Christi Belcourt (Michif), The Wisdom of the Universe, 2014, acrylic on canvas, Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Purchased with funds donated by Greg Latremoille, 2014, 2014/6. © Christi Belcourt

Native American Indigenous Wisdom,
~Quoted from Lyla June

“My people pay attention to the movement of the stars, the sun, the moon and the shadows to be in relationship with time. Time is not seen as dead, but as alive. One phase of night, for example, is known as Chahaałheeł (pronounced cha-haath-hyeth). But this time is not just a thing, it is a being. She is a woman. 

She is an elderly woman. We know the night to be a time that heals a person. We notice that as we sleep, we awaken feeling better if we were sick the day before. We notice that the night cradles us and takes care of us like a grandmother. For this reason, many of our ceremonies occur all night, to be in relationship with the healing power of Chahaałheeł.

This reminds me of the Lakota conception of space, in which each of the four directions are not simply a place, but are homes of living beings who have specific roles in their guardianship of Creation. The West is itself a powerful and benevolent being. Whereas the word “West” in English powerfully “noun-ifies” this great being and reduces it to a boring phenomenon, a place awaiting our conquest. 

In Native Way, the West is prayed to. It is called upon. Same for the north, east and south. In every direction, we are surrounded by medicine beings. We are seen to be held by a cradle of powerful, beautiful medicine that is alive and loves us, even as pitiful human beings.

It begs the question, what does it feel like to live in a society where time and space are not just relative, but they ARE relatives, beloved family members who care for us as their children? What does this feel like compared to a society where time and space are enemies or lifeless objects to be overcome? In a society where the night-time is a grandmother that loves you, you must go to sleep feeling very held. The cyclic phases of time aren’t just alive… They actually like us. What more still…they love us, they have a conscious affinity for us.

In other words, a person of that kind of society will feel more beloved in general and less afraid. Even if the belief that certain times of day are benevolent beings was silly and untrue, the net effect on the society would be less fear and less anxiety. Doctors of late are finding important causal connections between stress, anxiety and adverse health effects. I have heard many Elders from cultures around the world say that fear is the root of imbalance and illness in a human society. It is our task to feel at home in creation, not afraid of creation, for our fears are what create space for imbalance to usurp this world. It is our task to trust in creation, not to fear creation, for our fears tend to create themselves within an otherwise wonderful world. 

I do not think these things are silly and untrue, however. The Western perception that our surroundings are lifeless (and even meaningless) seems more silly. It was common knowledge among most Indigenous Peoples worldwide that we are surrounded by sentient beings, both those who have physical bodies and those that do not. They move so quickly, at the speed of light, as do our own spirits within the synapses and meridians of these temporary bodies. 

We use stones, water, organic materials, and even the wind generated by song, to give these beings a place to sit with us, since they otherwise would move at the speed of light. We need something that can hold light. It was not outlandish to understand that benevolent spirits filled the forests, the rivers, the mist, the wind, the rocks, indeed, everything Creator has made, and that these things could be a vessel to hold the sentient beings who longed to help us and love us.

Many people wonder why you feel so good after taking a walk in the woods. We would say it is because you are surrounded by a family that is pure who loves you. We are surrounded in those times by Innumerable spirits who take the time to care for, heal and love us.

So no, on the contrary, it is not silly and untrue. In fact, it would be preposterous to Indigenous Peoples to think that there were NOT a great many loving and sentient beings surrounding us all the time. Thus, to say that the night is a being that loves us in the same manner as a grandmother is not outlandish at all, but very understandable and even sophisticated in its understanding. The night air that carries mist could very practically and tangibly hold this sentient and loving spirit.

Let us return to the practice of honoring every thing – the sun, the moon, the times of day, our hair, the earth, the wind, the directions – as beloved relatives who want us here. Let us believe that Creation will take care of us in that way… And it will.”