American Indian Teachings: Teepee in the Water

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The following is an excerpt from Nature’s Way: Native Wisdom for Living in Balance With the Earth by Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, pg 32-33. There are so many lessons we can learn from nature in everyday life. This is one of them.

A teepee was behind us, and we saw its reflection in the water in front of us. Chief Eagle Feather pointed to the water and exclaimed, “Nephew, now there is a teaching.  That teepee reflecting in the water, it is telling us something Almighty wants us to know.”  The reflected teepee stood out clearly in the Missouri River backwater before us.

“If you go and dive into that water,  Nephew, you will not find that teepee.”  He would always start out with something that was, like that statement, basically simple and obvious.  “ If you walk over there and look in the water, you will see yourself. Now what does that tell you, Nephew?” Knowing that I didn’t know the answer, he continued.

“That teepee in the water tells us first that there is a world beyond.  Some say the Spirit World. Next it tells us that we have a home in the Spirit World. But if you want to jump in the water now, you will not find it.”  He stood up and motioned for  me to follow to the water’s edge. When we looked down in the water, we saw both our reflections.

He pointed at my shadow, now long as the sun pursued its downward trail to the west. “Ho wana [Now] what is that?”

“My shadow,” I answered.

“Oh huh,” he grunted.  “When you die, you will no longer have a shadow. Your shadow will then go into the teepee’s reflection through the teepee’s door, and you will have found your home!”

I followed him back to the teepee and we sat down in front of it. “All these things are simple, Nephew, yet they are way beyond the wah shi chu.” (He used the Lakota Sioux term for “white men,” but that term can easily be understood as “Dominant Society,” from his perspective.)  His look brightened.  “You will come to learn that every little thing the Creator makes, no matter how unimportant it seems, has a teaching.

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