26 August 2008

Medicine Bluff

heya, brady braves ... as reported last week, "A federal judge has blocked the U.S. Army from starting a construction project at Fort Sill in Oklahoma out of concern for the religious rights of the Comanche Nation. The tribe says it wasn't consulted about the development of a training service center near the foot of Medicine Bluffs, a sacred site at Fort Sill. Work was scheduled to begin on Monday until Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti issued a temporary restraining order. 'The court finds that, given the nature of the interests which plaintiffs in this case seek to protect, irreparable harm will result if the construction project commences,' DeGiusti wrote in the five-page order." that order can be read in its entirety via a link near the bottom of the page at http://indianz.com/News/2008/010446.asp.

in light of this critical situation, we--the staff of the bureau of brady braves--share with you an excerpt from wallace and hoebel's 1952 book the comanches: lords of the south plains (205-206):

"Medicine Bluff is another place commemorated in name and held in great reverence by the Comanches as being the abode of a powerful, benevolent spirit. It is located in Comancheria at the confluence of Cache and Medicine Bluff creeks. The two creeks empty into Red River [Pia Pasiwuhunu] and are overlooked by a precipitous bluff--Medicine Bluff. It is a mile in length, forming a perfect crescent, rising at once from the bed of Medicine Bluff creek, which flows at the base of the perpendicular scarp, to the height of 310 feet. The surface of the face of the bluff is perfectly regular and smooth. Moss covers the sides with a garb of pale green. The greater portion of the face is perfectly bare, though at some places a few stunted cedars have found lodgment in the crevices. From the rear the bluff presents three knolls, the center one being the highest. Mount Scott, about eight miles distant, stands forth with its pyramidal outline like a sentinel guarding the eastern gate of the Wichita Mountains.

There, from the bluff, according to a Comanche legend recounted by Thomas Battey, a powerful spirit looked over and cared for his people, saw that game was abundant and that his children were prosperous and happy. Comanche medicine men erected a cairn about six feet in height upon the summit of the principal knoll. Here the sick repaired or were brought by their relatvies or friends, and here they were left to its invisible and subtle power. Especially those who were past the cure of the medicine men were deposited on the altar and left to be disposed of by the spirit. If the sick had not offended the supernatural powers, they were suddenly healed and returned to their kindred. Sometimes they were transported bodily to the after world. But if they were notoriously bad, they were allowed to die, and the ravens descended from the air, and the wolf came up from the valley and devoured the body, and the bones were gathered up by the Evil Spirit and deposited in the land of terrors. At times the vicinity of the bluff became suddenly lighted up as by a great fire. The dews of night, the rain, and the wind circled about the spot of the altar at the very summit, but none of these agencies of nature trespassed, and the patient was thus left sheltered better than in his own tipi.

To the spirit was attributed the power of resurrection. Once an old warrior, who had long lived among the women of the village, having ceased to hunt or go on the warpath and having been turned out to wait his time to join his fathers, had struggled to the top of the bluff to die and be borne away to the after world. Each night after his departure, when darkness covered the face of nature, the awe-stricken people of the village below observed a great blaze, as if a fire had been built to alarm them. On the morning after the third night, a young man equipped as a warrior was seen descending the bluff, along the trail to the village. He approached the chief's lodge and sat by the fire. The warriors gathered around, but no one recongized him and so remained silent, waiting for him to speak. Lighting his pipe, decorated with beads and feathers of strange birds, the stranger, after all had made the ceremonial smoke, began his story.

When he had reached the top of the hill, he could see the village and hear the laughter of children, the mourning of his kindred, and the barking of the dogs. He could see the buffalo and deer in the distance, and the young warriors in all their pride and strength. Then he asked himself, 'Why do I live any longer? My fires have gone out. I must follow my fathers. The world is beautiful to the young, but to the old it has no pelasures. Far away to the setting suns are the hunting grounds of my people. I will go there.' After these words, he had mustered all he could of his failing strength and leaped into the air from the giddy height before him. He knew no more of the woes of life. He was caught up in midair and transported into a smiling country where there was no rain and no wind, where the great chiefs of all the Comanches were assembled. They were all young and chased the buffalo and feasted. There was no darkness. The Great Spirit was everywhere and everybody was happy.

The story capitvated the minds and imagination of the listeners, and the strange young warrior became at once an oracle and a big medicine man in the tribe. His counsel was all-powerful, and his abilities to cure were considered infallible. Reverence for the bluff was enhanced; and in the years that followed no Comanche would ascend to the summit of the hill except for a most sacred purpose. When white soldiers fired shots at the cliff to hear the echoes, the Comanche guide, Blue Leggings, was horror stricken, and he refused to scale the peak with the soldiers.

At times a young man, eager to take the warpath for the first time, ascended to the sacred spot in quest of his vision. Having provided himself with a shield, in accordance with ceremonial instructions the youth proceeded to the highest point of the bluff, reminaing for three successive days. A part of the cerremony included preenting the face of the shield to the rising sun each morning, as if warding off an arrow or a spear. The sacred surroundings of the place and the Sun, the emblem of the Great Spirit, casting its rays upon the shield were supposed to endow it with supernatural protective powers."

may those "protective powers" intervene now in preventing fort sill from disturbing Medicine Bluff.

No comments: