June 12, 2006
Susan Bates
Many of you who read this column are just beginning your journey down the Red Road. There are many things to learn once you decide to return to the paths of your ancestors and it isn't always easy. For hundreds of years the powers that be have tried to erase all memory of the ways of Indigenous Peoples Our children were taken away and put in BIA schools where they were forbidden to speak their own languages. Our religions were outlawed, our Fires put to sleep. Thus began the decline of this nation and society as a whole.

It is not enough to be weekend Indians, going to powwows and wearing cool beads. "Going back" not only entails understanding how, why and what your People believed, but more importantly living it, so that the balance that has been destroyed can be regained.

There isn't one blanket statement that covers all 500+ Nations that once flourished here, but the majority of them were ruled by the Clan system which recognized the power and worth of strong women who, when paired with strong men, produced strong children, living in harmony with Mother Earth and the All That Is.

Sadly, the morality of this nation has eroded to the point of despair. Sex has become a marketing tool pedaling everything from perfume to tires. The ease of entering and leaving a marriage, paired with the "if it feels good do it" anthem from the 70's, has led to splintered families with no firm foundation to stand on. Too many children are born into this world never knowing their fathers and many perish at the hands of other men who only want "relationships" with the woman and have no love nor patience with her children.

It amazes me that in the animal world, the female of every species chooses the fastest runner, the best hunter, the strongest fighter for her mate. Yet a woman, who is supposed to be Creator's finest achievement, often will lay down with any and sometimes every man who comes her way. If anything is going to change for the better, we women must lead the way to higher moral ground. We have to begin teaching our daughters and sons that they have great worth and great responsibility.

I have printed the following story before, but think it is worth considering again.


(As told by the Wintu Tribal Elders of California)

When it comes time for the female Eagle to choose her mate, she prepares herself for many suitors. And many come before her. She looks them over quite well and then picks one to fly with for awhile.

If she likes the way he flies she finds a small stick, picks it up and flies high with it. At some point she will drop the stick to see if
the male can catch it. If he does, then she finds a larger stick and flies with it much higher this time. Each time the male catches the
sticks, she continues to pick up larger and larger sticks. When she finds the largest, heaviest stick that she herself can carry, the stick is at this point almost the size of a small log! But she can still fly very high with this large stick.

At any time in this process, if the male fails to catch the stick, she flies away from him as her signal that the test is now over. She begins her search all over again. And when she again finds a male she is interested in, she starts testing him in the exact same way. And she will continue this "testing" until she finds the male Eagle who can catch all the sticks. And when she does, she chooses him, and will mate with him for life.

One of the reasons for this test is that at some point they will build a nest together high up and will then have their Eaglettes. When the babies begin to learn to fly, they sometimes fall instead. It is then that the male must catch his young. And he does!


The female Eagle and their Eaglettes have depended on him to be strong for them. Just as we Native women and children need to depend upon our Native men.

So what I would like to offer to you my friends is this. Sisters, how well do you "test" your suitors before you allow them into your life? And my Brothers, how well have you caught the "sticks" for your women and your children?

Whatever our past has been like, if we need to change, let's do so now together.

Our children are counting on us to make these good choices for them and for their children.

Aho!... All My Relations.


A special thanks to Sue Rock who originally sent me this Wintu story.