We left North Dakota Saturday night…after participating in a water ceremony with others around the world at a specific time. It was an event to bring people together and to send love and prayers out for the water protectors. It was a beautiful ceremony, and afterwards we headed on our journey home.
The first night we drove until 2am, stopping at a hotel along the way. It was nice to rest. There was a lot to process from the trip. So many layers have been peeled back, and so much of myself feels open and raw. But yet, I feel exactly where I am supposed to be. I see myself clearer now. I realize that who I am has nothing to do with what my favorite things are, or what i prefer to do, or even how I communicate. Who I am comes from a line of energy that paved the way before me… that had dreams and free will. Those who sacrificed and worked to manifest a reality they believed in. I am a product of that energy… I am all of my ancestors choices, dreams, and wisdom… manifested into form. We each are the ever evolving ever changing physical form of source.
So after a deep sleep and deep dreams, Holly and I head out for a day full of driving. We needed to some breakfast because the hotel breakfast was not cutting it.
We stopped at this wonderful restaurant, Antons. The decor was fantastic, so eclectic, and the food was so delicious! We had pop-overs… wow. I had never had one before, but over hearing a conversation from the people at the table next to us.. they are very easy to make, you just need a pop-over pan.
It was Sunday brunch, so we had a wide variety of foods to choose from. I tried a little of each and everything was fantastic! Just writing about it is making me hungry.
I HIGHLY recommend this restaurant for not only food during Sunday brunch, but for their atmosphere. The restaurant is right on the water, during a nice season it would be a wonderful lunch on the patio!
Check out their Facebook page, and if you’re ever heading to Minnesota, you should stop by there!
While I was in North Dakota visiting my reservation, we stopped at the Turtle Mountain shopping center in town. The aesthetics were fairly plain, and looked as if we were on the set of an old movie. When we walked into the shopping center there were HUGE prints of Chippewa natives, and a few stores that were open. Our lunch at the little diner inside, which was delicious!
As we go to leave the shopping center we notice an interesting sign on one of the doors…so we decide to look inside to see whats going on.
After walking in, it was like we were taking to another place. All of the aesthetics in this little hidden shop were fantastic! The energy I felt when walking in reminded me of a shop I would’ve went to back on the east coast. This was a huge shock to see, after being on the reservation for a few days, seeing nothing but dirt and old broken down buildings. I would say this shop was up to par with the quality of our brand new casino, Skydancer.
Beyond Buckskin launched in 2009 by Jessica R. Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) as a website dedicated to showcasing and promoting our continent’s first artists and original designers. In 2012, the original blog website expanded to include an online boutique as well. The origin story of this boutique is rooted in positive activism and a desire to share our cultures with the world through fashion design.
Based out of North Dakota, Beyond Buckskin is dedicated to advancing creative small businesses located throughout rural and urban communities by providing an online store where customers can connect with Native American fashion designers and jewelry artists.
They currently work with over 40 individual artists and small businesses to get their unique work out to a broader audience. All of their designers advance traditional Indigenous artistic practices by bringing ancient designs, natural materials, and cultural stories to modern fashion.
Diversity, beauty, utility and tradition come together in the garments and accessories we share with the world – from our hands to yours.
While I was there I purchased a lovely Native sweatshirt, and a beautiful prayer doll. The quality of the merchandise is superb. I even got to meet the artist of the prayer doll. She told me all about her story and how these beautiful healing dolls came to life.
The dolls are handmade by Margaret Judy Kakenowash Azure (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and features pink regalia to bring awareness and strength to those battling breast cancer. I purchased this doll for my mother, and she loves it! I almost didn’t give it up because of how healing it was to hold the doll.
Each doll is made with hide, wool, ribbon, seed beads, and feathers, with pink horsehair and cowry shell detailing. A sacred medicine bundle of tobacco, sage, cedar, and sweet grass fill the body of the doll. Her gift is to provide protection and strength for whenever needed. She wears a protection shell that is sacred to the Anishinaabe people and represents our journey in life. Each is one-of-a-kind with a unique personality. Mashkawizii means ‘s/he has inner strength’ in Anishinaabemowin. This sister doll makes a wonderful gift to celebrate someone, remember someone, or to give someone strength, courage and balance
Check out their Facebook page for news, events, and merchandise updates!
