Fruits and nuts were gathered from the trees and bushes during this moon. Many of them were put in breads for crunch and flavor. Hunting was stepped up to prepare for fall and winter. The Ripe Corn Festival was celebrated to honor Selu, First Woman, and The Apportioner, as well, for providing a fertile harvest.
It was the spring of 1838 when a 14-year-old Oglala Sioux girl named Haxti lead a procession of Skidi Pawnee toward the approaching sunrise. She was painted and dressed for a sacred Pawnee “Morning Star” ritual. She most likely had no idea what was about to happen but did not resist since she had been living with the Pawnee since the previous autumn and had been fed and treated very well. The procession that followed her was made up of all the men, boys and male infants from the village.
She was directed to stand before a wooden scaffold by the Pawnee High Priest. The scaffold was constructed of sacred woods and leathers from different animals each representing one of the directions – elm for north, cottonwood for south, etc. It was built outside the village and erected over a pit with elements relating to the four cardinal directions and lined with downy feathers and represented the Evening Star’s garden of germination in the west. While they waited, the priests and procession sang four songs. They sang of the girl, about Heaven, and about the powers of the beasts of the four parts of earth.
When the star was due to rise, the girl was directed to stand on the fourth post and then was tied to the top post on the scaffold. At the moment the star appeared above the horizon, two priests rushed up and branded her under her arm pits and near her groin as the man who had captured her and dedicated her to the Morning Star fired an arrow into her heart. [For the full story, read Native American Skies – Pawnee Morningstar Ritual, Part 1
According to Ray A. Williamson, in his book “Living the Sky”, “The practice of sacrifice to Morning Star was part of the rites of the Skidi band of the Pawnee, a group that
had developed a unique relationship to the stars. Of all the Native American groups, no one had developed such an intricate and direct affinity to the stars. For them, the stars were kindred souls; they took much of the direction of their life from the sky.” [For the full story, read Native American Skies – Pawnee Morningstar Ritual, Part 2 ]
“According to their own stories, the Pawnee received much of their ritual direction from the stars. They claimed that at one time they organized their villages according to stellar patterns. Each village, they said, possessed a sacred bundle given to it by one of the stars. When the different villages assembled for a great ceremony, their spatial arrangement on earth reflected the celestial positions of the stars whose bundles they possessed. Then there were eighteen separate Skidi Pawnee villages, each associated with a different star.
“ … four of the villages belonged to the four semicardinal stars that Morning star overcame in his quest for Evening Star. These villages were termed the leading villages because each took its turn in leading the annual ceremonial cycle,beginning when the various sacred bundles were opened in the spring after the Evening Star Ritual. … they served as the pillars of Heaven that held the sky away from the earth.
There is no “visible” Big Black Star in the night sky so why did the Pawnee name it “Black” Star? There are numerous references where the Pawnee called the star “The Big Black Meteoric Star” or referenced a Sacred Bundle as “The Big Black Star Meteoric Bundle”. Astronomer, Von Del Chamberlain, speculated that a meteorite may have fallen from the part of the sky near Vega (thought to be the Big Black Star). Since meteorites are black soon after they hit the earth, the Pawnee may have taken it to be a message from the star. Sacred Owlwolf posted a story on “nativeartsculture” which he credits his “great aunt Sini Rain Drops Caller” for telling him. It is the story of “Osage Sky-Seeing” who saw a falling star one night and found it the next morning. The meteorite spoke to him in his dreams and told him that it had come from “a star that stands in the heavens a little to the east, but south.” Although, the meteorite that belonged to Osage Sky-Seeing is not the same one associated with Big Black Star, it illustrates how the Pawnee might have associated a meteorite as a messenger from a star and named it accordingly.
When the Cherokee looked up at the dark moonless skies, they saw billions of spirit campfires. Like today, they also saw patterns in the stars and told stories about the constellations. The constellation that we call the “Pleiades”, the Cherokee called “Ani Tsutsa”, or the “Seven Boys”. The story goes that eight young boys got so angry with their mothers that they prayed to the spirits to lift them into the sky. They danced around the Council House until they started to rise up off the ground. One of the mothers managed to grab the foot of their son and pull him back down, but the other seven floated up into the sky and you can see their bright campfires at night.
The milkyway, according to old Cherokee stories, was created long ago when the earth was young and there were not many stars in the sky. The people made corn meal from dried corn and stored it in large baskets. One morning an old man and his wife discovered that something or someone had gotten into the cornmeal during the night. In the middle of the spilt meal were giant dog prints. They were so large that the Elders decided that the dog must be a spirit dog from another world. They did not want the spirit dog in their village, so they decided to frighten it so bad it would never return. They put on their turtle shell rattles, got their drums and hid by the corn meal baskets. Late that night they heard a great whispering noise like many birds flapping their wings and looked up to see a giant spirit dog swooping down to land by the baskets. When it began to gulp down mouthfuls of cornmeal, they jumped up and made a great noise like thunder. The giant dog ran across the night sky and the cornmeal that spilled from its mouth turned into the stars of the Milky Way. [For the full story, read Native American Skies — Cherokee, What the Stars are Made Of ]
Every day during this political season, we are bombarded by political ads. Most of them blasting the opposing candidate and most of them telling out-right lies about that person! Isn’t it tiring? Why wouldn’t telling the truth work? Do they believe that we are so ignorant that we do not know or that they will not be vetted in the news media?
For the Cherokee, to lie was unthinkable. In fact, lying was punishable by death! Charles Alexander Eastman (1858-1939), a Native American Physician and writer, wrote, “Such is the importance of our honor and our word, that in the early days, lying was a capital offense…The deliberate liar is capable of committing any crime behind the screen of cowardly untruth and double dealing….[He was] summarily put to death that the evil may go no further.”
Well, that would change things, wouldn’t it? The ancient Cherokee believed that you told the truth or you remained silent. Sort of like Mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” [For the full story, read Truth in Politics]