Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Right of Passage Resurrected

In many tribal groups around the world it is customary for young men and women to take part in sacred ceremonies to mark their crossing of the threshold of youth into adulthood. The ceremonies brought the community together in support of the young man or young woman. Long ago, families looked forward to and prepared for these sacred ceremonies. These ceremonies with the support and prayers of friends and family instilled a sense of pride and strength in the life of the individual. Unfortunately, in the modern day, these sacred ceremonies have been absent from the landscape of many of the native tribes, mine included. Our traditional ways of life are eroding rapidly and the trend seems to suggest that our cultural ways will die out with the last of our current elders. A bleak picture indeed, but there is always hope...hope that the up and coming generations will seek the beauty and strength they can possess with the knowledge and commitment to keep our traditions alive and active.

On Saturday October 8th, the morning began with the sound of the alarm clock at 3:00 am. Anticipation prompted me along as I carried out my usual morning routine. Today would be a very special day, a historical day. We are headed to the Red Mountain of the Akimel O'odham (our sister tribe aka PIMAs). Today, 5 young men would be initiated into their manhood with a ceremony that is full of meaning and beauty. This same ceremony has not been seen for decades among our people, but that is about to change. It's a new day and we are priviledged to share in the celebration.

Gramma J and I arrived at the ceremonial grounds nestled between the steadfast stance of Red Mountain and the peaceful flow of the Salt River. In the early morning darkness, we made our way down a pathway cut into the dense woods near the river. In the distance I could hear the rhythmic sound of the gourd rattle and the earthen voices of the river people (akimel o'odham) as they sang their songs. We emerged from the wooded tunnel into a clearing lighted only by the flickering flames of the ceremonial fire. Many people were gathered around the circle. Sleeping children wrapped in blankets lay near the feet or in the arms of their parents. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I could make out the silouhettes of the young men who were taking part in the ceremony. They sat together on the ground, silently still. Soon, they were on their feet and began to dance, something they had been doing since midnight...a test of endurance. In the sparks and flames of the fire, I saw the awakening of a source of power for these young men. The power endowed to us all by our Creator...a power to overcome challenges, a power to choose wisdom, a power to be at one with our God. Hope for the future generations began to stir beneath the shadow of the mountain...I could hear whispered prayers rise into the morning air...prayers that our young men would once again take up the power of our ways and be the strong leaders in their homes, in their communities, in our world.

As the sun rose in the east, some of the elder men took them to the river to bless them and offer prayers and thanks to the Creator. In the meantime, the fellowship of Akimel O'odham, Tohono O'odham, Maricopa and Yoeme peoples came together to celebrate and we danced and sang and gave gifts and of course had a delicious feast. I took a few pics, not of the actual ceremony itself...because of it's sacredness, but I met some beautiful people and even had a brief stint as a bird dancer! That was very cool, but wouldn't you know it!...I have no pics of that either. LOL...however, I did take a pic of the ladies I was priviledged to dance with...aswell as some of the others I met on that day. I love sharing my culture, as well as experiencing the cultures of other peoples. I am glad the Creator put such beautiful variety in the world!

1 comment:

1000hats said...

This is so important for you and the world. I am deeply touched by your retelling of the evening. I wish for all of us that your history will live on through traditions passed down. I love all the beautiful faces I see in your photography, inspirational to say the least. Thank you for telling your story.