Thank you Jessica… for sharing your talents with the community and helping to restore reverence to our native traditions!
It still feels like yesterday… driving to North Dakota with my co-pilot Holly. If you missed my first post about our trip you can check it out here … Road Trip Recap Part 1
So I wrote a little about what it was like being there but not in depth.
On Thursday, November 23th, 2017 … Holly and I woke up early after an energetic evening of communing with our elder about the lineage of the Ojibwe people, my people. We woke up, made our coffee and headed down rte 3 towards Cannon Ball North Dakota.
Energies were all over that day, we felt excited, nervous, hopeful… on a mission.
Energies were showing themselves through syncs this entire trip, however day felt different. We were heading to the energy center of a ripple that will affect what is drawn to us next. Like a drop of water into an empty basin…each person there, each person aware is another drop in the same spot… filling up the basin and creating momentum through a powerful ripple.
We stopped at the geographical center point of North America, in Rugby North Dakota. Some people say its not exact, to me that’s not the point… because points are all subjective anyway. The obelisk and flags are interesting, as is the bell tower sculpture the next building over. I’m always curious of the details of monuments.
Continuing our travels south, we learn more about each of our history…Holly’s Quaker lineage and my Ojibwe linage… we learn about the doctrine of discovery. This was one of the most eye opening things to learn that I was never taught growing up. The fact that this is not taught as apart of our history to know, is very telling.
Driving while listening to this was life changing. Nature talking to us…showing us ourselves. Connecting to the harmony of the earth while being uprooted from our previous perceptions of our reality. We slow drove down this road and saw an abandoned house surrounded by these energetic trees. So we stopped, and got out to explore. The geese circled above our heads as we walked around. The house was a beautiful reminder of how time passes and material things fade, but mother earth… she remains through it all.
When we finally arrived at Sacred Stone camp it was as if I had been here before. I felt at home, peaceful and in loving arms. I experienced the magnitude that gratitude has on the human spirit. Everyone working together for one cause, our mother Earth… love… brotherhood. We dropped off our donations to the medic clinic, and they were received in pure love and gratitude.
I stopped into the new school tent, and met a beautiful woman who told me all about how they just moved the school into these car ports and were reinforcing them and insulating them with hay and blankets so that the students could learn in a space that was warm and comfortable for them.
I noticed the students had a lot of books, and there were many visuals on the walls. The students create a mural on canvas, posters to share new knowledge and artwork to express themselves. Seeing what I do everyday, being done in a place with less resources and support, really experiencing it first hand was powerful.
Thanksgiving is a day known in our history for the relationship between the light skinned settlers and the native people of the Americas. Historically, the story goes there was peace with all who sat and ate together. People all over celebrate this day of thanks… this day of giving. Instead of focusing on the irony that the police ate their thanksgiving dinner on top of the Standing Rock Sioux tribes ancestors burial ground and ignored the peaceful pleas to respect their ancestors and move off the hill, I remained in gratitude for all I have, knowing that even the toughest and smallest things deserve my love and appreciation.
Grateful to experience the love and brotherhood of thousands of people. Grateful for my friend Holly, for my auntie and giwaa, for my partner and kids, for my mother and father… for my coworkers, my friends and acquaintances, for my job, for the system that my job is apart of, for the world I live in … for better or worse… because there is no such thing as worse… there is only experiences and my perception of those experiences.
Gratitude is the key to realizing who we are… gratitude opens your mind… to be grateful for something starts a chain reaction of appreciation for life its self, ups and downs, for without one there would not be the other.
So after visiting Sacred Stone camp we decided to travel to the large front lines camp, Oceti Sakowin. Driving up to the camp was surreal… seeing all of the people setting up camp, to stand in solidarity for our earth, our water.
It was fantastic seeing how we come together and express ourselves through art… there were so many beautiful banners, and amazing installations showing unity through art!
After exploring the grounds, we found out there was a water action happening at Turtle Island, the burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux’s ancestors. This was the hill that the police set up their post to watch over the water protectors. So Holly and I walked to the front line with hundreds of other people of all different nations, to stand for peace, love and respect.
When we arrived it was ominous to see the police standing on top of the hill looking down on us. It was like right out of a George Orwell story to see drones flying over and around us. It was beautiful to hear hundreds of people chanting words of intention for peace and love… for the protection of our water, and our mother earth.
