For the past 16 years, Gray Wolf has come to Sylvan Dale for a week each July. With a blend of Cheyenne, Micmac and Irish heritage, Gray Wolf has dedicated his life to learning and teaching Native American history and culture. Through his stories, Gray Wolf keeps alive the ancient lifeways of some of the earliest peoples to inhabit the land now known as North America. He loves sharing his knowledge with people of all ages through stories, activities and crafts.
This year, in addition to creating a life-changing week for Sylvan Dale’s dude ranching guests, Gray Wolf worked with the Heart-J Center to offer several programs open to the public.
Each gathering began with a lesson in tomahawk throwing, with Gray Wolf teaching each of us how to pace off the perfect distance, then pull the tomahawk straight back, take a step forward and release. More often than not, the first throws sailed over the stump targets into the long grass behind, as most of us first tried to throw the tomahawk like we would a baseball. Gray Wolf reminded us to keep our elbow close to our side, focus on the target and release and just the right time. The second throw would invariably hit the mark with a satisfying thunk.
When Gray Wolf welcomed us into his lodge, we stepped back in time. We took our seats on the buffalo robes and opened our ears to stories of life on the Plains. We learned of honoring the seasons, and following the buffalo on which life depended. We learned of changes made possible by the gift of the horse. We were inspired by the traditions of respect for nature and respect for elders. We heard tales of adventure, including details of Gray Wolf’s yearlong horse pack trip from Santa Fe to Canada.
We touched the handmade tools, weapons, toys and clothing that furnish the lodge, many of which are antiques passed down through generations of Gray Wolf’s family. We asked dozens of questions which Gray Wolf answered with patience, honesty, wisdom and humor.
After sharing dinner around the campfire, each person left with a heart-to-heart hug from Gray Wolf. We hiked back to our cars and drove back to the modern world, but each of us carried a strengthened connection to nature and history, with an important reminder that we can each do our part to make a better future by respecting lessons from the past.