Monday, October 11, 2010

Manido Gizhigans

Last Saturday I was fortunate to be able to go to the Spirit Tree for sunrise. This tree is growing out of a pile of rocks a few feet above the waters of Lake Superior. It has withstood centuries of abuse at the hands of this often times violent lake and continues to stand strong. It is an important and spiritual place to a culture of American Indians who traditionally honor and celebrate nature. When visiting the tree there are artifacts left behind by those that come to honor it. Such things as a rock placed on one of it's weathered roots, shiny coins, a tied up bag of tobacco or simply a small pile of tobacco. There is significance to these offerings some of which I've heard explained and others that remain a mystery.

It has been two years since I first visited Manido Gizhigans, Spirit Little Cedar Tree. I've been able to experience this place at all hours of the day and night, all seasons of the year and when the lake is acting out it's many moods. I've heard the ice sing like you can only imagine and the sound of the Loon call on a calm and silent night. Each time I visit I spend a quite moment at base of the tree placing a pinch of tobacco at it's base, placing my hand on it's trunk, gazing up to it's crown and receiving it's spiritual strength.

I've always felt a little awkward about the ritual I go thru at the tree. My culture and upbringing does not do such things nor do I understand the significance of such places by the Native Americans like I should. I've felt like I am in some way cheapening a spiritual act that's so much a part of a different culture. But on the other hand it is a culture I greatly respect even thru my ignorance and is a culture that I would like to be part of if only on the fringe.

When I first laid an offering of tobacco at the base of the tree two years ago it was a time of big change for me. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to think or say or do. What I realized was the Spirit Tree was something in which I found strength. It seemed to help me with the turmoil in my life at that time. It was and still is a place of spiritual energy left by thousands of people that have honored the tree before me, a fountain of spiritual strength. I'm still not sure how the Native Americans make their offerings but I do know how I do and the spiritual strength I receive.


The Spirit Tree is closed to non-Native Americans however there is a public viewing platform from which the tree can be seen. My close personal friend Travis is a member of the Grand Portage band of Ojibwe and always accompanies me to the tree. Others may know of the tree by it's more popular name, the Witch Tree. I personally detest this name. It's a name given to the tree by a non-native and conjures up an image that is totally opposite of the feelings I have of the tree. In my vocabulary it is the Spirit Tree.

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