to right) Franky Brown, Nick Chamas, Jacob Dowdy,
and Ryan Abrams with the Hoop at the Faithkeepers
School. A word in the Seneca language on the Wellbriety
2003 Tee shirts means "contented" or having a Good
Mind. The tree is the Tree of Peace
About one-hundred people gathered at the Faithkeepers
School, waiting patiently for the arrival of the Sacred Hoop.
We were welcomed to the Allegany Indian Community of the Seneca
Nation in western New York state with warm smiles. How surprised
we were to see both children and adults dressed in Wellbriety
2003 Tee shirts!!! Community member Clayton Logan gave an
opening prayer and smudged the Hoop Carriers as we came in.
It was the beginning of a wonderful day!
Other children carried a community banner on
the walk to the Community Building. Many community members
also walked with the Sacred Hoop and the Children. All who
held out their hands indicating their desire to be smudged
or blessed with the cleansing smoke of the Medicine were taken
care of by Clayton Logan in a good way. There was no mistaking
the community spirit for this morning's walk to the Seneca
Allegany Community Building over two miles away. There were
police escorts, an ambulance with flashing lights, and an
officer utilizing a 4-Wheeler to ensure the safety of the
children who were there to provide a traditional opening and
blessing for the Sacred Hoop and the Wellbriety Movement.
Those who didn't walk drove the two miles to the building.
But many stopped along the roadside to take pictures, capturing
the sight on film and in the memory of their hearts.
Sacred Hoop is carried from the Faithkeepers School
to the Seneca Allegany Community Building.
Singers voices and the beat of the hand drums
were crisp and clear, like the morning air. The
sound echoed across the valley and around the
bends in the road. You could "hear" them coming
from a distance. And you could "feel" them coming
even when you couldn't see them.
At the Community Center they were waiting, watching,
listening for the drum beat. As the Walkers made their way
around the last curve and came into sight, the people began
clapping, trilling, just beaming with pride. The doors to
the large auditorium were held open as the Walkers filed past,
carrying the Sacred Hoop thru the waiting crowd and placing
it on it's stand in the center of today's Gathering. By the
time the Walkers arrived at the Community Building with the
Sacred Hoop there were another 50--75 people waiting for them.
All told there were about 175 people at this Wellbriety Gathering.
Arriving inside, we were greeted by a table
full of purple WELLBRIETY 2003 Tee shirts, printed and given
away by Human Services. The shirts were stacked up by sizes
at the reception tables and were offered to everyone who walked
and attended. VERY NICE, and thank you to Human Services:
Karen Isaman, Karla Button, Kathleen
Kennedy, Barb Erick, Wenona Scott, Sue Wisniewski, Chuck Struble,
and Emile Wilkinson.
Redeye picks up her Wellbriety 2003 Tee Shirt
during the Health Services Give-Away!
Richard F. Kettle, and Adrian Stevens, SNI Health
Director, welcomed everyone to the community. Following the
Welcoming, Don Coyhis gave a presentation on the Story of
the Sacred Hoop and the Four Journeys that have taken place
since the Wellbriety Movement began in 1999. This was followed
by a showing of the video of Hoop Journey III. Then there
was a potluck lunch served by the Cold Spring Longhouse. It
was delicious and the fellowship was remarkable.
Honoring Handsome Lake
Our visit to the Seneca Allegany community today had a special
purpose. White Bison's new Wellbriety book
The Red Road to WellbrietyIn the Native American Way
is dedicated to Handsome Lake, a Seneca who lived right in
this community about the year 1800. Even in those days Handsome
Lake struggled with alcohol. But through a great spiritual
blessing he overcame it. The Red Road
to Wellbriety book is dedicated to Handsome Lakeand
what better place to dedicate the book than in his home country
and close to the Cold Spring Longhouse, the spiritual center
of Handsome Lake's people.
Don Coyhis began the honoring talks about Handsome
Lake with a few words about the book. "The
first 5,000 copies went in 120 days," he said. "We are honored
that everyone who will read this book will know where it started
and will know the one who originally started the Wellness
Movement. The one who originally created the resistance to
alcohol among our people was Handsome Lake, a Seneca man who
worked to abolish alcoholism and to save his people."
Don then introduced Ozzie Williamson of the
Blackfoot Nation of Montana. Ozzie traveled a great distance
from Billings, Montana to be at the dedication of the book
to Handsome Lake. We consider Ozzie a Wellbriety Elder because
he pointed the way to sobriety using AA and the 12 Steps,
just as contained in the book. We thank him for his great
inspiration and help in making the Red
Road to Wellbriety book a reality.
