Sherri Mitchell - Wena’ Gamu’ Gwasit

Creation Songs

Our individual stories begin with the story of our creation. My creation stories have come to me through the teachings of my tribe. My tribe is Pehanwabskek, the Penobscot Nation, a small island nation that floats in the Penobscot River. We are the people of the dawn land, the keepers of the Eastern gate. Our relatives are the Peskotomuhkati, Wolastoqiyak and Mi’ kmaq’i (Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Mik Maq); together we are the Wahponahki. Our homelands are located along various waterways in Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.

I was born Penahwabskek and grew up on a small Indian reservation in central Maine. My community is located on a small island flanked on its eastern side by a series of white-water rapids. Penahwabskek literally means the place where the white rocks come out of the water. It was here that I first learned of my place in creation. 

My tribe has a number of creation stories. Each story teaches us a different aspect of our being. One of those stories tells us that we were created when Kluskap, the man from nothing, shot an arrow into the ash tree and opened a doorway into this world. This story teaches us that we are made of the same elements that make up the natural world. We are born out of the ash tree. Thus, the ash tree is our kin and should be honored in the same way that we honor our human family. Today, our tribes still recognize our relationship with the ash tree by weaving our traditional baskets from its pulp. When we weave those baskets we are reminding ourselves that we are woven from the same foundational elements that make up all life on this planet.

Our origination stories begin in the stars. When we go into ceremony, we learn that the stars contain our original instructions, held in the dust of Creation that lingers on the Creator’s hand. We were born from the radiance of that star dust. From it, the great migration of souls first began.

When we come into this universe, we are born into our first ecosystem, our mother’s womb, where an umbilical connection to the body of our birth mother nurtures and sustains us. When we are born into this world, our umbilical connection is transferred from our birth mother to the Earth mother. Our umbilical connection with the Earth mother then nurtures and sustains us for the remainder of our human lives.

Though we have migrated a great distance, the radiance of that stardust  still resonates within us. It is the essence of something indescribable etched upon our soul, which stirs deep within. This stirring is a call of recognition, of remembrance. It reminds us that we are infinitely connected to one another, to the natural world, and to a unified divine source.

Evidence of our shared origin is all around us. Science has finally caught up with what we have always known, that we are related to every living and nonliving thing in this universe. It is simply the arrangement of those elements that gives distinct form to what we see before us. We share DNA with all other living beings. About 98 percent of our DNA is shared with primates, and about 30 percent is shared with plants. Our bodies, and the bodies of all living things, are composed of stardust and water. We all come from the same source, the same fundamental elements. 

We are all part of a uni-verse, a collection of individual notes in one continuous song, the song that sang all life into being. If we listen closely, we can hear this creation song echoing in our bones. It exists in a vibrational frequency that emanates throughout the entire universe. This resonance is the voice of creation, the voice that first spoke and brought all life into form. Each individual soul carries its own unique vibrational tone, and each tone carries the seed of that being’s life path. When that seed is planted, even before the first shoot comes up through the ground, that tone exists within it, and this vibration sets the rhythm for the new life being cultivated; it is that individual being’s creation song.   

As indigenous people, we are taught to live our lives in a balanced rhythm with the harmonic frequencies that surround us. This is why our teachings rise out of an oral tradition. Our history has been passed orally, not because we lacked the ability to translate our words into written form, but because we have always realized our words have an alchemy capable of creating form. Our language is the vibrational expression that gives form to the animate universe. Every vocal expression released creates its own unique resonance. As we speak, we are weaving layers of sound that merge into harmony with the entire creation. This harmonic symphony brings into form the reality that we see before us. 

We also understand that the way we speak to creation defines the place we hold within that creation. Our language creates a sense of kinship with the world around us. When I am asked who I am and where I come from, I am able to answer with one word, Penawabskek. I was born and raised on the traditional homelands of the Penobscot Nation, which is located in the waters of the Penobscot River. The Penobscot people have occupied this land for more than ten thousand years. For me, being Penahwabskek means that my roots are embedded in that land and nourished by the Penobscot River waters. We are deeply entwined – me, the land and those waters, and I am tied to the generations of others who have their roots embedded there, past, present and future. When I define myself as Penahwubskek, I express how my deep connection to that place makes the distinction between the land, those waters, and who I believe myself to be indistinguishable. This one simple statement begins to paint the picture of the basic worldview that frames my reality. Though this worldview is personal and unique, people across the globe share the framework that forms it.

The relationships that exist between people and place are often memorialized through defining words that merge into story. As indigenous people, our lives comprise these words and the stories they illustrate. These words and stories paint a picture that brings into form all the elements of our existence. They provide a clear view of our unique cultural landscape and offer us a defined sense of place within the world. But, we must also recognize that our stories are not the only stories being told. Every living thing has its own creation song, its own language. In order to live harmoniously with the rest of creation, we must listen to all the harmonies moving around us.

