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by Paula Underwood

It was something Sun Bear said... That the Earth Mother was cleansing herself. Echoes of familiarity were here... perhaps a difference also.

"Our Mother, Earth, shakes herself... and settles her robes once again." it was my father speaking, whenever the earth shook.

Each was an image of the same reality. And yet there was more. I, who am also an Earth Mother, knew this, felt it at once.

Five thousand people died that day, when Our Mother shook her robes. Neither are they inconsequential! It is not somehow alright that they died, not an inevitable part of the whole.

Two-leggeds are what they are, neither the Masters of the Universe, nor irrelevant to its purpose. We have value, thou and I. Like Wolf and Bear, we have reason to be here.

Families and friends weep for the five thousand, aware of their purpose. Our Mother, Earth, shook her robes and tumbled some of her children from them. What kind of Mother treats her children in such a manner?

And then I remembered . . . How it was, Long Ago, before the dancing Pale Ones arrived and began their slow march to the West. How it was that one among the People would be chosen for her careful listening, listening to the Earth Mother. How that one would sit in any part of the forest which the People wished to encourage toward Corn and our other Sacred Sisters. Sit and listen quietly until every part of Earth had spoken to her.

Then she would rise...and many gathered round her to hear her words. For truly they knew, here was one who spoke with Earth's own voice.

And she spoke, telling of the nature of Earth in that place. Where the People would find rocks that were small, where the great boulders lay that would argue with our strongest efforts to provide a rooting place for Corn, where walked each of the roots of every great tree, what part of Earth gave life, what part gave only grudgingly that which Our Sisters need to live...and give us their gift of Corn, Beans, Squash.

And then the People knew. Perhaps this was not the place for our Three Sisters...or perhaps it was. But the People knew, knew in advance how strong the effort must be to encourage Corn in this place.

It was no different for the houses. Someone would sit and study the nature of the place -- eyes listening, ears looking -- and listen to the Earth echoes. Ask Earth if a house for some of her children might be built here. Ask Earth if she had any other plans for this place. Ask... Earth.

Ah, there we are. No one in that City called Mexico remembered... to ask...Earth; consult the nature of the place; say, "We plan to live here for such and so a time. Our Mother, do you find that appropriate? And how need we build." No ask.

And who knows how to listen, this long after the westward march. Are there any among the People who hear the Earth echoes? Hear and understand? Who sits in the middle of a forest, a field, a city, and asks each place what is appropriate here? What Earth, herself, plans?

If you ask, and if you truly listen, Earth will tell you what she has in mind...before she shakes her robes, before great gusts of wind and ash pummel the clear sky. "Only move a little." she is saying. "I begin to itch mightily."

And we move a little, make a space for Earth as she makes space for us, mutual in our respect.

Or build in such a manner that our constructions ride the shaking earth as ships ride the tossing sea. For the sea is never silent, never still, always restless in her motions.

So it is with Earth. Only...she moves more slowly, most of the time, then turns in her sleep and settles once more.

"All wise living." my father said, "is an act of cooperation."

Tell me now, my Brothers, my Sisters, with whom do we cooperate? Only those limited to two legs and no wings at all? All those who move across the surface of Earth in ways perceivable to our quick eyes? Earth, herself, perhaps? Universe?

Tell me now, my Brothers, my Sisters, what is appropriate here, we who build on an earth-choked lake, we who would ride a shaking circumstance.

Arid if we ask, hear the answer, and act in harmony with that response, will we not build in the sacred manner? Build in consonance with the Earth echoes?

"That thing is Sacred." my father said, "which is essential to the well-being of the People."

Which People? The Wingeds? The Four-Leggeds? Our Forest Brothers whose roots walk slowly through the earth?

"We build in the Sacred manner." my father said, as he added board to board, beginning our house in the City called Los Angeles, where the Earth echoes may easily be heard.

"We build in awareness of the needs of Earth, and of our Brothers and Sisters whom we are wise enough to discern, listening for the echoes of those we do not see."

"We build, also, in awareness of our own needs. For are we not Earth's children, as truly as Wolf or Bear, Oak or Birch? An awareness of the Whole requires an awareness of Self. We are part of the Harmony...or are we choose."

"I tell you now my daughter -- if you are listening -- when we build in consonance with Earth, in consonance with her nature, we build in the Sacred manner." I am listening, my father...always listening.

We are dancers on the Earth, Wolf and Bear and Two-leggeds.

And also dancing.

This article grows out of an ancient Native American Learning Way which is the foundation of the Past Is Prologue Educational Program (PIP), used from kindergarten through college and by corporations. Information on PIP and on related publications is available from A Tribe of Two Press, P.O. Box 913, Georgetown, TX 78626; phone/fax (512) 930-5576.

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