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Draplin Design Co., North America


I know today’s Thanksgiving, and of course, I have way too much to list to be insanely thankful for, but I can’t get the Native American “Four Directions” symbol out of my mind.

Wednesday was an intense day. I took a ride with Hugh Weber, Ellen McGirt and Jason Alley down from Rapid City to the Pine Ridge reservation. An intense, little roadtrip.

I met a kid at Wounded Knee named Daniel, and he told me about the symbol on the contemporary grave markers on the peripherals of the mass grave that is fenced off. He told me the symbol has all the colors of mankind: Black people, red people, yellow people and white people. Just as simple as that. Which, was striking, and accepting, and universal.

I never knew about the symbol. Feeling bad about that.

Looking a little deeper, the tribes interpret the Four Directions a number of ways:

01. Stages of life: birth, youth, adult (or elder), death
02. Seasons of the year: spring, summer, winter, fall
03. Aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical
04. Elements of nature: fire (or sun), air, water, and earth
05. Animals: Eagle, Bear, Wolf, Buffalo and many others
06. Ceremonial plants: tobacco, sweet grass, sage, cedar

Pine Ridge is a tough place. Stricken with poverty, alcoholism, destitution, unemployment, broken homes, broken down homes, drunk driving accidents, bootlegging…and you learn this listening to the local radio station for 20 minutes. You feel out of place on the reservation. Like you are gawking.

We drive down to White Clay, Nebraska, on the border. A series of liquor stores feed the populace back over the border in Pine Ridge. Some shameful business right there. Blood money. Pain money. Sadness money. Bad vibes in White Clay.

After seeing the insanity of the historical Catholic/Protestant clashing last week in Belfast, enduring a presidential campaign guided by superstitions and faulty science and plain being fed up with my Catholic roots and their harboring of pedophiles, hell, you have to wonder: Jesus approved of this stuff?

Yesterday, we met a woman who when asked, “What do you need to survive and prosper?,” she looked the interviewer flat in the eye and said calmly, “I need the wind, the grass, the sun, the moon, the soil and the spirit within it.” As surefooted as anything. And I found that striking. She believes in the earth. In the connectivity of all living things. Everything, connected.

There’s a calm truth to her certitude, and my bet is that she’s closer to the mark than all the fuckin’ religious zealots in the news, con men running megachurches, patriots firebombing each other, fighters firing rockets, motherfuckers blowing themselves up, politicians restricting women’s rights, bible thumpers turning blind eyes to the passage they memorize, what have you. It’s quite a list.

The beauty of a nomadic people respecting the land, moving with the seasons, sharing itself with nature, is a history and way of life that every human should be aware of. Feeling very thankful for the spirit I saw yesterday.

There Are 2 Comments

Thanks for sharing this post, Brother Draplin.

It was an honor to share the experience with you and the others.

Looking forward to future adventures.


Posted by: Hugh Weber on 11/24/12 at 7:26 AM

Gorgeous symbol but I’m a little confused at to why it only talks about 4 directions. Most of the tribes I deal with speak of 6 directions. North, south, east, west and then towards the sky and into the ground.

Posted by: twoeightnine on 11/24/12 at 8:10 AM
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