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#1441 - Monday, May 26, 2003 - Editor: Jerry  

Spock Speaks  

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Happy Birthday Bob

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Cree want 'spiritual' meteorite returned

Kathy Walker  
The Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Cree people call it Papamihaw Asiniy or flying rock, and revere it as a sacred being with immeasurable spiritual worth.

It's a 145-kilogram, iron meteorite that sits on display beside an old buffalo head in a gallery at the Provincial Museum in Edmonton. Some visitors see the profile of a native face in its pitted, reddish-hued surface.

When Stuart Steinhauer visits the museum, all he sees are the iron clamps around the rock. He wants them removed.

Steinhauer, spokesman for Blue Quills First Nation College on the Saddle Lake reserve, says native people want the rock returned to its original landing place, a mound overlooking Iron Creek, near Hardisty, about 240 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.

"It's a spiritual being, it's not a dead object," he says. The college regards the artifact as a vital aspect of its community life because Cree people traditionally travelled to pay homage to the rock.

"It has a duty to help Cree people and other indigenous people with their entire livelihood," Steinhauer says.

Narcisse Blood, chair of the Mookakin Foundation, which oversees the repatriation of sacred objects on the Blood reserve, supports the college's efforts.

"I'm glad there's an organization like Blue Quills," Blood says. If it gets the rock back, "it's good for everybody."

Ron Mussieux, curator of geology at the Provincial Museum, thinks the asteroid fragment should remain at the museum.

The meteorite, the third largest in Canada, is "probably the best meteorite in Canada to show its scientific features," Mussieux says. "I like to think there's other value to it besides the native, spiritual aspect."

History shows that the spiritual aspect of the rock was paramount to Plains people.

"From a religious standpoint of the Cree people, it was very significant," says Hugh Dempsey, historian and author of Big Bear: The Man and His People. "They left offerings for it in hope of a good buffalo hunt."

Lt.-Gen. Sir William F. Butler, a British officer commissioned to study the Canadian northwest, noted that "no tribe or portion of a tribe would pass in the vicinity without paying a visit to the great medicine" rock.

"The old medicine men declared that its removal would lead to great misfortunes, and that war, disease and death of buffalo would afflict the tribes."

Despite the warnings, local missionaries loaded the rock onto the back of a cart and shipped it to a mission near Smoky Lake, about 135 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, in 1866.

Dempsey says taking the rock would be akin to snatching the Declaration of Independence from Americans.

"There would be a tremendous sense of loss," says Dempsey. "They saw it as their protector of evils in the world."

By 1886, the meteorite was being studied at Victoria University in Cobourg, Ont. It eventually landed in an obscure corner of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where it stayed until 1973, when it was returned to Alberta.

All three evils did befall the native people occupying the land in and around where the rock had rested: In 1869, war between the Plains Cree and Blackfoot escalated, with more than 400 people dying; the ravages of smallpox claimed the lives of 3,500 native people the following year; and that winter, hundreds died of starvation when the buffalo failed to come north.

"The interesting thing is that the prediction did come true, which makes one wonder," Dempsey says.

Steinhauer believes returning the rock to its original landing place will bring about an economic revival for native people.

"Imagine a strong, self-supporting Cree economy without welfare," said Steinhauer. "I think getting the rock back into the spiritual cycle, as long as it's in our hands operating with us, for us, it'll be a huge step forward."

Although not as optimistic about what the rock could accomplish if returned, Gerry Conaty, senior curator of ethnology at the Glenbow Museum, said, "Basically, if sacred ceremonial objects can be used in ceremony, they should be returned."

Conaty says the provincial First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act passed in 2000 stipulates as much.

The Glenbow has already repatriated a number of sacred objects.

While the Provincial Museum has yet to repatriate any items, it has sacred bundles on long-term loan to Blackfoot communities, and has been consulting with First Nations about the rock since last fall, says Dr. Bruce McGillivray, museum director.

"The elders are sharing with us their perspectives on the manitou stone's history, significance, and how best to care for it."

Dempsey worries that with no individual owner, security may be an issue if the rock is returned to its original location.

