A unique and candid Interview with Laura Cyr
Lifelong Student and Explorer of Life and its many Deep Mysteries!
By: Brent Raynes
LAURA CYR shares with us her vision quest experiences, beginning back in 1985, which she had with the group known as the Bear Tribe Medicine Society, created by the well-known medicine man Sun Bear, then located at Ford, Washington. From then till now, Native American spirituality has played a highly significant, positive, and evolving role in the very fabric of her life.
Brent Raynes: For quite a few years now, you’ve been on a spiritual quest of sorts that involved quite a bit of Native American influence. You have known and worked with some pretty big names in this field, like the medicine man Sun Bear. Can you share with us some details of this path you’ve been on, how it has impacted your life, and please don’t leave out the part about that UFO you saw while on a vision quest?
Laura Cyr: First off, let me say that I am not sure exactly how much Native American blood I have—if any. I have been tempted to take the DNA test that the National Geographic offers for a fee. It is part of the Human Genome Project and supposedly tells you the physical makeup of your ancestors AND the percentage of each race. I am curious, especially with knowing nothing about my mother’s parents, but the Truth is It REALLY Does Not Matter! I am a firm believer that we are All children of God and have lived many lifetimes in many places and in many different races. In this life we are a composite of our physical ancestry, the environment we grow up in and the Karma we bring with us into this life. I can “remember” life times when I was Indian and maybe that is all I really need to touch back on.
I know that I have always been fascinated with horses and Indians. Growing up in Southern California I spent as much time as possible outside. When we played Cowboys and Indians I had no problem with being an Indian. When I was in races in the school yard I was always a prancing and snorting horse. For me, horses and Indians went together.
One day when I was about 5 our family was visiting my Aunt Anne. It was a beautiful sunny day and my mom was standing outside talking to my aunt. Family was Very Important to my mother because she had been abandoned at birth and had no idea what her background was. I am old enough that my original birth certificate lists my ethnicity. I was galloping in a circle around the two and listening to their conversation. My mother said, “I see on Laura’s birth certificate that she is part Indian. I was wondering what kind of Indian it is.” I came to a screeching halt and was now ALL Ears. I remember the surge of excitement and thinking, “Indian! Wow, I’m an Indian!!”
The reason I remember it so well is because my Aunt Anne’s face instantly became red, then blue and black. I had never seen my aunt so angry and she spat out, “That’s NOT Indian! That’s French!” Supposedly there was a French trapper in my father’s background and you KNOW how those trappers were….. This was back in the days when it was NOT COOL to have Indian blood. My father and my aunt were fair skinned people that turned a deep nut brown with the slightest bit of sun. Both had black hair and nearly black eyes. My father spoke fluent Spanish (he learned in Honduras during WWll) and the Mexicans often thought he was one of them when he shouted out to them in the fields.
Soon after this our family drove from California to Michigan to see my father’s relatives. We were passing through the Arizona desert and my father stopped at a little trading post to buy something cool to drink. I was lying on the floor behind the drivers seat and my Mom said quietly, “Look Laura, there’s some Indians.” I popped up expecting to see chiefs in feathered bonnets riding brown and white pinto horses. All I saw was dark skinned cowboys standing in the shade, leaning against the wooden corner posts of the porch and the walls. In a very loud childish voice I yelled out, “Where’s the Indians?” Every cowboy on the porch turned to look at the rude little girl with the big voice. Instantly I knew THEY were the Indians and I felt like shrinking down behind the seat and hiding.
I became seriously involved with Native Americans when I was in my mid 30’s. I worked for the Post Office and one of our duties was to sort through the undeliverable junk mail to make sure no first class mail had been mixed in with it. I liked this job because I saw so many interesting things. At that time Sun Bear and the Bear Tribe Medicine Society put out a magazine called MANY SMOKES. The magazine immediately caught my eye and I copied down the address and became a subscriber. There have only been a handful of times in my life when something came along that became a burning passion and I KNEW was something I had to be part of. The opportunity to Vision Quest was being offered once a year on Vision Mountain, private property owned by The Bear Tribe in Ford, Washington. I began corresponding with the tribe and was given a book to read and a list of things to do to help prepare my body and mind for fasting.
The year was 1985 and I was 39 years old. I was a single mom with two children at home, Vern who was 5 and Kamela who was 17. We had been without a TV for many years so just before I left I bought a television and subscribed to the Disney Channel. I figured the kids would be glued to the TV for the week I was on vision quest and wouldn’t even notice I was gone. I had a heck of a time finding Sun Bear’s place. The instructions I was given contained landmarks that had been removed years before. I was lost and driving around in the woods after dark. Finally I found a farm house off the road with lights still on so I asked for directions. I was only a couple of miles away and when I drove up to the longhouse I was in a pretty disgusted mood. I think the first words out of my mouth were, “That is a pretty lousy set of directions.” The woman that met me at the door just said, “Well, if you are meant to be here you’ll make it.”
This sounds like a bad way to start a marvelous experience but it turned out OK. The longhouse is the place the community members of Bear Tribe lived. It was also the kitchen and gathering place to be instructed and talk about our experiences. We brought our own tents and sleeping bags. I had a huge canvas tent that I had bought at a garage sale. A couple of people helped me put it up in the dark with flashlights.
The next morning was the official beginning of our Vision Quest experience. I felt much better after a nights sleep and breakfast. There were about twenty Vision Questers from all over the world. Most people were Americans but I remember people from Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Germany and one woman from Nigeria who was working in Washington DC. Bear Tribe had offered Vision Quests before but this year they tried something different. In the past they had people arrive and the next day put them directly onto the mountain. They did not have time to slow down and disconnect from their busy lives and problems so the results obtained from questing were limited at best. Usually people were just starting to get into the right frame of mind and they were pulled off the mountain.
This year as part of the Vision Quest you arrived three days early. Through a series of mental and spiritual explorations and discussions AND working in Bear Tribes large gardens we found ourselves stepping into an alternate reality and feeling the earth in a way most of us had never experienced before. In the late afternoon we would truck down to Long Lake and swim in the waters before a communal dinner and good nights sleep. We were strangers with a common desire and quickly became friends.
The first morning we were asked to pick a partner to pair up with. Lucky me, I had just started my menstrual cycle, and this was something that had to be known because some Native Americans are very cautious, to the point of being superstitious, about women during the “moon time.” A very handsome young man I had not noticed before came to me and asked me to be his partner because, “I am a Moon sign and you are on your moon.” Our first exercise was to go to a private place with our partner and ask each other one question for fifteen minutes. One partner asked the question and recorded the response and then we switched places. The two questions we asked were Why have you come on Vision Quest? and What are you afraid of on Vision Quest? The easy answers come up first but after a few minutes some pretty amazing things come out of your mouth. I was wondering, “Where did THAT come from?”
My partner and I found a shady spot on some rocks. He told me his name was John Fetzak. (I had been practicing automatic writing before I came on Vision Quest. One thing I had been told was that I was going to meet a man named John who would help me.) I was blown away and said, “So, you’re the one. I was told I’d meet a man named John who would help me.” He asked in what way and I said I didn’t know yet.
We kept journals of our time with Bear Tribe and this is what I wrote:
When he asked me why I was on quest on my third answer I lost eye contact and was gazing over his shoulder. He gently touched a finger to the corner of my lips and put it on his third eye. What a neat gesture. No words involved just a gentle reminder. Finally on the 5th question I said, “To meet you.” He put the paper down and gave me a long hug. Finally I got to the point I didn’t have ready made answers and they had to come spontaneously from my inner self. One of those answers was, “For my son.” John said later I had taken him by surprise when I said I’d come to meet him but I grabbed his heart when I said I’d come for my son.
