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First People :: American Indian Poems and Prayers

Rosette Necklaces.

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Treasures

I walked down to the ocean and stood on the beach
Gazing at all that was there within my reach
I closed my eyes and smelled the sweet scent of the wind
Gently circling and caressing my skin
Lifting my long blonde hair softly as I strolled
No worries and no were special to go
Spending one day just enjoying the silence
Cherishing this special time with no pretense
No one to tell you what to do or say
This will be a truly wonderful day
Gathering all the seashells clustered on the sand
So many colors and shapes to look at again and again

There is a cluster of rocks jutting out away from the beach
So to them I will stroll and climb them to the very top
The view from up there is so beautiful it could make your heart stop
The winds are more formidable the higher you climb
Whistling as they swirl through the openings as they have for all time
There is a cave at the very top hidden from people below
I discovered it quite by accident when I tripped and stubbed my toe
There was an opening big enough for a person to walk through
And as I walked closer my curiosity magnified and grew
I very carefully approached the entrance and looked inside

It was empty and there wasn't any reason to hide
On the walls were carvings and paintings of ancient times
A language that I have never seen written before
In the back of the cave was an animal skin hanging like a door
It was brown and painted with many different scenes
As if it were a map of a persons happy dreams
There were colors of red, yellow and blue streams
Small huts were scattered here and there
And plants were pictured with a lot of care
Painted all over the skin so delicately and the edges
Looked like they were stitched with horse hair

Could this be a settlement of an ancient tribe?
And someone had used these very walls to scribe
Detailing the life of the people that came and went
Showing all that they did and how they built their tepees
I was in awe as I looked over this animal skin
Where had it come from and when did it begin
Questions entered my mind one after the other
As I traced with my finger and felt each painted flower
There at the very top of the rocks stood a man
Was he looking outward and dreaming a plan

How long had these people lived here
Why did they live so close to this beach?
Did they just come here to write in this cave?
So that their heritage they could save
How many men and women wrote on these walls?
So that generations would be able to recall
By reading the paintings and the strange signs
How the lives of these people were led from day to day
And they even painted the Gods to whom they prayed
In all bright colors and models made from clay

On the walls were painted pictures of canoes
With men paddling out in the water below
Were they fishing and where did they go?
And then the pictures began to tell a sad tale
Of another tribe entering this beautiful land
And how these people fought and made their stand
Until once again the bad tribe was driven away
And the people could live in peace for another day
Pictures of men lying and bleeding on the ground
Women attending them as they laid them down

I moved the flap of the skin used as a door
And there was another room I hadn't seen before
Inside were treasures beyond my wildest dreams
There were pottery dishes and clay mugs
Cooking utensils and many other useful things
That had been placed here by these American Indians
Pouches sewn so carefully and decorated
With all sorts of different designs
If they had not been made of leather
They would have never lasted for all of this time

The room had shelves that were loaded
With some elaborate and colorful drawings
And some moccasins that were hanging on the wall
Some were very big and some were so small
I looked at them and counted 10 pair in all
I gently picked one and looked it over from front to back
The workmanship in making these showed nothing they lacked
Each stitch had a bead that was carefully put in its place
You could tell by the knowledge these people had
That they must have been a very intelligent race

As I gazed around the cave I spotted a large leather bag
It was laid against the far wall and it did not sag
I was curious to see what was in this new surprise
Carefully I opened it and smiled and I couldn't believe my eyes

A magnificent headdress made of beads and feathers
That trailed almost down to the ground
I stood there in silence as I gazed at this precious find
Gently caressing the beading and the feathers
That was preserved in that leather bag for all this time
The feathers were white with black coloring at the base
They were all put side by side and with leather they were laced
The beading was colored in a bright sky blue
But interwoven between were designs using other colors too
I carefully replaced it in its leather bag and tied the knot through

On the other side of the cave there seemed to be a lot of things
Standing side by side and maybe eight feet tall
They turned out to be bows that were strung and ready for the hunt
The sheathes of arrows had heads on them that weren't blunt
On the walls above them were depicted scenes of great beasts
And blankets strewn down and laden with a magnificent feast
All of the warriors were sitting on the ground in a circle by the fire
They were all talking and eating and none of them looked tired
The next pictures showed a wooden pipe being passed around
And each man took it with two hands and his head was bowed

I walked a little further into the back and along the wall
Where there were more paintings of the fall

