Brothers and Sisters who have Four Feet--OR MAYBE NO FEET AT ALL
by Mechi Garza
Everything on Earth is made with materials which come from the Earth. Just think about that a minute and see if you can think of anything that is not made from the minerals, chemicals, etc., that originate on the Earth. You can't think of anything, can you? Even if an astronaut should go to the farthest reaches of Space they would carry a bit of Earth with them in their body. That's why Native Americans say Earth is their mother.
Because of that, we consider everything to be our brothers and sisters. That does not mean just everybody. It means everything. So the four footed creatures, dogs, cats, horses, lions--you name it-- are kinfolk's to us.
That means that the Crawling People and the Swimming People and the Winged People are kin to us also. And it even means that the Standing People, trees and plants, are our kinfolk. Believe it or not even the Stone People are considered our kin, all made by the same Creator out of the materials of our mother, the Earth.
Because we are all one family, Native Americans are very reverent of every form of life. When Indians go on a hunt to kill animals they first pray for the spirits of those animals and give them great honor. They pray and honor them when they return from the hunt too. Native Americans kill only what they need to eat, and they try to use every part of the animal so that nothing goes to waste.
Because we are the children of Maka Ina (earth) we revere her and love her as our God-given mother. It makes our hearts ache when we see disregard and pollution of our lovely planet. I have seen many Native Americans--men as well as women--actually weep over this, and prayers for Mother Earth's safety are added every time anyone prays.
Native American people believe animals have "guardian angels" just as humans do. These Earth angels, as you might say, are called Medicine Animals. Sometimes these Medicine Animals watch over human beings as well, so an Indian might say they have "Wolf" medicine or "Hawk" medicine, etc., and will carry a feather, or tooth or such, from that particular Medicine Animal in their Medicine bag. (A medicine bag is a small cloth or leather bag, worn or carried by a person as a token of the protection they are receiving from spiritual forces.)
You may feel drawn to one particular animal. If so, ask the spirit of that animal to be your Medicine Animal. Often Medicine animals are chosen because you want a particular gift--such as the courage of a mountain lion, the stamina of an Elk, or the ability to fly high in your prayers as an eagle flies high over the mountain peaks. There are other ways to find your medicine animal too--and at another time I will tell you about them.
PATRICIA "MECHI" GARZA Choctaw-Cherokee tribal elder and council member
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