The second question about what are you afraid of on vision quest was very important to many people. It seems that if you are a fearful type person you will have to confront those fears during your fasting and praying process. One thing Sun Bear told us is that whatever emotions you were experiencing WHEN you put your weight on is what you will experience again when the fat cells are broken down and used for energy to sustain you. Sun Bear also Insisted we have two gallons of water a day in case we needed it—Not because it was hot-nearly 100 F—but because of the toxins locked in our cells that will also be released as we fast. I consider myself very fortunate. Most of my weight was put on while I was pregnant and at some of the happiest times in my life.
Later that afternoon everyone gathered in the longhouse and we were asked individually if we would share why we came to vision quest. By this time I was already involved with the UFO scene and discovering surprising things about myself and my past lives. John was sitting beside me. In my journal I wrote: It is great to be in a place with people with the same sort of vibration. When I stood up and explained to the group I had come to learn in order to help“my people,” who are the survivors of this world and the founders of the new world, I was a bit shaky. John instinctively held my hand and gave me courage. Later one of the girls said to me, “You shared quite a bit of yourself.” I said, “If I can’t stand and declare myself in a safe place like this, I’ll never be able to do it in the world where I’ll receive ridicule and disbelief.” I had a tent but I didn’t want to sleep in it. I was fascinated with the clouds of stars that littered the sky with light. Shawnodese, the sub-chief of Bear Tribe, had told us, “You are all adults and I won’t tell you where you can sleep but I would warn you against sleeping on the Moon Rocks. The energy there is intense and most people who go there have one of three things happen to them. They can’t sleep, if they do sleep they have a restless night of dreams or they can’t handle the energy and have to leave. That evening in line for supper John said to me across the table, “Hey, Baby, how about sleeping with me tonight on the Moon Rocks?” I said something and he said, “I thought we’d already talked about it.” Well, we hadn’t verbally spoken of it but I HAD THOUGHT about it.
A young woman named Sue, from Vancouver, Canada, joined us on Moon Rocks and promptly fell asleep and didn’t wake up the entire night. While smoothing out the ground of the space where we laid out our sleeping bags I found a severed and dried crows leg. To this day I can not explain how it got there other than to say it was a GIFT. It is still part of my personal Medicine. I laid out my Medicine Wheel objects and told John their stories. We watched the lights move slowly or quickly across the sky and tried to guess if they were satellites or UFO’s. We talked for hours about the Sky People and my personal connection with them. About 3 in the morning I started getting really sleepy and said we better try and get some sleep because we had more work to do the next day. I felt myself quickly sinking into a deep sleep when John’s voice jolted me awake. “Are Those YOUR PEOPLE?” Even before my eyes were open I felt my astral body being pulled up and out of my chest. It seems to me now I was standing outside myself and saw John on his hands and knees shaking me awake as a transparent replica of myself is being pulled out of my body. The transfer process stopped when I woke up. I saw a slightly larger than normal bright star passing directly over our clearing. I felt I was connected to it and then I knew it was not a star because it made a U turn above us and headed back the direction it had come from. I MIGHT have forgotten about it except for what happened next. Just as the “star” was about to disappear over the horizon it burst into an explosion of light as if all the klieg lights in a stadium were turned on at once. Three times the light exploded and seemed to say to me, “DON”T FORGET.” John had asked if they were “my people.” I told him I didn’t know but I thought they might be.
Sleep was quickly reclaiming me and I pulled my sleeping bag out farther onto the rocks. When I woke in the morning the sun was shining directly on my bag and I was toasty warm. I was just basking in a blissful space when I realized that directly behind my head there was a deep throaty purring sound. My first thought was a tiger and then I realized it must be a mountain lion. Oddly enough I was not frightened and I lifted my head to look. A very startled bear like WOOF sound replaced the purring. When I looked nothing was there. When we returned to the longhouse that morning we told our story and I asked Shawnodese if they had mountain lion or bear on Vision Mountain. He said it had been many years since a mountain lion had been seen in the area and several years since a bear had been spotted. I have come to the conclusion they were two of my animal totem helpers watching over me. That night I slept in my tent—totally exhausted from the lack of sleep, heat and the work we were doing in preparation for our quest. The Moon Rocks were a popular place that night as many people decided to see if they would see a UFO-they didn’t.
