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THE MOONS AND THE TOTEMS
The moon, or month, during which you were born determines your starting place on the Medicine Wheel and your beginning totem in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms. The first moon of the year, the Earth Renewal Moon, marks the time when the Father Sun returns from his journey to the south and begins, once again, to precipitate growth in the Earth Mother and all of her children. This moon begins at the time of the winter solstice, which usually occurs on December 22. This is the first moon of Waboose, Spirit Keeper of the North. It is followed by the Rest and Cleansing Moon and the Big Winds Moon. The moons of Waboose, those of rest and renewal, bring the time to contemplate the growth of the previous year and prepare for the growth of the year to come.
Following the moons of Waboose are those of Wabun, Spirit Keeper of the East. These three moons are those of awakening growth, when the Father Sun begins to illuminate all of earth's children and prepare them to bring forth their proper fruit. The first moon of Wabun is the Budding Trees Moon, which begins at the time of the spring equinox, which usually occurs on March 21. The other moons of Wabun are the Frogs Return Moon and the Complanting Moon. The moons of Wabun are those of illumination and wisdom, as earth's children prepare to grow in their proper way.
Next come the moons of Shawnodese, Spirit Keeper of the South. These are the moons of rapid growth, when all the earth comes to flower and bears fruit for that year. The Strong Sun Moon is the first one of Shawnodese and begins on June 21, the time of the summer solstice. It is followed by the Ripe Berries Moon and the Harvest Moon. This is the season of growth and trust. Trust is necessary in this season, since growth is so rapid there isn't time to ponder progress.
The autumn is the season of Mudjekeewis, Spirit Keeper of the West. The first moon of Mudjekeewis is the Ducks Fly Moon, which begins on September 23, the day of the autumn equinox. It is followed by the Freeze Up Moon and the Long Snows Moon. These are the moons that bring us the time of introspection, the time of gathering strength to look within and contemplate the growth and progress made in the preceding seasons. These are the times to prepare for the season of resting and renewing to come.
Each moon has a particular totem, or emblem, in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, which shares characteristics with the people who are born during this time. From your starting totems you will learn about yourselves, at the same time you learn more about your other relations on the earth. People do have a responsibility to their totems, to give them respect, liking and gratitude for the lessons and the energies they contribute to the continuation of life on our common Earth Mother.
As you travel around the wheel, you should strive to learn as much as you can about the totems of any place that you stand, so you are always growing more knowledgeable about those who share the earth with you. When you stand in the place of a different moon, you have the capacity to take on the characteristics of the totems for that moon and to learn from them, as well as from your fellow two-leggeds. The more you are willing to learn, the further you can travel on your journey around the Medicine Wheel.
Remember as you read of the moons that not all people will have all of the same characteristics, even though they share the same moon and totems. All travel the wheel at their own speed. It is possible, during the time you stand at one position, to sometimes have moods or phases that seem more fitting to those of another moon. These can remind you of positions through which you have passed or give you hints of the places you'll be traveling to next. The important message of the Medicine Wheel is that you allow yourself to keep traveling, rather than tying yourself to one position and blocking your energies from growing and changing.
Copyright © 1980 by Sun Bear and Wabun Bear
Remembering Sun Bear
Sun Bear, the teacher who envisioned this Medicine Wheel, departed the earth plane on June 19, 1992. Who was Sun Bear, this man who moved so many? What made him stand so much taller than the rest of humanity? What allowed him to know the human condition so well he could speak to each individual he met with the compassion born of true understanding? What accidents or circumstances of his childhood conspired to make a "poor reservation Indian with an eighth grade education" into a man who inspired hundreds of thousands of people--most of them richer, better educated--to reach for and find their own path of power?
Sun Bear was born Vincent LaDuke on August 31, 1929, on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. Two months after his birth, the stock market crashed. Sun Bear said he was shaped in part by that event and by the dustbowl he witnessed as a child, "a plague upon the Earth caused by the wheat savages," farmers who raped the earth with no thought for the consequences. Sun Bear was raised on the reservation, taught about plants and the natural world by his Ojibwa grandmother, and about healing and other forms of medicine by two uncles who were medicine men. In Native culture medicine people were sacred teachers, ones who could communicate with the many realms of reality and bring understanding. They also served as healers of bodies, minds, souls and hearts. These uncles taught Sun Bear about vision, which he defined as personal communication between the individual and the Creator Spirit.
