My dear friend and soul sister Marie Dion is an artist and author who has been tasked with a mission: to hand-deliver an object sacred to her People, to its original home in the Black Hills of South Dakota from where she recovered it in Massachusetts. After 10 years as custodian of the object’s healing, it is time for her to make the cross-country journey, which is beyond her current means. This is where we could use your help.
*Note: Due to the sensitivity of Marie’s mission and in an effort to protect Native sacred ceremonies and objects, neither the item nor its final resting place can be named or described. (She explains why in the video). Thank you for understanding.
The backstory: How the sacred object came to Marie
Marie’s husband, like many New England farmers, keeps firearms for hunting. Marie accompanied him to a gun show, not expecting to find what she saw that day: a Native sacred object, intended for use only in ceremony, laying on the table of one of the vendors for sale.
It was assembled as if for ceremonial use, its protective wraps removed, a desecration. Due to the components of the object, the man could even be arrested for having it in his possession as a non-Native off reservation grounds.
Trembling with shock, Marie pulled herself up to her full 5’1” height and walked over to the man’s table. “What are you doing with that?” she confronted him. “You are not Native, you have no right to own it. You’re not supposed to have it put together like that!”
Now nervous, the seller refused to name his source. (Likely, it had been stolen from a burial ground or taken as a grisly battleground “souvenir” when yet another peace treaty was disregarded, trading hands over generations until this man purchased it to sell). “Well, what do you want to do?” he asked.
“I can’t purchase it from you,” Marie said. “A sacred item cannot be sold.” She made arrangements to meet the next morning to trade for it. She filled her car with her artwork, valuable rugs and paintings that form part of her livelihood.
As she and her husband got into the car the next morning, traveling no small distance to meet the seller, Marie felt herself powerfully flanked by warriors—not her own ancestors, but the ancestors of the sacred object’s People. And they were angry. She prayed that the man would be reasonable, and accept something in exchange for the precious object. He agreed to the trade, but took everything.
Marie shares more of the sacred object's story here:
Marie felt like she had rescued a baby, the item felt that precious and vulnerable. She also had no idea what she was walking into in doing so. She didn't know what kind of healing the sacred object now required.
Because she is 20+ years’ deep in training and ceremonies as a healer, Marie is allowed to carry such a sacred object for her people. But she didn’t know the protocol in this situation.
The first thing Marie did was take it to a sweat lodge run by a Lakota man. He communicated that the sacred object was to be put to rest in the Black Hills of South Dakota within 10 years.
Then she consulted with the Chief of her own Mi’kMaq ceremonies in Canada on how to heal the sacred object. They purified it through their ceremonies for four years.
Upon its return, Marie waited for a sign as to what to do next, continuing to take it into her own medicine wheel for healing. Then, a few weeks ago, she received the calling. It was time to go.
It has been 10 years since the sacred object came under her responsibility.
Her friends, the founders of the nonprofit Tribal Crafts, connected her with a reservation in South Dakota which will be her first stop. She will be guided by elders there as to where the sacred object will finally be laid to rest.
As she does on every trip to a reservation, Marie will not arrive empty-handed, nor without some contribution to the community, as many of them struggle with extreme poverty. She does this through her partnership with Tribal Crafts.
Tribal Crafts brings indigenous art and crafts back to New England for sale to provide income to the community, as well as contribute to keeping a beautiful culture alive and flourishing, sharing it with a broader audience.
Why this means so much to us
Putting the sacred object to rest in its Native home is more than a solitary act. It is an act that acknowledges and heals generations forward and back of unacknowledged genocide and trauma, for the ceremonial object and the indigenous peoples it represents. It corrects a past wrong with love and compassion.
The costs: What your donation will cover
The purpose of this campaign is to raise funds to cover Marie’s costs as she makes the journey to South Dakota, then up back to her home on the East Coast. The entire trip will take 3+ weeks.
Here is what your donation covers (updated!):
- Airfare: $940
- Hotel: $803, including
+$357.63 (conventional hotel)
+$200 (5 nights at a campground)
+$120 (conventional hotel)
- Car Rental: $1,900 (the biggest expense; we were able to find a much better deal and cut this number)
- Gas & Tolls: $220 (per tollguru.com)
- Art supplies & shipping (Marie has been asked to teach the young people on the reservation traditional crafts): $400
- Craft purchases to raise money for Tribal Crafts: $500
Due to the generosity of offline donors offering help with lodging, food and supplies, as well as hustling to minimize costs, we have been able to reduce the total amount needed significantly.
Any funds raised over and above what Marie needs for the journey will be donated to Tribal Crafts.
UPDATE: Marie has completed her trip, and was guided to the final resting place of the sacred item, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is in a safe location, with loving custodians who will ensure its continued peace and rest.
So why is the campaign still active?
We didn't raise all of the necessary funds before and during Marie's journey, and there was no going back. Marie paid out of pocket, putting a considerable amount on credit cards. Her journey was wildly successful... and she has returned, still owing the debt.
We are so close. Can you help?
How you can help
Kindly make a donation, in any amount you can. Every one makes a difference, and we are so grateful for your support.
Help spread the word: Share our campaign via email and on social media, whatever that looks like for you: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… Wherever people as wonderful as you hang out. :) Please use the hashtag #ReturningWhatsSacred.
Whatever your spiritual practice, say a prayer, hold positive space, and/or send good vibes for the safe and peaceful passage of this beloved sacred object. May it reach its Native resting place with ease and grace, mending another stitch in the reconciliation between all Peoples.
Thank you so much for your support. For the good of all and harm to none, aho!
Here's the full interview with Marie, complete with bloopers ;)
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- Elaine Petkovich
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