Native American Dream Beliefs

The Headings Are:

Dreams as guidance in life

Sacred Fasting

Dream and visions

Healing Experiences

A Failed Initiation

Dream doorway to wider awareness

Tribal Elders

See also The Iroquoin Dream Cult

In considering the beliefs of the Native American peoples, there is not a single belief system. Each tribe developed their own relationship with their inner life as it connected with and contributed to their external environment and needs. In looking at the fairly pure statements of traditional Amerindians in such books as Black Elk Speaks, and Ishi, it is fairly obvious however that dreams were generally considered as a form of reality or information to be highly regarded. Black Elk became a revered medicine man of his tribe through the initiatory process of his dreams and their revelation. His dreams revealed rituals to be performed by the tribe which aided in healing social tensions. But these deeply perceptive social or psychological insights into his own people which arose in his dreams, are only one of many facets the Native American peoples found in their dream life. And of course Black Elk is only one of the men and women of the Native American people who were visionaries.

Dreams as guidance in life

Ishi explains how his dream of what turned out to be the coming of the railroad and the train, was central to his whole life and its tragedy. Nevertheless his dreams warned him of the presaging deadly events for his tribe, and helped him find strength to meet what came about.

As already pointed out, personal initiation was one of the most fundamental of the facets. Individuals, through prayer, fasting and lonely vigils, sought from their dreams, a vision of their destiny as an individual, and an image to aid a personal link with the Spirit pervading all life. With such a dream the young man or woman could feel themselves to be a real part of their group and their environment. But even this cannot be taken as a generalisation. R.F. Benedict reported in The Vision In Plains Culture (American Anthropologist Vol. 24 1922) that among the Arapahoe, the Gros Ventre and in all the Western Plains peoples north and south, puberty fasting for a vision did not occur.

Nevertheless, although details varied as to when and how such dreams were sought, the visionary dream was held as sacred. Sometimes the ways of seeking these visions were very quiet, as when retiring to ones lodge, and sometimes very drastic, when braves suspended themselves from poles on hooks.

Sacred fasting

Fasting has been used as a spiritual discipline by many past cultures, but it has not been really understood. For fasting is not primarily a form of personal cleansing or a self punishment for ones ‘sins’  but a way of learning to become a real human being who is no longer the slave of their animal appetites. For otherwise we are all addicts – addicts to eating too much or too little; addicts to wanting to be important; addicts to sex; addicts to power, money and ego, even to killing or maiming others – and many other things.

“When I fasted for 14 days without any food, just water, I slowly discovered what real quietness was. My energy for turbid emotions, for sexual activity, for thinking and trying to think things out, just faded away. They were all aspects not of my central self or spirit – which I discovered was a quiet awreness – but of my bodys animals desires.” See Ox Herding – Victim – Avoiding Being My Own 

When I fasted I was about ten years old, that being the age at which grandparents generally desire their grandchildren to fast. My parents never bothered me at all about fasting, and I don’t suppose I should have fasted at all if I hadn’t a grandparent at that time.

About the middle of the little bear month, that is, February, my grandmother came to my house to fetch me. I did not know what she wanted of me. After two days she told me why she had come. So the next morning I received very little to eat and drink. At noon I didn’t get anything to eat at all, and at night I only got a bit of bread and water.

There were about seven of us fasting at the same time. All day we would play together, watching each other lest anyone eat during the day. We were to keep this up for ten days. However, at the end of the fifth day I became so hungry that, after my grandmother had gone to sleep, I got up and had a good meal. In the morning, she found out that I had eaten during the night and I had to start all over again. This time I was very careful to keep the fast, for I didn’t want to begin on another ten days.

After a while, they built me a little wigwam. It was standing on four poles and about three to four feet from the ground. This was my sleeping-place. My little wigwam was built quite a distance from the house, under an oak tree. I don’t know whether it was the custom to have the young boy fast under a particular tree or not. I believe the wigwam was built in the most convenient place for the old folks to watch it during the day.

The first morning my grandmother told me not to accept the first one that came, for there are many spirits who will try to deceive you, and if one accepts their blessings he will surely be led on to destruction.

The first four nights I slept very soundly and did not dream of anything. On the fifth night, however, I dreamt that a large bird came to me. It was very beautiful and promised me many things. However, I made up my mind not to accept the gift of the first one who appeared. So I refused, and when it disappeared from view, I saw that it was only a chickadee.

The next morning, when my grandmother came to visit me I told her that a chickadee had appeared in my dream and that it had offered me many things. She assured me that the chickadee had deceived many people who had been led to accept this offering.

Then a few nights passed and I did not dream of anything. On the eighth night, another big bird appeared to me and I determined to accept its gift, for I was tired of waiting and of being confined in my little fasting wigwam. In my dream of this bird, he took me far to the north where everything was covered with ice. There I saw many of the same kind of birds. Some were very old. They offered me long life and immunity from disease. It was quite a different blessing from that which the chickadee had offered, so I accepted. Then the bird who had come after me, brought me to my fasting wigwam again. When he left me, he told me to watch him before he was out of sight. I did so and saw that he was a white loon.

