An Open Circle in San Diego
People gather into the Circle as Don Coyhis shares about
the Traditions and Ways of the Circle, and of Smudging
and Cleansing, to begin our Day in San Diego
participants circled-up at the San Diego Concourse and Civic
Center to begin Wellbriety Day in a Talking Circle. Don Coyhis
invited four Women Who Would Carry the Sacred Hoop through
the Eastern Door of the Circle to prepare for grand entry
of the Hoop at San Diego's Hoop Journey visit. We began with
a careful teaching about the Circle Ceremony that begins many
of the Wellbriety Day visits on this long Journey to urban
Native American centers in the West.
Don asked if there were any present who had never smudged.
After many affirming nods, he began to explain the purpose
of using the medicinessage, cedar, sweetgrass,
and other local herbsfor cleansing in this Smudging
Ceremony. Then Don offered the smoke from the medicines to
each of the four Hoop carriers. One by one they held their
hands out, palms up, signifying that they wished to receive
the cleansing smoke from the sage plant.
Smudging Ceremonya Cleansing of our physical,
mental, emotional, and spiritual selveswas
offered to all participants of this Circle as it is offered
at every Gathering."
Smudging Ceremonya cleansing of our physical,
mental, emotional, and spiritual selveswas offered
to all participants of this Circle as it is offered at every
gathering. "Don't feel obligated if it is not
your way," Don said as daughter Kateri Coyhis made
her way around the Circle with the Smudge Bowl and an Eagle
Feather Fan. "If you don't want to be a part
of this Ceremony, if it is not your way, just indicate by
waving us past or don't hold out your hands and that
will be just fine." he concluded. The Circle broke
into sighs of relief and laughter as Don assured them, "There
is no wrong way to smudge you can't do it
wrong! We have seen one handed smudgers, fancy smudgers, people
stand up to smudge, people turn full circle to be smudged,
there is no wrong way." Comfortable that they would
not offend anyone or be judged for how well they might "do"
in this opening ceremony, people held out their hands and
smudged in their own way and for their own reasons. We all
Women who will Carry the Sacred Hoop into the Circle,
Billiekai Baughton, Sue L. Van Rossem, Viki Barefoot,
and Shelly Minkley, cleanse with the smoke of sage and
an Eagle Feather Fan.
Hoop Journey visit is different because each community is
different. Our time in San Diego included many of the Medicine
Wheel teachings, including that of the Healthy Forest. This
refers to the understanding that a healthy community is like
a healthy forest. Healthy communities understand about the
Cycle of Life we all experience as human beings. The Cycle
of Life is Baby, Youth, Adult and Elder. We all travel through
these times of life in our stay on the Mother Earth.
a baby is born and comes out of the womb, Don said, "That
baby will immediately need to develop a sense of trust
because it has left a safe place and needs that reassurance
and security in order to develop trust. In the old days we
knew this, and that baby would be wrapped securely in a cradle
board and carried everywhere with us. We knew about the Cycle
of Life and the feelings that need to be developed in order
for us to grow up to be healthy and balanced." Trust
is the first of the Eight Feelings in the cycle of life.
Don made this teaching personal by sharing, "I didn't
grow up in a healthy way, I didn't get that feeling of
Trust or some of the other Eight Feelings. Now, how do you
think it might be to be a woman married to someone like me
then"? There were many nods of heads in the learning
circle we shared. Lots of knowing glances were exchanged within
the Circle over this and other comments Don made throughout
Coyhis offers smudging during the Opening Circle.
San Diego we met many people who had long term recovery and
involvement in their own home communities. They were excited,
not just about this Journey for Healing Native Women and Children,
but about the whole Wellbriety Movement. Many people asked
how they could help White Bison spread this message of Wellbriety.
Several said they had not quite known what to expect by attending
today's gathering, but were so happy they came and are
anxious to learn more. Some said they would continue what
they felt in San Diego by attending the White Bison Circles
of Recovery Conference scheduled for this coming September
26-29 in Billings, Montana.
Hoop Journey visit is different because each community
is different. Our time in San Diego included many of the
Medicine Wheel teachings, including that of the Healthy
Forest. This refers to the understanding that a healthy
community is like a healthy forest."
The San Diego visit offered participants an Open Talking Circle.
In an Open Circle, what is shared, unless otherwise indicated
by any individual, can and should be shared outside that Circle.
Many of the women chose to not only be a part of the Open
Talking Circle but to also have their stories, experiences,
and hopes videotaped as a gift to other women who are searching
for The Red Road to Wellbriety. There were many, many tears
as the Eagle Feather Fan went around the room from one person
to another. Some of the stories were difficult to listen to,
and probably even more difficult to speak. But sharing our
stories with companions in recovery is how the miracle of
healing takes place. The tears were sweet that afternoon in
San Diego, because they were tears of healing.
Coyhis shares the Teaching of the Healthy Forest in our
Cosgrove, mother of five beautiful children, shared in the
Open Circle in San Diego. Sandi and her husband adopted their
children, each child coming to them with a heartbreaking story
of struggle. Sandi's spoke about their now one year-old
son, born in desperate medical conditions to an addicted mother.
She and her husband adopted this two-pound new born without
hesitation and without even seeing him first. Why? "Because
we wanted him to know that someone loved him so that he would
want to live," she said to us. This baby boy will
experience that first essential feeling of Trust because Sandi
and her husband know the importance of the Gifts of the Circle
and the Cycle of Life Teachings of the Medicine Wheel.
Cosgrove offers her prayers for the Wellbriety Movement
and The Healing of Women and Children during the Closing
our Open Circle continued, Sandi told us about how important
prayer had been when her baby was struggling to live during
those first few weeks and months. Her child underwent test
after test to determine the physical toll the addictive substances
had taken on his tiny body during his troubled development
in the womb. Reflecting on where she and her family had come,
she said, "What I hope is that there will come a day
when no child has to feel like they are not loved, and no
woman lives with abuse. My prayers and hope is that this Journey
and the Wellbriety Movement be blessed and grow strong."
She placed her prayer into the Sacred Hoop during the closing
ceremony and we all felt the Hope.
As we come to the half way point in this Journey to sixteen
Native American urban centers in the West, we invite those
planning to come to one of the remaining stops to look forward
to your unique gathering. Open circles, confidential circles,
Hoop Ceremonies, your own Elders and presentersyour
Wellbriety Day will be what your community, and Creator, makes
were many, many tears as the Eagle Feather Fan went around
the room from one person to another. Some of the stories
were difficult to listen to, and probably even more difficult
to speak. But sharing our stories with companions in recovery
is how the miracle of healing takes place."
back over the previous visitsso many happenings
in common and so many differences. We, at White Bison, thank
the communities we've already visited. And we look forward
to meeting you on the path between Pheonix and Denver. Please
come out and experience the 100 Eagle Feather Hoop in Phoenix
City, Missouri Minneapolis
City and Denver.
Come out to participate in the ceremonies, teachings, and
the healing of old wounds. Come out and present your community's
best in the Healing of Native American Women and Children.