Editors Note: “The Blue Babies” by Ronald YellowBird has been divided into two parts. Please check back in the December 8 Drum for part two of the story.
I am the oldest son of the late John S. Williams (Mouache Capote) and Wanda Accuttroop American Horse (Uncompahgre). My beginnings start at Little Chicago in Ft Duchesne, UT. I lived there with all my Ute grandmothers & aunties, all the grandfathers & uncles, and through their teachings have I realized how much we have lost.
In the Valley of the Red River People, there came a time of famine affecting every family in the Western Slope. The weather was changing and the mountain springs, along with the berries and herbs were drying up. Grandfather Raven could see into the future when he slept and traveled about in spirit. One morning he gathered the different family leaders to his home beneath the biggest and oldest Ponderosa pine tree, a simple meal and drink of tea was what he would offer. Everyone’s attention was on Grandfather Raven, when he spoke and he was direct to the issues. The dreams I have been experiencing are of greatest concern and I’m afraid that we all will suffer. Those of you who are quite elderly must sacrifice your share, so that we may continue as a people. You who have lived our lives far too long, must prepare to travel to a place where our lives began. Give away your possessions to those deserving the memories of time! I do not think lightly of the next place where we will end and begin a life in the spirit world. Instead, I look forward in standing with my great grandparents and to look into a realm of Spiritual balance: that which is of comfort, while being with all those relatives who exist in my bloodline.
The winter has been quite warm and already the sky is alive with insects, with them the waa-cheech-u, These small birds gather and have always talked with the People of the Red River. They have said, the shift in the winds will only bring dry air and some rains. We have traveled from our winter grounds in the south and it is warm. Many of us have made this trip and it is unusual to not leave an old one behind. See there, the old generation who are happy to have made it here with all of you. Our relatives from the Never Summer Mountains and Red Mountain, the nuch-u from Blue Mesa and those who had witnessed, a crazy white man came a walking out of the wilderness. The Ute People warned him of hard conditions on man and animal. He was struck in the head with this determination to finding his lost party, those ill prepared greenhorns and the blatant trespass into which they didn’t return.
Some say that this white man, who had a look of a nervous critter, went into the Blue Mountains and with every step an image and a thought of reasons why he had to travel back. With no provisions he calculated his chances of surviving in a land covered by winter’s wet snow. True to his nature and with the stench of a sociopath, there was only one way to make it out. Not feeling the cold in his labored breath, he pushes his legs until there is no more burn. His spirit is consumed by greed. His weak mind would find a calm, then he turned his will and pleasure in eating his meal. Every day on way to the outhouse, he would return with a steak and quickly consumed it. He has become a beast who is too old to hunt and will feast a forbidden satisfaction. A full stomach and dried meat in his pack, he left the Blue Mountains.
Soon the summer was upon us and the heat from the winds chaffed the face. In all the life of humans, there remains the existence of who we are. Those moments where the decisions are carried out and remembrance of the spirit within. Grandfather Raven is conducting a long ago ceremony of which, enters into him a bond of life forces, that enters in each of us. Drawn to the center, you must close your eyes and purge all impurities from your soul. Only then can you leave the body behind and evoke the impulse that only belongs to you. Once, Grandfather Raven, become a star held up by the black in the universe. He could see his reflection in the lake, he existence was a pulse of energy. His time was short compared to the life of his origins and forever cast into the great circle of life. The gray around his cheek and head gave him a look of distinction. The eyes though were bright, clear and could see through you. Given a great gift, he used it for the good of all but felt demons approaching. When crazy people are about, they always told us, to give them lots of ground. The great council of Birds was to convene in a few days and Grandfather Raven was to inform everyone of his forecast and warning.
Traveling with grandfather was the mischievous nephews and their cousins the magpies. There was plenty of talk from the magpies and entertainment from the nephews. This kept his mind occupied and remembering of younger times when he was growing. He could testify to images of the future. The next blind corner revealed a self preservation of the four legged creatures. Mothers were aborting the generations to come, a missing son or daughter. We cannot feed our babies when the grass burns up; it has become a necessary act. Before bonding can occur they are thrown into the cold river, they become the blue babies, this sacrifice will not be forgotten nor the missing be remembered. Our lives continue, later there will be a gathering of the spiritual leaders. Those who are in balance with all the forces, place great reverence upon those in the Creator’s garden. For now, the challenge is to rendezvous with the others at the headwaters of the Arkansas River. There is a spring that always flows and the nu-pa is cold, tasting of melted snow.
