The Red Road Today from Learning Journey on the Red Road
by Floyd Hand, Spiritual Interperter, Oglala Lakota
You know, I’ve been observing the schools and I’ve been observing people who are hurting – people who are spiritually bankrupt – and I think we’re headed right back to where we were twenty five years ago. Racism is starting to develop again. An altogether different generation is coming out on this Red Road – people who are trying to apply the philosophy of Christian beliefs to this Native way. But in my heart, I strongly feel that it’s not going to work. They’re confusing their everyday lives with the sincerity of this road. I see people wanting to take things. They want to learn overnight. It hurts me because it took me about forty years to attain the level I’m at today. And it hurts to see these things being desecrated.
People come to my home and demand to know things about my way of life. They come and they say they want power. I tell them “You are your own power. You have to understand yourself.” And they get very angry. It is because the Indian people have always been looked down upon. To this day, society is trained that way. People all over the world do not yet understand the Native way. Yet they want it. But when they find out that there is some grunt work involved – like learning the spiritual laws of the sweat lodge as a firekeeper – they get discouraged and angry.
This is why a lot of us spiritual interpreters get old, hurt and die – because, when we were young we were strong, so we thought we could handle everything. But we get beaten down. We get tired. When you use up these spiritual interpreters, where else are you going to get somebody to help? Where else are you going to get the teachings? Instead of doing all the listening, pack up and go learn the grunt work. Learn how crawl. Learn how to build a fire. Learn how do all of this so that you gain the valuable experience to on pass to your neighbor. Don’t take it home and keep it to yourself. This is what’s killing us.
I hope this book will get my point across. I know that it will probably upset a lot of people who want to learn instantly – people who aren’t willing to do work at it and do the grunt work of learning how to crawl, then walk, then run. But I hope this book will bring some kind of awareness of the supreme law of North America. We have already gone through the reasons why the four nationalities need to com together. But here in North America, we have the Canunpa – the Sacred Pipe – and laws that go with it.
Nowadays, a lot of young men and women come to me and ask me how they can find themselves. IT is a lot harder to do this today than it was in the olden days. It is harder now because we are always exposed to influences, peer pressures and a multicultural way of life. But we muse know out roots – who we are, where we com from. In my teachings, I say to my European brothers and sisters, “ Before I can help you, please try to understand yourself and find out where your ancestors have come from – your grandmother and your grandfather on both sides. And you will find out that you have a beautiful culture in one of those bloods. You are going to find out that you will be proud of who you are.”
I’ll tell you a story about a young woman who I trained for eight years. One day she said to me, “Floyd, I’m ready now. I’m OK. I’ve gotten rid of my early childhood sexual abuse thing. I went to the grandfathers and they said I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. After eight years, I’m ready.” So I said to her, “All right. If you’re ready, why don’t you celebrate by having a bad dream?” She got really upset. She said “You’re a medicine man. How can you talk that way? You’re supposed to walk with God!” She left and went to my friend’s camp. Three months later. I went to the lodge and she was standing there. She gave me tobacco and said, “I’m sorry for what I said. I misunderstood you.” I replied, “What are you sorry for? I don’t remember what you said. I was speaking the truth. You said you were ready, so I just threw something at you. If you were ready, you would have laughed about it and said, OK, I’ll do that tonight.” These are truths that we go through.
Humor is part of my life. I don’t scold anyone. I’ve been taught to speak the truth. If the truth bothers you, it’s good, because you’re learning and you’re remembering where to start. In our teachings, the door swings both ways. If you can’t take it, you can leave. And as you go out, don’t let it kick you in the butt. But the door swings both ways. When you’re ready, you can come back and start again. The spiritual circle in which we live, there’s no beginning and there’s no end. It’s all one circle of equality. The spiritual circle we live by is our grandmother and our mother. She is image of herself – the moon, the sun and the earth.
I don’t like to talk down on anybody. I talk about reality. But if we’re going to make a better world here, we have to work together. We have to let go of all our old habits. We are human beings. We are not different from one another. On this island we have a symbol called the Sacred Pipe. That is ours. This why we have survived for hundreds of years. And the laws of that Sacred Pipe are very simple: walk with humility; walk with respect; help others as you help yourself; give to others as you give to yourself. Listen to what you hear. Do not add on. You’re going to hear the things that you are not supposed to do from other people’s mouths. Learn with your eyes – you’re going to see the things that you’re not supposed to do.
