Lesson 5– Changer: Awakening The Spirit
Diabetes and Traditional Foods
Activity: Watch Dean Azules interview on Video 2
Group discussion and Reflection
What does it mean to transform? Transformation should start from the inner self, the spiritual or essence of self, because when we know who we are we begin to understand what our purpose in life is, we realize our strengths and talents are what make us unique.
Like the ancestors who learned from the daily activities of nature and held onto their spiritual beliefs and practices we too can find the “Traditional Knowledge” they experienced. We can look at the transformation of a butterfly as an example of natural transformation.
A Butterfly plants its eggs, which eventually become a caterpillar, this caterpillar crawls eating plants, helping to control plant growths, in time nature signals a time of change for the caterpillar, it spins a chrysalis (cocoon) around its body to be enclosed in this protective shell until it is time to emerge, transformed into a butterfly with wings to fly and with a new purpose in the circle of life. The essence of self was inside the caterpillar waiting for the time for it to transform into its true self and fulfill its purpose.
Loss of Traditional Foods
The loss of our cultural practices, language, spiritual beliefs, and foods has disrupted our balance and we have forgotten why it was so important to practice our traditions and eat our traditional foods as our spirits we have become disconnected with self and our spirit. This loss can be seen as Dean shares a memory about the sale of a traditional food of the Pima people.
“I remember one time I was at a celebration they had on the reservation… they were selling all the usual stuff, fry bread, tortillas, chili beans, there was one stand that had corn wheat soup, Boshwah, you would grind it up and boil it up and they weren’t selling it to the average celebration attendees, a lot of people who were asking for the soup were old people that were remembering and missing the way things used to be.”
Dean Azule – Pima
Awakening the memories is like awakening the spirit of our identities as Native people, this experience stayed on the mind of Dean as he sees his elders missing the way things used to be. Why is this important to us as we become the Changer or Magician we have gained knowledge and experiences that we can use to educate the next generations in preventing diabetes.
The Hero’s Journey is about the stages of change from being the orphan who wanders about seeking answers to finding a caretaker who cares for them and teaches them how to love, trust, and care for others to becoming a warrior willing to sacrifice his life to protect his family to the stage of giving of knowledge and leading by example.
Dean recalls the time when the Pima people ate foods that were healthy and didn’t contain the fats and sugars we consume today.
We didn’t eat, any game what we had were desert deer, rabbits, birds, different types of birds, it was meat that didn’t have a lot of fat. Over the years, at the turn of the century you started seeing diet change and a lot of the diet you would attribute to quote “civilization” if that’s what you want to call it, white civilization impacting our food.
Dean and all the other elders interviewed have shared their experiences and knowledge about how they were diagnosed with diabetes and how we can prevent diabetes. We as Native people learned to only take what we needed from nature, we have also forgotten how to enjoy the fruits of nature, but we can help the next generation if we take the time to awaken the spirit and be a “Change Agent” among our people.
ACTIVITY: Read the following paragraphs and write down the messages they are sending about change.
Resolution of the Fifth Annual Meetings of the Traditional Elders Circle, 1980
“There are many things to be shared with the Four Colors of humanity in our common destiny as one with our Mother the Earth. It is this sharing that must be considered with great care by the Elders and the medicine people who carry the Sacred Trusts, so that no harm may come to people through ignorance and misuse of these powerful forces.”
Tom Brown, Jr., “The Tracker”
“If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural way of my forefathers and that of the… present way of civilization, I would, for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child’s feet in the path of my forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian!”
“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, which will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory, but above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.”
Many Horses, holy man of Oglala Lakota
“I will follow the white man’s trail. I will make him my friend, but I will not bend my back to his burdens. I will be cunning as a coyote. I will ask him to help me understand his ways, and then I will prepare the way for my children, and their children. The Great Spirit has shown me – a day will come when they will outrun the white man in his own shoes.”
DISCUSSION: Discuss Life paths among your tribe and how does this teach us about change.
Pima Path of Life Basket. This famous southwestern pattern — originated by Pima-Papago (Tohono O’odham) people — is called a “maze” basket. This name suggests ways of getting lost. But this is a life path basket. If you start tracing the path of the human figure at the north entrance, you will find there is one single path. That life path takes the person to the center-circle at each of the 4 directions: Youth (northwest), young adult (northeast), wise adult (southwest), elder age (southeast), and finally death (the south nub that closes off the path’s continuation). All parts of the path are covered, it is one continuous line, representing a life lived following the Creator’s instructions. All (non-Indian) writings about this pattern call it “maze.” It’s the opposite: a life path which (if followed) you cannot get lost.