Atheist Prayers for The People

Posted on January 15, 2021


for West Wind Wolf

and for Ann

My Eddy ancestor came to MI from Wales and married a Potawatomi woman. This was news to me in the early 80s, when my grandmother’s long lost sister came to her funeral and shared the genealogy research she’d done as part of her adopted, Mormon faith.

A nature lover who spent every possible moment outdoors, I had always been interested in Indigenous peoples as a child. Learning that I had Indigenous ancestors fueled my desire to learn more. I had read all the (mostly wildly inaccurate) books I could find in the public and school libraries in Grass Lake, and I took the one Native American history courses in high school.

Years later, at EMU, I studied Indigenous literature and art, and followed the NA student group. I started going to Powwows, supporting Indigenous causes, and meeting teachers and mentors. I celebrated the “EMU Eagle” mascot decision with the Huron people and the People of many Indigenous Nations at the powwow on campus.

I didn’t get to know my Potawatomi ancestors or their culture first hand, but I wanted to learn to live to honor them anyway, especially since racism robbed me of even knowing the truth about my own family. It’s the least I can do to honor my Potawatomi foremother, whose people were almost destroyed by my forefathers’ people’s attempted total genocide.

When I arrived in Adrian to teach high school English, I was tapped to lead the student Multicultural Club, and Irene Solis, Board of Education member, suggested I take club members to a traditional Sweat Lodge ceremony (Inipi) hosted by Richard Sies from Siena Heights University.

I took seven students to Hillsdale for our inaugural Inipi, and our lives and psyches were permanently transformed. I continued to go to the monthly ceremonies for ten years, until my spine could no longer endure the rigors of the drive and ceremony. Over the years, I attended a lot of Powwows, worked on the local, LenNahWeh Powwow committee, and went to some retreats w/ traditional elders.

Performing my research-based piece,”Seeing White @ School” 2019

Being part of the EMU, Lodge, and Adrian Indigenous communities brought me into contact with many Indigenous elders and teachers, whose influence nourishes and enriches my life profoundly, every day, all day long, and for whom I feel utmost gratitude. Words fail.

Simply put: I am who I am, I live how I live, I was the teacher I was–because of what I learned about being fully human, a natural being, alive on the planet upon which we depend, in community with all living beings–from these Medicine Elders.

The symbolism of the Inipi (Lakota) ceremony is that we enter Earth Mother’s womb, where, through ritual, we bring forth a new/reborn self, always with the intention to benefit The People. One phrase we often repeat is, “I am sending my voice because I want The People to live.” Another refrain is, “Mitakuye Oyasin” (all my relations), constantly reminding us that “The People” are all living beings on Mother Earth.

The Medicine Elders also teach us that the knowledge, skills, and wisdom we carry are meant to benefit the community and must be shared with The People. My uni education calls it “a sense of social responsibility.” It is with these teachings, both sacred and profane, in mind that I enter the sacred space here, as a writer. With every keystroke, “I am sending my voice because I want The People to live.”

My hope is that, for you, my dear reader, my words will be Good Medicine.

Thanks for reading. Be well. #MakeGoodTrouble

Climate Strike Fridays 2019

lisa eddy is a writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy
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