In the morning when my grandmother came to me, I told her of my experience with the white loons and she was very happy about it, for the white loons are supposed to bless very few people. Since then, I have been called White Loon.

Not only did White Loon gain his name from his dream, and therefore his adult identity, and whatever respect gained by it from his family and tribe, but he also gained the image of himself as living into old age and having freedom from disease. These are very precious gifts no matter what period of history we consider, or what ‘tribe’. In a modern city, thousands live without any satisfying sense of connection with, or feeling they are respected by, their ‘tribe’. Many live under constant fear of serious illness or early death, and businesses are built catering to such fears.

The Pueblo Indians

Jung, writing about a meeting with some Pueblo Indians in the USA, explains that their religion rests upon the belief that through their frequent ritual, they help the sun to rise each day. Without their tribal attention to the sun, they are sure the sun will no longer rise. “This idea,” Jung explains, “absurd to us, that a ritual act can magically affect the sun is, upon closer examination, no less irrational but far more familiar to us than might at first be assumed. Our Christian religion – like every other incidentally – is permeated by the idea that special acts or a special kind of action can influence God – for example through certain rites or by prayer, or by a morality pleasing to the divinity.

The point Jung makes overall however is that through their beliefs the Pueblo Indians as a group of people, have an intense peace and satisfaction with their life. This deep peace and inner happiness is seldom shared by more ‘rational’ modern communities. I am not trying to argue for irrationality, but the comparison does, I believe, highlight something that arose from the Amerindian beliefs and use of dreams for guidance and spiritual sustenance. Namely how a belief system, no matter if it is irrational, acts as a psychic immune system against the ‘germs’ of despair, inferiority and meaninglessness.

This pride and sense of belonging that was often a marked feature of such tribal peoples prior to the coming of the white races, illustrates one of the main functions of the dreaming process – the psychological compensation or self-regulatory process – and how it acts on the personality if it is deeply accepted. Because the native peoples of America had such trust in the products of their unconscious in dreams and visions, the compensatory images presented were of great benefit, and fulfilled their task of keeping the balance in the individualised identity. Unfortunately the rational attitudes of the invading nationalities, questioning the power of the dream and vision as they did, offered nothing to take the place of the dream. At least, nothing that produced such an obvious sense of pride and tribal and personal identity.

Something that becomes apparent in looking at dreams such as White Loon’s is that the cultural attitudes and beliefs White Loon was educated in dominate the content of his dreams. The coming of the chickadee in early dreams was an accepted part of the vision fast, and can be found in many other such dreams of people in his culture while fasting. When an Indian became a Christian, through exposure to a different set of cultural ideas, his or her dream content changed radically. Nevertheless, many dreams were of a personal psychological nature also, showing the individual relationships with the culture and their own inner life. Even though White Loon’s dream of the birds is very deeply cultural, it is interesting that birds often have the same sort of significance in modern dreams. It was out of this sort of observation that Jung developed his theory of the archetypes and the collective unconscious.

Dream and visions

Something else that is apparent in comparing the visions experienced by native Americans with those of present day individuals – perhaps those using LSD or experiencing visions due to stress such as illness – is that the native Americans entered their visions with some understanding of what to expect and how to deal with the experience. Our own cultural attitudes frequently put us at odds with our own unconscious processes and visionary upsurge. Many people who are confronted by the opening of the unconscious and the events that follow, believe they are going mad, or that they will be overpowered by forces that are antagonistic to them, and will sweep them to their doom. Neither do many people, trained in modern Western ideals of behaviour, know how to exist in the land of vision. Just as few desert people know how to swim, and would feel fear if dropped into deep water, so the person who falls into an altered state of consciousness from the world of modern materialistic thinking, may feel great fear instead of pleasure and the ability to ‘swim’ in it. Even the many people who ‘interpret’ their dreams, have seldom moved beyond the level of thinking, and know nothing through experience of the deep waters of the unconscious. See: abreaction; active imagination.

Like other primitive cultures, dreams were seen by the Amerindians as having certain marked features that could be gained from them. There could be an initiatory dream such as we have already considered. There could also be dreams telling where to hunt; dreams showing a new ritual giving some sort of power such as warding off illness, or finding a new relationship with everyday life, or attracting a lover; dreams could show the use of a herb for medicine; dreams might be caused by some sort of evil within ones body, or an external evil such as someone wishing you harm or an evil spirit; there could be a shared dream with another person; the dream might be a revelation from someone who was dead and now in the spirit world; or a dream, as in the third example below, could be a map supporting and guiding the dreamer throughout their whole life. Dreams were often considered to be bad or good. If a dream were considered bad something had to be done about it, such as a cleansing or healing ritual.

As an example of an Indians attitudes to dreams, this statement of White Hair, a medicine man, is interesting. “Every dream that takes place is certain to happen. Whenever the evil spirits influence it, it is certain to happen. Whenever we dream a bad dream we get a medicine man to perform sing and say prayers which will banish the spirit.”

