I had the distinct honor of dancing on sacred ground last week. Our Pilot Rock Sun Dance ceremony was held in California on the land of the Konkow Maidu where the 2018 Camp Fire tore through the land and homestead of medicine man Michael Two Feathers and his wife Wohpe, destroying almost everything in its path. You may remember this as one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in the history of California. The Camp Fire sparked just down the road from their homestead just east of Paradise the morning of November 8, 2018. Twelve Sun Dance families from Paradise, California also lost their homes, but none lost their lives.
We danced and prayed where this picture was taken. Our smiling faces show our happiness in overcoming trauma. You can perhaps see burned char of trees standing like tombstones in the background, perhaps a testament to the people and their ability to rise above the ashes. Despite the trauma from the Camp Fire and the grief from such substantial loss, the resilience of these beautiful people and their land is strong as they continue to restore their lives and sacred landscapes.
Survival of Native American ceremonies was tested during three years of COVID restrictions because we could not safely gather to pray together. But these four-day ceremonies are coming back strong and positive. This week’s dance gave us the spiritual strength we are now using in our lives to serve our people and move forward with our visions and dreams. The picture includes Wohpe Two Feathers and three of this year’s sun dancers, Helen, Susie, and myself.
Some have told us during Elderberry Wisdom Farm’s infancy these past four years that our plans were too large and that we could not succeed. We didn’t argue with them, but we have quietly persevered and overcome multiple issues as we continue moving forward with gifted new staff, amazing interns, and fortified by additional partners and consultants. In this our fourth year, we are excited to gift a higher level of support to promising younger relatives of color who are committed to working with us as we restore our lands and traditional First Foods, our cultural traditions, and our rich subsistence way of life.