It is our intent to spur your interest into further examination of the lives and stories of the powerful individuals highlighted here. Further references can be found at the conclusion of each article.

We encourage your participation in building this reference. Please feel free to use the response form to send any additional references and/or information you may have regarding this or any other powerful person you wish us to include in our reference. A special thanks to Dulles High School student, Dorothea Exis, for the "Powerful People" graphic.

Many current inspirational speakers encourage their audiences to become familiar with men and/or women known for their powerful influences in society in hopes of inspiring each to become the best that they can be. In the Native American tradition, those identified as having such power were often Chiefs, Shamen, Medicine Men or Women. In fact, our term "doctor" means "teacher". Surely these individuals have something to teach us about living in harmony with the Earth and each other as we explore the stories of their lives and the words they spoke.

Historical

Contemporary


Historical People of Power

Fools Crow - Ceremonial Chief - Teton Sioux

Frank Fools Crow has had many exceptional things written about his profound love and concern for all races. It was his fervent wish to share his profund gifts with as many as he could reach. "Survival of the world depends on our sharing what we have, and working together. If we don't the whole world will die. First the planet, and next the people." Then he continues, "The ones who complain and talk the most about giving away Medicine Secrets, are always those who know the least." He had little time for anyone who attempted to keep blessings for themselves.

Fools Crow agreed with Black Elk when he said, "I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured, it was the power from the Outer World, the visions and the ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two leggeds. If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish." He believed that the Higher Powers taught that this healing power comes in and through a person first to make us what we should be, and then flows through us and out to others.

In his becoming a hollow bone, Fools Crow believed that he went through four stages.

  • First, he called in Wakan Tanka to rid themselves of everything about them that would get in the way, such as doubt, questions or reluctance.
  • Then he recognized himself as a clean vessel or tube, ready to be filled with hope, possibilities, and anxious to be filled with power.
  • He experienced the power as it came surging into him.
  • Finally, giving power away to others, knowing that as they are emptied out, the Higher Powers will keep filling them with even greater power to be given away.
  • There is no consensus among Native Americans or outside observers regarding the definition of power, but the general view seems to be that power comes initially from a supernatural source or sources, and that it is best described as an astounding and electric like energy that pervades the universe. Power is present everywhere, in ever varying degrees in everything. This power exists in everything so that it can justifiably be said that each of us is, in a sense, part of this power. Fools Crow expressed the idea that it was his belief in this power, which he recognized as an entity, that made his communication more effective. In order to prepare for receiving and using the power, he performed a simple, yet powerful, prayer/ceremony.

  • With his eyes closed, he began to pull with both hands at his chest and abdomen as if he were pulling out evil, negative things or stumbling blocks. He grabbed many handfuls, and threw away what he had gathered.
  • He clutched at the air above him, where he seized unseen things in his head and body.
  • Finally, he started to pull invisible things out of his chest and body, holding both hands side by side in front of him and threw what he was clutching out into an invisible audience.
  • As he sang a "sound song" to the Higher Powers, he became like a clean new hollow bone.
  • He prepared for any spiritual or healing act by this simple ceremony. He taught that the cleaner the bone, the more powerful the healing. Medicine People do what they do for their community and nation. "We are called to become hollow bones for our people, and anyone else we can help. We are not supposed to seek power for our personal use and honor. What we bones really become is the pipeline that connects Wakan Tanka, the helpers and the community together. This tells us the direction our curing and healing work must follow, and establishes the kind of life we must live.We have to be strong and committed, otherwise we will get very little spiritual power and will probably give up the curing and healing work. The lessons we are taught by our human teachers, as Stirrup was for me, stressed that the traditional way of performing a ritual is more important than curing someone. Curing a single individual is only important in terms of what this teaches the entire community. This community must continue to know that Wakan Tanka, and the Helpers are always with it, and that it need no be afraid.

    Seeing a person healed gives them this assurance, and it gives the community strength to carry on in the face of distress and disasters. So the Medicine Person sits at the center of every important thing that goes on in their community and nation, and when power is set in motion and distributed, it brings us more and even greater power. We emphasize that prevention is more important than treatment where the community and individuals are concerned. Getting ready in advance may not prevent our being hurt, but it keeps us from being destroyed. It is unfortunate, but our people have begun to forget this, and they are paying a tragic price for it. They get knocked down and they do not have the strength or the way to get up."

    In summary, Fools Crow was taught that while we are each given natural power at birth, we are also surrounded by spiritual or supernatural power. This spiritual knowledge includes the knowledge needed to obtain power and to set it in motion. If we wish to go beyond the natural power we were born with, we must entrust ourselves to Wakan Tanka, Grandmother Earth, and the Spirits of the Four Directions (Helpers) and then call in spiritual power from them. When we have made contact, we can ask them to send to us their individual spiritual powers to be added to our natural powers. We then receive the knowledge we need to understand what we have been given and the directions for changing this power into motion.

