Every one of us went to bed. The Oklahoma group had new arrivals that came to support. During the four days of purification, we were told that we would be responsible for taking care of the drummers and singers. We would also need to help in the large kitchen when we had time because those who came to support and pray for this Sun Dance needed to be fed lunch, plus many at supper.
Well, we thought we had it all planned. I knew where everyone was sleeping. We were spread out all over the camp. Allen had given me a list of all we would need when I went to town. I got everything, and we had all I purchased organized and ready to prepare for breakfast and when serving lemons, coffee, or tea to the drummers and singers. We also had healthy snacks available for them when they had a break during the day. I planned to sleep well and did so until I heard a voice saying “I sure hope they have the coffee ready when we get up.” Several others responded with “Me, too!” Someone said, “Do you think they know what they are to do and when?” That completely awakened me!
Anita and I neither one had on a watch. It was dark. We knew the Sun Dance began at sun up, and it would be dark when we rose. I assumed that it was time to get up. I went to Allen’s tent first to get him to begin all we needed to do. Then I headed to other places to get others up that offered to help. Allen, Anita, and I were dressed and ready to get busy. Someone in a camper heard me and said, “Susanne, do you know it is only 12:25?” I said, “What?” Someone else verified her statement. I thought, “Oh, no!” First, I had to head back to where others were beginning to work and tell them they could go back to bed; then, I had to retrace to all I had awakened. This was my first mistake.
Our next mistake took place only a few hours later. We planned to cook during the first round and serve a full breakfast to the singers and dancers during their first break. Of course, none of us supporting knew how long a first round was. We got up and again got everything ready to serve coffee or tea. The drummers rose from their tent that was close to ours. I smiled and introduced ourselves. They were not smiling. There was no food yet. They could not wait. They planned to eat fast and begin on the drums quickly. We watched everything and learned that they wanted food before the dance, not at the first break. We clearly understood that they did not like us yet “at all.” I learned the gruff one I heard overnight was named Victor. And before long, we found out that the first round of dancing was two to three hours. No wonder they did not want to wait that long until they could have breakfast. When the break came, we were ready with a big breakfast for them. They said then that they were no longer interested in eating.
It was first light when the dancers lined up in one long line. They were all solemn as they stepped gently forward to enter the inner circle and moved around the arbor to enter the inner circle at the East gate just as the sun rose. They quietly enter the arbor through the East. We all stood and watched them. The men were wearing long red skirts. The women wore dresses with shawls wrapped around them. Most dancers were barefoot. Some had on moccasins. All dancers had crowns made of sage which reminded me of the crown of thorns worn by Christ. They also wore wrist and ankle bands which were constant reminders of where the spikes were driven. Each carried their Native American pipe. They moved clockwise to the West, and the dancing began for the day. Many came to watch. They sat in the arbor and prayed for healing and the dancers. Some made prayer ties. During breaks, the ties were gathered, taken to the tree, and tied on its trunk.
It soon became clear that there was not enough food for so many people to eat each day. I was asked if I could find some donations for food and go to the store. So here I was hundreds of miles away from home. I thought I left money problems behind, but I was right in the middle of a “no money situation” here. I easily raised money from new supporters to help and was able to acquire all on their list.
When I was finished with my duties as a supporter, I was able to be under the arbor and pray, focusing my prayers on the dancers and the many healings taking place. I had listened to instructions being given to the dancers the first time they lined up. They were told to stay focused and not look at anyone in the arbor. They were to keep their eyes on the leaf at the top of the tree as they prayed and danced. I decided to do the same by always looking at the top leaf of the tree when praying. were many healing requests made in prayer ties on the tree that was for others left at home as well as a healing round specifically for people that were present. The people requesting healing that were at the Sun Dance could go within the inner circle to receive healing when the time of that round came. One could feel the difference in the energy when they stepped into the inner circle.
As a supporter, the second, third, and fourth days were better than the first day. We knew what we were doing. For instance, when to serve breakfast and how to keep passing out lemon to each singer/drummer to keep their voices. The drum and singing were fantastic! The dancing took place from sun up to sundown. At the end of the dancing, it was time for laughter and dinner for those who could eat. Dancers did not eat or drink. Every individual made prayers to receive the nourishment and liquid from what we each received all day. It is amazing to become so aware of how this power of prayer worked. When we pray, prayers are answered. We need always to remember that. Sometimes the answer is no, but it is for the reason that we see later.
