from a collection entitled Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

I grew up “playing Cowboys and Indians."

I was always switching sides it seems.

My heart saw the good in both

and made me want to be on both teams.

There I'd be in my concho’d chaps and boots,

six-shooters in a holster that nearly touched the ground.

Up-top I donned an "Apache" vest

and a beaded "war bonnet" for my crown.

Decades later I entered the ‘Arbor of the Sun’ —

a gauntlet for body and mind to pass through.

Two distinct childhood parts of me merged.

In the end, they became fused.


In 1991, I participated in an ancient ceremony among a certain group of indigenous people of the Northern Plains. At the time, I was one of a few non-Native people who was welcomed into that particular ceremony under the direction of a traditional medicine person, who served a role of intercessor for the ceremony. I went through the grueling, multi-day ceremony, during which time I was shown that my path was to be a different one.

Within a few years after I departed my time on the Northern Plains, however, a variety of instances developed, both in the U.S. and in Europe, where highly questionable individuals (sometimes non-Native, sometimes off-reservation Native individuals) who had not been granted permission to run ceremonies were (as audacious as it sounds) charging large sums of money to non-Natives to participate in flimsy, inauthentic, unsanctioned versions of the traditional rites. After just a couple of years of this, it was determined by the ceremonial keepers of the traditional ceremonies that non-Natives were no longer allowed to participate. From that point forward, the ceremonial lifeways of these First Nations people turned inward. In effect, the ceremonies became private and insular so as to protect and preserve the traditions from cultural misappropriation.

Though I will forever be grateful for the people who graciously wove me into the particular ceremonial cycle in the early years, I also wholeheartedly understand and support the decision rendered by the elders on this matter.

(c) 2019 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

sound: West Kiva: Sacrifice Prayer and Visions / KIVA / Michael Stearns, Ron Sunsinger & Steve Roach

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