The Shenandoah Papers Chapter Three: Pamunkey and Peace Pipes

Crack! You whirl your head around in a sudden surprise as your fellow tribesman accidentally steps on a twig.

“Sorry,” he says thoughtlessly, as he shrugs in indifference.

You let out an exasperated sigh as you continue through the forest.

Just two days ago, your chief had sent you and one other member of the Lakota tribe to scout for food, as a deadly famine had begun to struck the community. Without a form of sustenance, everyone was sure to be doomed. However, the other member of your tribe begins to show great indifference and reluctance in the task, believing his best course of option would be to abandon the village and find his own food.

You wipe a great deal of sweat off of your damp forehead as you and your partner stumble upon a clearing.

“Dead end,” he says, gesturing to head back.

Before you can voice your disapproval, you notice a lady in dressed in a gorgeous white buck skin on the ground.

“We should go help her, I would have her for a bride,” your companion says greedily, with lust in his eyes.

Ignoring your protest against his advancements, your companion darts towards the girl. However, the woman stands up slowly, and a thick white fog begins to envelop the two.

When the fog dissipates, she approaches you from the fog, stepping over his bones.

Although this traditional Lakota story might seem to have a dark ending, there’s a moral behind it.

The woman tells the surviving man that she will not hurt him, for he did not show any signs of evil intent within his heart. She explains that the first man approached her with malice, and she could sense it within his heart.

The woman reveals that she is a Wakan Tanka (which translates to “Great Spirit”). As a divine being, she states that her desire is for the man to return to his village and to prepare a feast for her. Upon doing so, the man and his people are rewarded with great gifts, and a ceremonial smoke pipe (a Chanunpa).

The woman teaches the tribe how to perform several ceremonies, and she departs, vowing to return one day.

While this story might not have the fable-worthy stone-slinging skills from David or the iron-forging power of King David’s blacksmithing, it possesses a similar purpose:

To convey the idea that spirituality is the foundation of every country.

But the problem with spirituality, like many of the other pitfalls of sentience, is that it is entirely subjective. To each person, spirituality is objective in nature, as it becomes the truth that people accept in life. It’s because of these polarized patterns of objectivity that such devastating conflicts have come to be.

As highlighted in the concept of Systematic Genocide, the government found it best to strip Natives and their children of religion and to institutionalize them for the purpose of assimilation. While it’s difficult to imagine such mortifying atrocities occurring, especially in periods as late as the 1980’s, acceptance needs to be primary in order to implement reparations.

In modern society at a ground level, we find ourselves looking down upon others who have different viewpoints or cultures than us. In the case of the Natives, radical fundamentalists treated them as evil and sought to tear them from their roots. However, Theology and Anthropology teach that regardless of the cover of one’s religion, the content remains the same — each person has their own subjective truth about life. Whether or not we believe in their truth, the least we could do is understand that it we don’t have to believe in it in order to accept it.

In 1623, the newly-settled colonists held a peace conference with many of the Powhatan people. Whilst serving them wine and a feast, the colonists explained their desire to forge a long-lasting peace between them and the tribe. However, the conference was short-lived as over 200 Powhatan tribesmen died from drinking what appeared to be poisoned wine. The colonists then attacked the rest.

The point in referencing the Pamunkey Peace Talks is not to shed light on an old wound (although it might be necessary in the case of some discourses to do so), but rather, to show how wicked humanity can become when it is driven by the fear of the unknown.

Revisiting the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, we learned that the man was able to bring a great fortune upon his people because he harbored no ill intentions in his heart. Should humanity learn to employ such a tactic — to approach the unknown with a graceful acceptance, rather than malice and twisted intent — honest progress might be made by leaps and bounds. Although I’m skeptical that life on Earth could be Heaven, I have no doubt in my mind that if people were to cast aside their preconceived notions of what they think they know, and bare their hearts in front of their enemies, we could be that much closer to paradise.



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