Do You Make a Difference?

Making a difference is part of our mandate in life.

It is a goal of achievement that elevates our self esteem, our admiration of our fellow travelers, and most importantly the respect of our Creator.

We are taught in the Mide’ way of the Pot of Life, a lesson on the Path to the Veil. It is intended to help us remember how our actions impact others, and why we are here. By observing the lessons of the Pot of Life we find that we also are making a difference. This is good.

This lesson is taught in a Shawnee/Mide’ legend. Listen as the Storyteller intones…

We are meant to remember all things that happen in our lives. That is our job. But it is not good or right to relive the badness that was once in our path.

“In the time when all things were created, in the time when Creator was causing all creation with Its Thoughts, and after It had thought of two-leggeds (humans) and we were, It gave us each our Pot of Life. It then placed a stick that just reached the rim, resting inside this Mystical Pot.

In this pot are placed everything we do, think, and feel. As the pot fills, the good floats to the top and the bad sinks to the bottom… and the middlings, just float in-between. The wise person will take time as their pot fills, to take the stick, touch the top of the muck and sludge at the bottom, and then break off the top part of the stick. This way the shortened stick cannot stir the bad therein. In the end as our Pots of Life are finally filled to the rim, the wise one smiles and stirs the only the good memories with their now much smaller stick.”

We are meant to remember all things that happen in our lives. That is our job. But it is not good or right to relive the badness that was once in our path. We are fully aware that it is there, and there it should stay. Be wise and live a long happy life… and along the way, as the Hopi say, “Make a few friends.”

I have had the opportunity to refill my Pot of Life many times, and each time I have strived to make a difference that will improve the lives of others.

An Opportunity to Teach and Learn

One extraordinary opportunity was the privilege several years ago to participate in a school project for kids in a rural Ohio elementary school.

I was one of a select group of citizens who were chosen to recreate the lifestyle and persona of the pioneers of that area, around the time of first settlement. The goal was to give the students a glimpse into the past, when their ancestors first cleared the land and created the early American settlement of Harrisonville. Ohio. The event was called the “History of Harrisonville,” a living experience for the third grade classes at Minford Elementary School.

This is an annual event where the history is taught in this way for each third grade classroom group. Minford is a rural southern Ohio town in Scioto County. My thanks to Mrs. Evans and the Principal Mr. Evans who graciously invited me as a Shawnee Descendent Elder, to share a bit of what it was like to be an Indian during those times, and to inspire the children to grow from the lessons learned at this event.

In addition to my Shawnee Indian presentation, there were demonstrations of quilt making, square dancing, frontier living, military servicemen in that time complete with their vintage weapons, horse drawn wagon rides, and other crafts. The kids also played period games like marbles, jump rope, sack racing, checkers, etc.

It was, as often is the case in the springtime, held in the multi-event assembly room because of bad weather, as well as being held outside in the woods. No matter the location… the kids were always amped!

As you could expect, the noise at times was intense as their excitement reverberated off the tile walls and the hardwood basketball floors.

What a wonderful opportunity to leave the “outside world” and make complete the Circle of Life by sharing and bonding with our next great generation.

I was privileged to present the history of the Shawnee in the area, shared stories, and displayed artifacts of my People. In order to refocus the children’s attention away from the other events in the room, I began the presentation without uttering a word.

I was dressed in 1800’s tribal wear and as each class approached my display, I looked up, without speaking a word. I motioned, using traditional sign language, for them to sit on the floor. They got it.

After they settled in I stood and addressed them in our traditional tongue, Algonquian, the regional dialect of the Shawnee. “Boozhoo mShemahs chena nSawsawhs, adireanahuk peh atn gitchee wabun…” then morphing into English, I shared what I had said, and taught them each word’s meaning and how to pronounce them. We sang songs, I shared with them artifacts of my Ancestors, told tribal stories in the traditional way, and we all had a great time.

As the presentation progressed, I took off pieces of my 1800’s tribal wear and explained to them what it was and how it was used. Soon I was standing in front of them in a dark T-shirt still wearing my medicine pouch and bead necklaces, and jeans. Putting on a blazer, I explained that this is how we Shawnee might look today. The whole journey from the historic dress to present was to show them what some call stereotyping, but more importantly to allow them to have a better understanding of who my Ancestors were in the early days of settling the Midwest. It was to display a transition from our traditional garb, progressing into modern times. We still honor our Ancestors by wearing the wardrobe of their day and yet are modern people, just like their parents and neighbors. The message was clear. The kids were fixated.

Near the end of each class, I introduced them to a “new tradition”… I made each student a “Life Member of the Friends of Chief Great Elk Shawnee Clan,” taught them to make a pledge to follow the Clan’s Laws of Responsibility and Honesty and to Walk the Shawnee Way, to Help all People in Need and to be a Better Person Daily. It was overwhelmingly received. What a wonderful opportunity to leave the “outside world” and make complete the Circle of Life by sharing and bonding with our next great generation. For anyone who believes that there is no hope, just look into these young faces and know that they “Have the right stuff.”

Share the Love

If you’d like to share in such an experience, join me and make your difference in the next gen. Volunteer, share, and inspire. It is our JOB! With hope and prayer, this next generation will recapture the essence of the innocent life we cherished.

This tradition teaches us that we are gifted with a large Pot to be filled with everything we do, and that, if followed, will provide us with the experiences necessary to impact in a good way, our learned experiences with others.

By sharing your heart, the smiles and enjoyment will refill your Pot of Life to overflowing again and again. Try it… and take time to give thanks to your Creator for this wonderful opportunity.

May you ever Walk in Balance.

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The Keepers

Jim Great Elk (kiji) and Kelly Talking Heron (Ashá) are Wisdom Keepers,
who believe everyone walks their own path on the Circle of Life.

Through the Powaka Experience, you master four basic Stepping Stones to
your center… where you learn to Walk in Balance and discover Your Destiny.