Sundance Tree at the All My Relations Sundance
Drawing by Vicki Milewski
A relative of Miracle the White Buffalo in Janesville, WI which Native Americans believe tells us we are in the fourth and last season,
the White Season.
Photo by Vicki Milewski of the Tower Room in Galaudet Gallery, Eau Claire, WI
The Sundance is a ceremony that takes place in the summer months. The Sundancers commit to a four-year long prayer centered around this annual four-day dance. During the dance, the Sundancers fast and do not drink water. They dance around the tree of life - usually a cottonwood tree draped and wrapped with thousands of "prayer ties" representing their sacrifice and commitment to the life of all people. Many Sundancers will pierce their body and connect themselves to the tree during the dance. The Sundance also involves supporting friends and family who surround the dancers as they pray and fast encircling the Tree of Life.
The Two Feather Medicine Clan has continued this ceremony in Dutch Creek, Illinois since the early 1990’s. The location of the sundance is in a historical resting place along the Trail of Tears during Indian Removal in the late 1800’s. Nearly 11,000 Cherokees passed through Southern Illinois between November, 1838, and January, 1839, on their fateful Trail of Tears as the government forced them to abandoned their homes in the Great Smokies to go west to Oklahoma. During January, 1839, thousands of Cherokee Indians were unable to cross the Mississippi because of floating ice so they camped along the Dutch Creek in this vicinity. Unprepared for the intense cold, nearly 2000 of the 13,000 Indians who started lost their lives during the journey. [i]
The Two Feathers Medicine Clan has its roots in a movement of medicine men and women in 1876 who decided to form an underground Medicine Society that would recognize “inter-tribal origins” and share medicine and ceremonial knowledge with members of this society. Included in this Medicine Society were tribal members of the Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee, Aztec/Mayan, White Mountain Apache, Mescalero, Cheyenne, Ute and Hopi. Duke, Big Feather, Schallmo is the founder of the Two Feathers Medicine Clan after learning from a Navajo medicine man named No Name in the 1950’s. In 1976 Duke began the Two Feathers Medicine Clan with the intention to continue the work of the Medicine Society and teach the hidden knowledge of the inter-tribal ceremonies through participation.
This is not a mixing of medicine; instead it is a recognition that there are originators of sacred medicine and ceremonies that are common to all tribes and peoples. Many in the Clan and the Society choose to follow certain ways that are common to Lakota, Navajo or others because that is where Spirit leads them, that is what is needed for them and those around them at this time but this does not mean one way is better than another. Each of us chooses the path and the way that is needed for us, for those around us and for our shared world.