A few days ago I had the privilege of interviewing a Native American elder. Below is a transcript of part of that interview. I present it here without comment:
“This is my people’s story of long ago. We call it the Crying Times. The ancestors say that long ago every day was the same. All the people went about their business doing the same things every day. Yesterday was like today and today was like tomorrow. One day the elders and the holy people began to realize that something was happening with the Earth Mother that they didn’t understand. They began to notice that the Spring, the Summer, and the Fall began to grow shorter and the Winter came earlier and earlier. The elders also noticed that the growing seasons were becoming shorter and that the animals were growing their winter fur earlier. They knew something was changing and they began to speak of how tomorrow might not be like today but only a few of the people listened because they had been doing the same things everyday for a very long time.
The coming of the rains and the wind began to change. At first it was hardly noticed but in time it became easier to see. Sometimes the rains didn’t come at all and the crops would fail so people had to rely on the warriors to hunt down game to feed them and keep them from starving. The winter snows came earlier and it began to snow like the elders had never seen it snow before. They did not understand what was happening but they knew something was wrong. Some of the holy people reminded them of the stories told by our olden ones which spoke of a time long ago when the Earth was covered with ice and snow. It was a time when men were covered in fur and when men were wild. The forest people did not look like us even though some of their ways were like our ways. These were the forest people who lived in a world of ice and cold.
All of these changes in the Earth Mother began slowly and no one hardly noticed. But as time continued all of these changes became easier for the people to see and they began to grow afraid of what the Earth Mother might bring. They and the elders began to notice that in some places the snow did not melt from the Winter before. Snow piled on top of snow and the ice on the streams and lakes stopped melting fully.
Things kept growing worse and the warriors had to go deeper and deeper into the valleys to find game. The people stopped raising crops because they failed before the harvest time. The people grew afraid that they would die of starvation so they gathered what they could find in the forest while the warriors hunted for game. But the hunters had to stay out longer and longer to find the game and many times they only brought back enough meat to feed the people for a few days.
Crops failed, it grew colder and colder, and game became scarce. Droughts began to last longer in the warm months and in the winters the snow became so deep that the people could not come out of their dwellings. That is when some of the people began to die. That is when many of the elders began to die and many of the young children because the cold made them sick.
The people set out to find a warmer land but everywhere they went there was only cold and the sun did not show its face. Soon it was like the whole Earth was frozen in snow. Most of the people died of the cold even many of the ones who were not sick. Some of the hunters did not dress warm enough while out looking for game and others found them frozen and dead!
The elders had told the people to prepare for something bad but the people had not listened. They thought tomorrow would be like today and yesterday because that is how it had always been. But, when the snow came they wished they had listened to the elders but it was already too late. Most of the people died of the cold and only those who had listened to the elders and prepared continued to live. But, even then many of them had a hard time surviving because the cold was so harsh. These people watched their old ones die. These people watched even their children die in their arms as they were trying to keep them warm. They cried and shouted in anger asking the spirits what they had done wrong! But the spirits would not answer them. These were the crying times. for our people and for all men.
Our elders say that this time was very bad for our people and that the holy people had no answers for those who lost their children to the cold and snow. They had no answers for those who lost their wives, husbands, and grandfathers! Some of the people even killed some of the holy people because they thought the holy people had the power to stop the cold. But, the holy people did not have the power and they could not do anything to stop what was happening.
One day the sun would begin to show its face again and the warmth would return and our people would flourish again but for these people, our ancients, it was not to be so. Their world became a time of famine and death. They had to change their ways of doing things or they died. Somehow a few survived. These are our ancestors, our ancient ones. These are the ones who have told the stories and passed them down to our grandfathers and fathers so that we would know what happened in ancient times. And these are the ones who gave warning that this would one day happen again so our people must be ready.
But if you look around today you see the same thing happening from the yesterday of our ancestors. Today people go about their business doing the same things every day thinking that tomorrow will be like yesterday and today. But, yesterday was not like today or tomorrow! And again the elders are giving warnings but few are listening and preparing. And so when the cold returns many will die. Food will be hard to find and crops will fail and stop growing. Again mothers and fathers will watch their children die in their arms of the cold and the elders will die because they are not strong enough to endure the cold. Life we live today will become very different and some of the people will even again kill some of the holy people because the holy people will have no answers for them.
The people of today laugh at us and our stories. They think our stories are nothing but dreams and imagination. They think that if such a thing were to happen again that all of their inventions and technologies will save them and see them through. But none of them understand how harsh the cold can be like it was in the crying times!. None of them know how quickly the cold can kill! The cold will destroy their inventions and technologies. They will have no electricity to keep them warm and they will have no way to communicate with others over long distances. Their vehicles will not run and neither will their airplanes or trains because the cold will freeze them. The stores will be empty and there will be no food and many will die quickly of starvation! Medicines will run out and the sick will be left to die! Everywhere you walk you will smell the stench of death in the cold air. And like in ancient times by the time people realize what is happening and that what the elders warned them of was so, it will be too late for most of the people of today.
You can think that our stories are just tales and dreams. You can think that my people are ignorant and backward. You can even think that we just make our stories up! But we who listen to the elders and the stories of our ancient ones are preparing! We will be the survivors and you will be the dead! The elders and the holy people already know what is happening because it is happening just like it did in the times of our ancient ones. The cold and the great snow are coming again and the holy people can already smell the stench of death on the cold winds! The old wolf is howling and the young deer are going into a valley we cannot find. The crops are failing and those that grow are small and do not give the food they used to.
There are two great snakes on the world. One lives at the north and the other lives at the south. The ancestors told us that the crying times would be here again when the two snakes start to unwind. They are now unwinding! The holy people can see it happening. Again, there is something wrong!
One time all of the people of the Earth Mother were tribal peoples. They had elders and they had stories like this one I tell. But most today have forgotten this. They have forgotten they too were once a tribal people and they have forgotten the stories of their ancient people. Do not be foolish! The crying times are returning! Each one of you must choose your way. Some of you will live. Most of you will die.”
Kiwani Kwahu, a Native American Holy Man, Ptahani Odowan
28 July 2017