Offerings to the Great Spirit hung in the trees at Pipestone National Monument and in the woods surrounding Devils Tower in Wyoming. All along our journey, we heard the names Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow, Sioux, Shoshone — woven intricately into the story of the places we visited. It was not difficult, along the grasslands of Minnesota and the prairies of South Dakota, to hear whispers of Native American ghosts.
I am remiss in their history, but small pieces of grade school lessons resurfaced as we read placards, wandered past displays of artifacts, met modern-day tribespeople.
There was not enough time, this trip, to take it all in. But we discovered that’s one of the benefits of road-trip travel. You get bite size pieces of the world, small morsels to sample with the opportunity to try more when you can. I’m excited, for example, to add James Wilson’s The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America to my reading list, and have already made plans to visit the Pequot Museum here in Connecticut to learn about local Native American history.
Perhaps it is the Great Spirit itself that fills us with this curiosity, gives us the ability to learn, explore, and listen to the whispers.
Oh, Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds and
whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me!
I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes,
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit will come to you
— Chief Yellow Lark, Lakota, 1887