The members of Bear Tribe that lived on Vision Mountain had an intimate knowledge of every inch of the mountain and the energies of each spot. They also were masters of human psychology and had devised a series of exercises to determine exactly where to place each Vision Quester in order that they truly benefit from the quest. In the morning we were told to go find some rocks and sit or lay on them and meditate until they rang the big triangular dinner bell to call us back to the longhouse. I was lying on my back on the rocks just enjoying their heat. I opened my eyes and the small meadow had transformed into a small encampment. The tipis were near the trees on the far side of the meadow. A few Indians, dressed in hides, were walking in the shade. Suddenly an old Indian woman walks up to me and puts her hands on her hips. She obviously was not pleased that I was lazing around doing nothing. She walked on and I didn’t move. Pretty soon she came stomping back and was really “giving me The Eye.” She never said a word but her look said it all. I wonder what I looked like to her? In the afternoon we were sent out to find a tree to hug. I sat with my back against trees and hugged them but nothing extraordinary happened.
In the evening we took a flash light and found a space to be alone with open sky above us and experience the sunset and fall of night. I remember the band of magenta on the horizon and the blue deepening in color until it was black, wishing on the first star and watching the stars come out. It is too bad our society is always in a big hurry and is blind to the simple beauty that surrounds us.
Another exercise we performed was to go find a very secluded and private spot to dig a hole and pour into it all our worries, troubles, problems and pain. We were freeing ourselves so we could experience and grow and allowing Mother Earth to transmute that energy into something else. When we heard the dinner triangle bell we were to come back to the longhouse. I found some vine like brambles that had a pathway through them. I had to crawl back into them and I dug my hole but I could not stand the thought of harming Mother Earth by dumping all my crap into her. It seemed to me she has more than enough pain inflicted on her by us two-legged beings. I did not want to be another source of stress and pain for her. I cried until I sobbed and shook in every fiber of my being but I kept my troubles to myself. When I heard the ringing of the dinner bell I pulled myself together and crawled out of the thicket with only a few small scratches.
I was the last one to return to the longhouse. When I came in everyone was seated and listening to the speaker. They turned as one and looked at me and someone said, “It’s about time you showed up.” I said, “I came as soon as I heard the bell.” I was told the bell was rung a half hour ago. I was in total disbelief—I was not aware I’d had a missing time event. Years later I had a hypnotic regression to see what had happened and I was in ancient Egypt.
The day before we were placed on the mountain we had a sweat lodge. I had never been in a sweat lodge before and I wasn’t in this one either. Women on their moon time (menstrual cycle) do not enter the sweat lodge but they can be a door keeper. Door keepers open and close the flaps that cover the openings to the sweat lodge. You can hear everything that goes on inside but do not participate in the ritual. A fire ban was in effect so there were no hot rocks in the lodge. When we were shown the wood pile used to feed the fire we disturbed a small rattlesnake asleep on the stacked wood. That was a sobering thought.
The temperature was hovering at about 100*F and there was no breeze. Very tall cottonwood trees stood a short way off from the sweat lodge circle. The sweat lodge cycle consists of 4 rounds. A direction is honored and called in for each round. When Shawnodese called in the first direction the cottonwood trees went wild. The tops started moving and all the leaves were rustling and I was grateful a breeze was coming up. Then the wind stopped and the heat inched up again. At the end of the round the doors were opened and water passed around inside. Then we closed the doors and Shawnodese called in another direction and again the tree tops danced wildly for a while and then became still. This happened on the third and fourth rounds too and I was in awe to see this manifestation of Spirit that I would have missed if I had been inside.
I have gone on Vision Quest twice—both times on Vision Mountain. I LOVE the way Sun Bear and the Bear Tribe Medicine Society conducted their quests.
