The story of the arrival of a Sacred Pipe,
blessed by many American Indian elders and ceremonies,
to the Five Tribes of Connecticut (short version).
Notes (Correction): It has been pointed out that it was most likely early 1983 when the sacred pipe was finally left with the family who carried it for the Five Tribes, and 1982 when I had my first meeting with Chief Pipe, Big Eagle. 1981 was when the request went out and I was contacted and set about on the ceremonies described here.
Sacred Pipe is an opportunity, a path, a point of focus, for all those ideas that give life a sacred power, a sacred opportunity...but only those who are there at that time can choose to go that way, to see that moment for what it is.
Everyone is familiar with moments of bad news, no news, profit or disaster. Very few of the people who were there at that time were prepared for a sacred opportunity, for really good news. It was a surprise to most. Several, who were prepared, and who knew it was coming, were Big Eagle (Chief Piper), Slow Turtle, Mikki Aganstata and Sherman. That sacred pipe arrived like a feather carried by the wind, being held out by what seemed, to some, as a stranger.
In ancient times, the sacred was brought to the people by magical beings, like SKy Woman, Yanaboozhoo, or White Buffalo Calf Woman. However, after these magical and mysterious events, it was and is left to the people who were there at that time to understand how to move forward.
In Connecticut, I was the messenger. Elders (Big Eagle, Chief Piper) of the Five Tribes had sent out a call to other tribal leaders for a correct and sacred pipe to come to the people of the Five Tribes. I was the person who agreed to come on their behalf. Bringing sacred pipe to the Five Tribes was not my idea, yet is was a great honor and something, looking back after many years, I was very honored to have participated in.
As the Five Tribes community members who were discussing these issues went forward, there was some awareness on behalf of several contingents of the general Connecticut population. These included the governor and state attorney general at that time, numerous private lawyers, and an odd assortment of private Connecticut citizens.
I have no permission to name names, and prefer to respect the privacy of everyone involved. The people who were there at that time know who they are, those who are still alive. I have some privilege and permission to speak for Big Eagle and Slow Turtle. These men were tribal elders and they were the ones who asked that this sacred bundle could come to the people of the Five Tribes. We had together many conversations. They did not want sacred pipe for themselves. It was clear, at the beginning that Chief Piper wanted a sacred pipe for all his relations in all the Five Tribes.
There are only a very small number of sacred pipes that come into life from the collected efforts of a large group of tribal elders and spiritual leaders. It is a very rare event. Most ceremonial pipes come from inside a small circle of friends and family and are passed along to other small circles of friends and family.
The Long River Sacred Pipe was created by a Lakota family, a multi-generational family of pipe makers. It was blessed by tribal councils of many tribes of American Indians. It was formally blessed and recognized as a gift for the Five Tribes. It went in a circle around Turtle Island being blessed and cleansed by a large circle of tribal elders from many tribes. It was carried around this circle by an Ojibwe man who at that time was an artist, a keeper of ceremonies, a maker of ceremonial objects. It was and is very rare for so many ceremonial people to share in the creation and hope for one ceremonial pipe, one sacred tribal object.
The original sacred pipe itself was the gift of a rich white man from West Redding Connecticut. He paid for this ceremonial pipe, paid for my visit to its maker and many of the expenses related to being sure it got to where it needed to go for the many blessing ceremonies it received. He was very generous. He really believed in the project and really wanted to help the Five Tribes. His name is not at all important. No American Indian tribe surviving today could have survived, in fact, were it not for the caring, the respect and the hopes of private US citizens who were willing to do their part to support American Indians. No American Indian would be alive today if it were not for the nameless and generous outsiders who paid, prayed fought for and supported our survival.
These are some of the important ceremonies made in 1981 to bring sacred pipe to the Five Tribes:
The Great Name Ceremony In the Rain
The Ground Blessing Dance
The Tobacco Fire
The Reburial Ceremony of the Tunxis Ancestors
The Prison Project
These are some of the more important ceremonies that happened as part of the arrival of the Long River Sacred Pipe. In the future, this project may make more details of this story and these ceremonies available. This is a short version of a much longer story.
Bringing that sacred pipe around to old Big Eagle was a great honor. It was also educational at a quantum level. I viewed myself then, as now, a student of the sacred of the American Indian Mystery Life.
From the moment I was first asked to make a pipe ceremony, around 1972, I was interested and driven to study and learn all that I could about the history, teachings, people and ceremonies of the sacred of the American Indian. There is very little reliable information on these subjects in print anywhere in the world. Most of the important American Indian ceremonies are still secret, still held close and protected, by invitation only, by oral tradition only. They all started behaving this way, in part, because the dominating Federal Government viewed all such information and all American Indian ceremonies with contempt and suspicion. Until modern times, American Indians were not officially recognized as even having a religion or spiritual heritage. At all.