    The procedure for receiving power is:

  • Purification.
  • Becoming a clean tube for the Higher Powers to work in.
  • Using focusing tools to walk the Ancient pathways where we will find guidance in ways to achieve goals.
  • Dispensing this power to others.
  • As all of this is done, we enter into a special reciprocal relationship with our community. By sharing this power everyone is cared for. "Anyone who is willing to live the life that I have led, can do the things that I can do." If the prophecies are right, making our communities a place of cooperation and communication with the Higher Powers may be critical to our survival. For more information: Fools Crow, by Thomas Mails and Secret Native American Pathways also by Thomas Mails.


    Historical People of Power

    Cochise - Chiricahua - Apache Chief

    Pictured is Cochise's youngest son Naiche, said to look like his father, taken by Frank Randall in 1884.

    Not a lot is known about Cochise's descendants except to say that he was the descendent of a long line of chiefs and was rasied to follow in their footsteps. Although Apache leaders did not inherit their positions, but rather earned them by demonstrating their abilities and influencing others, the son of a great chief was treated specially and had a good chance to become a leader himself. Ceremonies and rituals accompanied every stage of an Apache's life - from birth to death. When Cochise was about 4 days old (a magic number to the Apaches), a shaman, or Medicine Man, would have constructed a special cradle for him known as a "tosch" and attached a bag of pollen or the claw of a hummingbird to protect him from evil forces. When he learned to walk, another ceremony would celebrate his first pair of moccasins, and the following spring a ritual would have been made of his first haircut. Each of these events and hundreds of others were social occasions as they were part of the Apache religion, with feasting, dancing and much singing.

    Cochise was taught Apache religious beliefs as soon as he was able to understand them. Through stories told by his parents, he came to know the Apache God, Usen, The White Painted Woman, Child of the Water, The Mountain Spirits, and the force called Power that raged before the universe was contained in all things.

    Power was in everything, but it was also possible for Usen to award a gift of Power to an individual, giving him special skills and foresight. Cochise received many gifts of Power, and the Apaches believed that it was these gifts that allowed him to be a successful warrior and leader.

    The Apaches believed in many kinds of Power - some good and some bad - and felt that these forces were in constant conflict. This idea explained the enemies in their life and the need to struggle to survive in a region that although very beautiful, presented constant challenges.

    Kind beings known as Mountain Spirits were thought to have lived in the caves on Cochise's homeland. The Apaches believed that these spirits were very special protectors and could help with important ceremonies. Any undertaking would be much less prosperous without their assistance. Thus, the Apaches felt a strong connection to their home mountains. To leave them meant to be without the Mountian Spirits.

    Although the Apaches stayed near the Mountain Spirits, they moved around quiet often within their home territory. The women packed their belongings and each time they stopped, they built a wickiup - a small dome shaped hut covered with brush or animal hides. Apache women were responsible for most of the daily chores. Although Cochise would not be expected to cook or clean as an adult, working with his mother during his childhood taught him a valuable lesson. He learned never to take a woman's contribution to the family for granted.

    Cochise no doubt was taught the importance of strict mental and physical discipline, as were the other Apache children as their lives often depended on it. In time, Cochise memorized every rock, tree, and hole in Chiricahua territory. He developed patience and self-control by stalking deer, the skin of which was of great value to the Apaches, but which was a most difficult animal to hunt. Sometimes when a heard of deer would be grazing in the open, a warrior would be forced to spend hours crawling on the ground behind weeds to get close enough to it. Although this kind of hunting could be frustrating, it helped Cochise develop stealth, which would come in handy on raids.

    When he was 17 or 18, he became a "dikohe" or apprentice warrior, and was given a different name. He was called Goci, later spelled Cochise. The Apaches were taught that "counting coup" or stealing stealthily, was a better way to let your enemies know that you had the upper hand, rather than killing which would no doubt lead to retaliation and more bloodshed. Over the course of his dealings with both the Mexicans and the Americans, he would steal horses from under the noses of his enemies, adding to his reputation as a man of much power. It was only after his family and his nation had suffered many casualties, that his raids turned to revenge, and even then, Cochise was known to return many horses stolen by renegade Apaches when he had not approved of their actions. Throughout his life his incredible skills as a warrior inspired respect from his people and terror in his enemies, but friends and Indians alike believed him to be an honest man.

    In the end, Cochise's skill as a diplomat helped his people retain the lands they so cherished. Many have said that he was the most powerful Apache leader in history. At his death, it was reported that his people wailed loudly for more than a day. After his death, the Government broke the historic treaty made with Cochise and moved the Chiricahua from the ancient mountain homeland to the hot, flat, dry, Arizona desert. Many refused to go, and after their defeat, were sent to prison in Florida or died in Oklahoma of tuberculosis or other diseases. For most of the Chiricahua, the day they left the reservation was the last time they saw their homeland. For more information: Cochise by Howard White, Professor of History, Pepperdine University.

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