1. The vision quests were held on private property and, for me that is Very important because I know I will be alone. I know people who quested on State land and had troupes of boy scouts walk right through their circle. Another lady was afraid because three men had a drunken party at night across the shallow river from her circle. 2. Bear Tribe also placed each person in a spot where they can be heard but not be seen by other questers. Sun Bear felt being naked during your quest was a good thing. A vision quest is a rebirthing.
3. A member of Bear Tribe brought you fresh water each day at a designated spot. Water is heavy and it is hard to carry 64 pounds of water (8 gallons) along with all your other stuff. This spot was also a place to leave messages in person or by note.
4. After the vision quest there was a meeting with Tribe members to discuss anything you wanted to share or questions you wanted to ask about the vision quest.
5. I felt the empowered, embraced and supported by every person I met. This is the way a community should work. The purpose of a Vision Quest is to leave the mundane world behind and to come into communion with Creator/Great Spirit/God for the purpose of receiving direction or instructions for your life. The things you see, hear and experience while on Vision Quest are a mixture of the ordinary and the most sacred. You are cautioned to keep these things to yourself and not “spread your pearls before swine.” Some things you understand immediately—others can take months or years to understand.
I would like to share with you three things that happened on my vision quests. The first is a message I received from a fly. Many animals neared or entered my sacred circle. I would ask each one if they had a message for me but they would just carry on with their own business. I was laying in the shade and a big fly landed on my ear. I brushed it away but it came back. It just wouldn’t take the hint to leave so finally I said, “Oh, OK. Do you have a message for me?” I was shocked when he stamped his feet and a voice said, “YES. You people on Vision Quest always ignore us and we don’t like it. We are a Mighty Nation. Whole civilizations have fallen before us.” The second was a dream that seemed to have special meaning. I saw a circle of men seated on the ground. On one side of the circle were Indian men in dirty ragged clothing. On the other side of the circle sat Mormon men in their Sunday best black wool suits and top hats. A little girl about 4 years old stood in front of one man. She had short blond curly hair and was dressed in a white dress with many rows of ruffles on the skirt. The man had brought his daughter to show the Indians they came in peace and would not harm them. I felt the little girl was me and I saw what she saw. This small circle of men was surrounded by many, many Indians from the Spirit World. They were transparent and floating above the ground. Their arms were folded and all of them were smiling and giving their blessings to this meeting.
The third dream directly related to something I wrote about earlier. I am copying this out of my journal: I was not exactly pleased with what I’ve dreamed so far so I went to the meadow and into the well. I went down to level 1 and followed the path there into a round underground lodge. There were tree roots above my head in the tunnel. The lodge had a roof of thatched sticks and the walls were mud and sticks.
An old woman sat across me from the entrance to the lodge. She said that she is Mother Earth. The fire was large and I could barely see her but it was not hot—the lodge felt pleasant.
She told me that it was OK for me to cry into the Earth because my intent was not harmful to her. That she would support me.
For four nights and days I sat, observed, prayed, dreamed and wrote. I was living in a very different place and fed by the energy of earth and Spirit. The time came when I KNEW it was done. I stood to begin gathering my things to carry down the mountain when I had the strangest sensation. I felt as though a plug was pulled out of my left heel and all the energy in my body drained through the hole into my sacred circle. Suddenly I was very tired and it took all I had left to collect my things and stumble back down to the longhouse. When I entered the longhouse kitchen people were standing around the table ready to give Blessing on the supper. I started to back out of the kitchen because I didn’t want to interrupt the prayers. One man at the table looked at me and said, “Oh my God, Look at her eyes. They are glowing.”
Next day I met with the Bear Tribe leaders and discussed my Vision Quest experience and what I wanted to do with my life. I said that I wanted to be a Messenger. I was told that my voice was too soft, that I needed to speak louder if I wanted to be heard. They were right. That was 27 years ago and in that time I have gained a lot of confidence and independence. I also told them that I would like to come live with the Bear Tribe. Shawnodese told me that the Tribe would love to have me IF it was just me. But since I had children they would have to say no because they were not set up for children and it would not be the best life for them.
