Saturday, August 7, 2010

6th Sun, Red Moon, Snow of 2010

Last night was Grand Council on Deer Island, the island that houses the boy's camp Paul Bunyan spent 15 summers going to.

Camp Kooch-I-Ching is where Paul Bunyan first started his career with nicotine. No, I kid. Well, not quite. But he also picked up a serious work ethic, the incredible ability to maneuver a canoe down any set of rapids, his love for working with wood, sleeping outdoors, jumping in cold water, eating Dinty More and Mac n' Cheese (together), and his appreciation for all things Native American. The camp is rich with lore. And most activities that the campers participate in lend themselves to the teachings of the Native Americans, including Native American crafts, dancing, and woodsmanship- all of which culminate in a performance on the last evening of camp.

This is the Council Ring. It is swept clean and in the center is the central fire, ready to be lit to begin the ceremony. The white lines represent parts of the Law of the Woods, which you can read a little about here.

When people enter the council ring for the performance they are not allowed to step within the white rocks. If you don't know about this rule, and or fall within the rocks by accident, the footprints you make will be raked out. And you will be "waaahed" by the crowd. Very embarrassing.

We wait patiently until we hear the drum and the dancer's bells ringing in the distance. Their cadence becomes louder as they approach the council ring from behind. Auggie and Timmy, still learning that their voices are louder than they think they are, were practically shouting, "I see them!" "There they are!" "They're coming!" sshhh. ssshh.

The ceremony begins when the herald finishes his song. Wa-ta-ho, ta-ho.

Paul Bunyan was the herald once.

And the central fire is lit.

This is Alex.

He's the best fire starter there is at camp.

He and his mullein stick are one.

And then the dances begin. We witness the Beaver, the Pigeon, the Pipe, the Snake, the Other Buffalo, the Waboos, the Cheyenne Buffalo, the Little Men, Blackfoot Dog, Kachina, etc. etc. Some are painstakingly long and boring. Others are exciting to watch because of the story they tell. Paul Bunyan has danced them all.

This is our little buddy J.R. He's not really little. He's actually one of the directors of the camp and he's quite tall, very skinny and quite tall, but we call him 'Little Buddy' anyway. Paul Bunyan sneaks out a 'Little Buddy', drawing out the buuuddy, when Little Buddy dances by. And then we see a little smile, even though the dancers aren't supposed to respond to the crowd.

This is Little Buddy's daughter- the one standing up. She is trying to figure out why daddy is dressed up so weird.

And then it gets darker and more of the older dancers start to show off their dancing skills. The little kids in the stands grow a little more restless and the night sky has lost its dusk.

And so then we know it's time for the Torch Powow to begin.

The council ring is lit up only by fire at this point.

And only the best dancers are in the ring.

And then the flaming hoop arrives.

And all you can hear is the woosh of the fiery hoop and the beat of the drum, although its lulled too.

And you become mesmerized by the dance, as the boy who holds the hoop steps in and around...

And over...

And through.

And then, in sync with the drum beat, he spins around (maybe twice) and whips the hoop up and over the crowd sitting in the council ring.

Paul Bunyan has done this.

And the herald sings one last lonely song to dismiss the crowd and we are done for the night.

Until one more winter has come and gone.


  1. paul bunyan?

    no kidding. what a cool place.

  2. Paul Bunyan?

    yes. cool place. very lucky.