It is that time of year when the smallest birds return from their winter grounds and the air is full of sounds. The great gathering is attended by those bandleaders and are trusted by all. In this valley the river is lined with great cottonwood trees. At the river’s edge are the willow trees where even the dippers manage to find good sitting. All those who reside beyond timberline and lowlanders are present. Those relatives who have migrated here are all talking with Grandfather Raven and they sound concerned. One can hear the forte of whispers that become louder with each voice, a new concern.
Can you imagine the sound of all these birds in the valley. Each voice adds to the gossip and becomes full song. I can still hear the meadow larks, the mourning doves, the red-winged blackbirds, the ring necked pigeon and the list goes on. Let me see, how many can you name? This is a dangerous place to be if you are a bug, however, the great gathering is a blessed place to be. Soon, the chitchat subsides and a clear voice emerges to greet everyone present.
Grandfather Raven talks of this spiritual travels and forecasting harder times for all those living upon the lands. There is word that the western winds have changed and that there will be little rain or snow for the next coming years. I have foreseen and will witness a greater hardship for the humans and even more so, because they depend so much on what mother earth provides, this includes Mother Nature’s fruit trees and other herbs.
In my spiritual travels have I seen how desperate the humans will get. Already, the four-legged creatures have changed their ways. Acceptance to change is hard and even harder for those who cannot make lifestyle sacrifices. We the winged brothers and sisters have the ability to travel to places where we can endure. We will miss the People from the Red River and we will remember them of what has to happen. You have to counsel with them and learn them of our inheritance. They will be stubborn and will think that you are deceiving them. Your songs will teach them of the changes that will happen and ultimately their demise, should they choose not to listen. My heart then will be saddened; a pain remains deep inside of me. I believe in them, of what they have to do. If necessary, I will stay behind with the oldest of them and sing their death songs. I will rub their bodies with cedar smoke and smudge their souls for the travel.
Always, the old will choose the right path and with great joy, visit their relatives in the spiritual word. These people all agree that they have lived a long and good life. Their sacrifice makes room for the next person and are honored in taking their place in the Circle of Life.
Long ago the humans would find a cave and place the relatives in their finest clothes, with water baskets, dried deer meat and berries. This, so that they may feed the spirit on their long journey to the great beyond. Sometimes, you can hear the spirits when the wind blows through the canyons and Aspen trees quake when they walk about in the Creator’s garden. Grandfather Raven, has always said that it was inside of us, all this time. It’s just that, we have to learn how to connect with the inside.
Our minds while in a balance, finds the true essence of our being. We are a part of the greater continuum, which never ends, in the Circle of Life. Never forget that you come from the earth when the spirit life is released. Your body of muscle, bone and sinew go back to the earth. The spirit you have has made you different from all others, your personality, your smile, and all the emotions that your eyes express, are what your relatives will remember and miss. You continue to live in them especially when a smell, or a sound or a place that brings back memories.
This is not so with the blue baby’s, Grandfather Raven will explain what the humans have to do. He will speak with the leaders of each family band of Utes. The Ute man they call the “Mist In The Mountains” was the first to awaken and hearing grandfather call his name. He offered grandfather bread and soup, before he sat down to hear his concerns. Grandfather Raven, told “Mist In The Mountains” what had to be done or perish. It is unthinkable of what you must do, the Creator will be watching. I have been told of your woman and the baby she carries in her womb. You have many children and they are of the age to know how to survive on their own. Just as your nephew, who is a good man and travels well in the wilds of your country. His new pa-winn is also carrying a little soul in her and the child is her first. They are living with her mother and your nephew, “Sees The Mountain Lion” is a good provider. However, even with his abilities he will not understand the reasons, of what must be done and that the family has the will continue to endure. This is to ensure a place in the Circle of Life and occupy the land of which was created for the Utes.
As in all life, choices have to be made and forgiveness from the Creator of what Mother Nature is capable of doing. Now listen with your mind and heart, of what I am going to tell you. Later, you must decide whether to share my dream and let them decide their fate. Come let us walk to the river, over to the deep pool you can fish for tonight’s meal. I like fish very much and find them delicious with a little mint. I will offer a prayer for the sustenance they will provide. After the meal, I will then counsel those who wish to hear my words. Look there, over by the edge of the whirlpool, a good size paa-gu.