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7 Sacred Directions of Native America in Poetry

Updated on May 26, 2016

Shoshone Sundance 1892

Soldier Pony Buffalo Skull
Soldier Pony Buffalo Skull | Source
Comanche Moon
Comanche Moon | Source

7 Sacred Directions


Soldier Pony Buffalo Skull

As the Lakota fought losing battles

with so many blue coats from the east,

they noticed soldiers riding on ponies

carrying bright red white and blue flags,

and later, with care, painted that symbol

on a buffalo skull to place it high on a

cliddering cottonwood tree facing west

to give them strength during one of the

last sundances before they were outlawed

by the government whose symbol was

the fluttering stars and stripes forever,

and yet that painted skull still remains

here and there across the Great Plains

where the sundance is very much alive.


Balcony House

We climb a thirty-two foot

ladder toward a bright blue sky

until we all stand atop a tan

sandstone kiva courtyard of

the Balcony House deep within

a Mesa Verde cliff 700 feet above

the lurking depths of Soda Canyon

as a sudden wind whispers through

tufts of very aromatic pine, all the

while giving voice to timeless, lingering

spirits of the great Ancestral Pueblos'

spirits slowly seeping back into the

kiva's dark and sacred sipapu

to return to their sacred Mother Earth.


Black Elk's Thunder Beings

From West to East, thunder beings, thunder beings

rising white above the black of lower clouds

catch a rosy glint from the golden West.

Up they rise, ever higher, up to the Spirit,

the Great Spirit, the unifier, the unifier

sending fire down in bolts, jagged bolts,

scorching the wet green earth pelted white where

grasses sway and bend in rushes of wind

and cottonwoods clidder in torrents of rain

infusing matter with spirit across the plains

as rumbling thunder beings fade to dark of East,

and above the land, pinpoints of stars burn the sky.


Shoshone Sundance

A buffalo cloud forms in sky

while sundancers edge back

and forth from cottonwood tree

blowing their eaglebone whistles

for wholeness from the Great Spirit,

and as drums beat in glowing

firelight, buffalo cloud

disperses into the Milky Way.

Day ends and fear of death

overshadows life

until the morning sun

arises with fifty

piercing eaglebone whistles.

Red sun comes up

intoned with eaglebone whistles

as cottonwood branches

scent the air, fill the sky

where there is a union

through the human eye.

Bouncing dancers stretch

to touch the sacred

cottonwood with eagle plume

for a full renewal of

spirit and matter

at the center of

a green and branchy world

as sundance lodge

seems to swirl

in endless drumbeat.


Comanche Moon

We arrive at Palo Duro Canyon

in the light of a bright orange moon

to peer down eight hundred feet

through pinyon and juniper branches

at what was once the Comanche's

last stronghold in 1874 along with

Kiowas and Cheyennes camped

in safety from a thousand blue-coats.

While settlers would ask of the

Comanche, why is your heart so

defective when you light a fire

on the stomachs of your captives?

Comanches would ask why is your

heart so damn defective when you

chop into little pieces the flesh

of our warriors and cook it as

tasty bits of human meat to eat?

War, violence and vitriolic hatred

always seem to cut two ways.

General Ranald Mackenzie's troops

line the rim of Palo Duro Canyon

to peer down at five villages of

Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne

sleeping in calm security because

a medicine man told them they

would be safe from all the blue-coats.

Down, down, down come dismounted

soldiers holding their horses tight

and with great care to arrive at last

at the canyon bottom coated with

hackberries, cactus, wild cherries,

and mesquite--a raven's squawk

awakens the warriors from their

deep sleep to fight and flee on foot

from so many mounted blue-coats.

But Mackenzie orders his soldiers

not to pursue but rather burn the

Indian camps and kill one thousand

horses to be left in a huge, rotting pile.

Disheartened tribal people had no

other choice but to surrender later

at Fort Sill to end forever the massive

domain of the horse nations of the

Great Plains and Texas canyon country.

We stand in the silence of a Comanche moon,

almost hearing the snorts of one thousand

slain horses galloping in a forceful wind.

Perhaps the hooting of a mourning dove

speaks to us of the saddened souls of a once

great horse nation spread across the sky.


Chambered Ruins of Quivira

(Ancestral Puebloan)

Quivira's stone walls darken with

clouds over a sandy pinyon hill

punctuated with podded yucca like

spirits protruding from the ground.

Sudden sonic booms from jets rumble

to re-create Spanish thunder sticks

four tired centuries ago when echoes

boomed through peopled chambers and

circular kivas still alive with an

ever-drawing presence down below.

Slowly silence returns first with

winds intoned by needles of sacred

junipers and then with wrens chirping

like Kachina spirits strong with sun.


Sacrifice Cliff*

Small pox rages.

Let us build a fire

to see if it goes higher

or if it goes out.

Magic spirit has answered.

Flames shoot skyward.

Mount mount, mount!

Sixteen race to the edge.

Oh, Great Spirit

make them well

with our blood and bones.

*Crow Indians (the Absaroke) in 1840's near what is today Billings, Montana. As a result of this sacrifice, The Great Spirit or Acabadadea restored health to the rest of the tribe.

For readers interested in poetry written by Native Americans, see Harper's Anthology of 20th-Century Native American Poetry (1988).

7 Sacred Directions

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© 2010 Richard Francis Fleck


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    • juneaukid profile image

      Richard Francis Fleck 7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you Rebecca!

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada

      awesome lovely and beautiful... bravo!

    • juneaukid profile image

      Richard Francis Fleck 7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thankyou Hello,hello!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      They are absolutely awesome. Thank you for sharing.