NLM healing totem journey – Fort Totten blessing

Fort Totten, ND (Sept. 20, 2011) – On a chilly, rainy, windy day, the Spirit Lake Nation and Cankdeska Cikana Community College were warm and generous hosts to the healing totem pole travelers.

Two Spirit Lake elders, Eugene Hale and Aileen Littleghost, offered blessings for the healing totem pole journey and all the travelers. The blessing ceremony was held in the auditorium of the tribal college. The flatbed truck carrying the 20-foot totem was parked just outside the auditorium door.

    The healing totem’s greeting from the Spirit Lake Nation

    (Photo: courtesy of Shana Potash)

Two smaller totems that will eventually be attached to benches accompanying the healing totem were brought into the auditorium and placed in the front of the room. The totem travelers were called up to the front of the room and were blessed, along with the smaller totem and the healing totem outside. After the ceremony, all local attendees lined up and greeted each traveler.

It seemed fitting that a totem pole, carved with stories from the sacred teachings of elders, was blessed at a tribal place of education while on its way to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Knowledge, information, and learning were brought up numerous times in talks preceding the blessing.

     Healing totem truck parked at Fort Totten

      (Photo: courtesy of Shana Potash)

Cynthia Lindquist, Ph.D., the college president, welcomed the group. Lindquist noted she has been friend of NLM for years and praised the Library as a national resource. (Dr. Lindquist helped NLM organize some ‘Listening Circles’ with Native American tribes several years ago that led to the ‘Native Voices’ exhibition. She is a member of the exhibition’s advisory board).

“When you find people who can learn and listen, they are good people and you hold onto them as friends,” Dr. Lindquest said.

Master Carver Jewell James made repeated references to knowledge. He noted there are students traveling with the totem and documenting the journey to “protect the knowledge of Native communities.”

“We can’t lose ourselves,” James told the gathering as he described the symbols and stories on the totem, taken from the teachings of elders determined to make sure knowledge was passed on. “We come together today to share information and love, and carry it across the nation.”

Update: The Grand Forks, ND Herald covered part of the healing totem’s journey. To read their story: http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/216132/group/homepage/

Shana Potash

National Library of Medicine

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