The following description by a medicine man explains how he had a dream showing him a new medicine. He says, “I saw a dog that had been shot through the neck and kidneys. I felt sorry for the dog and carried him home and took care of him. I slept with the dog beside me. While there I had a bad dream. The dream changed and the dog became a man. It spoke to me and said, ‘Now I will give you some roots for medicine and show you how to use them. Whenever you see someone who is ill and feel sorry for him, use this medicine and he will be well.’ One of these medicines is good for sore throat.”

The following is a fasting dream/vision recorded by Father Lalemont, a Jesuit priest working among the Indians.

At the age of about sixteen a youth went alone to a place where he fasted for sixteen days. At the end of this time he suddenly heard a voice in the sky saying, “Take care of this man and let him end his fast.” Then he saw an old man of great beauty come down from the sky. The old man came to him, and looking at him kindly said, “Have courage, I will take care of your life. It is a fortunate thing for you to have taken me for your master. None of the demons who haunt these countries will have any power to harm you. One day you will see your own hair as white as mine. You will have four children, the first two and last will be males, and the third will be a girl. After that your wife will hold the relation of a sister to you.” As he finished speaking the old man offered him a raw piece of human flesh to eat. When the boy turned his head away in horror, the old man then offered him a piece of bear’s fat, saying, “Eat this then.” After eating it, the old man disappeared, but came again at crucial periods in the person’s life. At manhood he did have four children as described. After his fourth, “a certain infirmity compelled him to continence” He also lived to old age, thus having white hair, and as the eating of the bear fat symbolised, became a gifted hunter with second sight for finding game. The man himself felt that had he eaten the human flesh in the vision, he would have been a warrior instead of a hunter.

Such dreams as the above, about the use of a herbal root for medicine, show how many herbal treatments, not only among the Amerindians, but from tribal people throughout the world, came about. In fact many tribes attributed the origins of many of their cultural artefacts, their religion, the use of fire, to a specific dream experienced by a past tribal member.

Because of the great many Amerindian tribes, and their different dream beliefs, it is impossible to summarise the views of life, death and human origins arising from their dreams and visions. The following description of the beliefs of the Naskapi Indians is so pure and simple however, that it probably holds in it many of the beliefs of other tribes. It is taken from Man And His Symbols by Carl Jung, published by Aldus Books, 1964. It is from the section on The Process Of Individuation by Marie L. Von Franz.

Healing Experiences

Frank Takes Gun, national president of the Native American Church, says: At fourteen, I first used Father Peyote. This was on the Crow Reservation in Montana, and I was proud to know that my people had a medicine that was God-powerful. Listen to me, peyote does have many amazing powers. I have seen a blind boy regain his sight from taking it. Indians with ailments that hospital doctors couldn’t cure have become healthy again after a peyote prayer meeting. Once a Crow boy was to have his infected leg cut off by reservation doctors. After a peyote ceremony, it grew well again.

This may be considered only exuberant witch-doctor talk, but reliable observers have confirmed that these economically deprived peoples are in better-than average health and that when they do become sick and turn to peyote, the drug seems to help them. Louise Spindler, an anthropologist who worked among the Menomonee tribe, said that the women “peyotists” often kept a can of ground peyote for brewing into tea. They used it in “an informal fashion for such things as childbirth, ear-aches, or for inspiration for beadwork patterns.”

Dr. Peck also made such an observation and, in fact, first became interested in LSD as a result of having seen the effects of peyote: When I went into general practice as a country doctor in Texas, I was very impressed that some of our Latin American patients, despite their poverty and living conditions, were extremely healthy. One day, I asked one of my patients how he stayed so healthy, and he told me that he chewed peyote buttons then, I became interested in these drugs that could promise physical as well as mental health.

A Failed Initiation

It is great to find a personal account of Native American initiation in the modern world. But here it is as reported.

The inward journey does not always turn out this way. The following account (published in Psychiatry, February 1949) of the phantasy of a Chippewa Indian woman of 34 living in Northern Wisconsin, furnishes an interesting comparison. It presents the con­trast of a widely different background, both of personality and environment. It brings in the same characteristic symbolism. And it shows how such an experience can remain unrealised.

‘The third time I went through the Midewiwin (the Chippewa Medicine Dance), I went through because I had a vision that I should do that. We were living out in the woods at that time. Everything was still and quiet there. I was lying on a bed. I got to thinking of things I’d done way back in my younger days. I thought about my relatives and my friends, my parents who were dead and gone. I had no one to call upon except for my old man.

I lay still, and my mind was working all the time. Then I said out loud, so that I could be heard: “What is there that I didn’t do right? Everything that I can remember I thought I did right. What is wrong with me that I have so many visions of different things and different people?” All that summer I had had visions of people and things. I said aloud again, “Maybe the Almighty has mercy on people who see all these visions.

Here, most authentically, is the first stage: the feeling that ‘there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand’. The way of develop­ment now lies open. As William James puts it: ‘The individual, so far as he suffers from his wrongness and criticises it, is to that extent consciously beyond it, and in at least possible touch with something higher, if anything higher exist.’