Williamson (with mic) talks about the dedication
of the Red Road to Wellbriety book to Handsome
Lake at the gathering in the Allegany Seneca Nation.
After Don and Ozzie completed the formal dedication
of the Book to Handsome Lake Clayton Logan was introduced
and he began to speak. As he began, the room became quiet.
He spoke slowly and deliberately about Handsome Lake.
Clayton Logan Honors
"I've been honored to share with
some of the words and teachings of Handsome Lake, that some
of us around here follow as a way of life," he said. "Handsome
Lake was involved with alcohol for a number of years and he
was bed-ridden," Clayton went on. "He
was unable to get about. Finally it came the day that he could
rise and walk about again. Again he turned to alcohol. A lot
of us don't learn. And it happened to him.
"Again he was bed
ridden. Each night as he would turn in he would give thanks
for the day and thru the smoke hole in his lodge he could
see the universethe movement and he thought, 'There has
to be someone greater and more powerful to be directing this
movement'. So he began to repent his wrong-doings and he continued
to follow this path day after day. And our Father, our Creator,
had been watching him. And Creator told his Messengers to
go down and see this individual that is repenting, this individual
that wants to make a change within himself."
Logan at the podium.
people listened intently as he shared about Handsome
Lake and the teachings he was given by the Messengers.
Clayton continued the story of how Handsome
Lake was visited by three Messengers, just as the Traditional
Handsome Lake Way of the Seneca country teaches. He told us
that the complete telling of this story takes four days in
the Longhouse. He told more of the Handsome Lake teachings.
Then he said, "I believe that this
is the first time I have heard that another area of our people
have acknowledged the teachings of Handsome Lake. It's quite
an honor that the Sacred Hoop has come to our territory."
With Clayton's words and the awe and wonder of the teachings
that were given to Handsome Lake by the Messengers still filling
our thoughts, a small boy, Tyler Whitcomb and his Mother,
Cindy Whitcomb, were introduced. The boy was much smaller
than the podium. The microphone was removed from the stand
and mom held it close as Tyler read his words from a letter
he had composed for this event.
"Hi, I'm Tyler Whitcomb
and I'm about to tell you about myself. I have F.A.S. FAS
means Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and it is hard for me. Some of
those things that are hard for me are math and social studies
because I sometimes just do not know what to do. I have to
take a pill to calm myself down. If I don't take my pill I
will just over-react and be unfocused.
"I like to draw pictures
and play on my mattress. I have a special mattress in the
living room that I can jump on and get out my extra energy.
I wrestle with my dad on the mattress. It's fun to play on
the mattress. School is a very fun thing this year because
I can learn lots of stuff. My favorite thing to do at school
is play outside. I like to play computer games a lot. I feel
good when I play them. I like to study about ancient Rome
and other ancient things. I like Knights a lot because they
wear armor and they are really kewl.
"I like to read because there are a lot
of mysteries to find out. My favorite animal is a jaguar because
it goes over 40 miles an a hour. I like parrots and cats for
pets. God helps me in many ways when I need help. He lets
me know what is right and not right. I feel regular when I
think about my FAS. I am the way I am and that is normal.
FAS doesn't make me feel sad or mad. A long time ago I told
my (adopted) Mom 'Mom.. I wish I was made in your tummy and
then I wouldn't have FAS.' And she said 'I know Tyler. I wish
you had been, too'."
Then this beautiful young child looked up from
the paper he is reading and said to each and every one of
us, "Please Momsdon't drink
alcohol when you're pregnant. And Dad'splease let your
wives know that it isn't good to drink alcohol because your
baby can get FAS".
Whitcomb sitting with his baby sister. They were
both adopted by the Whitcombs. Tyler has FAS and
his little sister has Downs Syndrome. They are
all gifts to one another. Tyler's message is simple
and earnest: "Please Mom's, don't drink alcohol
when you are pregnant."
honor the Whitcomb family for this day of sharing.
A Special Day
There were many other events that afternoon and we, at White
Bison, want to extend our appreciation to the Coordinators
and to all of the volunteers and supporters who made this
possible this day of Celebration of Wellbriety.
Dinner was a FEAST provided by the Coldspring
Longhouse. Following the dinner there was social dancing at
the Longhouse. We had to leave to prepare for the following
day on the land of the Tuscarora. But even as we drove out
of the parking area, we could still hear the shuffle of feet
on the wood floors and the beckoning sound of the shakers
and the singers. If I close my eyes I can still hear them.
I'm sure this will be one of those days and one of those memories
that can be recalled over and over.