Sun Bear experienced many visions in his life. His first came when he was three years old. He remembered very little of it and was told the rest by his family. He woke up making the sounds of an angry war chief and he wouldn't stop until his uncle gave him medicine that allowed him to sleep.
Sun Bear's second vision came when he was five and sick with diphtheria. In it he saw a large black bear surrounded by a rainbow of color. The bear reached through its rainbow sphere and touched Sun Bear on his head. Following that vision he came out of convulsions and lived.
Sun Bear went through the eighth grade in the LaDuke school, which had been named after his father, liking the walk to school more than the classes. His family had a big garden and raised animals, so they fared pretty well during the depression. At one point they traveled around while his father looked for work and Sun Bear went with them. Sun Bear trapped from the time he was seven to help with his family's financial needs, although he later opposed trapping. He hunted for food from the time he was nine. These experiences gave him the early base for his teaching about self-reliance and for writing At Home in the Wilderness and The Self-Reliance Book.
When Sun Bear was fifteen he went to a White Earth Tribal Council meeting and tried to tell the members how to better manage the tribe's resources by encouraging his tribesmen to become self-sufficient. They didn't listen then, saying he was too young to know anything. Twenty-five years later, when he had become an economic development specialist, his own and twenty-five other Ojibwa and Winnebago bands paid him to come tell them the same message of self-sufficiency.
Shortly after his first tribal council encounter, he left White Earth and traveled the country working in the fields, cutting wood, picking potatoes, doing dishes, helping in a cemetery, selling and cooking--whatever jobs he could get to support himself and widen his view of the world.
While he was exploring the white world, Sun Bear also explored the Indian one. Traveling the country gave him the opportunity to meet medicine people, teachers and just plain folk from many of the Native nations. During this period, Sun Bear formulated much of the philosophy he would later teach to others. Periodically he would return to White Earth and the woodlands that first taught him to love the Earth Mother in her many seasons and changes.
The gypsy lifestyle suited Sun Bear. But the Korean War was being fought and friends and relatives were advising him to enlist rather than be drafted. He did and lasted through basic training. Following that he realized, "If I wanted to fight those who took my country from me, I wouldn't be fighting Koreans." He headed for the hills. "I was a ninety-day wonder," Sun Bear said, "but in a different sense than usual. I did my ninety days and for the next four years the FBI wondered where I was."
During those four years he continued working and learning about his people. He went to Hollywood and worked as an actor. He became active with the Los Angeles Indian Center and the early renaissance of Native culture there. He also worked with the Reno Sparks Indian Colony on crafts programs and on improving the self-respect both of the colony and of the people living in it. He learned about working with the media and eventually got enough paint donated to paint the entire Reno Sparks Indian Colony. While he was in Reno, the FBI caught up with him.
At his court-martial people from many walks of life asked for his release because of the importance of the public service work he was doing. Nonetheless, in a time when conscientious objection was not very prevalent, Sun Bear was given a bad conduct discharge and one year in prison. Rather than curse his fate, Sun Bear used his time in prison to learn about himself. Sun Bear always had the ability to make the best of any situation, an ability he tried to pass on to his students. Because of continued support of Sun Bear's release, he was freed from prison after serving six months.
Following his release Sun Bear split his time between Reno and Los Angeles, working both in movies and with self-help projects. This was the time when the Eisenhower administration was working hard to eliminate reservations and force Native people into cities and away from their culture. Sun Bear was working with the Los Angeles Indian Center helping relocated Indians get enough to eat. After a while he decided to bring attention to the problems of Native people by hitchhiking to Washington, D.C., wearing a war bonnet and carrying a sign saying HAVE BLANKET, WILL TRAVEL, and he spoke to interested groups along he way. On this trip he met Betty Bernstein, his companion for the next four and a half years and mother of their daughter Winona LaDuke.
