by photojournalist Georgia Evans.
Guest post and photographs
by photojournalist Georgia Evans.
The smell of campfire smoke wafted up over the treetops as a tall, well made man with fringed buckskin shirt, painted leggings and moccasins stepped out of the door of his canvas tepee. He had three long white braids streaming down his back and a large smile for the people gathering around him. This is Gray Wolf and this lovely clearing, surrounded by trees beneath the red stone cliffs was set up for people to experience a bit of authentic Native American life. I approached with curiosity and then sat to listen as Gray Wolf of the Cheyenne nation began to share his mesmerizing stories.
This eloquent man spun tales of his Cheyenne and Micmac ancestors that many people outside the tribe would never hear. Tales of the importance of the buffalo and how his people used all the parts of the buffalo including hides, bone and meat to make their homes, utensils, weapons and food. He told of how the women made and owned the tepee homes and why their society was built around the matriarchs and the esteemed elders. His often humorous stories brought the Cheyenne people to life when he explained about a “begging stick” to obtain pot-luck meals for big meetings, told how a woman could divorce (rarely done) a man by simply throwing his moccasins out the tepee door, as well as the origins of many common “English” words such as “bootleg”. Gray Wolf’s unique stories explained why the people revered, of all things, vultures and skunks. The fun was in his details, for instance, learning why their buckskin clothes had fringe sewn on them. He told who the “dog soldiers” were and what “counting coup” means as well as what it means to go on a vision quest and become a warrior.
Later, Gray Wolf invited us into one of the tepees. We sat on robes where he went on to explain about colorful articles of clothing, painted blankets, water carriers made of buffalo intestines, beadwork, feathers, his spiritual altar, furs, beaded saddle blankets, weapons, painted shields and other authentic objects displayed and hanging within the canvas walls for his guests to see.
As the afternoon went on we met up in a large, grassy clearing in front of assorted targets to practice some skills such as shooting a bow and arrow or throwing a tomahawk under the expert tutelage of Gray Wolf. Unlike myself, most everyone was able to get their tomahawks into a target amid a lot of cheering and laughter. There was also a campfire ring and tent for cooking where everyone enjoyed a tasty traditional meal after the storytelling and skills were done.
This Native American man had a warm, enthusiastic welcome for the assorted people of all ages and abilities who joined us last Saturday. He truly made everyone feel at home. As Gray Wolf says, “I study Native American history and philosophy, and with great respect, try to keep alive the ancient lifeways of some of the earliest peoples who inhabit the land now known as North America." In my opinion, Gray Wolf is a treasure to and for his people and I enjoyed the afternoon immensely.
Note from the Heart J Center: Thanks to Georgia Evans for this wonderful description and photographs of our Day with Gray Wolf this July. Gray Wolf will be back in Summer 2017. Contact us for information about our day programs, or even better, discover an incredible family vacation by spending a week with Heart J Center and Sylvan Dale for Native American Week 2017. Email Laura for information: firstname.lastname@example.org.