Traditions, Wise Words and Interesting Facts


The Meaning of the Shawl

From Nancy Kohn Raven

thought you ladies would like to hear the meaning of the shawl, what it means in every way. So many of us are making them, this really made sense to me and I wanted to share it with you,----------------------- I love you all Raven

The shawl is square representing the 4 cardinal directions thus creating sacred Space.

Each Fringe is 28 inches long representing the 28 ribs of the buffalo. The Buffalo symbolizes life to the people providing food, clothing shelter, tools.

When folded in half each fringe is then 14 inches long representing the 7 Generations that came before and the 7 Generations to come. We each inherit the broken-ness from our ancestors from the past 7 generations our job is to heal this broken-ness so that we don't pass it along to the next 7 generations. We also inherit the prayer and hopes of our ancestors from the past 7 generations, we hold the Sacred Responsibility to pass on these hopes and prayers to our children, grand-children and the following 5 generations

Each poke into the fabric to attach the fringe is a prayer, just like the prayer ties we make for gathering, each time the fringe is poked through the fabric of the shawl a prayer is put into it.

There are 2 fringes for each poke, representing the duality, the feminine and the masculine, good and bad, right and wrong.

The finished shawl represents the life of a woman.

May you wear it and remember how sacred you are. May the shawl provide you protection and fill you with the knowledge of your Sacred Feminine. May you be blessed and filled with the love I carry for you as you walk your beauty path, the path of our Grandmothers.

A question was asked about which material should be used.. Raven gave this answer on one of her posts...
Gaberdine is good if you are using a lot during the day, like at Sundance, as it doesn't wrinkle, but lots of the Elder women just carry one over arm so other material works just as well.

I usually always have a shawl goin so when I set down I pick up and start tying fringe, and I take it with me whenever I go to a Native womens gathering, most always you will see Native women always with some busy work, beading, quilling ect. Usually if you offer small gift out of respect they will share with you maybe a special knot or tying method.One thing I learned was that for instance if you were to want to learn to quill, like I do it is not ok to just decide for yourself to learn to do it on your own or to get a book and just start, But you have to earn the right to be taught in the old way,that may mean helping the elder with things she may no longer do for herself or many what ever she wants you to do , she may tell you no more than three or four times, She may always tell you no. She may say we will see, But learning to quill in the old way is hers to teach, not for us young
ones to just decide to do on our own, this is what is meant by stealing the culture, weither it is beading, quilling or maybe basket weaving. It is a honor to learn these things in the old way and to earn the right to do so. I am still waiting to be taught to quill , I have been told we will see,thats been a few years back now, but this year she called me daughter and allowed me to tye her Eagle feathers onto her arms.So there may still be some hope for me yet. - Raven

life's mysteries abound
with unexpected challenge
scrambling over one hurdle
to discover another
on the path
surprise, the only certainty
as the continuum of experience
moves endlessly onward
unknown parallel lives unfold
to be discovered when the Spirit moves
what plan is hidden
in the Mystery
Security, the illusion and stagnation
the Death Stalker of us all
delight in the challenge of experience
for the impeccable Warrior knows
this is the only
road to Freedom

by Nancy Raven Kohn

As a dancer my first shawl was red . As I sewed fringe I put a different prayer in each. I was told that the color represented honoring the blood of the people and the giving of ones self . As the years passed I was gifted a few with different colors and I wore the shawls around my waist....

As the years passed health problems hinder me from dancing. I had 8 grandchildren when I could no longer dance and so I stepped into a new position of life.. A grandmother. I now wear my shawl around my shoulders to keep me warm and to place (my) young babies in my arms and wrap them with my warmth and love. When I have been sad and in mourning I can wrap my shoulders and hide my head and be alone.

There are many teachings of the shawl and I honor them all up.... Let our grandmothers touch on this matter and add more........
My love to you all.

Bright Sun


From Allen Sheppard
I love you all and all of you continue to give strength in a good way. Ignore the negative, Uphold the positive continue to refuse to even coment on negativity, we are for healing forgiveness and unity of the six colors, four directions and colors of man ,green the earth, and blue ,that which is above all. Every human of every society and faith holds a piece of the puzzle and one day we will all need to come together to see the true and good picture. -MITAKUYE OWASIN- kodapi .~mn renegade

Sweet Grass

From Richard Wagamese - Ojibway.