The only way I could learn was to travel all over the United States and visit with other of the old Indians I could find. I did not find them everywhere I looked, but I found and was found by a great circle of teachers and friends whose guidance put me the position, in 1981. to carry a sacred pipe over to old Big Eagle of the Long River nations. Chief Piper had been in touch with some of the old Indians I know and who know me. He was well known in those days for getting American Indians from all over the Americas to come by and visit his little reservation near Trumbull, CT. He had been in touch with a tribal Elder that I know very well. This man, knowing my habits and experiences, and knowing in fact that at the time ,I was living in North Carolina but dating a woman living in Connecticut.
This elder and other people talked this request from Big Eagle over for some time, over a period of about one year. The final result was that I went to New London CT and opened a little office right in the center of town. I did this so I would have some place to sleep, eat and a house to protect in privacy the sacred I was carrying at that time. The tribal elders at that time were interested in the “eastern gate” status of the Five Tribes. That the Five Tribes are presently the eastern-most located of the American Indians in the USA. This was very interesting to them, and together we called the Long River Sacred Pipe, the Sacred Pipe of the Eastern Gate, as well. So it was asked of me to make this work, and I agreed without hesitation.
Who am I? I am a student of the mystery life. My name is not so important, but easy to find if you look around. In those days I was called “Winterstone”, but my name has changed since those days. In 1981 I was a messenger, sent to bring sacred pipe to the Five Tribes…not to one person or one tribe, but a single sacred pipe for the Five Tribes of Connecticut.
I have believed to my roots what the old Indians have said to me all of my life. One thing they said to me was to keep going. Keep carrying those sacred bundles around on the mother earth and help everyone you can. Carrying sacred pipe over to Big Eagle was the fifth “mission” I had assumed from what those elders asked of me. The earlier efforts are another story. One of them involved bringing a sacred pipe bundle carrying many sacred things, things they had placed in that bundle themselves, to over 38 tribal elders of many tribal nations (each contributed something). The sacred pipe destined for the Long River nations was gifted to and contained in that bundle. I have always been in motion with this great bundle, which still contains many gifts from tribal elders. I still travel the world with this sacred bundle.
The bundle also contains contributions made in a sacred and formal way by teachers of other cultures, in addition to American Indians; from Buddhist, Christians, Jewish, Arabic, Chinese and tribal cultures from different continents. One of those from outside who contributed to the cause of this great bundle was His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet. All of these sacred ceremonial objects are from around the mother earth, some created in modern history, while some of the bundle contents are quite ancient. The oldest object dating to about 5,000 BC.
Because it is this way, we have always called this “bundle” the four directions unity bundle…..
New London was an interesting place. From my window I could see the building of a gigantic submarine, as this place is, or was, a place for building US Military atomic submarines.
After some time I had a meeting with Big Eagle at his home in Trumbull. He did not know me, but he knew who I was, he was expecting me. He was a very brave and up front kind of man. He was easy to talk directly to. We became friends on the spot. I have always held a big affection for him. From the beginning, he never reached out to claim the sacred pipe, or to claim credit for that sacred pipe. There were a number of meetings with several dozen of the men and women, prominent at that time in their communities….There were others around, given to resistance and opposition, but they never directly accepted any invitations to attend any of the talks about this sacred pipe.
Big Eagle and Slow Turtle never said to me, “well you should give the sacred pipe to this person, or give it to that person over there”. At the time I did not question this. It seemed natural to go with the flow and let events unfold, hoping the great mystery life would guide the sacred pipe to the proper person. It was not easy. It might have been easier if Big Eagle had just said,”I will take that sacred pipe”….but he never did that. All of the several tribal Elders present during these days, including Sachem Slow Turtle of the Massachusetts Wampanoag, left the decision of where and to whom sacred pipe would go to the unfolding of events. Looking back, it made my job harder, but was also a very courageous thing to do. It would have been easy enough for Big Eagle to “claim power”, but I never saw him ever do that…It was not his way.
It took many months of listening to people, observing people. We also worked hard to create a number of very strong and important ceremonies. The very first ceremony included a ground blessing dance, a gigantic tobacco offering, three sacred fires for three days, several sweat lodge ceremonies, a powerful naming ceremony for about eight or so people….24 hours of continuous water drum sings, and a passage and smoking of that sacred pipe with about twenty people inside a ceremonial tipi constructed for this purpose. It was one the most beautiful and powerful ceremonies I have ever participated in. This was the welcoming ceremony for that Long River Sacred Pipe…..it was a big open ceremony and people came from all around, and from all five tribal communities.
