The Power to Heal Ourselves Peggy Wellknown Buffalo
It Started with a Dream…
For many years, I had a reoccurring dream of being chased by a buffalo in an empty room filled with objects. My brother Leroy told me I had to confront this dream. He told me to go to my clan father about this matter. When I was at the Museum of the American Indian at the opening of their resource center, I asked about Crow sacred objects. The objects called to me and our project was born.
My clan father Tilton is a compassionate, wise man. He listened to me even though I was a woman and we prayed about it. We learned that the new Cultural Resource Center that houses the Gustav Heye Collection had 500 (TK) Crow medicine bundles, thousands of Crow sacred items as well thousands other sacred objects belonging to other tribes. We made arrangements to visit the Crow collection and document it. We told them we wanted to take care of our sacred items because they needed to be aired and touched and appreciated.
Medicine bundles are at the center of Crow culture and our power as a people. Our families still possess them and open them every year and pray. They contain sacred objects of meaning to us. They are our heart and soul. They also contain our history and there are many types.
About 100 years ago, as the story goes, the pastor at the Baptist Church in Lodge Grass told his congregation that in order to accept Jesus and be saved they had to throw their family medicine bundles into the creek and renounce their traditional beliefs. In a ceremony, they all threw them into the water. Around the bend, a man gathered the bundles and took them away.
The George Gustav Heye Collection was collected for 50 years beginning in 1897. It has one million objects from many indigenous groups. Much of the collection was never cataloged until it came to the Museum of the American Indian ten years ago. It contains 5,000 Crow artifacts, 1,000 medicine bundles.
The collection tells an undocumented story of the Crow people.
The bundles were never opened and cared for since they were collected.
The bundles hold the power and medicine of the Crow people.
It took seven trips—12 weeks-- to open all the bundles, take care of them, and document them.
Their digital images will be available to the Crow community early next year.
We plan to visit, take care of and document, more sacred bundles and objects in collections throughout the world to add to our “prayer list.”
This is a call to action for all indigenous people to find their medicine out there, document it for future generations, take care of it and activate it through prayer.