I drove home in an alternate reality thinking about all that had happened over the past week. I remember stopping once for gas and the rest of the time flew by. It was late when I arrived home and the children were still up. The moment I walked through the door Kamela started telling me how bad Vern had been and that he wouldn’t do anything she said. I felt I had run head on into a brick wall as my state of otherworldly bliss shattered into a thousand shards. “STOP!!” I yelled. “I can’t handle this.”
I had one more lesson to learn from Vision Quest. The next day I went back to work on the window at the Post Office. We had a busy office and each window clerk served about 200 people a day. The stressed out, impatient and demanding attitudes of some customers was painful and physically nauseating. It took me nearly a month to regain my balance and enjoy work again. Lesson learned: on my second vision quest I scheduled a week of vacation AFTER my time on the mountain.
I loved the Bear Tribe and kept in close contact with them until Sun Bear died in 1992 from cancer of the esophagus. He was only 63. The tribe sold Vision Mountain and moved to Mountain View, Arkansas. Wabun Wind and then Wind Daughter carried on the Bear Tribe traditions and later changed the name to Panther Lodge Medicine Society.
Sun Bear was a controversial figure in the Native American world. Many traditional natives feel he sold out to the New Age movement and should not have been teaching non-Natives about ceremony and ritual. I honor Sun Bear for following his vision.
This was Sun Bear’s vision:
I saw a hilltop bare of trees and there was a soft breeze blowing. The prairie grass was moving gently. Then I saw a circle of rocks that came out like the spokes of a wheel. Inside was another circle of rocks, nearer to the center of the wheel. I knew that here was the sacred circle, the sacred hoop of my people. Inside of the center circle was the buffalo skull, and coming up through the ravines, from the four directions were what looked like animals. As they came closer, I saw that they were people wearing headdresses and animal costumes. They moved to the circle and each group entered it sunwise, making a complete circle before they settled at their places in the wheel.
First people came to the place of the North, to the winter, the time of resting ourselves and the Earth Mother, the place that represents the time when we have the white hairs of snow upon our heads, when we prepare to change both worlds and forms. Then there were those who ended up on the East, the place of awakening, of birth and of spring: the place representing mankind’s birth and beginning. Next came those that would represent the South, the time of summer, the years of fruitfulness and of rapid growth. Then there were people who came to the West: the time of fall, when we reap our harvest, when we have found the knowledge we need to center ourselves. The West is the home of the West Wind, Father of All the Winds.
Each person was singing the song of their season, of their minerals, of their plants, of their totem animals and they were singing songs for the healing of the Earth Mother. A leader among them was say, “Let the medicine of sacred circle prevail. Let many people across the land come to the circles and make prayers for the healing of the Earth Mother. Let the circles of the medicine wheel come back.”
In this vision were gathered people of all the clans, of all the directions, of all the totems, and in their hearts they carried peace. That was the vision I saw. ~ Sun Bear
Sun Bear was envisioning the prophecy of the RAINBOW WARRIORS which says:
There Will Come A Time When The Earth Grows Sick And When It Does A Tribe Will Gather From All The Cultures Of The World Who Believe In Deeds And Not Words. They Will Work To Heal Our Earth, They Will Be Known As The Warriors Of The Rainbow.
There are no rules or initiations to become a Rainbow Warrior. All it takes is an open heart. Rainbow Warriors feel a deep love, compassion and gratitude to our Earth for blessing us with her bounty, as well as to Great Creator for our spark of life. I am Proud to think of myself as a Rainbow Warrior! There is a NEW Hopi prophecy that says: We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For. We Are The Seventh Generation.
For the next fifteen years or so I walked my own path, studying with those I felt drawn to and doing what I could to bring Beauty, Peace, Harmony and Balance to where I stood. About ten years ago, unexpectedly, my current teacher came along.
