First essay in the series on the original Plains culture (matriarchy)


“The ones who complain and talk the most about giving away Medicine Secrets, are always those who know the least” -Frank Fools Crow, Lakota

I’m glad Frank stated this, because I am going to give away some ‘medicine secrets’ in this essay of what is intended to become a series (in which I will be giving away more so-called ‘medicine secrets’)

First off, there were no ‘secrets’, only a reluctance to share knowledge with people who live stupidly. In today’s world, where the majority of MANKIND is living  stupidly, including many so-called ‘traditional Indians’, the native principle of paradox comes into play. That is to say, when an old habit has come to be counter-productive, the old habit must be turned on its head.

The old native world was never ‘traditional’ in present day context or in the way people seem to think this definition applies, because the native reality was fluid, dynamic, evolving, the dream changes. New dreams revealed themselves and life adjusted accordingly. Within this context, there were some immutable rules, including exceptions to immutable rules! The rules of ‘tobacco’ were not an exception except in the case of a law-breaker chief, an accepted (but rare) phenomena. So, turning this all on its head (again) I will point out the rules of tobacco should be kept in the old way, mostly without exception. And these rules are not what many people might think.

The ‘Sacred’ is Sensual

So, tobacco goes into a pipe, correct? Well, not in every case. But in the same moment, yes, it all does, or should, sooner or later. Am I speaking in metaphor? Maybe, it all depends on how far ‘tobacco’ has taken you in understanding or negotiating reality, which is multi-layered, multi-faceted.

300 years Jesuit poisoning of Native American mentality might jolt some of you (Indians particularly) when I point out the stone appendage jutting out from beneath the bowl of the MAN pipe is your boner (that’s right, a man’s erection.) A woman’s pipe does not ‘sport’ this. So right off, sex is integral to the ‘sacred’, which has absolutely nothing to do with those modern cretans or so-called Medicine Men or Holy Men who use the power of their position to gratify themselves sexually, by preying on their female students. In fact, ‘traditionally speaking’ men did not have female students until a woman had reached menopause, and then only if a woman wished to exercise her ABSOLUTE right to enter into the male knowledge. Men did not, DID NOT, on the other hand, have any ‘right’ to enter into the women’s knowledge but only arrived there by invitation of the elder women and this invitation only extended to man reaching the women’s knowledge in a limited way and was highly restricted. Got that? The point is, this was matriarchy (which is different to matrilineal, don’t confuse these two.) The main point of these initial paragraphs are to point out the rules of tobacco originated with the women, and the man’s pipe (ancient tribal law for men) originated with women. A woman might exercise her right to smoke a man’s pipe but a man had no right to smoke a woman’s pipe. A woman smoking a man’s pipe is not recommended in these modern times because most women would not know (have the cultural teaching) how to properly do this (something where even the men often come up short, regarding the present times.)

Recalling an old Indian healer stating “the only worthless person is someone who cannot appreciate a good joke”, I’ll close these initial thoughts with a real life joke I pulled on a ceremonial leader; he is gay, no big deal, celibate gays were among our tribes most effective shamans, historically. This guy was sitting outside his sweat lodge, cleaning his man’s pipe. When he began to suck on the opening where the stem goes, to clear it, I told him, “No, the other end” and he snorted his laugh through his nose.

If you are a so-called ‘traditional’ Indian and you have a problem with these preceding paragraphs, well, indeed you do have a problem, it is called a Christian cultural mentality, pointing to the Jesuit poisoning of your cultural understanding.

The Rules of Tobacco

The ancient native world was separated into what I will call the ‘heavy’ (when the women sent their men to learn, to be healed, to war, the hunt, to council and to perform ceremony) and the ‘serene’ (which is supposed to be everything else.) Tobacco is central to the ‘heavy.’

  1. Modern people seem to think they can own a native person of knowledge (get what they want) by giving tobacco when in fact in the old way, the person you give tobacco to, actually owns you. Lets’ do a hypothetical circumstance with healing, learning or ceremony employing the old rules, as I have both witnessed or participated in, many times, here is example of seeking a healer:
  1. In the old way, when approaching a person of knowledge/healer (man or woman, if a woman is the healer you employ a woman’s pipe you will not smoke with her if you are a man, this is set in stone, if a woman recruiting a male, the reverse is generally but not always true), you bring certain gifts, typically ‘smudge’, a blanket, prints (uncut cloth) of specified color(s) and you have to ‘catch’ them. If you can catch them (find them, if they know you are coming, it is perfectly permissible to hide from you), they will sit and you must kneel and plead your case. To initiate the relationship of healing, ceremony or learning, et cetera, the prints are to acknowledge ‘spirit’ and the blanket is about ceremonial respect for the earth, or ‘sitting on the ground.’ This must be acknowledged with gifts. The tobacco itself is communion and the ‘smudge’ (typically sweetgrass, proper cedar or a special pine) is communicating through spirit.
  1. If the healer accepts (they are not required to) the pipe you have pointed at them, wedged into the blanket and prints, they OWN YOUR LIFE. You have already failed in your own knowledge to solve the problem by this time and this is why you seek out the healer. The healer will perhaps give physical remedies (especially if a medicine woman, less typically a man), and look at your life, make some changes and return it to you with a new rule or set of rules (the anthropologists might call these ‘taboos’ but they really don’t have a clue.) And you MUST live this, to honor what you have set out to do. This same ceremonial surrender is required to initiate finding a teacher, a trained ceremonial sponsor or person (for the duration of the ceremony beginning with the ‘acceptance’) and much more.
  1. What you see today, simply handing tobacco to someone, to get what you want, is patent bs. How this came about is likely mixing up the ‘giving tobacco’ ceremony (utilizing the pipe) with the sincere native ‘thank you’ gift of tobacco to someone you felt grateful to for some reason.

All that said, if you had example of someone come in looking for an elder, perhaps to ask advice, you might see something like this: an old woman in a room apart, talking one on one, alone except for the one other person. A new arrival might ask ‘are they smoking’ which is an inquiry into whether they are in deep discussion or ‘council.’ It is a figure of speech alluding to more formal proceeding on a larger scale of ceremony. If the answer is ‘yes’, they will not invade. Maybe that person only brought tobacco. This would be like ‘thanks in advance’ and is only permissible within extended family or intimate associations with close relationship of longstanding and does not apply to interaction as pertains to formal learning, ceremony and healing. And there is so much more… things are not as they were and ‘traditional’ in the modern day is a complete misapprehension of reality in too many cases to count. If by chance you know how to submit yourself to women and are culturally in contact with some strict old ladies who are willing to kick your butt until you can get it right, count your blessings… because you might become a real Indian in authentic sense of ‘traditional’


My life of many years, it is truly good-


Essay 1 ‘Tobacco’

Essay 2 ‘War

Essay 3 ‘Women

Essay 4 ‘Conflict

Essay 5 ‘Birds


Life in Indian Country

Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories