to the hill where the Sundance is
performed...note here also...when the tree falls...care is taken
that it never directly touches the earth as it falls, and even
branches when carried are not to touch the earth)
She then went on to tell the people that they were the purest of
all the tribes and for this reason they
were gifted the pipe and
were chosen to take care of it for all the people of turtle
She spoke one more time to the chief
reminding him that the pipe is sacred and told him to respect
and it would take the people to the end of the red road. She
then said...I am the four ages...I will
come back to you at the
end of every fourth generation...she then left the people but
one more time...I will return and I will see you
As she was leaving walking into the setting sun...she laid down
and rolled over four times. The first
time she turned into a
black buffalo...the second time she became a brown...the third
and finally upon rolling the fourth time...she became a
white female buffalo calf.
To the people a white buffalo female calf is the most sacred
thing you could ever encounter...the four times she rolled was to
signify the four ages of generations...when she disappeared...the
buffalo came back to feed the people and nourish them not only of
the flesh but of their souls...and today the people make use of
all the buffalo for the things they need and never waste any part
of a animal...it is said...
that when a white female buffalo calf
would be born...this would be the time when all tribes should
together and remember the gift of White Buffalo Calf Woman and what the pipe represents and
the sacred hoop would be in its
greatest need to come together for all people...for all our
for a peaceful way to walk. Several years
ago...the first white buffalo calf was born and...more were to
follow...there are websites dedicated to their stories. As
we all know, the world is in terrible turmoil.
There is much
happening to signify it is a time when we should join not separate
and to remember...
we are all sacred beings sharing this earth and
must live our lives in a sacred way and walk gently
with love for
all upon this earth.
And so...this is one of the many stories of how the pipe came to
be...I hope you enjoyed the story the way that I have interpreted
it for you here. No matter who tells it or how it is told as
I said in the beginning...it is
about...HONOR...INTEGRITY...COURAGE...STRENGTH...TO COME TOGETHER
FOR WE ARE ALL RELATED...to remember to respect the life bearers
and keepers...women...and to give also respect to the men who
I am...Mohawk and Huron...I am called Autumn Wind Song...