For a guy loves to go fishing, it’s been a long time since I felt a fish on a tight line. Six months ago, at a Passover Seder, I made the decision to go to the promised land with two old friends. We set an inviolable date to go fishing the last weekend in October. So last weekend we went up to Roosevelt Lake for some great bass fishing; my face was wreathed in smiles the whole time.
Before returning home, we decided to go to the San Carlos Apache Reservation, which was close by. It’s a place that two of us had worked together 40 years ago. We felt this nostalgic urge to return, and that decision kept this magical trip going.
The old hospital is now boarded up behind a chain-link fence as was the staff housing. There is a brand-new hospital now administered directly by the tribe with state-of-the-art equipment and specialists. We spoke to some nurses in the cafeteria and told them we had worked in the old hospital 40 years ago and asked about families we knew. Turns out an old friend’s family was holding a Sunrise Ceremony this weekend. She wasn’t sure if the ceremony would still be going on, but the dance grounds were close by and we decided to go.
The Sunrise Ceremony is one of the few Apache rituals that survived the government’s suppression of Native American ceremonies. It is a 4-day initiation to celebrate a young woman’s coming-of-age. It is an intense and arduous ceremony physically and spiritually. During this ceremony, the initiate becomes ‘Changing Woman’, who survived the great flood in an Abalone shell and gave birth to the Apache Tribe. During this ceremony the initiate becomes the embodiment of Changing Woman; she enters the girl’s body and ensures the perpetuation of their tribe, she restores strength and has the power to heal.
We arrived just before the dancers were leaving, and the family was lining up to receive the congratulations of the community. I felt a tug on my arm and look around to see my friend George. We greeted and schmoozed and then he stood in line with us and introduced us to his family.
We shook hands with the family and when I came to Changing Woman, I see her in her buckskin, face painted with white clay and corn pollen, an Abalone shell on her forehead, an exquisitely beaded necklace, and felt the power of their story.
I asked her to bless my heavy heart; shyly she reaches out her hands, and with her acknowledgment bring them to my chest. I felt the same energetic jolt I did when the Medicine man pulled the fire stick out of my chest during my Native American Church healing ceremony. (Schlagbyte, 12/25/2017).
I am sensitive to these ways, they move me, but there are many ways, and they all open you to appreciating the awe and mystery of life. Find one that speaks to you. You can learn to do the healing dance if you can hear the music.