Being asked to support is a great Honor. Supporting a pledge is a serious matter and reflects how much the Pledge trusts you. It holds the similar responsibilities as being a best man/maid of Honor in a wedding or can be as intimate as being a midwife. This request might even challenge you and your beliefs of why they would choose such an ordeal or rite in today’s world. So, I thought it would be good to put some things down in black and white for those who do not know how to be a supporter or wonder if you can.
We call the people going to the Mountain on an vision quest, “Pledges”, for they have pledged to walk in the traditional ways and follow the pathway of those that have gone before. They will attempt their own experience in connecting and receiving. They wish to follow the traditional preparations and teaching of a lineage passed down a long line of Elders that received these instructions thousands of years ago and were passed on to those that earned the right to assist others.
“We do it like this, we do it like this. See us. We do it like this”
Lakota song translation
In this walk, we say that within it is a powerful medicine. This medicine is not what doctors give out, but a special inner personal effect that takes place when people commune with and join, through a natural form of preparations, the knowledge of who they are. What we find too is a humbleness, and reverence for nature and all things in nature, including each of our own kind. Each person, or thing, or being has within it has its own special medicine that it offers to the whole of life and seekers on a quest learn this of themselves, and what special medicine they carry. The Pledge wants to know why they are here, and what is the bigger plan outside of their chosen field that they are to do in serving all our relations. It might also provide the Pledge with a renewed sense of place here on the earth and what this special medicine is that they hold inside of themselves.
This vision quest is a medicine way, for stopping the outer world and going into nature to ask to know ones self, ones place and way to carry their specific and special medicine.
It is a profound spiritual and physical experience not replicated by any drug or other ordeals as it is a choice of a person, and a calling.
The Pledge is seeking their special connection, ally’s and their medicine or vision while placed in their altars to pray. While they are out there they neither, sleep, eat or drink and through this time they gain important messages. This is part of going on a vision quest.
Seeking a vision, may bring with it visits from birds, deer, rabbits, coyotes or the wind or lightning. And if so, they come to teach something and they are there to learn about ourselves from contact with them. When the Pledge gives themselves to nature they can learn that there are Guardians, keepers of the four directions. While standing in their altars, they have to face and clear the fears and limitations they find in themselves. For some this is why they go. To commune with the medicine of this nature, turning off and opening their minds in trust, that there is something else that can and will help them understand themselves.
They take little to the Mountain, so there are no distractions but nature to teach. Any items they are with after are reminders of ones ally’s or helpers who came to visit, and provided comfort in the vast aloneness that we all get to from time to time. So the aloneness has within it a key, to open the medicine experience too. And the Pledge is seeking this medicine like a hunter stalks the deer which requires them to follow the instruction, given by the person who has been given permission, and who has themselves gone through this process over and over again.
The role of the supporter begins early on in the process of the Vision Quest. First the Pledge will ask for your support and offer you a pouch of tobacco. If you choose to accept this gift you are considered a supporter and asked to make a small prayer each day, using the tobacco given to you.
Agreeing is not only helping them go on their vision quest, but it also helps those of you who are in camp to create a village/community for them to leave from and return to.
We say it take a whole village to support these people going to seek a vision, and this is so very true. We are the village for them. A village is made up of our friends, family and other Pledges, supporters and community members. They are the body of the village. We all keep the heartbeat and fire going for these Pledges. It is vital.
The things they requested from you are MUSTS to take the next step in preparing, and are time sensitive. Please have these available within a month of the request as the Pledge’s preparations are dependent on these items.
The items requested have a meaning. It means that you would give them the skin/shirt off your backs in support. In the old days it was a blanket, and before that it was the elk, buffalo or deer hides.
When you took this tobacco it means you are willing to support this friend/family member. They had to pray with the tobacco before they gave it to you. If you took this tobacco you are to open the package and offer a pinch of this tobacco for each day from the time you received it until the end of camp when they come down. You are to offer in your own way a prayer so that your friend has an easy path and can complete this Quest. You can offer this pinch to the air or a fire. It doesn’t have to be smoked as they may have expressed to you.
Remember to burn what is left over when they get back off the Mountain.
Supporters are encouraged to come to camp at Deer Haven and help run the camp well until the pledges return. This is their camp and we are to be in service as the supporters. Plus, the caring for them is also a wonderful feeling. In camp we are the support system. A Village is made of all of our Pledges friends and family members. Plus those who have gone already once of more times up on the Mountain and are there to give back to what supported them through their times on the Mountain.
We as Supporters will be keeping a vigil, praying with the tobacco each day and tending the fire (that will not go out for the four days/nights) until our pledges come down, cooking the three meals a day and going into sweat lodges to help clear and prepare for their return.
If you can’t make camp, then this process is requested of you as well. In this case you can also light a long burning candle for the days they quest to be in connection.
We will also have Work Parties before camp where we will set up Tipi’s, split & stack wood, plan the kitchen and wash station, and get the chairs and tables set up for camp. Agreeing to support them also required your assisting them to have this nice camp ready. So attending them, or any meeting is important too.
In camp, we share the jobs that it takes to run a camp. There is an opportunity to tend fires, cook food, to greet at the gate, be a security person, go to sweat lodges, and attend classes on topics like fire building, singing medicine songs, crafting with beads and leather, or tracking and history walks to see the reason this Land is an Historical Preservation site.
On the day the pledges come down there is a FEAST and Talent Show ( Saturday) that evening, where anyone can join in to celebrate and welcome home those that went out on this Quest. We let our hair down, so bring your paints, talents, costumes, make up, music and poetry and if you have instruments, drums, horns, guitars and rattles so we can all join in share in this Celebration. On Sunday, we get the camp all cleaned and packed up, then we have the Giveaway, a time for the Pledges to offer their Thanks to you, the attendees that held them through this time.
So know, if someone has asked you to become a supporter, its because they have gone through a process of looking at their friends and family and from all of them, they wish and hope you can accept and can support them in this spiritual and very physical undertaking this year. This is a honor.
Some of you may not be able to do this due to other obligations or commitments. It might, mean you would have to give up a plan or vacation, or another plan (all family members are welcome too attend), but if you have said yes, then you are in for a wonderful gift too.
The Pledges are following the instructions given to them in preparation to go on the Mountain. And they are following the things “to do”, which is for those that walk this road, a way of life. This is very important and part of their stretching out of the comfort zone, even to have asked for your help. They are not to share their process with you, for this is for those that walk towards this quest. You can ask, if there is anything that they need help with or something else that they might require.
You are someone important enough in this Pledge’s life that they requested your assistance, so consider it if you can.
The things they requested from you are musts to take the next step in preparing and setting their altars and are time sensitive. This means a lot to them.
For the Pledge this QUEST is a needed process and is a profound life changing time for each of them. You will receive a blessing in your own life from becoming a supporter..
So we want to get to know you. If you’re in the Portland or Central Oregon area, join us anytime for lodges and sign up on the website newsletter of events and notification for those attending out events. Your always welcome in this Community!
We needed a way to share how important this is in the bigger pictures of these preparations. We hope it has helped. If you have any questions on this you can write me, Sweet Medicine at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also look on our website www.fwfoundation.com for more information about the purpose and history of the vision quest.