The only way we will be able to hear these harmonic vibrations is to become multisensory beings. We must tune in to our ability to see beyond the physical reality that surrounds us, and awaken to the vast unseen world. Then we can begin to see beyond sight and hear beyond sound. We see the underlying structures that support our world, and life begins to take on new shape, new meaning. When we live as multisensory beings we find that we are able to comprehend the language of every living thing. We hear the voices of the trees and understand the buzzing of the bees. We come to realize it is the interwoven substance of these floating rhythms that holds us in delicate balance with all life. Then, our life and our place in creation begins to makes sense in a whole new way. Our vision expands to see the overall order of our path, and our hearing tunes in to a whole new source of information. Once we become attuned, we can integrate this information into our physical experience and harmonize our entire being with the vibrational reality that surrounds us. Then we will witness the perfect orchestration of divine order. We will recognize that when the trees breathe in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, our lungs mirror that movement, by breathing in the oxygen that is generously given and releasing carbon dioxide back to the trees. When we merge our internal rhythms with the rhythms of creation, we develop grace in our movement, and without thought or effort we are able to slide into the perfectly choreographed dance of life.

I remember my first moment of conscious engagement with this dance. I was a young woman, in my early twenties. It was a warm early summer day and I was seated in a meditative state in my backyard. At that time, I was learning how to track energy. For several months I had been deepening my ability to see the life force that permeates our world. I noticed a tiny ant crawling across a blade of grass. As I watched the ant move along, his little body began to light up. Then, the blade of grass lit up. As I sat there and watched, the entire area surrounding me began to glow. I slowly raised my eyes, and the entire field became illuminated, as did the trees that sat on the other side lining the entrance to the forest. Every bird that flew into my line of vision had an added layer of light surrounding it. I sat very still, quietly marveling over this newfound sight, afraid to move and lose it.

While I sat there observing my newly illuminated world, I noticed something intriguing. The field of light that I was seated in was rising and falling in unison. As I watched the Earth breathe around me, I felt my own breathing fall into harmony with it. Everything became sharper; all my senses came alive. While I sat there breathing with the world around me, the firm lines of my being began to fade. I felt myself expand and merge with all I observed. There was suddenly no separation between myself, the ant, the grass, the trees and the birds. We were breathing with one breath, beating with the pulse of one heart. I felt an achingly beautiful and complete sense of kinship with the entire creation. This single moment of open awareness allowed all the teachings that I had been raised with to sink deeply into my heart.

Following that experience, my intuitive abilities dramatically increased. I was able to receive clear messages from my guides and teachers, and I began to see the world in a whole new way. The concept of oneness was no longer an abstract concept in my mind. All the mythology from my upbringing took on new meaning. I finally understood these amorphous concepts of oneness and interrelatedness I had been hearing about since I was a child.

I had been contemplating this newfound awareness for months when the universe decided to provide me with a deeper lesson. One weekend, while I was home visiting family, I found myself in a long line of traffic on Main Street. I watched the people walking up and down the street and sitting in cars around me. I was thinking how nothing appeared to have changed over the years. I wondered how much people could learn while staying in the same small town for their entire lives.

I realized a part of me was judging their apparent lack of movement. The moment I recognized that uncharitable thought, several people turned to look at me. As I looked back, I noticed that they all had my face; the people on the street, the people in the cars, they were all staring back at me with my own eyes. In that split second, I had flashes of countless lessons being learned simultaneously. We were all learning those lessons individually, but at the same moment in time. I realized then that we were all deeply and inextricably connected, all expressions of the same source, having a simultaneous experience of ourselves.

We return to that source when our learning is complete. During our journey, we will all have many of the same experiences, seeing the world and one another from multiple angles and through multiple lifetimes. Sadly, there will also be times when we lose sight of this basic fact. During those times, we will become lost in the unfolding stories of our individualized realities.

Albert Einstein once talked about the illusion this distorted view creates. He described it as a prison that restricts our awareness of connection to the whole. 

“A human being is part of the whole we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself in the thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest…a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion, to embrace all living beings and all of nature.”

This idea still seems fantastic to many people around the world, but indigenous peoples have held it since the beginning of time. Our songs, stories and mythologies all speak of our interrelatedness. From birth, we are taught to be aware of the expanded kinship networks that surround us, which include other human beings, along with the beings of the land, water, and air, the plants, trees, and all remaining unseen beings that exist within our universe. This multisensory understanding of life is now blossoming across the planet; we are witnessing humanity awaken to a whole new level of being. We are able to recognize, for perhaps the first time in our history, that we are in the process of an evolutionary leap, which makes this a very exciting time to be alive!

Our challenge is to re-member all of who we are. We begin this process by expanding our awareness to include the entire creation, just as I did that day in the field with the tiny ant. In that moment, I altered my awareness by shifting my vibrational level to match the world around me. This awareness created a kinship between me, the ant, the grass, the field, the birds and the trees. And, again, with the people on the street who looked back at me with my own eyes. These simple moments changed the way I saw the world. A full layer of illusion faded away, and a new view of reality appeared.

This did not happen because I am special or unique. Everyone possesses the same ability to shed their illusion and see the world as a unified whole, simply by expanding their awareness and shifting their vibration. Once we have mastered these vibrational shifts, we can begin to modulate the reality we live in to one that is more harmonious, balanced and more in line with our divine source.

Sherri Mitchell - Wena’ Gamu’ Gwasit

Sherri Mitchell (Wena’ Gamu’ Gwasit) was born and raised on the Penobscot Indian Reservation. She is an Indigenous Rights attorney, writer and teacher. She’s been an adviser to the American Indian Institute’s Healing the Future Program and the Spiritual Elders and Medicine Peoples Council of North and South America. Sherri speaks around the world on issues related to Indigenous rights, nonviolence, and the traditional Indigenous way of life. Sherri is the Director of the Land Peace Foundation, an organization committed to protecting Indigenous Rights and the Indigenous Way of Life.

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