We participated in a Lakota water ceremony with hundreds of people from all over… praying to our grandmothers and blessing the water with cedar. Infusing love and blessings into the water and land, and each others hearts.
Talk about a fantastic day of thanks… experiencing the true meaning of thanksgiving… gratitude… appreciation on every level. Our drive back was reflective, and our experience brought out new insight on our perspectives and how we can be more grateful for all things and in all things we experience, and how we can show unconditional love.
Everyday we should reflect on what can we do to be more appreciative and compassionate in our lives …
Ok, I am ready to share our road trip adventure with commentary! I posted pictures on Facebook as we traveled, but I have yet to sit down and elaborated on the journey.
Sunday November 20th I met Holly and Nikki at this awesome restaurant called Grain + Verse Bottlehouse! It was such a cool place… lots of different beers, and good food! Holly and I left around 2:30 to begin our 1,500 mile journey to Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota.
This drive was beautiful, as we went through amazing tunnels and into some snowy weather near Pittsburgh. Holly and I chatted a lot about the our perceptions of the universe and experiences in it, as we always do. I really enjoy taking road trips because of this very thing… communing with another being. Getting to spend time talking about our different experiences really shows me new perspectives and helps me to grow! If I could just find people all over the world to take hour long trips with… I’d see the world in a whole new way.
One of our very first stops was at the Blue Heron Service Center! Holly saw a sign for the rest area and we knew we had to stop! If you’ve been following this journey you’ll know the significance the blue heron has played… if not, read my blog post about the lovely messages I’ve received from this sacred water bird.
After driving for a few more hours, we got to Elkhart where we stayed our first night on the road. This too was a big universal sync that we were on the right path! We made our drums out of Elk, and the drum represents the heartbeat.
Monday was a long day for us, We had plans to visit the historic dunes, however we decided we didn’t want to detour…we just wanted to get there! Though the universe put a detour in a our way anyway…we drove way around Chicago! We were rerouted by a GPS that has a mind of its own, and added about 3 hours to our trip that day.
Even though we drove for about 14 hours that day, it wasn’t a horrible because the universe was speaking to us the whole time. We saw 17 hawks and a bald eagle before the day ended! We went through a vortex of wind turbines, and saw a sundog in all its glory! The long journey was a well deserved time out now that I look back on it; in the moment though I had thoughts that changed my perspective. For instance, it took me some time to be able to let go completely to any expectations I had, allowing the trip to just flow. But when I did, beautiful things happened and presented themselves.
Like we stopped at Hamburger University and the Hyatt Lodge to use the bathroom and saw one of the largest Buckeye Trees in the nation!
After driving for hours we finally stopped in Avon Minnesota where we had dinner at El Tequila Mexican restaurant. It was the cutest and most hopping place in the town! We shared a large burrito and hot wings. Ha ha, it was a much needed break to balance out all of our intellectual conversations and universal syncs.
Not much longer after we finished dinner, we decided to stop for the night to sleep… we were completely out of steam. There was snow in Fargo that day, and when we pulled off the exit towards the hotel we saw on the sign… we started to wonder if we should drive a few more hours. Pulling into the Comfort Zone Inn was a bit like the twilight zone… a very unusual exterior for motel, compared to what we are used to back in PA. The parking lot of covered in a layer of ice, and as we parked we decided we were way too tired to keep driving. So we sucked up our fears and reservations and headed in the door.
Upon entering, there was a weird room that looked like a bicycle shop, however it was closed off with bars like a holding cell in a jail. The man who checked us in was very polite and the more we talked to him the more comfortable we got. Before we headed to our room, we saw a lovely box of stones!! That was a good confirmation that we were ok, and in a good place.
Even more confirmation was when we walked into our room… oh my, it was perfect! Decorated like a little cabin, with a wooden ceiling and cute country decor…and the best part was the vibrating bed. Wow, this bed was so soft like one huge pillow… and it vibrated! We were so giddy… coming in feeling scared and unsure and realizing whoa we totally manifested an awesome place to stay!! Why did we even question ourselves!? So we made a video to share with everyone our crazy adventure.
The next morning, we woke up around 8 and had breakfast at the little diner right next to the motel. We were again pleasantly surprised by the experience. Our breakfast was off the hook, and so was the diner coffee and rice crispy treat! Upon leaving that little highway exit… we decide to park and run towards this giant prairie chicken sculpture before we headed off. We didn’t know there were such animals as prairie chickens! They are a pretty unique looking bird.