What I talk about here is common sense. Today’s society does not have common sense. The gift from God is common sense, love and sharing. We the Indian people of North America have never been defeated because we know who we are and we know that we are the roots of this island. We’ve been here since five B.C. – before Christ, before Columbus, before Custer, before Costner and before casinos – and we’ll still be here when they’re all gone. The other three nationalities are insecure and uncertain. Their lives are too regulated and they do not recall the grass roots of where they come from. Therefore, they are always in fear of losing something materially. Their respect for each other is not there. They do not shake hands. They do not visit their neighbors. They do not feed each other. And they do not give thanks for whatever they receive day in and day out.
People do not see these things because their mind spirit has been designated intellectually by what I call the “modern-day life curriculum.’ We have forgotten our roots – who we are and where we come from. This is why we have totally neglected out history. When the “666” took effect in 300 A.D., it began psychological genocide for all mankind. That was when an angel named Lucifer (who, like us, was also the creation of his mother) was given the responsibility to honor the Great Spirit. And he was also given a second command – to honor the weaklings, which is us. Lucifer really got upset about this and he said, “Father, you have asked me to honor you. But why do I have to honor the weaklings as well?” To that, the Great Spirit replied, “De gone! Go and be well, then come back.”
And so Lucifer was cast out by the Great Spirit. But now, he had a power. That power was the mind spirit. Everything that is created by man: a bottle of soda pop, a building, everything man-made, everything you buy – look at it. There’s the numbers “666” on it. It’s the mark of the beast. That power will only last another five years. During this time, Lucifer is going to use fear to different. “You’re black, you’re yellow, you’re white, I’m red, and you have no business coming into the Indian way.” I hear that all the time.
One of my elders once said to me, “You prayed for the White Buffalo. The White Buffalo Calf Lady has come. You have seen her vision. Why are you talking to all the nations? You should only talk to the Indian people because that buffalo is ours.” But I knew that this was not the message she gave us, so I said to him, “Father, I’m going to speak out of my place, if you allow me. It was Grandpa – your dad – who taught me to go out and join hand with everybody. You have worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for thirty years. You didn’t want to participate in the ceremonies when I sat with grandpa. And you advise me now to stay away from others. Our white brother gave you a job, a car, a phone, toilet paper – everything you wanted. If you give back everything that he has given you, then I will believe you. Until then, I can not be a hypocrite.”
When you teach with the head spirit, your analytical mind is going to teach you evil spirits. You’re going to teach bad medicine. In all the years I have been walking since 1948, the only bad medicine I have run into is marijuana and alcohol – and psychology. If somebody calls you at 3 a.m. and says “I’m going to kick your door in at 3:30, and I’m going to beat you up at 3:35,” you’re going to get up and barricade the doors and windows. You’re going to sit there with a baseball bat in your hands, watching the time. That’s psychology. The Great Spirit did not crate evil spirits. An angel created them – an angel who was confused. His name was Lucifer. He is still a creation of God. But the head spirit is what he uses to control us.
This analytical way of life that we have adopted is killing us. We don’t listen. We are supposed to learn with our eyes, listen with our hearts and speak the truth with our tongues. But all we do today is sit in front of the TV. Our younger generation is at risk. The lady said that on the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century there will be an alignment and that the four horsemen will return. We must help our children live beyond the next twenty-six years. It makes me sad that our children are lost now. It’s not their fault. We as parents need to take our children in our hands and love them. This way they won’t grow up and get involved in gangs. They won’t be looking for T.L.C. from other sources. They’ll teach people not to destroy something that is not ours because we are only here to use these things temporarily. We’re not going to live a thousand years. Teach one another love. Help one another. Learn to shake hands. That’s all I ask. Don’t be self-centered. Don’t be selfish. Don’t think you’re better than your neighbor. Don’t ignore the person on the street. Buy him a coffee. Get him some food. Because you never know, he could be the Great Spirit in disguise testing you.
Do not be mean to your children. When I raise my voice to my children, I know it’s to discipline them, but it hurts me. Sometimes I sit down and cry because in a different time when I was brought up – in the 1940’s and 50’s – it was a different world. We can only dream about those days. They’re gone now. Nowadays, we practically have to lead our children be the hand. We constantly have to remind them every moment what they’re supposed to do. Only love and T.L.C. and listening to our children will teach them discipline and how to do things for themselves. Take your children on a trip. Show them where the sacred places are. This life is very short and we’re running out of time.