On the ground in a small heap covered with a tarp
Were many beaded and decorated baby sacks
I could tell by the paintings on the wall
That the women wore them on their backs
With rods on either side holding the leather taunt
You could see that the ends of the rods were blunt
The baby wrapped in fur and strapped inside
While his mother took him with her for a ride

In the furthest corner I spotted another opening to explore
And this one too had a leather skin used as a door
Inside were many of the things I had seen sitting on the cave floor
But then I spotted something that I had not seen before
All types of animal furs preserved and in perfect shape
I reached down and picked up a beautiful ceremonial cape
It was white fur and had designs of a bear in shades of brown
And it was decorated with fancy beading all around
The front had ties that could be used to close the cape
Made out of the same fur it tied at the nape

I lifted it gently and put it across my shoulders
With my eyes closed I could picture myself there
Standing within the circle by the fire with beads in my hair
Asking the Great Spirit to hear all of our prayers

My arms stretched out and the palms of my hands
Lifted up towards the moon lit sky
Listening to the beating of the drums
As the dancers moving gracefully danced by
Each one singing the same haunting tune
As they all danced under the full moon

Memories I did not think I had came into my mind
As if I had really been there at one time
I felt the spirits of the ones that had been here before
The ones who had painted and left all these things on the floor
I put everything back in its original place in the cave
And decided to learn more about this special place
The people that had put these things here
Were intelligent and proud and tall
I could tell all these things because they
Were shown through the paintings on the walls

One last look around at this wonderful find
Then down to the beach I began to climb
Thoughts running through my mind
To save all this history and keep it in one place
Would take a lot of work and would need a lot of space
I pondered what I would do to preserve this incredible find
This was a piece of history from before my time
I drove to the university that is at the end of town
And went to the library were I was lucky and found
A few old books that had all the old history written down

I settled in a chair and read them one at a time
Until the closing bell of the library started to chime
I borrowed a few of these books and took them home
So that I could enjoy reading them when I was alone
What an amazing story started to unfold
About a tribe of Native Americans from long ago
How they lived and traveled from a far off land

And set up their home in this place and their lives began
Planting their corn and setting up their tepees and hunting their deer
They all lived together in this place for many a happy year

Then the times changed and the land dried up and there was no rain
And along came the invention of the steam engine and the train
So again this tribe had to gather everything and move on to a new place
Taking everything with them except what was left in that cave
Probably because they felt it was safe and they would retrieve it one day
All of these precious things that they treasured would be hidden from view
Stacked and packed carefully so they didn't take a lot of space they would stay
Because this tribe had to find a new place to live farther away
Maybe one day to return and retrieve what they had left behind
But something must have happened with the passage of time

Further study took me deeper into the lives of this ancient tribe
I was able to find a lot more written about them in other books
They had moved on to another land where the great buffalo roamed
And in this new land they settled in and rebuilt their new home
There were pictures of them riding horses with spears in their hands
Hunting these huge beasts as they stampeded across the land
The book described how they skinned the animal and treated the meat
And how everyone in the tribe divided it up so that all could eat
They never took more animals than they needed to live
And they gave thanks to the Great Spirit for what he did give

I managed to get the names of some of the elders that were still in the town
And I called them and asked them if I could come around
To listen to their stories about this Native American tribe
That was living so close when their great grandparents were alive
One told me a story about how every week they would come into town
And the people would bring their goods and all would gather around
They would barter and trade for the things that each wanted to sell
And the older lady said with a smile that they all got along very well
The tribe would have furs and rugs that they had made
And the settlers would give them flour, sugar, and coffee in trade

As the old lady rocked in her chair she smiled and she told me a story
That her great grandmother had told her when she was just a child
About how the native people learned to heal using herbs from the wild
And that sometimes her great grandmother would ask for their aid
Whenever their was an illness and they refused to ever be paid
Over the years they all became friends but like all good things
Even close friendships come to an end
Hunters came to hunt the great buffalo for only their skins
Leaving the rest of the animal to rot in the hot sun
That is when all of the tribes problems begun

So they had to gather up all of their things and move further in land
Because of the white hunter and the buffalo they slew
Traveling far away to another place to start their lives anew
This older lady and I spent many happy hours together
And she even told me how her great grandmother
Learned how to tan and make clothes out of leather
These treasures that I had found in the cave on top of the rocks
Have been returned to the tribe that they originally belonged to
Because in my heart I knew that this was the right thing to do
So the ancestors that left these treasures know that they are home
And the spirits in the cave can rest now and not have to roam

©Janice Marie Peruzzini

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