Sun Bear continued to work both in Reno and Los Angeles for the next decade. Along with Nimimosha, whom he met while he was attending a Berkeley Free Speech Movement event, he developed Many Smokes, the newsletter he had begun in Los Angeles, into a glossy national publication. They published At Home in the Wilderness and shortly after Sun Bear went to work for the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada developing self-help programs. When he became an economic development specialist who spent more time with paperwork than people, he resigned.
Following that, Sun Bear helped design a Native American Studies program at the University of California at Davis. He wrote Buffalo Hearts, a book honoring various great leaders of Native nations. Sun Bear began teaching at the experimental college, and that planted the seed that allowed his true work in life to grow. Sun Bear began to meet with a group of people in Davis whom he encountered through the experimental college, and out of this group came the core of the initial Bear Tribe.
The Bear Tribe is Sun Bear's vision child, which he had begun to birth when he was five. The birthing continued through subsequent visions. He knew he was to build a tribe of teachers responsible for sharing with other people those lessons of harmony and balance they had succeeded in learning through their own experience.
The Bear Tribe began in California in 1970. By 1971 there were more than two hundred people living with the tribe in over seventeen donated bases in that state. Invitations to speak about the tribe and requests to join the tribe came in from all around the country. As the number of people in the tribe grew, so did the problems. Eventually the problems outweighed the pleasure of seeing his vision come to life, and Sun Bear left for Reno with a small group of people, including Morning Star, who gave birth to Sun Bear's daughter Autumn in 1972.
It took quite some time for Sun Bear to recover from his first and only misgivings about the fulfillment of his vision. It took even longer to evaluate the problems and come up with some experimental solutions. The group attempted to help people learn to live together in a truly loving way without greed, envy, fear or competition. It was hard work to try to build a tribe of teachers out of people all raised in the dominant society. But Sun Bear persevered, helped by the people who shared his vision and by the further clarification that came to him in subsequent visionary experiences.
One of these visions led him to the place outside Spokane, Washington, that became known as Vision Mountain. On this land many people learned about self-reliance and about their true connection with the Earth Mother.
In another vision he saw people of all the clans, of all the directions returning with peace in their hearts and prayers on their lips to the sacred circle, the sacred hoop of his people. From this vision came the Medicine Wheel Circle, then The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, then the Medicine Wheel Gatherings. As a result of this vision, Sun Bear gained worldwide recognition for his work in healing people and the earth, and he touched hundreds of thousands of people with his message.
In another vision Sun Bear stood on a hilltop in total darkness while he prayed to the Creator. Then his hand was moved, and everywhere he pointed a brilliant light came on. These lights were different sizes, shapes and colors, and they reminded him of his childhood vision of a large black bear surrounded by a rainbow of color. This time the Great Spirit told Sun Bear the lights represented people who would come to him to learn, then go into the world to use their medicine knowledge. He was told he had to empty himself of the knowledge he had so that new things could come to him.
In the 1980s Sun Bear did just that. With the help of Shawnodese and me, he developed his apprentice program, and many people came to learn from him. He also stepped up his travel and lecture schedule, going to many parts of the world to share his message. Sun Bear felt an intense need to continue traveling, to continue teaching, almost as though some part of him knew that the light he was would shine brilliantly but for only a brief period of time.
The invitations to large events all over the world grew more numerous, and the numbers of people attending his events grew ever larger. There were waiting lists to attend Bear Tribe programs. Sun Bear traveled yearly to Europe to teach, and also went to Australia and Japan.
Did this impress Sun Bear? Only in that it made his vision more successful. While Jaya, his companion and wife, continued the struggle I had begun with Sun Bear to "upgrade his act," both of us met with only moderate success. Sun Bear was never one to spend money on luxuries. He worked hard to get money to fulfill his vision, not to indulge himself.
He often said that his vision had the power to pull him forward each day, to help him accomplish the goals of his life on earth. And it did. Despite all the wonderful women in Sun Bear's life, his first love was his vision.