This journey that we are taking together involves all of us – not just one nationality. Over five hundred years ago, when the Lady came back, she said, “I have brought you the sacred gift of survival – to walk quietly, to help others as you help yourself, to love people as you would love yourself, to respect others as you respect yourself, to set an example for your children, to hold out your hand, to love and bring everybody together, and to say thank you for your life.” These are the energies that she gave us to carry. The spiritual circle of the universe is 360 degrees – a holistic circle. Here in North America, we worship the Whit Buffalo Calf Lady, Guadeloupe, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Corn Lady. We do not separate these images. We do not separate spirit.
When I say the power of the woman has returned, I get a lot of threats from militia groups and such. They think that when you pray for the nation and the White Buffalo, it means that all the Indian people are coming back to reorganize the American Indian Movement. Back in 1994, we had ceremonies over here for our brothers at Oka when they had their problems, because they wouldn’t let us go over there. The FBI, the CIA – they had our names right at the borders. But our hearts went out to our brothers. Never give up what you’re doing. Do it for your children. Do it for your spiritual fathers and your uncles. Do it for them. Let this drum be heard all over the nation. All you ladies, sisters – support your children, support your man. Your power is coming.
The nations of the world are all coming back. Like Grandpa Frank said, “One day, they are going to hear the voice of that drum once again. And one day, that Canunpa, the Sacred Pipe, is going to journey back and unite all the nations together.” Every nation in this world will come back one day. The Hunting Chief will make sure that everyone has enough to eat. The Camp Chief will make sure that everybody has a place to sit down. The Medicine Chief – an Indian psychologist – will talk to the people. The War Chief will be the protector of the nation. And then the Speaking Chief, the M.C., whatever you want to call him. And then there is the Decision Chief – that is what I am. I don’t make decisions. I just hear the chiefs talk. I sit there and listen to the stories and, when I think about it I stand up and say, “This is the way it’s going to be.” And everybody says, “Aho”. Nobody can say anything about it because they know it’s the right decision.
It doesn’t matter what nationality we are, we all come from our mother. We are one blood. I don’t care if you’re black, red, yellow, white, green – whatever. The blood we spill is the same. We are relatives. In our journey, on our destiny, there are no mistakes and no failures. It is up to us to get up and walk. Never say anything bad to anyone and you will get along very well. If you see an elder sitting, get him a drink because some day you’re going to be there. I go to hospitals. I look for elders. I sit with them and I pray with them until they journey home. I go to old age homes. How many of you go visit them at Christmas? How many of you get baskets together – round up food from your friends at Christmas time – and go give it to the elders? Do your share of work while you are here on this earth because you are only here a short time.
Our bothers of the other three sacred colors – our whiter brother, out yellow brother and our black brother – are looking forward to joining us on this journey. And so I ask you, my Indian brothers and sisters, to teach them wisely. Teach them not to desecrate. Teach them with respect because our blood is one. Do not desecrate yourself by judging people of other nationalities and telling them that they have no right to be on your path. Some of my brothers have this problem because they have been hurt for many years. But it is all right to be hurt because the hurt that you have experienced is a success in your life.
We haven’t lost anything. We have not forgotten. It is still there beside the road. We don’t need to think negatively of each other. We don’t need to be superstitious. The only bad medicine that will ever come your way is your head. It can make you gear yourself up and stay up all night. Black, red, yellow and white – we have not lost this holistic way that we all live. It’s just been set aside temporarily. Now, pick it up. But if you’re going to pick up this spiritual holistic way of life, learn how to give. If you want help and teach, you need to get up. You have a job. You have money. You have a car. Go to the elder and bring him food. Do not desecrate him!
In that sacred belief, you walk quietly with sensitivity. You help others as you are helped. You have compassion and love. If you see an elder standing, give him a chair. Walk with a good attitude and set a good example. Give thanks for this life. If you want to walk this red road, you get up every morning at 3 a.m. and pray. Be ready to hold out your hand and help the child, the mother, the grandmother. Be there for them. These are small things but this brings back our children. Do not leave your children at home. They are the ones who are going to bring us back together. Do not leave your children at home when elders are talking. When we ask our elders to do something, bring them tobacco – a gift. Do not give them a sacred cigarette. You have elders in the community. Feed them. Have their food put together. Honor your children, honor each one. Feed them, for we are one.
