American History "Smoke
Off." Highlanders or Native American?
"I don't get it Gramma." one of
the children was too curious not to ask. I want to know, what is a
"It is just something we have always
done with cedar. It is to cleanse our houses. It takes away all the evil
smells too after we have cleaned with soap and water first. The old ones
believed it carried away evil spirits. Who knows what size evil spirits
are, maybe the are the size of a microbe."
"Something living, too small to be
"Gramma, is it one of those pagan
"Who told you pagan?"
"Oh, I don't know, just something I
heard our folks are called."
The grandmother was thoughtful a moment,
"I don't know, but I guess that is a fair question. I really don't
think so, because I read in the Bible Moses himself did this to fight
really dread diseases. He cleansed the houses with cedar, and I read too,
that the people of the Highlands in Scotland do this. "Go, go, go,
out, I'm too busy to discuss anymore deep subjects all I have time for is
this preparation work," she was shooing the child out
from under her feet.
The women had worked together along with
their men to ready for this gathering called by the Natives, a "smoke
off." As was right for the times, invitations went out, a
feast was planned down to the last detail lest something be left out.
Gifts set in large baskets were organized for the "give away."
Respected elders who would officiate had to be scheduled. A quiet
organization of their little group instructing them in the etiquette for
the gathering because these were the times of every other activity such as
prom dates, homework, sports activities, piano lessons, and on and on.
There wasn't much time for the parent or even less time for the
grandparent to instruct their children of their culture of the
The day finally arrived and everything was
certainly in order, except for one thing, the most important. Their elders
had a tragic car accident in their immediate family and were called to be
at their side in a larger town where they had been flight lifted for
severe emergency treatment.
What to do? Call it off? "No, we
can't, too many are coming from out of town."
"It doesn't have to be the
elders," the grandmother spoke to her brother. "You are an
elder, you can do it."
Her aging but still handsome brother looked
at her out of the corner of his eye. "Hmm, not sure I want to be
considered an elder?" he grinned with an attitude which she
knew already, one tied up with the vanity of his good looks and physical
"We have no choice I guess,"
he quietly agreed and took his pocket knife out to clip some of the cedar
off one of the trees growing close by.
The grandmother was relieved to see his
agreement to go on with the ceremony since she knew it was a question with
his psychic too as to whether this was the proper thing to do, as far as
being a Christian was concerned.
The ceremony was conducted with prayers, a
passing of the cedar smoldering over the coals around to the persons who
were wishing to break their grief from losing their father. They reached
out to the smoke, spread it over their arms, their chest, and their legs
as they were instructed to do. The instructions were necessary since they
were sons of a man who taught them how to be oil executives not Native
Americans as was necessary to live in the world around them.
The tears to flow down the eyes of these
four tall, stalwart, dark, well educated men, but still with the blood of
their ancestors, were the evidence the smoke was doing its work.
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