Eliza: Opening Up to Spirit
This is an account of my experience on when I first “met” Young Joseph, known also as Chief Joseph in the annals of the American West, as a chief of the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce. I first wrote these words almost a year ago, towards the last week of August.
I recently experienced an interesting encounter the other day with the spirits or souls of departed Wallowa Band Nez Perce or Niimupu (The People) as expressed in their own language. As I had been camping several days in the beloved land of Wallowa, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but not consciously looked for. When I got out of my car, after being tickled by a sudden inward nudge, I climbed up the side of the humped grassy moraine, thinking that I would take some photos of the mountains.
Chief Joseph Mountain loomed up just to the south, Mt. Howard to the southeast, and Mt. Ruth to the southwest. The tilted flatlands of the Wallowa Valley extended to the west, north and east. Beyond were the golden prairie of the Zumwalt and the deeply carved canyons of the Imnaha and Snake River drainages. It was a bold land, a powerful land and one that has attracted strong people over the ages. One of the larger bands of the great Nez Perce people, the Wallowa Band, once claimed this land as their own until forced by the U.S. government to give it up in the late 19th century.
Slowly, very slowly, the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce Nation are reestablishing a presence in the valley and the region, by buying a portion of their former hunting grounds, part of Joseph Canyon, a deep rugged canyon that once served as a corridor to travel to and from summer camp in the Wallowa Valley to the winter camps in the warmer sheltered canyons on the Grand Ronde, Imnaha and Snake Rivers.
Always a peaceful people, save during the extremities of their flight in the late 1800’s, the modern day Nez Perce are also actively forging relationships with the communities of the Wallowa area, as well as with the visitors who are drawn to the beauty of the area. They are in the process of developing a Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretative Center Site, where they intend to hold annual gatherings, teach visitors about the Nez Perce War and the flight of the Wallowa Band, as well as develop community for their own far-flung peoples, the local communities and visitors.
Now why would I mention this? Well, this is happening in what I could call, my neighborhood, the extended area of the Blue Mountains and related communities. It is also a manifestation of the cycle of return. The people, disenfranchised by a distant and disinterested government, stripped of their homeland and ultimately driven through river, mountain, canyon and plains to be stripped unceremoniously of their freedom, belongings and even lives, are now regrouping, coming together and growing something for the future of their tribe and the rest of us. It is a positive outreaching that the Nez Perce are accomplishing in the Wallowa area. It has meaning for all of us. An entire people can overcome the trauma of the past and heal, and in doing so, help all of us to rediscover our personal power to be individuals and live together in beauty and harmony.
So, I topped the hill and looked out over the trees that line one of the numerous irrigation ditches in the area. The brown and red slopes of the imposing Chief Joseph Mountain rose above, etched against the blue summer skies, with the forested bench and lower slopes easing towards the lateral moraines that line the shores of Wallowa Lake. As I dropped down the hill, now beginning to realize that the area of the site, Iwetemlaykin, was far larger than I had previously thought. I also felt a rising sense of grief wash over me. It was not my own, but the lingering effect of the history of the place.
Arriving at the bottom of the slope, I stepped onto a flatter area and immediately sensed a presence that seemed to be looking through my eyes. It was male, strong, dignified, compassionate, quiet but at the same time, grieving for what was now gone. I understood this presence to be one of the Niimupu and part of the Wallowa Band who were driven from this place. One must understand the power of place and the intense love that the people had (and have) for this place, a love that I was beginning to touch within myself. In the words of Young Chief Joseph, “I buried him (Old Chief Joseph) in that valley of the winding water. I love that land more than all the rest of the world.”
We walked along the gravel path that edged a tiny grouping of trees. The sense of sharing space with another being was very strong. I could also “see” him; tall, dark-skinned, strong angular bony face, dark eyes, black hair, but felt more of his presence with me. We talked. I asked for a name and received, “White Cloud.” I accepted this, but also sensed he did not wish to reveal what was no longer important to him, his true name.
Without thinking, I made a call to Archangel Michael to free any wandering spirits lingering in the place due to past trauma. As I climbed back up another portion of the moraine, I felt a release of some of the sense of grief and a feeling of gratitude and thanks filled me. As I reached the crest of the hill, I saw a movement to the west of where I stood and realized that it was a bear. Surprised, I prepared my camera in the hope of capturing a shot or two of my find.
It was a young black bear, gleaming reddish-brown in the sunlight. The sighting, coming so close upon my prayer, was to me at any rate a sign from the spirits of the place. The bear, especially reddish ones, are one of my power animals, a being of healing power and quiet strength. I knew that I was being thanked for being there and for making prayer on behalf of the people who once called this place sacred. And no, I never felt any fear for my safety. I seldom do when in nature. I left that place filled with my own longing; to return again.
One year later, due to circumstances, I have not made another trip to the Wallowas. However, the other night, I was told by my primary Guide that Young Joseph or Thunder Rolling Down the Mountains, was a part of my soul essence, a soul fragment that had split off during the traumatic experiences of that lifetime. A portion of his being, of “me” still remained behind and I needed to connect with him, again. Part of my living in this area was to accomplish just that, to re-blend our essence into oneness, again. And so we have done today. This quiet, dignified man who only wanted to keep his people free, is now free again himself.
Copyright © 2012-14 by Elizabeth Ayres Escher. All Rights Reserved. Permission is given to copy and distribute this material, provided the content is copied in its entirety and unaltered, is distributed freely, and this copyright notice and links are included. https://bluedragonjournal.com/