Bringing Gifts from the Mountain
By Munro Suckafoose
In October of 2008, two men from the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne in upstate New York came to a Rites of Passage Men’s Quest led by Mike Bodkin and me. Their names are Vince and Kevin. They are leaders in their community, part of a council of uncles who are tasked with teaching the young men. They were beginning to put their young men back ‘up on the hill’, and they felt they could not ask them to do what they themselves had not done.
It was a huge leap of faith for Kevin and Vince – and for the Mohawk community – to travel across the country to a dry and unknown land to fast with men with no First Nations lineage. This ceremony of the vision quest that we love was coming back full circle to some of the relatives we learned so much about it from. Mike and the ROP community raised the money for their airfare and they were given full scholarships. It was an amazing and humbling experience for Mike and me. For me it was especially poignant, having spent so many years on the Red Road. It was an honor to return some the gifts I have been given.
Now, a year and half later, Mike and I have been asked to travel to New York and hold a training for some of the aunts and uncles. Much of their language, beautiful ceremonies and ancient traditions are still alive, but they are deeply impacted by their intersection with the modern world. They do not speak to things like gangs, drugs, racism and anger that their young people are dealing with. Vince and Kevin felt that some of the ways in which we used the Four Shields, council and mirroring could provide the tools to bridge the two worlds. We will be bringing what we know of the Four Shields, council, and the art of mirroring, and other gifts from the mountainalong including our work with men and Mike’s work with young people.
This knowledge that passed from Estcheemah to Hyemeyohsts Storm to our teachers Stephen Foster and Meredith Little; to us and many, many others; this knowledge that was shaped by them, and by their teachers and our teachers past and present; this knowledge that has been refined by the experience of all those who sit in council, in basecamps, and who solo on the mountain; this rich synthesis that we have been gifted with and that we have held and nurtured… this knowledge is being carried back. It will be passed on with all the integrity and humility we have.
We must tell you that we are quaking in our boots. We are humble carriers of something larger and more precious than words can tell. We do not know why we are the ones that Spirit has chosen to do this. We know that there many layers of complex issues of culture and power and race and appropriation. It will take every bit of our sensitivity and skill. No doubt we will stumble and make mistakes, but we too will learn and we will carry that learning back with us to share with you. The word that is being used is reciprocity.
We leave April 14 and return on the 22nd. This journey is a giveaway. Rites of Passage will initially cover our travel, lodging and other expenses, but we are asking for donations to help cover those costs so that this giveaway is one that comes from our entire community. We need to raise roughly $1500 for that. Prayers are good too.