Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

The Stars


We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to all the Stars.

When we give thanks, we often say that we once knew the names and stories of all the stars, and we no longer know them today. But we navigate by the stars at night, and for that we remain grateful. We also believe that the vast canopy of the Milky Way is a path to the Creator, and each separate star represents the spirit of a single person, making their way homeward.

How did we lose our star knowledge? The epidemics that struck our people over the last three centuries harvested many who might have remembered. Some of the knowledge was not passed on, because its custodians did not see the use of it, or did not see anyone interested or capable of keeping the knowledge. Not seeing the use of it is perhaps the saddest of the reasons. It is linked to the belief that many of the old people had in the last century - that our people and our knowledge were dying out and were no longer worth preserving or fighting for. We, who have been called “arrogant,” “defiant”, and “fierce”, have suffered as a result of three centuries of colonization in all the same ways colonized peoples all over the world have suffered. Missionaries told us our pagan ways would lead us only to hell. European and later Euro-American politicians told us we were subjects, conquered, primitive - and we should “assimilate.” Teachers announced that our ways of knowledge were not valid. Economic interests tried to show us how to make “better use” of the land and its rich resources.

Faced with this onslaught, we lost many things. Some people even lost the confi­dence that our knowledge was worth preserving. The miracle is that we have survived at all, even with part of our knowledge, with an injured society and an injured government, a battered language and a fringe economy. Our knowledge of the stars has also been eroded, and in our Thanksgiving we acknowledge this.

Even so...

Centuries ago, in a Haudenosaunee village, a group of children asked to take part in the ceremonies, and were refused. You are too young, the children were told. We are too busy to teach, said the old people. The children continued to meet together, in the woods, by the lake, in secret places, and they began to create their own ceremonies. They approached their parents for food for those ceremonies, and once again they were turned away. And so they went to a clearing and began to sing and dance and drum. The power of their song lifted them into the sky. Their parents heard the singing, saw the lights, and came running too late. One small boy looked back when his mother called him. He fell to the earth, a shooting star. The other seven became dancers of the heavens, the stars the Greeks called the Pleiades. And so it is today, also, that when we see the Seven Dancers, we are reminded to bring the children into the ceremonies, to learn and take part as they can, never to turn them away.

As all peoples do, we have used the stars as a way of teaching principles. As all peoples have, we have used the stars as part of our calendar.

Do we also believe what modern science tells us _ that the stars are great balls of fire, furnaces of fusion, burning brightly thousands of light years away as they run the course of their own lives? We do not deny this. There is no need to. The universe is great enough for things to fulfill many purposes. There is room for each aspect of Creation to carry an objective, scientific explanation and a spiritual meaning and lesson. A celestial dancer can always also be a star.

In their distance and their constancy, the stars are still our teachers and our guides. We now understand that their light, as it reaches us, has taken lifetimes to get here. Some of the stars whose light we see may not be there anymore. For others, the light that reaches our eyes may have left the star long before there were humans on this earth. How can this be a lesson in anything but our own insignificance?

It is a lesson in balance. The same laws that govern the smallest atom also govern the movement and lives of the greatest stars. Those same laws govern our own lives. We see the stars lighting the night sky, obedient to the laws, fulfilling the obligations they were given at the time they were created. We see them, so far beyond our own planet. And though we cannot understand the nature of their obligations, and no longer know all their names, we know that they are sending us a constant message, in maintaining their own part of Creation, as we must also do.

On the clearest nights, if we stand long enough and quiet enough in an open place, we can hear the stars singing. The beat of their songs is the beat of our hearts and the rhythm of Creation. And the words of their songs are in our language.

And so we bring our minds together, and we thank the stars.



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