Perhaps that, above all, is the thing that set the man apart. He had the audacity in this visionless time to not only have a vision and live by it but also to tell everyone he could reach that they, too, had a right to vision. Many believed him and radically altered their view of the world by seeing the beauty of life through the eyes of this simple man with a complex destiny.
What Sun Bear did in the world will continue to unfold through our writings and through the work of those he taught. Hopefully, it is our children and their children and all those who follow who will glean the real benefit of this incredible man's life.
Marlise Wabun Wind
Copyright (c) 1980 by Sun Bear and Wabun Bear
The foundation of the religion and the life of the Native people in the United States, as well as in most countries if you follow history back far enough, is personal vision, personal communication between the individual and the Creator Spirit, by whatever name this force was called.
Vision can come to individuals in a number of ways. They can go out upon the mountains or into the valleys and cry for their vision. Sometimes it will take many such quests before vision comes, if it ever does. Some visions are whole and complete and give the person receiving it total understanding of the universe and his or her place in it. Other visions come in parts, none of which is complete in itself. Eventually, with patience, enough parts come to make the vision complete.
Visions can also come to people complete in their dreams, and these can be the type that give total understanding. For others, vision might come during an illness, through an experience of dying and returning to life or even in the course of their everyday lives.
When vision forms the foundation of life, the sacred teachers know enough of this experience to help others if help is necessary in interpreting a vision. All people know that they have to give respect to each other's visions at all times. Today, so many people have forgotten that vision is possible that they tend to try to make it a museum relic of the past, an interesting display with no relevance to contemporary life.
We are all born with the capacity to dream and to have vision. This is what makes us humans, the animals who can have vision and seek to fulfill it on the earth plane. This is what makes us reflections of the force that created us all.
This book came about as the result of a vision that I had long ago. In this vision I saw that the time drew near when, for the sake of the Earth Mother and all of our evolution as human beings, we must return to a better and truer understanding of the earth and all of our relations on her. I saw that we would have to put aside the petty fears that divided us and learn to live as true brothers and sisters in a loving way. I saw that we would have to find others who shared our heart's direction, whatever their racial background, and join with them into groups that always remembered that our purpose was to be instruments of the Great Spirit's will and helpers to our Earth Mother. I saw that such groups could greatly effect the cleansing of the earth that is now occurring.
That was part of my major vision that I can share at this time. Since the time that I had it I have been striving to fulfill it, with good results. I am the medicine chief of the Bear Tribe, a multiracial medicine society based upon that vision, and we reach many people with the work that we do and with the message that we have been entrusted to carry.
Our message can be summed up in the phrase "Walk in Balance on the Earth Mother." This reflects all the attitudes of my people, a people who felt that their lives had to blend with all the things around and within them. They felt, as we do, that we have to come to a point where we truly feel the oneness, the unity, that connects us to all of the universe, and that we have to reflect that unity in all aspects of our lives.
The Medicine Wheel came to me in a more recent vision, one described in this book. After receiving the vision, which showed me how the Medicine Wheel was to be used to teach people, Wabun, who is my medicine helper, worked with me in developing and writing about these teachings. Her knowledge for this came to her through the small visions I have already described.
When we were asked to write a book about this vision of the Medicine Wheel, we felt that such a book could help many others to understand the visions that I have had. We felt that this book could help people to open their hearts to all of their relations on our common Earth Mother. The information in this book came to us through the Great Spirit, through our observations of our relations in the human, animal, plant and mineral kingdoms and through some reading of the observations of others. We have not read or studied astrology, although we have sometimes talked to others who have. The information in this book does not, to the best of our knowledge, conform to any way of gaining self-knowledge used by any particular tribe in the United States. This is a new way revealed to us at this time to help with the healing of the Earth Mother. We attribute any similarities between the Medicine Wheel and astrology or any other way of self-knowledge to the fact that all truths come from the same source.
That is how this book came to be. Let us open our hearts and share this vision of today. We all share the same Earth Mother, regardless of race or country of origin, so let us learn the ways of love, peace and harmony, and seek the good paths in life. It is good to have spoken.
Copyright (c) 1980 by Sun Bear and Wabun Bear