"It would be too much temptation," says Dempsey. "Collectors would likely steal it, break it up, and sell the parts."

Conaty, who has negotiated the repatriation of numerous sacred artifacts, says he's never heard of any one of them being stolen or sold.

"These aren't normal things we're talking about," says Conaty. "People don't take these things on lightly."

Steinhauer says the rock, although it doesn't belong to anyone, would be treated with the utmost respect by native people, because: "We belong to it."

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 Copyright  2003 Edmonton Journal  

Live Journal  

My Time in Prison  

Once upon a time, my best friend was the Chaplain of a small prison. It was designed to house 50 women, and 100 men on a short term basis. When I was there, it contained almost 300 souls, many of whom had been there 2-5 years, awaiting trial, or deportation.

"Preacher" was six foot six, weighed almost 400 pounds, and was bald as an egg. He swore that in his prime he was six foot eight, had shoulder length hair, and more muscle than fat. I can't vouch for that, I didn't know him then. His youthful escapades had caught up with him, his health was very bad, and deteriorating rapidly.

Preacher was the bodyguard for the leader of a motorcycle gang. One day they were caught in an ambush. He stepped in front of his boss, and absorbed a fusilade of bullets. His life hung by a thread, when his chief visited him. "Name it, man, anything you want"...."I want out with my life!", he gasped. After a long minute, "If you walk out of here, I give you 48 hours, safe passage out of the state. Don't ever come back!"

Preacher pulled strings, and got the Warden to appoint me as a Religious Service Volunteer. I had a photo ID, and admission to the prison for all Religious Services. I went several times a month for two hours, for four years. I would meet with prisoners one on one for counseling, and for prayer for the first hour. Then we had 30 minutes of hymns and prayer, then I preached a 30 minute sermon. Nothing I have ever done in life has given me more joy than this.

There were 10 tables, each holding 8 prisoners, so I know our worship service usually had 80 inmates in attendance. There were 8 women who attended on a regular basis, they always sat at the table nearest the podium as I preached. They entered last, escorted by guards, and left first at the end of the service. The most intense listener I have ever had for my preaching was a tall woman, pale skin, blonde hair. She was awaiting trial for first-degree murder of her infant son. Her gaze was hypnotic, locking on to me, and never letting go, till the guard took her by the arm to leave.

My most memorable day in prison held a surprise for me. After preaching the gospel, we went out into the prison court yard. It was a concrete pavillion, surrounded by a tall fence topped with coils of razor wire. In the center was a galvanized cattle trough, about 8 feet long, holding 3 feet of water. We had 9 prisoners step forward for baptism! I took a young black woman by the hand, just before we lowered her into the water. "The Lord Jesus Christ has set me free from crack cocaine. When I get out, I ain't never comin back!" As far as I know, she never did.

Live Journal

Interesting post about prison ministry. Reminds me of the time I played in a gospel band on a tour of the prisons in Alberta. We visited Innisfail, Fort Saskatchewan, and Drumheller, playing concerts for the prisoners which were followed up with sermons of sorts to help them find Jesus. There was a handful of us who were recruited into this band as paid ringers to fill out the missing instruments, and we played these great arrangements from a choir in Harlem which were really fun to play. Apart from the minister trying really hard to convert us heathen jazz musicians on the tour bus to Christianity, the highlight of that tour was meeting Colin Thatcher at Drumheller, who watched us from the back of the room for the whole concert, and then came up afterward to tell us all about how he was framed and that he was innocent of his wife's contract killing. He'd already been in jail for a number of years by that point.

It was an interesting trip. I believe that I earned every dollar I made on it.

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Before Hui-Neng: The Five Previous Chinese Patriarchs

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Satsang Reference Links

When I Awoke

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Female Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

Who's Who in the History of Mysticism

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Dinu-Stefan Teodorescu's site

Likenesses to Adi Da

Masters, Avatars and Disciples: An Index of Spiritual Teachers

Spiritual Biographies

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"Hearing the teachings benefits your own mind, and later,
because of having heard them, you will be able to benefit

~Lama Zopa Rinpoche

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Jerry Katz
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