‘Then I had a vision that I was walking along a narrow trail through the brush-no tall trees. It was a beautiful day. No wind. Plenty of sunshine. I walked along this trail for about an hour until I heard the sound of tinkling bells in the distance. As I came nearer to the sound, I saw four men sitting around something that was round. Above their heads was something across the sky like a rain­bow. One of these men called me his grandchild. He said, “You are supposed to tell the people once in a while when you are in trouble about something you know, something that’s in you. Let them know what’s in you. Don’t pay any attention if people laugh at you. If they do, they’re not throwing jokes at you; they’re throwing jokes at themselves.” One real old white-haired man sat at the far end of that round thing. He pointed to his snow-white hair. He told me that my hair would be just like his some day, if I did what I was told. “We are the ones that asked you to come here, because you are in trouble and don’t know which way to turn. There are four things that I want you to remember-North, East, South and West. On all of these four there sits a man who waits and wants to receive your tobacco. You have a name that you bear, which means a great deal to me. Your name means a whole lot. As you go along, you’ll realise this. Your thinking power is working real hard. It will get you somewhere, if you listen to it.”

Here is the mandala symbolism, as in the vision of the sword and the cross-the four old men sitting around something that is round. The woman is told there is something she knows, something in her, that she should tell people. She is, at the same time, given her orient­ation-four things to remember, North, East, South and West. And she is reminded of her name.

‘Then another real old man     spoke. “It’s been a long time since you thought of your grandfather. I like to receive your tobacco once in a while too. I’m the one that suggested to this man the name that you are called by. Don’t be afraid of me because I’m big. I will tell you what you are supposed to do once in a while. You are supposed to put out food, like meat and corn, and put some tobacco into the fire or on the ground when I go by. You do your own speaking (i.e. to the spirits). Nobody else needs to do it. I am the one who will listen.”

Then I said, “Oh, I’m the one who made a mistake. I never thought that I would ever make such a big mistake. Sometimes when I think of the things I’ve done, I thought I’d done them right; but I didn’t.”‘

As later transpires, the mistake was that the woman gave no tobacco to the people she was named after, i.e. did not adequately realise the name, and consequently did not find her true being-again as in the sword and cross vision.

‘Me said, “Sometimes we see you in this certain kind of dance. You are holding the precious flag (the feather flag held by the person who addresses the spirits). That flag belongs to us. Before you speak or do anything, offer some tobacco. If you have no tobacco, you have to give the price for your tobacco.” That’s just what I do now. If I can’t speak, I have somebody speak for me.

Then I went on from this place along the trail a little ways. I bear and see some more. This man has his finger up in the air. He’s talking. He’s from the South. This is a different man. There’s a thing about four feet high-just a stick sticking in the ground. The man takes the stick and hands it to me. “If you lean on this stick,” he said, “you’ll use two of them later on, as you go along the road, if you do just what I tell you. (To ‘walk with two sticks’ is synonymous with long life). Go to your great adviser (the old priest to whom she is married) and tell him what you have seen.”‘

Mere is good counsel. The chief difficulty in all experience the other side of consciousness is adequate realisation. If the woman tells her ‘great adviser’, there is a better chance of holding the experience and bringing it into life.

“As I was corning back along this trail, I saw a great big snake about this big around (six inches). He raised his head about this high (four feet) from the ground. “Don’t be afraid of me,” he said. “Just go back and tell your adviser what you have seen. If you don’t you won’t be able to walk.” Then he pointed and said, “Look over there.” I looked and saw myself lying flat on my back. Then the snake said, “But if you do what I tell you and tell all that you know, everything will be all right. I want to come into that place (her home). I like that place. It makes no difference how it looks. I’m coming there just the same. I’ll go along now.” Then I walked back home along the trail. That was all. Then I made preparations for going through the Midewiwin.’

This is the encounter with the snake, the embodiment of the unconscious; and again the good counsel for realisation-’ tell your adviser.

‘One afternoon, after I’d made all of my preparations for join­ing the Midewiwin again, I was all alone at home. The door was open about four inches. I looked at the door and saw this person coming in. I felt kind of scared. He was an unexpected visitor. He came in a few feet and said, “I have come at last.” He looked around, turned over on his side and ,made himself at home. Then he spoke to me: “If you take care of me like you should, I will do a lot of things for you, because I am the one that suggested all this to you. When you start, have the prettiest dress you’ve got. I know that I am welcome here. Don’t be afraid of me, because I have come a long ways to see you.” That’s all he said. Then he became a snake and went out.’

This is the ‘bringing home’ of the embodiment of the unconscious, as a separate, uncanny but helpful presence. As the ensuing passage shows, it is the snake that leads to the way.

‘That’s just the way that thing (the hide) looked. I got a snake hide that third time I joined. He (the snake) is the one that put these things into my mind and set me to thinking. I’d wondered what was wrong, because I’d never kept thinking and seeing things like that before. He’s the one that suggested I join the Midewiwin. He also asked me if I wanted a drink. I said, No, not when I entered his house (the Mide lodge).

