The wind blows a hard cold that shudders the hides that cover the teepee. The snow builds drifts around the teepee and a soft yellow glow makes it look like a big light. The people are snug under their warm buffalo robes and blankets and the moon shines bright in the cobalt sky. All is well.
There is a small fire in the middle of the teepee and a nice bed of hot coals that will be fed several times in the night when it's so cold. The wind prevents the draw and blue smoke lingers before rising up and out. The smell of smoke sticks to everything; it's a way of life.
This may sound like an awful inconvenience to most of us but for the native people who lived on the prairies, it was just another winter's night at home. They were quite comfortable and they fell asleep to the songs of the wolf, owl, coyote and the wind.
The snow was welcome because it could be pushed up around the bottom of the teepee and provided insulation against the cold. Also the snow was an easy source of water, it just needed melting. The firewood had been gathered and was covered in a pile outside.
These short winter days and long nights were times of finding the inner self by being creative. Hours upon hours were spent making clothes, moccasins and jewelry. The hunter's tools, bows, arrows, lances and knives were all made by hand from materials provided by nature.
Countless generations of people lived this way and they were happy and flourished, in spite of nature's sometimes harsh ways. The truth is, that they lived their lives with Mother Nature rather than in spite of her.
They acted on instinct, the same instinct that nature gives to all loving things. Their will to survive molded their lives to fit in with the environment that nature provided.
When they were happy and prosperous they would dance, sing and feast and spread the joy to young and old. In times of ceremony in a colorful dress of beads, buckskin and feathers they would dance to the rhythm of the drums. The people's lives were hard but they were grateful and they were the last to live on this land to reverently take what nature offered them.
They lived their lives one day at a time and thus blended into the seasons like a deer that grows hair as the weather gets cooler then sheds it in the spring as it gets warmer. They would gather firewood on an everyday basis. Water also was a grave necessity and another daily chore. There was always something to do outside no matter what the weather was.
Being one with nature, the people became very spiritual and paid reverence to that which provides for them. They knew that the Great Spirit would give them guidance and help them prosper. Nature would provide for all who live within her boundaries.
Their lives were geared to everyday survival, the same natural instinct that all other life forms have. When they were happy and prosperous they would gather to dance and sing and give thanks to the Great Spirit. Their colorful forms cast shadows on the teepees as they danced around a fire, their voices singing to the beat of the drums. They would act out the essence of nature's true rhythm of the heartbeat of nature.
As family communities, they are pulled together by the pure joy of their rhythm. The Great Spirit is pleased. Only good can come from people who are so happy and productive.
Could this go on forever as it has for thousands of years before?
After a large snowfall they had to dig out, using wooden paddles or turtle shells. The snow was cleared away from the door of the teepee and tossed up against the sides. Their clothes were rubbed over the icy snow to clean them. If the snow was deep, they fashioned crude snowshoes by using birch and rawhide. There's a lot to do when the snow comes.
Inside the teepee, a dew cloth can be placed over a 4-5 foot wide area around the inner walls. This prevents the moisture from dripping onto the floor and bedding.
The next time you go for a walk in the snow, picture yourself heading back to a teepee with an arm full of sticks. Imagine what it much have been like to live off the land even when winter comes. Imagine what it must have been like to live at the total mercy of Mother Nature.
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