It was not until some months later that I placed the sacred long river pipe in the hands of Mikki Aganstata and Sherman Maliseet as the holders, keepers, and protectors of that sacred bundle. They had no idea I was going to do this at the time. There was no one else present, if I remember correctly, when I gave them this precious bundle. I then left the state for a new work in New York City, a few hours away.
Sherman had a quiet power, and understanding, of the art of silence, of listening, of feeling, and with gentleness and respect. He seemed at that moment just the right man. His partner Mikki has always seemed a shining light to me. When she is present I always feel I need to do my best, and to learn how to justify the faith of those old Indians. She and Sherman are humble persons of silence, reflection, patience and feeing: and keepers of truth, reaching across all cultures. And so I was satisfied that I had left the gift of the old sacred ceremonies in the safest and clearest place to move itself forward. It took a long time to understand that this was the family where this sacred power should reside. I looked and looked for the persons who could hold such a precious and sacred bundle, in the end it was Sherman and Mikki, the two people I had first met when I arrived in the state...think about that! It was so powerful and sweet that moment. Sherman did not blink, or complain, he did not stick out his chest for being an important man. He was humble, he was quiet, he understood that this was the moment, that I had to go away, that it was him. He accepted that bundle as a responsibility, not as pride. That moment alone with Mikki and Sherman is one of the sweetest and kindest, most awesome moments of my long life.
Since those days I have had little contact with any of those people. My life has kept me moving all these years. I was not sure of how that sacred pipe was doing. Many years later I read in an internet news article about the passing away of the Big Eagle. This lead me to being in touch once again with a few old friends. I noticed that the very same sacred pipe left with Sherman was used in that ceremony to say goodbye to that brave and interesting old Indian…to sing that old Big Eagle to the other side. It was a great moment in my own spirit to see in an instant that the old sacred pipe was still going, as well as a revelation to know that Big Eagle had lived so long and that at the end his tribal relations behaved in a sacred manner at his passing. It was quite emotional for me. And it made me think there needed to some sort of history available to the people for that scared object.
During the time I made this work, bringing that sacred pipe, there were people against it. Some were opposed to me, a so-called “stranger” showing up holding and talking about a sacred pipe. Some of these people never recognized me or ever agreed to meet with me. However, multiple generations of representatives of the Five Tribes, from Elders to babies, did attend a powerful 3 day ceremony, and other ceremonies, where this Sacred Pipe was shown to the people present, moved around in a sacred manner inside a tipi at those sacred ceremonies. The Five Tribes shared in the smoke and prayers of that sacred pipe. These were powerful and beautiful ceremonies; legal, correct, authentic and historic in nature.
I was a young man in those days, just 32 years old. What brought me there is simple. I believe in everything the old Indians, the ceremonial elders, said to me or asked of me. I have listened to teachers of every culture, religion, science and art. Those old Indians, my Elders, spoke to me in a way that I believed them. They saved my life with their clarity when I came back from being a soldier in Vietnam. They stuffed my spirit fully inside my body. I listened to them and I believed what they told me. I could see, with my own senses, that these old Indians lived great lives and possessed clear and honest spirits. I have always trusted them. It was they, and not I, who asked that a really fine, blessed, traveled, made sacred pipe be brought to the Five Tribes of the United States in Connecticut. They did this because Grandfather Big Eagle made prayers and spoke clearly to them, not I. And so they said take this sacred pipe, make it Holy and bring it over there to those people. I believed them, so I did that, exactly that.
The bowl and wooden stem of this pipe was made by a man whose family has been making ceremonial pipes for over 600 years. The money for the journey, travel expenses, food, a donation for the man who made this sacred pipe and so forth, as I said, was a private Connecticut citizen. His grandfather was one of the most important inventors and operators of advanced machinery for war production in US History. This means that money that came from the money of the military-industrial complex paid for the travel and food to go and see this maker of American Indian sacred pipes and put that sacred object into the Four Directions Unity Bundle. The maker lived near the historic Pipestone National Monument. He passed that pipe over to us on the great plains, beneath the great sky, with the unique and strong winds, and thunder, of the plains all around us. It even rained a little. It rained an amazing amount during the ceremony at Trumbull Connecticut. Yet when the people needed to be in a circle around the fire, the rain always stopped. That is the connection I see in my mind when I think of this man, and the moment he passed that pipe over to me. The rain waiting for the sacred.
Over the next months the sacred pipe was taken to tribal elders of the Hopi, Zuni, Taos, Navajo, Salish, Cherokee, Comanche, Santa Clara, Holliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Catabwa, Ojibway and Lakota. In each case a blessing was made, some short, some long, and agreement that they all agreed that with hope this sacred pipe would go in a sacred manner to help the Five Tribes of the Eastern Gate. And after all that it came to New London, Connecticut, where I took a small apartment.
