I am Water, part 1 of 2

Ron Yellowbird is an author and storyteller from the Uncompahgre, Mouache, Capote Band of Ute Indians.


In my early life, I have found myself in the most peculiar spots. Often, sitting in the back, trying to not be seen or heard. I have been taught not to make a sound when someone or something sounds different. Hide and don’t move were instincts possessed by all young creatures who begin life with a breath from the Creator. I of course I’m not any different from them. I have traveled and sought out my teachers from those who have knowledge and experience.

Let me not forget the life learning experiences that I have confronted in my young independence. Looking back, I realize how the inner spirit of me connected with the physical me. Those life and death struggles and how we confront them, only helped me to adapt in lifestyle changes that were within my control. This will, or life spirit, is inside each one of us. It is what propels me forward in time. After surviving polio as an infant, I would be tested again and again by my initial exploring of the outside world and in my view of a higher presence.

I am water

As I grew and gained strength, I found my balance as I stood up and took a step. Fortunately for me, I had a sense to catch myself and if I fell it was not far. The inner me told me not to give up and pushed me from within. Crawling to the wooden porch I would dangle my legs over the edge. The warm baked ground felt new to me as the bottom of my feet touched the earth. I could stand and take my first steps, that would carry me here years later.

Walking into the Sagebrush Forest I felt a sense of curiosity and could hear faint voices from those that lived there. As I gained more confidence walking about, it became easier to navigate the maze of trials beneath the cover of the forest. No longer was I tied to the ground or carried about on a distance walk. Being closer to the ground though has the advantage of seeing the breath of the Sagebrush Forest. Everyday my excursions would take me to the door steps of Badger. He was knowledgeable of many events and happenings in the community. Why, Badger would introduce me as “Orra-ra-cheech” to all. Even to the One Who Speaks to Spirits.

Now, One Who Speaks to Spirits is an odd looking fellow. He is very, very old and is light on his feet. He has a row of spikes on both sides of his body and is ferocious looking as well. He is made low to the ground and is quick when it comes to catching his meal.

“I have heard that they have a nutty flavor, so I thought to try one. Only to be pinched before I spit it out.” Blah ants are off my list. However, One Who Speaks to Spirits finds them tasty and there is plenty. I asked Badger, “Why do they call him, One Who Speaks to Spirits.”

“Well, sit down young man and as always let me offer you some dried prairie dog,” said Badger.

“No thanks, I have some dried deer meat,” I said. “Here is a piece with fat on it. I know you really like dried deer meat especially the fat part, Badger.”

“Now let’s see as far back as I can remember, I seem to recall these special people, who knew of the connection and understood the ebb and flow of time. Those that possess a unique kinship with others in the spiritual energy. I have watched them in their travels and notice how all animals are attracted to them. They are not afraid of them.” All the while Badger was scratching his chin as he spoke.

It was wonderful to hear him speak, for he seemed to look into the past and would foretell great events. I sat there in the shadow of the biggest sagebrush and thought how fortunate I was to have such a friend.

“In walking about in this great land, the Ute People (Nuche) sometimes would get lost. Among them are those special people who would find One Who Speaks to Spirits. “They would pick him up and hold him in their palms. Often, I have witnessed them blowing smoking sage on him.”

The connection is made and One Who Speaks to Spirits said, “Why have you disturbed me in my slumber and is there something you wish to know?”

Now deep in thought the lost asked where the others are. Then One

Who Speaks to Spirits would turn and point with his lip.

“How can that be Badger, he has no lips?” I pointed out.

“I don’t know how they can do it but One Who Speaks to Spirits has learned from the Ute People how to point using their lips,” said Badger with a smile.

“Okay, how come they call him One Who Speaks to Spirits?” I asked

Now Badger lowered his voice and spoke of a time when there was a disturbance in the natural flow of life. At times someone dies an unnatural death and their inner spirit wanders about. They cannot find their way. Sometimes, these spirits would watch and follow some strangers to their place of sleep. Unsuspecting, these restless spirits would find that person and enter their dreams or touch them. Often, they would wake up unable to move a single muscle, eyes wide open and hearing themselves scream from within their soul. Their daily lives are made difficult with the lack of sleep and the constant voices from within their head. They strike out or behave differently from themselves. At times during the lunar moon cycle, the atmosphere becomes strongest by the new and full moon. In these moon phases those people who are gifted become restless and are awakened during the night. These are the times when their powers are focused and have elevated energy.

Should you be bothered by one of these spirits it is directed that you get up and talk to the lost soul. Tell them to go away or ask how you may help them in finding their way back. However, those gifted people know through practice and that through prayer and meditation they can connect with these misguided spirits. Thus, this act and practice enhances their powers and grants a continued blessing from a higher source.

“Once, I couldn’t sleep and decided to lay outside and look out into the night sky,” said Badger. I’ve come to understand the ways of the People (Nuche) and amongst them are these few gifted persons who are perceptive of their surroundings. See how mother nature and all the animals are drawn to them. That is because the animals have stronger senses than People. They realize that this person does not wish harm, but to ask a question of them.

As Badger continued to speak, I couldn’t help but feel how marvelous it was to sit with and learn from him. He was old and quite intelligent, and you could see it in his eyes.

“Now most of these gifted people are called shamans, ‘poo-weg-gagut; and those spiritually gifted people attract relatives, strangers who traveled far and those seeking help or healing,” said Badger. Most important these personal quests are revealed upon their confession. With rest, a meal and tea they feel compelled to reveal the innermost problems. Badger continued to tell his experiences and bewilderment of how One Who Speaks to Spirits sits on the palm of the hand of whom is deep in thought. “Shh, listen. You can barely hear, One Who Speaks to Spirits.”

“What does he say Badger,” I asked in a whisper.

“Now One Who Speaks to Spirits has the ability to talk with those on the other side and find what is affecting the person within,” Badger explained. “The reasons for ceremonies are to give direction and to help them sleep or for healing of emotional, mental, physical or spiritual needs.”

“Badger, will I meet one of these healers someday and how do I know?” I asked.

Badger looked at me and said, “in moments when you realize that you cannot accomplish your dreams and destiny. You will be guided by their strong connection to the spirit of nature. They can see your aura and can determine what you need to do. Their powers come from their goodness, their studies, their entity, that gravitates to those affected areas. Through their hands and exploration of lost connections. In consultation, that gifted person will able to give direction in healing you. You will know Orr-raa-cheech to seek them out. This spiritual energy of these gifted people will allow you to be protected and safe in their company.”

If there is one thing that moves me forward, it is someone who gives me hope to continue my journey; my companionship with Badger, listening to his explanations of all things, that I would come to know. This I thought as I was sitting there in the shade of the tallest sagebrush and thinking to myself.

“You will know by your intuition that they are born with a sixth sense that helps gifted healers to understand the unseen,” said Badger. “They are clairvoyant and have great energy and should you meet one, give them great respect for they are there to help you. In these times when people are lost, or they are being disturbed by unseen spirits. They are drawn to their gifted powers,” continued Badger.

“It’s One Who Speaks to Spirits that assists them by opening a door and speaking to the spirits. That is why he is called One Who Speaks to Spirits,” spoke Badger.

I would learn so much from him. It felt dreamlike listening to him speak and his calm, relaxing, voice assured me that I was free from harm.

Part 2 of “I am Water” will be published in the May 10 issue of The Southern Ute Drum.

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