Throughout the year, virtually all Native American cultures celebrate special occasions. Sacred songs and dances are done year round to honor their people or their particular historical traditions. Events such as public feasting ceremonies are of great importance and based on social traditions that help unite tribal members. Other special occasions include the annual celebration of equinoxes of the four seasons. There are special ceremonies performed for marriages, as well as lives well-lived. This particular time of year, the approach of the Winter Solstice hastens the day’s setting sun; bringing with it a time for rest, reflection, and planning for the future. During this holiday season of giving thanks and gifts, most tribes also celebrate the Christmas season.
After European contact, many tribes found they could blend some Christian beliefs into their traditional celebrations. Well-aligned with the concept of holiday giving are long-standing Native American traditions in which giving or ‘giveaways’ brought to life the generosity of heart and spirit so deeply valued by tribal communities.
In the distant past, winter months were times for storytelling and rest. If the year’s previous hunting seasons were successful, it was also a time of feasting. Winter was a quiet time that was a welcome break from a hard life filled with much labor and the everyday work of staying alive. Even today, the Winter Solstice and the Christmas season are a time in which we all can reflect upon our accomplishments while also visioning ahead to the New Year and what lies in the future for us all.
Although we cannot predict the future, a quote from the wise Simon Pokagon, Potawatomi Tribe, comes close:
“Often in the stillness of the night, when all nature seems asleep about me, there comes a gentle rapping at the door of my heart. I open it; and a voice inquires, ‘Pokagon, what of your people? What will their future be?’ My answer is: ‘Mortal man has not the power to draw aside the veil of unborn time to tell the future of his race. That gift belongs of the Devine alone. But it is given to Him to closely judge the future by the present, and the past."
As we ‘closely judge the future by the present, and the past,’ all of us here, in unity of purpose with our partners across the land, can say with certainty that our collective efforts to protect children will continue to improve with your help; we will never cease in striving to expand and strengthen our work to meet the needs of our tribal partners. As we move into the New Year, we believe our vision, intentions for growth and renewed resolve will save lives in Indian Country.
Today we have the opportunity to address and meet our tribal needs for high quality child protection training and readiness to respond to community safety needs. Tribes have always tried to address the needs of the elderly and the youth; those who are most susceptible to being victimized. Let us all keep public and child safety at the forefront of our minds and daily work.
I urge all our native communities to ‘judge your future’ as Simon Pokagon said, ‘by looking at the past and the present.’
By completing our brief and easy to use online survey tool, you and your tribal colleagues can make an assessment of your Tribe’s present situation in preparedness for protecting your people. (Click here)
We can then work with you to take action necessary to address those needs through no-cost, uniquely-designed training and technical assistance solutions.
As 2017 comes to a close and the New Year approaches, my AMBER Alert in Indian Country colleagues and I look forward to sharing our experiences with you, and more importantly, learning from you and your community as we venture forward together in 2018.
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Do Na Da Go huh I (Doe Naw Daw Go Huh ee).
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN.
Ron Gurley M.S. Ed.