That afternoon we stopped in Grand Forks and had a little taste of holiday cheer from the women at the visitor center. They were busily decorating beautiful Christmas trees with themes and the whole place felt of the holiday season. Both Holly and I noticed it and even commented to each other that was the first time we felt like it was a holiday season.
Finally, we were only hours from Turtle Mountain! We jammed out to some KT Tunstall and Stevie Nicks while driving through the plains of Wisconsin and North Dakota. Stopping to enjoy the view of Devils Lake while we read about why it is called that. Come to find out this lake has been growing every year, swallowing up parts of the town since the people of the area prayed that the lake would not dry up! It’s a beautiful sight to see this lake on the same exact plain as the road…very surreal.
Then we entered Turtle Mountain, and I felt home. I remembered where things were from my last visit as a young teen, having flashbacks of taking trips to the laundromat with my cousins. Feeling the atmosphere and realizing how different it is from where I live.. I didn’t feel that feeling as a teenager. This is different, like having a sense of self built into my environment and being able to really see myself through a new perspective in a different environment.
When we got to my auntie’s house, she was not home so we unpacked and rested for a minute before we headed to my giwaa Debbie’s house. Giwaa is the Ojibwe word for “one who names.” She is the medicine woman who did the naming ceremony for me and my younger sister. It had been 23 years since I saw her last, but as soon as I stepped into her house I felt at home.
We sat with her for hours and hours every day, learning about traditional ceremony, listening to the legends of the Ojibwe people, and hearing about life as an traditional Ojibwe living on the reservation. So many stories, so many emotions…so much learning about my people and myself. On top of all of that, I am learning more about my best friend Holly, and we are formed such a deep bond through this experience.
I think I am going to stop here for now… because this is only half of the trip. I still have a little more about our experience with Standing Rock on Thanksgiving to share, along with our journey home… but I will write about those another day
Migwetch and Gizaagii’n
Raining in the Dawn Woman
Turtle Mountain Chippewa
Grief is defined as sorrow, or to burden in old French.
Burden is defined as a load… to bear, which is to support or carry.
I am reminded of the story of two monks that go for a walk and come across a woman at the water who asked for some help crossing. The older monk picks her up right away to help her cross. The two monks go on for hours in silence, until suddenly the younger monk blurts out “why did you carry that woman across the water, we as monks aren’t supposed to touch women!” The first monk says “I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
What do we bear and why?
I do believe that endurance is an important quality to possess. However, when does endurance become burden, and then when does burden become sorrow? When you notice that your grieving something, you know its time to check into what you’re carrying.
Since I have been home from North Dakota, a lot of things have opened up in me. I am processing and learning more about the sacrifices made by people I am related to… who have given up things that allow me to live this life.
When I got home from North Dakota I started feeling a tightness in my chest that is just recently starting to go away. I have been thinking and questioning and trying to figure out where it was coming from! Was it the change in atmosphere, was it the lack of physical exercise over the week away, was it anxiety, or just the body processing from my experience.
Now I know, it is grief causing the tightness. I am grieving many things that I had not allowed myself to express in the past, and with my new awareness of sacrifice, I am also grieving many things from before my time here.
I closed my eyes this evening and was taken back to a time and place long ago…
When my warrior had went off on his horse to stand for our traditions and against colonization. My heart wept as he left and broke when I found out he would never return.
I am taken to the kitchen where I am cleaning up before dinner, watching the wind blow over the plains. Hearing the laughter of my children, only to find them gone when I go out to call them in for dinner. My heart full of worry and sadness as my only children do not return home to me that evening. My heart wept when they did come back and were no longer the same.
Waking up in the middle of the night, crying for my mother. In an inconsolable night terror, screaming for my mommy over and over again. My heart longs for her arms to be wrapped tightly around me, keeping me safe. My heart breaks when I do get to go home and she is no longer alive, and I can no longer be held by her.
I believe we are all connected, and the grief of my ancestors runs through me…I am connected to their sorrow because I bear their blood. However it is my ability and responsibility to process this grief and transmute it, not only for myself but for the whole collective consciousness.
