The day after I was at the river with my friend, the day after I began acknowledging my grief, I went to Elders Pow-wow. Pow-wow is a beautiful time in the Native community. It’s a reunion. People come together with a sense of togetherness and goodwill. It is a time to reconnect socially. It is also a time to reconnect spiritually. 

The drums are strong and steady. They remind us of the heartbeat of our mother. Dancing is done in a circle, reminding us of the circle of life. As we dance, our feet honor the earth, our mother. As the dancers move around and around and around in the circle, an energy vortex is created. We are turning the Wheel of Life. When the drum is strong and the dancers are many, the the turning of the wheel is palpable. 

There are many kinds of songs during a pow-wow. Some are competitive. Some are light and fun. Some are social mixers. Others are more serious, honoring our veterans. Some are very specific requests for healing. Someone at this pow-wow requested a song to help them during a time of grief, to help them during a time of multiple losses. 

I am constantly amazed at the resilience of Native people. They have experienced historical trauma on horrific levels, a holocaust that is invisible to most Americans. That trauma continues to echo through every present day with ongoing loss––through addiction and violence, early deaths, torn social fabric, disconnection from homeland. The cumulative grief is great. Somehow, The People carry on, with the help of spiritual tradition and personal and family resilience.

The person making the request for the healing song at pow-wow was joined by their family in the circle. As the dance progressed, the community joined in too, dancing in support and solidarity. We held a place of strength for this person, we held them with us. The announcer encouraged everyone to pray in their own way as they danced. I held my shawl around my shoulders, remembering my own grief from the previous day. As I danced, I prayed for the person who had requested the song. 

As I danced, I heard these words from the Spirit Teachers: May your grief be released. It was not a directive, may you release your grief––that would put even more responsibility on a person who is already feeling overwhelmed. “May your grief be released” creates a larger space. It invites the grief to flow and move. Like a river. Like the Wheel of Life.