One of the old men spoke to me when I was in the lodge, the third time I joined. Me said, “When you come tomorrow, dress as nice as you can. That’s how this person wanted you to enter this house.” That’s just what I did. He said, “When you go along this road, do the best you can. Pay attention to what is before you, not what is behind you. When you speak, watch your tongue. After you get through here and know what to do, watch your step for the next two or three years. If you do, he’ll take you along this road just as he suggested. This road never comes to an end. ,pay no attention to the side roads. Pay attention to the road that s in front of you. This is his (the snake’s) road, and this is his home. 1f you take care of yourself, he will do the rest. Your thought be­longs to no one but you. Don’t listen to any kind of wind that’s blowing about you. Just turn the other way and do the best you can. He will know, because you’re the person he intended to enter his house. He has picked a person from our midst who happens to be you. He thought that you were the most wonderful thing that God has created. That’s why he picked your home to be his home; he liked that place. And this little thing that I’ve got in my hand (a tiny blue and white shell) belongs to him.”‘

Here is the deep centre (the equivalent of the jasper stone in the sword and cross vision), the something from the depths which ‘be-longs’ to the snake. The old man continues:

“Whatever you say and do-he knows all about it. Don t think that he doesn’t hear whatever you say, because he does. He has become one of the wonderful members of your household.” Then this old man pointed to my head. “See how your hair is today. As you go along this road, your hair will change to a different colour. This thing (the blue and white shell) will take you along the road that we are going to teach you about.” Then he touched the tip of my ear. “These things you own yourself. They belong to nobody but you. The thing that has happened to you is the most wonderful thing I have ever heard of. I have heard of that happening in olden times. Back in my days I heard that people had such a vision like that. It is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a person on this earth. Don’t be afraid to give what you’ve got; because later on, in years to come, you will get paid for it. As you go along this road, you will be using one stick. Maybe by that time you will have grand-children, and you will be able to tell them about this wonderful thing that has happened to you. As you go along to the end of this road, you will be using two sticks. You will still be walking toward this wonderful house that you have seen. This (the shell) is the one that owns it.” ‘

In the Midewiwin third initiation a shell is supposed to be magic­ally ‘shot’ into the candidate from a snake hide, which is referred to during the ceremony as a ‘gun’. Here is the authentic symbolism of the deep centre: that which takes her along the road; that which owns the wonderful house towards which she is travelling; that which enters into and transforms the personality. The old man concludes:

‘”In maybe five or six years from now, you will be entitled to join again. I hope that I may still be here to see it and know what it’s all about. I’m telling you this again, to impress it on your mind. Don’t regret the things that you did in your younger days. You have made only one mistake. Don’t let it happen again.”

(The interviewer asks: What mistake was that?)

“I didn’t give no tobacco to the people I was named after . . .”

When you join the Midewiwin the third time, they tell you that the snake is wrapped all around the earth. He may scare you, but he doesn’t mean to. When I joined that time, they told me that if I had anything nice that grew from the earth-like black­berries-I should give a feast. But I didn’t do it, because the berries were all gone by then; and three months later I gave my hide away; so there was no use in giving a feast to the snake.’

The end is failure. ‘Three months later I gave my hide away.’ The experience has passed her by. The woman to whom these images came saw them as she might a film. She was aware of the archetypal processes with the natural awareness of the quasi-primitive, but she had not the means of incorporating their value into consciousness. The revelation itself was admirably complete: the mandala; the name; the snake; the deep centre. The way she is shown is, in effect, the reso­lution of the fundamental opposites of consciousness and the uncon­scious. ‘This road never comes to an end. Pay no attention to the side roads. Pay attention to the road that’s in front of you.’ But she could not hold the experience. All the transforming symbols were there but not the necessary realisation. Quoted from Experiment in Depth by P. W. Martin

Dream doorway to wider awareness

The inner centre, the Self, or the guiding spirit of a person “is realised in an exceptionally pure, unspoilt form by the Naskapi Indians, who still exist in the forests of the Labrador peninsula. These simple people are hunters who live in isolated family groups, so far from one another that they have not been able to evolve tribal customs or collective religious beliefs and ceremonies. In his lifelong solitude the Naskapi hunter has to rely on his own inner voices and unconscious revelations; he has no religious teachers who tell him what he should believe, no rituals, festivals or customs to help him along. In his basic view of life the soul of man is simply an ‘Inner companion’ whom, he calls ‘My Friend’ or ‘Mista peo’, meaning ‘Great Man’. Mista peo dwells I the heart and is immortal. In the moment of death, or just before, he leaves the individual, and later reincarnates himself in another being.

Those Naskapi who pay attention to their dreams and who try to find their meaning and test their truth can enter into a greater connection with the Great Man. He favours such people and sends them more and better dreams. Thus the major obligation of an individual Naskapi is to follow the instructions given by his dreams, and then to give permanent form to their contents in art. Lies and dishonesty drive the Great Man away from one’s inner realm, whereas generosity and love of his neighbours and of animals attract him and give him life. Dreams give the Naskapi complete ability to find his way in life, not only in the inner world but also in the outer world of nature. They help him to foretell the weather and give him invaluable guidance in his hunting, upon which his life depends…… Just as the Naskapi have noticed that a person who is receptive to the Great Man gets better and more helpful dreams, we could add that the inborn Great Man becomes more real within the receptive person than in those who neglect him. Such a person also becomes a more complete human being.”

