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The Star Quilt, Gift of Compassion

Updated on November 7, 2013
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.

Sharing the significance of the star quilt
Sharing the significance of the star quilt | Source

In the Native American culture of North Dakota, the star quilt is a symbol of compassion. It represents the deepest feelings the giver can express. Most often given at funerals and farewells, receiving a start quilt from a Native American is a great honor. It means that the individual has given above and beyond the call of duty.

During my four years of living among the Native American people on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, I came to understand compassion in a way I never thought possible. I used to equate compassion with disaster; i.e. people coming in droves to assist during cleanup and rebuilding. Brotherly love is felt and shared by all, those giving, as well as those receiving.

In Indian Country, grief and trauma are generational. There is no one that has not been affected in some way. Pain and suffering are ongoing, and there is no end in sight. Families struggle to survive as loved ones fall one by one to a host of societal ills, including accidents, illness, violence, drugs, alcohol, abuse, and infidelity.

Those who receive a star quilt are given the gift of eternal gratitude
Those who receive a star quilt are given the gift of eternal gratitude | Source

Those who choose to enter Indian Country do so at their own risk. They take upon themselves to step into a world where time ceases to exist. The past is the present, the present is the future, and the future is the past. It is necessary to listen, feel, and learn. There is no other way to survive.

Although the service is difficult, it brings unanticipated rewards. Daily acts of kindness facilitate acceptance. Individual differences are overlooked. Bonds of friendship are formed. Talents and abilities grow and develop. Guests are welcomed and extended family members invited to participate. Words are shared that build and strengthen individuals and families.

Just like the star quilt is built one diamond at a time, with patience and long-suffering, the seams are lined up and the shapes coordinated to form the patterns that bring the desired result, The relationships formed through compassionate service form bonds of brotherhood that bring in the influence of powers beyond our own. Lives are saved.

The gift of compassion not only benefits the receiver, but the giver. Hearts are softened and forever changed. Life takes on new meaning. Gratitude for the small and simple things is expressed more frequently and openly. Indeed,

The star quilt symbolizes the eternal nature of life. The Natives teach that the soul enters and leaves the world through the stars. The quilt is constructed with a ripple affect, the star in the center usually being of a solid color, then the star being duplicated in multiples through the strategic placement of color. The eyes move outward with the pattern, giving a feeling of connection to the infinite, the universe, and nature.


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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are welcome, Sushma. I appreciate you reading and commenting. When the Native Americans give a gift of a star quilt, they are giving the person a part of their soul. It has great meaning and significance, and only those who have entered their lives and left a meaningful contribution are given such a cherished gift.

    • Sushma Webber profile image

      Sushma Webber 4 years ago from New Zealand

      I have always been interested in the inner meaning of quilts and the tradition of quilting. Thanks for this wonderful article on Star Quilts.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, lrc7815. Cultural differences are sometimes difficult to understand, but once we look past these difference, we realize that we are all people and we have similar needs and desires.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

      What a wonderful hub. I have spent my life trying to help he dominant culture understand what makes Indigenous cultures different and composed of almost equal parts - beauty and pain. I love your analogy of the pieces of the quilt and relationships. Voted up.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for the nice comment, billips. I appreciate you stopping by and giving feedback.

    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      A lovely hub Denise - we tend just to admire beautiful things - it is interesting to also learn their significance - B.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is what I found in working on the reservation. I learned much about people and the difficulties they face on a daily basis.

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      As someone who has worked in another culture for 25 years it is interesting to read about other cultures, We can learn so much from each other

    • elizarubya12 profile image

      elizarubya12 5 years ago

      I think that is a great symbol for us to learn in another culture. It looks like this symbol is very meaningful to the native americans as they live their lives.