The Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commemoration kicked off on January 14, 2003, on a cold winter morning in Monticello, Virginia. Tremendous work had gone into readying the stage for the Grand Opening the Tent of Many Voices. The entire exhibit got smudged in preparation for upcoming prayers.
The US flag alongside the Eagle staff were carried in with pride and respect for both the United States and the Indian Nations, as the White Shield Drum Corps (from Fort Berthold Indian Reservation) sang sacred songs around the drum. The drum sends prayers, hopes and dreams to the Creator. It is the “heartbeat of the Nation”. The Sacred Blessings were performed by tribal representatives of the Saponi Nation, the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, and the Clatsop Indians of the Lower Columbia Region.
Elder Alan Kitto, Dakota Sioux, performed a prayer ceremony. He told a story of great grief, of how following First Contact with non-Indians, his people got hunted down, decimated and defeated by the U.S. Army in the mid-1800's - only to be terrorized by white settlers for years to come. This is the reason for the Wiping of the Tears Prayer. The past cannot be forgotten. Many tears in the audience were wiped with a ceremonial red cloth and an eagle's wing.
Alan Kitto is also a veteran of the Korean War and for him to fight for this country he had to temporarily "become" Caucasian. This Bicentennial is not a celebration of history, but it was intended as a commemoration of Lewis & Clark's journey of discovery. Their objective was to communicate with the many Indian nations. Countless times they had to ask for help. In return they were blessed with genuine hospitality and friendship.
The Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation then blessed the mobile truck exhibit and its travelers from East to West in all 4 directions.Over the next few days we heard from representatives of the Blackfeet, the Shawnee, the Chinook and the Nez Perce; we had Fiddlin' Foresters, Re-enactors and USGS Scientists, and storytelling fluteplayers who shared with us their culture and their knowledge, setting the pace of things to come for the next 1130 days.
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