Tribal Elders

Becoming a tribal elder is a natural accompaniment of soul growth: As the individual grows in stature and in grace, bringing the personal will ever more into alignment with the Creators will and developing the talents it had earned in its long journey of earth sojourns, the personal evidence would mount for the promise of being and expression of the Creator.

These elders perceived as a matter  of fact and direct consciousness the redeeming presence  (within each unit-member of the group) of the larger life  to which she or he belonged. This larger life was a reality–  “a Presence to be felt and known”; and whether he or she called it by the name of a Totem-animal, or by the name of a Nature-divinity, or by the name of some gracious human-limbed God or what-not–or even by the great name of  Humanity  itself, it was still in any case the living  incarnate Being by the realization of whose presence the little mortal could be lifted out of exile and error and death and  suffering into splendor and life eternal.

FemaleTribalElder TribalElderMale



In American Indian education, within each tribe elders, “are repositories of cultural and philosophical knowledge and are the transmitters of such information,” including, “basic beliefs and teachings, encouraging…faith in the Great Spirit, the Creator”. “The fact acknowledged in most Indian societies: Certain individuals, by virtue of qualifications and knowledge, are recognized by the Indian communities as the ultimately qualified reservoirs of aboriginal skills.” The role of elder is featured within and without classrooms, conferences, ceremonies, and homes.

The following definition is from a study of the role in a specific tribe:

A point of reference: those people who have earned the respect of their own community and who are looked upon as elders in their own society…We have misused the role of elder through our ignorance and failure to see that not all elders are spiritualleaders and not all old people are elders

— Roderick Mark (1985)

Here is a persons experience in becoming an elder: “What arose was the sense that I need to move into being an elder in my tribe. I need to become more of a father figure, letting go of personal possession. There was a real sense of loss, of saying goodbye to something that I longed for. But gradually it came, and I felt I could let go of wanting to possess my woman, and being willing to act as a father or a loving friend. This felt like a huge development. It felt like an initiation that I was passing through, and if I could not have let go I would not have passed the initiation. As it happened, I did let go. I did pass the initiation. I did become an elder of my tribe.  So, to tell you what I feel Life spoke to me, I need to stand in the right space, a place you have not met me in yet. In this place I am the elder of my tribe. This is my lodge and I welcome you in. Welcoming is not a courtesy. It is offered to you because of who you are. My name in this place is both Pathfinder and Recorder. They are names given me by the spirit years ago. I listen now as an elder, as a man, and as the spirit of things.”

See: Iroquoian dream cultSpirit-Child: The Aboriginal Experience of Pre-Birth Communication.


-Cindy 2016-11-06 16:04:40

I am a cherokee decedent. I had a dream that I were in was in a field overlooking a ritual/dance. I am 47 and I have never had a dream of this nature before and not sure if it is of importance in my life now. Do you have any light to shed?


-Adam 2016-10-31 21:00:29

I had a dream last night that I was sitting with a chief as his son and we were at war with another nation there was a prisoner exchange and my father in the dream sent his best warriors and others to surround and attack them. The prisoners that were sent to us were executed, and I was sitting with him and he had me bite down on this bleach white bone and speak to him through it. he told me that I would be the keeper of bones, while pointing and I looked further into the village and I saw this bird like man with a scythe upside down stirring ashes in a fire with the it. and then I woke up in the entire dream I did not hear my name or know what it was.

-Ralph 2016-10-15 2:51:19

Had a experience where i kept hearing scratching on the roof like ugly ones then when i went to check their were like feet of a chicken but left in a perfect circle, what does rhat mean and also i keep having dreams of my ex wife , like if nothing happened but she did me wrong and cheated on me and its been years, what do it mean?

-Richardo Campos 2016-09-29 23:27:59

What does a waking dream of sanding markings or paint off of an arrow mean?

-Lena 2016-09-29 13:10:09

Hi, It is 6am where I’m located. I feel like I need to know why I’ve been dreaming about snakes lately. Mostly ALL summer…My most recent one was with an ancounter with multiples ones I was walking in sand and there they were. I soon ended up in my grandma’s house and they were everywhere, I do not know why but it followed me to my grandma’s room where I seen my grandma sitting on the floor folding her clothes. I quickly jumped on her bed & told her there was a snake in her room to have her get up off the floor,but she sat there with absolutely no fear & was talking to it telling it to leave and to not come around but it tried to strike at her and she with no hesitation slap the hell of that snake and it left but felt the need to come back & thats when I woke up. I am native american and my grandma is native american navajo tribe and I know this has to mean something I need some sort of answer on what this could possibly mean. Please any one if they can.

    -Tony Crisp 2016-09-30 10:33:29

    Lena – First of all a dream takes place in a completely different dimension or world than we experience through our body senses. In this dimension our dream images are not like waking life, because a dream is nothing like outer life where things could hurt you, but is an image like on a cinema screen that even if a gun is pointed at you and fired it can do no damage – except if you run in fear; so all the things that scare you are simply your own fears projected onto the screen of your sleeping mind. See

    So the snakes you dream about you fear and avoid because that is what our waking life has learned, and unfortunately we transfer it to our dream life and feelings. When we realise this it can change our experience of dreaming completely.