The second day, it rained off and on all day, plus it was cold. It got colder during the afternoon, and then I watched a miracle take place. During a break in the afternoon, Gary and his Dad took their pipes to the tree and made a prayer. We watched as the clouds slowly opened above the Sun Dance and made a perfect circle above us. It rained around us, but not on the Sun Dance. After crawling into bed the second night, a gully washer came. Every tent and everything in most tents was soppy wet. We all struggled to sleep. However, some of us ended up going to our automobiles to sleep a few hours before beginning the day. Dancers stayed where they were. The dance went on. I was learning so much about Spirit and was listening to everything. The eagle bone whistles were so clear. No wonder we saw eagles overhead. The dancers were cold, the supporters were cold, but it all continued. The fourth morning the sun was out. It was over, and we, as supporters, served our last feast when Sun Dance ended on this fourth day at noon rather than at Sundown. Everyone was happy! I saw miracles take place; healings be received, a release physically by many, a “letting go” for healing of many prayed for and even not prayed for, as well as this earth and the world.
After cleaning up camp and packing everything up, John, myself, Robert, and Anita headed out. They were following us and that was a good thing. Why? Thirty miles out of town, our van stopped as we went up the hill towards Valentine, Nebraska. It just did not want to go very far at one time. We got to the first dealership of four others. Robert and Anita took us to a nice motel where we all planned to spend the night. We left John’s van at the dealership. A shower felt great, and a good, hot meal was perfect. The next morning, they went on to get back to work. We picked up the van. They hoped it was repaired, but it was not. We stopped in three more dealerships, visited with people in each one while they were waiting on their car to be fixed or while they were fixing John’s.
We found entertainment in each community as we asked about local museums and walked to see them. We even traveled down one river by canoe when they said it would take hours to look at his van. The last dealership did figure it out, and we made it all the way home. Sun Dancers are “Wakan” for four days, going from the spiritual through the emotional and the mental, and then back to the physical following Sun Dance. We were, I believe, forced to take our time. For John, he needed this time before entering the work life again. I considered it a sign to “slow my life down” to open a space for more new beginnings, learn more about God and become more aware of signs and guidance I continually received. Or was this just about John praying for patience? Learning how to flow through frustrating times that requires patience? We both needed to get back to our work, but we agreed that we enjoyed every minute of “looking back at Sun Dance, all we learned and talked about what we each planned to do!” John had danced his first dance of four dances. When one commits to Sun Dance, they commit for four years. At the end of the dance, I committed to four years of Sun Dance before I left.
LESSON: Learn to appreciate all the support we have in our own lives. Look back and contemplate how miraculously put together life has been to teach us and to gift us. Learn to appreciate the negative and the positive. Often, we must walk through the negative and learn all we can from it to get to the positive. Allow life to change!
GIFTS: I learned so much from watching. For me, this is how it worked. The tree represented the Tree of Life for each of us. It represented the divine source for each person attending Sun Dance as a supporter or dancer. Many different people at Sun Dance followed different religions.
No one was told how to believe or what to do. We were all following guidance, but they were not telling us the answers. For instance, John kept asking and waiting to be shown how to dance before he got in the circle. No one ever told him. Supporters were requested to do different things, but if we asked for suggestions after making a request, they usually followed with a suggestion. When they did not say anything, Spirit seemed to bring the answers directly to each person.
By watching the tree and realizing that each day represented a quarter of the coming year, we might want to watch to see what happened. When we arose on the morning of the fourth day, the storm had twisted the tree completely around. Rather than the bundle of chokecherries that facing West, it now faced East. The tree showed us that something was coming from the East, and we needed to pray about it. That year, we had troops in Saudi Arabia during January, February, and March. This was the third quarter following Sun Dance. As we all know, we were all well protected during that time.
When we got home, my cousin Judy got home exactly when I got home. She was home, and she “walked from the car into her house.” That was one healing we learned from Sun Dance that year, one of many. We had prayer ties all over that tree for her. John told her before he left that he was “dancing for her to heal.” She understood. I walked into my apartment, walked straight to the phone, and telephoned Phil to find out what hospital Judy might be in long term. I never will forget Phil’s voice, her husband, when he answered the phone. He said, “We just got home ourselves. Get over here and see us.” I telephoned John. I did go over just as I was!