Three strands in a braid of sweet grass. They represent three spiritual qualities - love, kindness, humility, say. When I smudge myself with it, I purify myself in those qualities. I prepare myself for my day with the strength of those spiritual qualities. It clings to my hair, my clothes and in the air of my home. In that way, as I move through my day and I smell that fragrance I am reminded of how I have chosen to live that day - and in that, is the power of greeting my days with reverence, calm and prayer. In that is how I learn to direct my humanity toward peace, equality and harmony one day, one person, one circumstance at a time. Peace friends, travel well through this day..

Maa’aa or Shawl

by Long Standing Bear Chief - Blackfoot

The Blackfoot or Piikani word more correctly for what you ladies call the shawl is maa’aa (pronounced with long a sounds) I have asked around and no one says it has an English equivalent in meaning, that is it is just a word that refers to what is called a shawl or does it mean anything such as blanket.

The origin of the English word “shawl” is Sanskrit in origin and it is spelled “shal”. It turns out many cultures have been making what is called a shawl for many, many centuries. The shawl is made from all sorts of material, anywhere from wool to silk to cedar bark.

In ancient Piikani culture the maa’aa was made from the hide of many animals. The skin of the bison, elk, deer, moose and other such animals was used. Often for winter use the maa’aa was made with the hair still on it, and, was worn with the hair side in for added warmth.

In other instances the maa’aa was a brain tanned hide that was so soft it would feel like a blanked made of cotton to us living in these modern times. In those days the maa’aa was smoked so that it never shrank or turned into raw hide if it had not been. It is surprising but a smoked skin today can be washed in a machine and will still keep its form and softness.

When I was a young child the women still used to use the maa’aa as a small blanket which had many uses, one being to pack infants in a bundle on their back. Infants packed in this manner very early were socialized to all the people the mother met in the course of the day. The baby also had the added advantage of being warmed by its mother's body and heard all the language the mother used as it learned to talk.

Today, the maa’aa is used in the Shawl Dance which is not an original Blackfoot dance but was acquired from other nations’ women who performed such a dance. Today this Shawl Dance is treated as if it were a traditional dance by all indigenous women.

In times gone by the maa’aa was used by men and women because it was used as a blanket for warmth. Back then the maa’aa was painted with original designs of the Indigenous persons choosing.

The maa’aa today has ceremonial uses as it did in times passed. This is especially true in the instance of men who stood on the maa’aa during a piercing ceremony while involved in the Okan. The Lakota call this ceremony a Sun Dance.

Teachings from Our Ancestors

Believe in the beauty and strength of your own being.

Live a life of truth and honesty. This makes you a person of quality and dignity. Truth and honesty are the kind of leadership qualities that attracts others.

Give honor and respect to others regardless of age or situation in life. This quality makes you and others worthy of honor and respect, which makes others, feel worthwhile and fulfilled. Honor and respect empowers others so they can win the day. They will return it to you fourfold.

Honor the earth and all that exists. Be strong in this belief and practice it throughout your life because it makes for a world of kindness that binds all the good things of life together in a circle of harmony.

Be humble but not timid. To be humble is to connect yourself to the stars and the entire universe and makes you aware there is something unique about life that is to be enjoyed without fear. We are a people from the stars and because of it we sacred.

Help others realize that life is a dream . . . . a beautiful dream. Dreamers are the butterflies of life that help others realize their dreams.

Be humorous and help others enjoy life and the life of others. Humor makes the leader attractive. The humorous person has many guests and the one who is invited everywhere because of the joy they bring to the gathering.

Never be afraid to talk matters over with those who disagree with you or with those you love. The gift of language is a miracle and it is meant to be used to live a life of harmony, joy, love and respect. Use it well and use it often.

What is described here is leadership in the broadest sense. These are the qualities that make for a great father, great grandmother, lover, teacher, traditional leader, friend, and a great human being. Best of all you can add to this list.
In honor and respect: Long Standing Bear Chief

Page 2 of Traditions

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If you have anything you would like to add to this page, please in-box it to me - Gloria Hazell-Derby