Make life your humor. Tell jokes to yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself how beautiful you are. It’s hard for us to do that because we’re afraid to look ourselves in the eye. Yet we can look at everybody around us. That’s because we’re shame-based. It’s caused by somebody keeping us down – “don’t do this, don’t do that.” European culture teaches that – “don’t touch this, don’t touch that, go to bed at 9 o’clock…” Leave the children alone. If they learn by hard knocks, then they’re going to be better people. You stunt their learning of reality – touching hands-on – by constantly trying to control them. If you’re very materialistic, then you have no right to bring up children. Material stuff is material stuff. You can always replace it. But you can never replace that child – that wonderful gift form God.
How many of you know love? How many of you sat with your fathers and grandfathers and listened to their stories? When you fell down, did they pick you up, wipe your hands and tell you everything was OK? How many of you are respected with love, where you have birthdays and they make a meal for you and feed the spirits. It is in the giving that we shall receive, they say. The family makes a feast so that everybody will be proud. How many of you got love and hope from your grandfather, your father, your bother, or your companion? Did they listen to you or were they always hollering at you, telling you what to do? How many of you have been through that? It hurts. We come here with nothing and we go with nothing. The only part of life that we have in common is death. Until then, these teachings of love, called “tender loving care,” is what the nation that will survive will have once again.
Now I’m going to ask you to say five good things about yourself. Go ahead. The society we grew up in taught us to always be ashamed of ourselves. You can give out a lot of love but you can get yourself into trouble giving out too much. Learn how to give to yourself. Look at yourself and tell yourself how beautiful you are. Say, “I’ve got a beautiful nose, I’ve go beautiful eyes, I’ve got a beautiful smile, I’m handsome, I’m pretty.” I call that “self-T.L.C.” Look in the mirror every morning and say that to get yourself going. It works. Teach yourself that and you won’t have any tension or ulcers.
Learn how to love yourself because you can’t give any love out unless you love yourself. That’s why I teach the healing of hate. We have to heal the hate within our nation, within our community and within our home. The beauty is within us. Tell yourself that every morning. Pretty soon, you will believe it. When you walk in a crowd, you are representing the many generations of your family. You are your ancestors. You are the four-legged, the winged. The code of ethics you set for yourself – the example you set in public – is what you have to be at home. Forty-five minutes belongs to each and every one of us to prepare to go out in public. If you’re always late for work, move back that forty-five minutes.
Many of my brothers are looking for themselves today. They travel everywhere, always looking. I went through that period myself. I went looking. Finally, I returned home and my grandfather looked at me and said, “Did you find it?” I never answered him. It’s inside of you. All you need to do is give yourself some time and look, and you will see yourself. Go into the Sweat Lodge and you will find yourself. You’re in there. But remember, don’t get too “waken” – too holy. Remember that example. Remember that we are each other’s teachers.
Look good and feel good because the learning on the Red Road, which is our blood, is the attitude and example that we get from our elders plus the society we live in. You are dynamite. You are only you. The Sacred Pipe does not teach you to carry other people around you. It doesn’t teach you to fun somebody’s life or that they have to belike you. The Sacred Pipe teaches you the extended family, compassion, the beginning, the angel that is that little child – innocent, beautiful, pure. Are you so sensitive that you get angry quickly? Are you happy, laughing all the time? That is the combination of balance in this world. Learn how to use both of them. When somebody teaches by saying something about you, don’t say anything. I teach people to never speak for me and never stick up for me. This journey is mine. If someone doesn’t like the way I walk and talk on this journey, let them stay home.
Each one of us learns our own road. And each one of us travels down that road at our own speed. No matter how we do it, were all going to get there at the same time. Some day, we’re all going to go home. One day, you will look back down the Red Road and say “Grandfathers, I thank you for letting me serve you.” And at the end of your time, the Great Spirit will help you. Our spirit will always live on. The only respect and dignity we all have in common is in death. Until then, walk with respect. And as you walk, remember – the road to success is always under construction on this Red Road.
So lat us all put our minds together and have Tunkasila, the Great Spirit, bless us. At this moment, let us listen with our hearts, not with our head spirit. And also, during this time, I would like to ask each and every one to listen to each other – carefully.
Oh, Tunkasil, Gitchi Manitou, Heavenly Father, we gather here to hear the message that the spirit Lady has given us. You have given us the time, at the turn of the century, where everything will change for the better. But, for the time being, help all of us who initiate this concern for Mother Earth and our generations to come to put our minds together, join hands and say “thank you” for allowing us to be here together as a family.
Aho! Mitakuye Oyasin
Floyd Hand may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Learning Journey on the Red Road is available at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon.com