It seems important to me, at this moment, that what I know of the history of that sacred object should be preserved as a document and made available to those citizens, present and future, as to the history and stories of that historic and important circumstance. Knowing our history, and in particular, our ceremonial history is very important, in my view. I offer this brief history for the respect and knowledge of the citizens of the Five Tribes of Connecticut.
I have not contacted any of the other people who were involved and or witnessed these events, so I do not feel I have the right to use their names…and prefer to preserve their privacy. However, in making this history an internet project, I hope other persons who know another part of this history will participate. Anyone from the Five Tribes can send comments and statements that will be considered for publication in this history project. In other words, I invite others, those who were there at that time, or from where they are now, to contribute text, photo, video to the project if they so desire.
Just email the project at this web site.
Sandy Hook is in Connecticut. The killing of those children and those teachers with an automatic assault rifle really broke my heart, broke the heart of a nation. It is partly responsible for putting this history on the internet. It is important to remember that the Creation has given us something we can use. That sacred pipe of the Five Tribes can help the whole world, can help every person who is near it or shares in its ceremonies. This tragedy took place while I was writing this history, so I have included it. My original vision of sacred pipe in the Five Tribes included involving the sacred pipe with all the citizens and events of Connecticut...not just keeping its precious sacred power with the tribes, but embracing the government, and all the people of Connecticut. That is still my hope.
So many good, good American Indian tribal spiritual elders prayed, singed, danced and dreamed their blessings and hopes into that sacred object. The people of the Five Tribes are also members of Connecticut society, they are Americans, they are friends of Sandy Hook. If I had been there I would have carried sacred pipe to the families of Sandy Hook. Maybe some of you will consider doing that. It is never to late to reach for healing.
Since the first days of my experience in coming to Connecticut, I have had a deep and lasting affection for its lands, forests, water, eagles, indians, stones and sky. I love the land of Long River and I often think about the many beautiful and outstanding American Indian people I came to share this sacred experience with. This affection for your land will be with me to the end of my days.
When Sherman came to realize that he needed to move on, in his retirement, from the land of the Long River, he turned that sacred pipe bundle over to the state authority, to Mr. Sarabia. I understand, now, that the sacred pipe has been passed to a new keeper, a new generation, to continue its service as a sacred instrument, in a sacred office, on behalf of the Five Tribes. It is a historic moment, this passing over of the sacred. Just as it was a historic moment when the sacred was passed over to Sherman. This sacred pipe is one of the very few sacred pipes in American Indian history created, blessed and passed over to a circle of tribes, the Five Tribes. It is historic and sacred in ways that are yet to be discovered.
Much to my sorrow, the sorrow of his family and friends, Sherman passed away shortly after doing this. I had the honor of being in touch with him in an informal way at that ponsibility now, Sherman. I hope those Long River American Indians who visit this web project will share some of their stories as well. I was only the messenger, and this is my story about your sacred pipe.
Respectfully, with love and hope, for the Seven Generations,
Update : Autumn 2014
It seems sad that there is no responsible adults willing to stand up from the Five Tribes area. Those of us viewing this situation from outside, wait for the news to change.
Fail. In the long period between posting this report, or story, the 5 tribes have had no success in finding a new Keeper of the sacred pipe that belongs to all of them. The bundle containing the pipe sat for a long time in a cabinet somewhere. It was briefly given to a young tribal man from South America for him to consider being the keeper. It became evident at that time that the woman who was incorrectly given the care taking responsibility for this sacred pipe has no idea what she is doing. She is listening to no one, though she has solicited advice, she never takes it. Soon enough the young man, correctly, declined the offer that me be made Keeper of this pipe and it came back to the woman who now holds it. Listening to no one she is making her own rules and behavior and seems to have become fatally attached to the perceived privelage of having posession of this sacred object. None of the older people involved in establishing this precious resource have shown much interest in helping it secure a future, so as of this writing, it is floundering in a meaningless location, held against its will by an unqualified and uninformed female member of one of the five tribes. No names are offered, since the bundle presently is being held by ghosts.
Hymhenteqhous Nagamowin Gashk'ewizi
Wabeeno Ahnishinabeg Aneeg
Keeper of the Four Directions Unity Bundle
Keeper of the Sacred Pipes of the Eastern Gate
(Yes. I am also a keeper of that sacred pipe of the Five Tribes
No sacred object of this dignity and history exists alone, the
Property of any “single” person.)
Pantelleria Island, Italy
Spring Equinox Twenty Thirteen
Many tribal leaders oppose any documentation, shared with the outside world, on the subject of sacred issues.
I respect these sensitivities. I believe that history needs to be recorded. There are many people who could benefit from knowing this story.
This story is not about the messnger or those who may be named in it. It is about the ancient future, the seven generations and the ongoing history of a still living culture.