    In talking about this inner life we have, it was said, “It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being, and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even to our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves to inhabit this vast land. Sitting Bull.”

    Even our animal neighbours are part of our heritage and given the same rights. See

    In dreams the snake can represent the enormous power of life/death. It is the power that has constantly moved you through babyhood, childhood, adolescence into adulthood. It is wise to realise this force in you, for it never stops, and will continue to push you through old age and death into life again. Your grandma showed no fear because she represents the wisdom of your people learned from past experience. She slapped the hell out of it, suggesting a fight with an evil influence, but she had not learned the wisdom of Sitting Bull to meet it as a neighbour.

    You can do this by using and both of which might help you to integrate and meet the great serpent power you native people obviously knew about –

    But modern writers fail to understand that the ancient people lived with a very different world view than modern intellectuals. They had access to the huge world we all have within us, in which the secrets of life and death were common knowledge. See


-wanda 2016-09-19 1:54:04


    -Tony Crisp 2016-09-20 11:11:03

    Wanda – An unusual dream. The four Native American suggests groundedness; a quality to do with being part of the Earth and nature, with the Mother Earth. The feather and tallness of the men is a sign of their powers and high position in your mind. The feather also represents selfless acts of courage and honour, or been gifted them in gratitude for their work or service to their tribe. It says that in some way you have been initiated into the tribal view of life.

    Their bows and arrows pointing upwards indicates that their earthy and personal strength is directed to a higher purpose or life.

    You can take that course too if you choose it. See


-heather dale 2016-08-20 6:18:42

I am a third cherokee and i had a dream about a fish tank with a bunch of little colorful fish. One I remember the most is a little yellow one with a curly tail happily doing flips in the water and smiling making me smile in my dream too. Any ideas?? Thanks…heather.

-Crystal 2016-08-09 18:51:31

I had a dream I was deep in the woods and heard ancient songs being sung by native american indians. I saw a creek and I could hear them coming from the other side of the creek. I hid behind a tree as they came around. They were all dressed as you see in the movies with feathers and all. They were walking in a group in the creek water that was about waist high. I looked in the center of the group and there appeared to be a huge muscular man’s body, but the head looked like a buffalo’s head or a bull and it was solid white. I was frightened as I looked at it. The indians seemed to be worshiping it. It turned it’s head and looked straight at me as I tried to hide behind the tree. I saw this as I was taking a nap one day. It was so real. It had to be a vision. I’ve been told my father was full blooded cherokee. I know he was something because you could look at him and see he was Native American Indian without a doubt. He died when I was young and I have very little info on names or grandparents. I’ve been praying for someone who could help me. I have prophetic dreams all the time. Others tell me of their dreams a lot and I can help them interpret them most of the time. Any advice on how to help me understand this dream or find out about my heritage would be much appreciated!

    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2016-08-15 9:23:58

    Dear Crystal – Being deep in the woods is about your natural feelings, the self you are underneath what you may express in your daily life. It is the magical world of the unconscious, full as it is of strange forces, primeval creatures and miraculous people.
    It shows you becoming aware of the level of yourself that is usually drowned out by your daily life or civilized activities. You will be more aware of meeting your internal animals. This is the country of dreams/visions and the unconscious. In the forest you are in touch with the forces and wisdom of Life.
    See also
    The strength of these inner forces still frighten your conscious self, so go gently and be patient with yourself.
    Perhaps you feel like exploring “the Indians” in your dream, as they are not afraid of entering the natural flow of Life; “They were walking in a group in the creek water that was about waist high.”
    The feelings that flow through us or we are immersed in are the process of life in our body, connecting with emotions, sexuality and changes of mood, we know this river as the flow and events of our life or destiny. We are constantly a river of energy which is expressed in everything we do. Because it is Life that flows through us it is creative in its action;
    “Being the Indian” may help you in learning to feel more at ease with the powers that are part of your inner world;
    Another way to gradually open up is also a way of helping others might be found in
    A vision is your dream process breaking through while you are awake and you can explore it the same way you would explore a night time dream;
    Your heritage is part of your inner world and through exploring the inner world of your dreams and visions you will find out.
    Anna 🙂

-jessika 2016-07-10 17:55:43

I had a dream that I was living when my ancestors were still alive and this one native man came up to me and one of these other native guys and said he didn’t like the way this guy from another tribe was acting towards him so they ended up fighting and started a war amongst the two tribes and all that was left was all these native woman and the other tribe and all of us native woman gathered in a circle and we started praying and singing in our language and then I woke up… what does that mean ??

