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Oral Tradition and Respect


Oral tradition is as important to most Native Americans as the food, water and air are to you. Just imagine how you would react and even possibly change(physically, mentally and/or spiritually) if the make up of your air or water supply was tampered with in other than a good way. The smallest changes have their own consequences.

You may liken the ways of oral tradition to that of your grandmothers blue ribbon receipe handed down from mother to daughter to daughter to daughter and so on. The receipe(oral tradition) has:
*ingredients
*how to prepare
*how to bake
*how to serve

For oral tradition ingredients you might need to gather specific items: herbs, food, gifts, people, animals, wood, stones - whatever is necessary at that time.

The oral tradition preparation could consist of fasting, abstinance, teachings by the elders, cleansing, prayers, songs, lore, etc. - a multitude of things are possible. Quite a few of the elders that I have had the priviledge of being with, have used parables as their method of finding out if you are in the frame of mind necessary to learn and if so - how much can be taught at that time. There may be pre-requisites - in the receipe you may have to combine some ingredients then let them sit or soak for a certain period of time, or you may have to pre-cook some items. So is it with oral tradition - there are certain specific ways to prepare for each thing that you do in life. These ways are not to be changed or altered.

For oral tradition, the 'How to Bake' portion may consist of certain times of the day, month or year. Night or day. Stormy weather or clear. There can be countless ways of 'how to's' and special needs such as sweatlodges, sundances, visionquests to just name a few.

For oral tradition, the serve part may require other ingredients such as: moon, sun, spirits, creatures, offerings, prayer ties, ceremonies - as you can see the list can go on.

As in your grandmothers blue ribbon receipe, if you change anything at all; the ingredients, ways of preparation, cooking or serving, it will not turn out the same way. The same is with oral tradition - you learn it in a specific(and special) way. Certain steps follow one another, in their own place and time. They can not be changed or altered. Oral tradition is respected, as are the teachers of this tradition and how they impart their wisdom. Being humble and having patience is continually needed, for with every moment or every day in your life, you are either teaching or learning!


Respect-

All things are to be respected, for we are all related. No exceptions!!

In your world, if you want information, be it from a counselor, lawyer, mechanic, engineer, doctor, computer wizz, golf pro - no matter who - you approach them with respect and offer them some token to outwardly show this respect, usually in the form of a fee payment or gratuity. We show our elders the same respect. When we want to learn about something special or ask them for help, we present them with a gift - prior to asking - in acknowledgement of who and what they are. Depending upon the request and the impact it has on or in our lives, we may present them with another gift before we part. If this is not possible due to unforeseen circumstances - we would see that the elder would receive a suitable gift as soon as possible, after the request has been granted. This is the way...the good way.

bearbull medicine man of the Blackfeet Nation - The top knot he is bearing contains his powers of medicine