The Visitor

by Mitakuye Oyasin

It was a sunny, warm afternoon In the fall when we first noticed him. He had taken up residence under the back end of an elevated clubhouse, a pretend pirate ship I had made for my grandsons. The "ship" is located in the shade of pine trees and under the branches of a large maple on the southeast corner of our property, next to a large bean field. He remained stoically planted in place as I approached, showing no trace of fearã almost as if he was waiting for me.

As I kneeled and looked into his eyes, I realized that this was my first closeup view of a Great Horned Owl. He stood about two feet tall and I could see that one eye was injured. Apparently he had been wounded by a shotgun and, unable to fly, he had walked to this spot where he decided to stay. Neighbors to the east of us Informed me that they had seen him walking through their yards, resting for a time on a woodpile, and then continuing on his way, as though on a mission of some sort.

My daughter prepared a tobacco tie, a one-inch square of cotton cloth into which a pinch of tobacco is placed as a prayer is offered forth. The cloth is then twisted shut and tied with a string. A sage tie was also prepared in the same way and these two prayer ties were placed six Inches apart at the base of the maple treeã about ten feet from the owl.

The following day, before leaving the house, I placed some water and a deer chop at his feet. When we returned home in the afternoon, the bone from the deer chop was placed carefully between the two prayer ties, not a trace of meat on It, and the owl was back in his usual place.

That evening at sunset, I took more food to him while my family sat around the campfire on the other side of the yard. As I placed the deer chop at his feet, I heard a commotion from my grandsons and my daughter and then, looking back at the owl, I watched helplessly as he fell over and died. When I went to my family to tell them what had happened, they were all excitedly telling me about what they had seen: A huge white bird, like an owl, had flown right over the treetops where they were sitting and when my oldest grandson had run into the open to try to see more of this visitor, he was gone.

It was the first and last time that any of us had ever seen such a huge white bird flying so close to our treetops and we concluded that it was the departing spirit of our Great Horned guest.

He came to us with a message. The wanton destruction of life by those who have made "civilization" and "progress" their gods is going to result in suffering and death for humanity. Students of the Bible may recognize the truth of this from one of their own admonitions: "What is sown will be reaped." It is a spiritual law as solidly enforced as the physical law of gravity.

Now look around you. Caterpillar announces, on the front page of the Peoria Journal-Star, its first billion dollar year of profit. On the back page, a week later, the company is asking for a five year extension of its right to continue polluting the Illinois River. Also on the back page is an announcement that 50-some otters are being released In the hope that they will again populate the Illinois River. It seems that "civilization," "progress" and "technology"had wiped them outã but now the government hopes they can survive. Presumably they will not be setting up housekeeping downriver from Caterpillar.

N. Scott Momaday Is a Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist and the son of a Kiowa father and part-Cherokee mother. He describes the mindset of Americans and their treatment of the environment as one of complacency. "We're very comfortable. We have committed ourselves to a technological society in such a way that it is hard for us to see anything outside that context. So it's very hard for us to understand that we are polluting the atmosphere. We know we are, but we have the tendency to think that we are so intelligent as a people and we have achieved such a high degree of civilization that the solutions will come about In the course of time. That's a dangerous attitude."

It took Mother Earth and the Creator billions of years to arrange things so that this planet could sustain life. It has taken the genius of Neo-Europeans less than 50 years to set the stage for annihilation of life on Earth by poisoning all the water, the land, and the airŠ and there is no relief in sight.

Ohiyesa, known to the white man as Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, has said, "Our transition from our natural life to the artificial life of civilization has resulted In great spiritual and moral loss." He wrote that 100 years ago, before the impact of technology on the environment had begun to run wild. Today, he would see that great spiritual and moral loss is only part of the story.

Soon there will be no water to drink, no air to breathe, and no 401-K to guarantee future security.

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