-Maggie 2016-07-04 3:02:43

My dream was sitting next to a stream near a large medow of green grass and I could hear a large heard of Buffilo in the distance. A bare chested, bronz skin man stood next to me (I was unable to see his head)saying “they are waiting for you” & led me to a large teepee that had large white pokadots on one side. “You must go in alone” he told me. So I lifted the flap & walked in. Inside were a large circle of older men. Their faces were glowing red from the embers of the fire in the center. The oldest man that sat directly across from where I was standing, stood up and pointed at me saying, “we name you Blackfeather”. I felt over joyed within & said “thank you”. I returned outside, walked up to the headless, barechested man, placed my right hand upon his chest saying,”we are Blackfeather”.
I woke up and will NEVER Forget that dream!!!!

-Amy 2016-06-09 17:00:51

I was waken shortly after having a dream of a Native (presumably Choctaw as I also am) Medicine man in a modern day black silk suit with red tie standing in the landing infront my bedroom with drum in hand singing . It was white leather with a red mandala in the center near where his mallet struck. Turkey feathers hung from the back. In waking work I live in a two story townhome with rooms off every angle from the landing at the top of the stairs. He was exactly center in the area. It wasnt a war song nor was it a death or illness song. “Ikhana” was repeated alot (muskogean dialect for “I speak, I talk”).

Any suggestions?

-chad schulz 2016-06-03 13:47:15

I had a dream it was sone kinda zombies apocalypse, but teens were parting outside, i was at anative families house,kinda small, they feed me and my one companion, there. Beautiful daughter sat on my lap and ate there, her father beside me, i was respectful although we all new i wanted her, she left the room to do dishes after a bit i went to talk to her. She said ” u have three heads,one is a wolf” what does this mean? I am about 20% Stockbridge munsee mohican,all my family lives on oour reservation. In my heart i am 1000% Algonquin! !! I read and obsessed with my culture. Thank

-Shawnee 2016-05-09 8:29:31

So, I have two dreams that have been bothering me. One of them I had not than a year ago and it has been popping up in my head for quite some time now. It was about a man who wanted to escape from the public (he was a famous actor, if I can recall). One night he drove down this old rode, and along the right side were fruit trees; the left was all dirt. Them, this old vacant stadium came into view. I had pulled in an parked to sleep and this old man who had worked there has noticed this new car and cautiously approached and knocked on the window. This is where in the dream I began to feel the emotions from the younger gentleman. The older man has asked the younger guy what he was doing parked here, and the younger man who sounded more tired than the older man said, “I’m tired and just want to get away, but I still have so much to give back.” The rest of the dream is continues to get more vivid from there on and the emotions get more overwhelming.

The second dream, however, was just recent. And I’m not if I should be afraid or not. This particular dream had a Indian chief statute that had been carved from wood. I was on my own one day walking around a historical site dedicated to one of the first nation tribes and I was trying to get back to own roots. I remember remeber taking pitcures of a red arc made of rock (or wood) and when I had gotten back to the motel I was staying in I want through the pictures and noticed a pair of glowing ellow or gold-ish colored eyes. The eyes were looking from behind a building where the Indian chief statute had been. The next photo I looked at, the glowing eyes were from the statue. So, put the pictures aside and thought maybe there was a glare of some sort. The next morning I woke to sound of sirens and the statue in my room. And the statue wasn’t small it must have been at least over 6ft. Before I could scream, a shaman or a medicine man covered my mouth and escorted me out of my room. The man told me about a legend, that particular chief statute was cursed and those who had fallen under its gaze or seen yellow eyes in photographs, were hunted down and killed. And the only way to put space in between you and the statue were to say a word that sounded like “Sprat” and “Tim” together, or “Sprat tame” there times and that stops him from moving. Later in the dream I had been running through a park and he had been following me, I kept getting tounge tied and pouncing the word wrong and just before he was about to end my life with a hatchet, I said the word once correctly and woke up. The way I felt when I had woken up though is as if the statue or the Indian chief himself had been in the same room as me.

I apologize if this is too much. I have had vivid dreams like this since I was very young and there have been only 3 major dreams that made me wake up with tears. And there have been cheating dreams, but those don’t bother me as much as the two I just mentioned. I even tried looking them up somewhere else, but nothing I can interpret from them makes any sense…

-Aaron 2016-03-20 2:06:41

i had a dream about a big black snake with red eyes encircling me and eventually trying to squeese the air put of me can you tell me what this could possibly mean i don’t like how it feels

    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2016-03-23 17:16:17

    Dear Aaron – Without you sharing anything about what you think might have triggered a dream like this or links with it in some way, it is difficult to understand a dream that is so short.
    On a psychological level your dream may reflect how you feel that you or someone else is so constricting you that you do not have enough room to breathe anymore and to express yourself.
    If you can relate to that, you could use
    Sometimes a dream may reflect a condition in the physical body;
    If you have had a feeling of squeezing or tightening across the chest while feeling short of breath in your waking life, you may consider a health check-up.
    Anna 🙂

-Sarah 2016-02-16 14:23:25

I had a dream about lizards, all with many shades of green. All bared traditional rug designs.. I was laying down in the grass where one I wasn’t sure if it has bit me, but I had many marks on my arm. I looked towards a bare tree. Not hurt is cedar or juniper. All lizards were upon that tree staring at me unblinking.. I never felt so out of place or scared about lizards.

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