December 01, 2009

Prayer ceremony at Ballona Wetlands

As you may recall, actress/activist Joanelle Romero hosts an annual Red Nation celebration for Native American Heritage Month here in Los Angeles. With all my traveling, I couldn't attend most of the events, including a special screening of New Moon. But this one caught my eye:Event Title: 4th Annual Red Nation Respecting the Water of Life Ceremony
Event Date: Monday, November 30, 2009
Event Producers: Red Nation Celebration
Event Venue: Ballona Wetlands
Event Locations: Lincoln and Jefferson
Event Times: 3:30pm to 6:00pm
Event Cost: Open to public

Chief Marvin Swallow of the Lakota Nation, Hiroko of Japan Nation, and Oyate Wayanka PO Win of the Apache & Cheyenne Nations will lead the ceremony.

Description: There Is Only One Water, One Earth, One Sky, One Moon, One Sun.

This event includes city officials, Red Nation Celebration members, spiritual leaders holding a public “Respecting the Water of Life Sunrise Ceremony.” Water is very sacred to the indigenous peoples of this land as they believe it is the bloodline to Mother Earth.

In this Sacred Water of Life Ceremony we ask permission of the sacred water, we give an offering to the spirit of the water asking to bless our journey, in this sacred water ceremony we are mindful of where the water comes from and with that we perform the ceremony in blessing and honoring all relations in attendance.
Since the Ballona Wetlands are only five miles from my home, I decided to check it out. I drove over and then walked around the marsh, taking pictures. A sign noted that this land was home to the Tongva Indians--the same ones I wrote about in Indians in Culver City. It wasn't hard to imagine Indians on the shore with spears in hand, hunting the (then) plentiful fish and waterfowl.

Eventually I saw a few people heading down a path and followed them. It was Joanelle, two other Indians, and a Japanese woman. They stopped at a scenic spot near a pond and I joined them.

It seemed I was going to be the only guest for the prayer ceremony, but Joanelle roped in a couple of strolling women and their children. That gave us four participants, three adult observers, two children, an unborn baby (one woman was eight months pregnant), a bulldog, and a stuffed wolf-cub toy.

Praying for the earth

Marvin, a Lakota from New Mexico, set up a prayer pole. Then he smudged us each with burning sage in an abalone shell. He waved the smoke in the six directions (west, north, east, south, plus up and down). Then we lined up facing the setting sun with the full moon behind us. We turned together as Marvin offered a prayer in each direction.

Joanelle also offered a prayer in each direction. She followed that with some passionate singing and drumming. Hiroko, the Japanese woman, knelt and prayed in Japanese. It was intense enough that she brought tears to her own eyes.

Finally Marvin blessed us each with a feather dipped in water, paying special attention to the pregnant woman and her baby. Hiroko served water in a cup to each of us. She poured water in each direction around the prayer pole and the ceremony was over.

Joanelle said they had 40 participants one year and none another year, so she thought nine (those of us who were human and born) was a good turnout. Presumably her group would've conducted the same ceremony even if no one was present. This is one "Hollywood Indian" who isn't playing to the cameras.

For pictures of the Ballona Wetlands and the prayer ceremony, see:

Ballona Wetlands--November 30, 2009

Below:  Marvin blesses Joanelle Romero with a feather dipped in water.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Too bad I had to miss the New Moon screening. I hear Chaske Spencer, Alex Meraz, Tinsel Korey, and Gil Birmingham were there. I could've asked Korey about the "Harsha Patel" rumors swirling around her.

But I wouldn't put her on the spot like that. Not at a public event, anyway. In a private interview, maybe.