At this time I was working as a bulk mail clerk for the post office. One of my duties was to read a piece of each third class (junk mail) mailing to make sure it did not qualify as first class mail. Many churches mailed their monthly newsletters through me and when I saw there was a weekend workshop on the Medicine Wheel I made sure to be there. Roy Wilson was the speaker and I waited in line to talk to him because I wanted to ask him if there was a local area to Vision Quest. When I got up to him a look of surprise lit up his face and this huge bear of a man enveloped me in a classic “bear hug.” He said, “Oh my Gosh! WHERE have you been? I haven’t seen you in years.” I was unprepared for this greeting and all I could say was, “I don’t know you. I’ve never met you before.” I have to laugh remembering the stunned look on his face—he found it hard to believe that this was our first meeting. I later found out that we’ve had many lives together so that instinctual “remembering” really isn’t that odd. Grandfather (Roy Wilson’s honorary title) is a retired United Methodist minister. He is also the Spiritual leader of the Cowlitz Indian tribe and very active in tribal affairs on a local, state and national level. He was raised with a foot in both worlds and, like Sun Bear, has the vision of the Rainbow Tribe. Grandfather teaches his version of the Medicine Wheel which he received on one of his eight vision quests. It is very similar to Sun Bear’s medicine wheel and is called The Rainbow Tribe Sundance Medicine Wheel.
I started attending a local medicine wheel study group meeting once a week at the Kent Unity Church. Grandfather focuses on similarities rather than differences. For every native teaching he can show a parallel teaching in Christianity. It is a very gentle way of introducing the normal “white” person to a broader way regarding the Earth and all upon it. The funny thing is science is now realizing the “primitive” people had a better understanding of the interrelatedness of all that is than the “educated and civilized” European culture. The Rainbow Tribe Sundance Medicine Wheel kept expanding and after awhile Grandfather couldn’t teach all the groups so he turned over leadership to people he felt capable of teaching and leading a group. Individual groups became clans and we became the Wolf Clan.
Eventually, I became Tyee (Chinook word for leader) of Wolf Clan and Tyee over all the Central Clans. I also teach Chinook Jargon in Tacoma, WA at Native Quest, which is a community and cultural center for the urban Native. I always wanted to learn a foreign language but I always thought it would be something ordinary like Spanish, Arabic (I have been involved in Middle Eastern dance and culture for about 30 years) or Lakota. Chinook Jargon is the intertribal trade language of the Northwest coastal peoples. Between southern Oregon and lower Alaska there were about 300 languages and sub-dialectics. One tribe five miles from another might not understand each other—and then the European trappers and traders moved in and they brought new things the Native people had no words for. When white people built mills, canneries and hop farms they hired people of many tribes and they needed a language they all understood. So jargon is an agreed upon mish-mash of words from many tribes, English, French and a very few Spanish words. It is actually FUN to learn because it is so simple. There are only about 800 words in the language and no past, present or future tenses. To speak jargon you have to “Think like Tonto.” For example: He Big Man. That my canoe. Grandfather will be 85 years young this July and he remembered hearing the tribal councils conducted in jargon as a child. (The upper and lower Cowlitz spoke different languages) Grandfather did not want to see Chinook Jargon die out so he compiled 23 different dictionaries into one book and three years ago began teaching it. I came to his first class and then brought the lesson I learned back to Wolf Clan and taught it to anyone interested in learning it. A few months ago I was blessed to meet a fluent Chinook Jargon speaker named Duane Pasco. He is now co-teaching with Grandfather and me and straightening us out on things like correct pronunciation and meanings.
In the true spirit of the Rainbow Warrior I would like to end this question with a thought from Buddha and Wayne Dyer:
He who experiences the unity of life sees his own
image in all beings, and all beings in his own self, and
looks at everything with an impartial eye. ~ Buddha
When you live on a round planet there’s no
choosing sides. ~ Wayne Dyer