The pain in my heart is intense, the sorrow from this burden is aged and has deep roots. But I will to grow and be the best version of myself I can be. This means I must process and grow from these sorrows. I see this shadow within, and it is now time to release it into the light.
I am realizing that I grieve for many other things in my life… ideas, expectations, friendships, relationships, love. The pain and sorrow I have felt and not dealt with in my life have become burdens that I carry. That I unnecessarily drag along with me, wherever I go.
What good is this doing, for me or those I love?
A friend told me yesterday, there is enough love in this world that I do not have to carry these burdens alone and that I do not have to hold on to them any longer. That I deserve to receive the Love I give out…and by holding on to these burdens I am not allowing myself to receive this love.
It was such a profound thing, to feel that it wasn’t my responsibility to carry these anymore, and that essentially it was never my responsibility. That by bearing these things I was keeping myself from so many beautiful things that I deserve. By holding on to the old things, I have not had room for new things to come into my life.
Since we are all connected, in me not processing through my sorrow… I am in turn creating a ripple effect that has the ability to affect others. I believe it IS my responsibility to confront my shadows and transmute them into light.
So I say to all of you, with the deepest love I can fathom… you are not alone, and you do not have to carry these burdens any longer. It is time for us all to look into our shadows and bring them to light… by doing this together we are helping each and every person to grow in love and light.
How much less suffering would the young monk had gone through had he not waited hours to share with the older monk how he felt. We need to remember we are all connected… and are meant to be here for each other.
The trip to North Dakota was one of the most powerful, eye opening experiences I have ever had in my 34 years of existence. I have so much to be grateful for, so much to celebrate.
First I want to say Migwetch to all who supported the journey to North Dakota, and all who gifted donations for the water protectors at Standing Rock. You all made the trip possible, and your energy carried us through… all the thoughts and well wishes we received before we left and while we were out there really energized our hearts.
I want to thank the following friends for their generosity, love and support for the trip by sharing their amazing businesses. Some shared their space and hosted events that benefited the journey, as long with others who shared the journey their clients, customers and friends. I am so blessed to know so many amazing entrepreneurs!
And to all my dearest friends who donated and shared their energy, time, and love for this journey… MIGWETCH! Each of you has a special place in my heart and will forever be apart of my journey!
Niki Smith <3
Now for the biggest thank you… to my dearest friend Holly Blyer… wow… Where would I be, what would I have done… without you? I honesty know in my heart and soul that there was no way for me to go on this journey without you by my side. The universe placed you in my life for so many beautiful reasons… this journey was only the beginning to an amazing friendship. You have always been one of the best friend a girl could ask for, and now you’re even more like a sister to me. I couldn’t have shared this experience with anyone else the way it was meant to be shared. Migwetch and gizaagii’n, I love you to life! I am so looking forward to continuing this journey with you!
We began our journey eating lunch with our dear friend Niki at Grain + Verse outside of Harrisburg. They have delicious food and an awesome atmosphere. Perfect lunch before we journey west.
Our car is names Arrow… Shooting us on our journey to North Dakota. We made great time so far! 9 hours to get to Ekhart Indianna, through beautiful clouds and gusts of wind…. Into snowy sky’s that only lasted for a few hours.
We made our first major stop at the Blue Heron Service Plaza! Yes… Blue heron and no we didn’t go looking for it. I love how the universe tells us we are on the right path.
Around 12 we started getting tired so we decided to stop off and get a hotel. We drove to the next exit and it said Elkhart… Wow. If you’ve read other posts you know the Elk has been apart of the journey since the beginning. My drum and rattle are made of Elk. Again the universe said yes you’re on the right path… Take a break.
We are up now, it’s 8am, eating breakfast and preparing to head out. We are going to stop at the Indian Mounds Historic Site on the way up to Turtle Mountain Reservation.
Last night at Standing Rock front lines, water protectors were sprayed with water canons, concussion grenades, and tear gas.
The Fox22 news on Elkhart reported on it saying it was a riot. Wow. But they also mentioned that there were people collecting donations to take to the water protectors.
Sending lots of love and light to everyone at Standing Rock, and all over the world.
I am heading to North Dakota November 20th, please donate if your heart feels led to. I will be using the donations with the car rental and gas traveling from Maryland to North Dakota and back. Along with monetary donations, I will be taking other donations to help aid the people through the winter.
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