By Kari Noren-Hoshal
Ever since John G. Neihardt transcribed the words of Nicholas Black Elk in the book Black Elk Speaks in 1932, a true portrait of Native American cosmology has come available to the spiritual seeker. I read the book as a teenager after Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee first piqued my interest in the authentic Native American perspective.
The near-death experience as described by Black Elk in his epic journey to the other side was exciting to me, having just escaped death by drowning myself at age 15, the summer before I read the book. Similarities between Black Elk’s experience and my own were comforting. Up to that moment I had never read about near-death experience (NDE), and had struggled with the incredible effect the experience had upon me when I tried to describe it to others.
Unlike Black Elk’s very complex NDE, I did not experience any vision of the other side or prophecies of the future. Instead, I simply experienced a feeling of profound elation in seeing many thousands of past-life souls that I was reunited with. Black Elk’s vision, as described to Neihardt, is much more complex. Black Elk goes on at length to describe his meeting with the council of elders and the vision they gave him for the future of the Lakota People. That vision turned out to be an accurate prediction when the Native American way of life gave way to imprisonment in reservations for the majority of the Lakota Nation in South Dakota, after the battle of Wounded Knee Dec. 29, 1890.
Since reading Black Elk Speaks, I’ve been interested in books of all kinds about spirituality, NDEs and Vision Quest. I see Vision Quest as a conscious way of accessing the out-of-body experiences and insights of the NDE. To this day, no books I have found — except Dannion Brinkley’s book Saved By the Light, first published in 1977 — have ever approximated the clarity of description of Black Elk Speaks.
I have undertaken short personal Vision Quests in which I travel out to the mountains of West Virginia at Cacapon State Park and sit in meditation for the day. Hiking the most direct trail straight up the mountain, I reach my secluded site. Three quarters of the way up the mountain, dense trees and brush block the view of the large flat boulders left there by the melting of an ancient glacier.
These boulders make a perfect Vision Quest platform. Raised up a few feet from the ground, I feel very peaceful when sitting on my boulder. Surrounded by the silence of the woods, I set up my small altar and begin the process of unloading my thoughts of the week. Slowly working my way toward prayer, only the call of a high-flying hawk, eagle or buzzard interrupts the silence.
On my most recent meditation, a mother deer came to visit after several hours. I sat perfectly still and she came even nearer, seeming to look right at me. She must have smelled me but chose to trust, rather than not to. She whistled to her baby, and the tiny fawn then came out of the thicket, too. The mother and fawn stayed with me at least 30 minutes before continuing their grazing further up the hill. Prior to this, I had never heard a deer’s call. It fascinated me how the mother made the nasal “Sfeet!” sound just loudly enough to be heard.
In the final hour of this sitting meditation, a hawk or eagle circled the area where I sat. I noticed that it had a back wing feather missing. A missing feather was something I had never seen before on a bird of prey. It made me think about what was missing in my life: a home for the White Bison, a sanctuary where they could live in a place of permanent, peaceful shelter.
My three years of work with the Sacred World Peace Alliance had led my friend Cynthia and me down many roads to find a suitable sanctuary spot, but none had been successful. Our vision was to teach classes about the White Bison mission of peace through indigenous teachers from many different cultures at the sanctuary. We would invite participants to stay at the sanctuary for Vision Quest workshops.
After three years of searching for our sanctuary, I was mildly disappointed but still resolved to find the right place for them somewhere on the West Coast. My thoughts stayed on the White Bison for a good half hour before I concluded my meditation with some deep breaths of the intoxicatingly fresh mountain air.
On my way down the mountain, I was more vigilant of sounds, sights and smells than on the way up. Having quieted the mind, I was observing life on the trail with new ears and eyes. On this particular day, tracing my steps down the steep, straight trail, I spied what looked like an eagle feather within twenty paces of the entrance to my spot. A smallish, black feather with white at its shaft, it looked like a back wing feather. The white fibers at the bottom of the feather stood out starkly against the dark brown earth of the path. I stooped to pick it up and marveled at the synchronicity of the large bird circling me with the missing feather, and now finding a feather of the same type.
My immediate thought was that a solution to the White Bison sanctuary mission must be within reach. While this Vision Quest took place a good two and a half years before we finally found our actual property in California, it gave me enough hope to keep going for many months. I incorporated the small eagle feather into my ceremonial necklace, and wear it from time to time when I feet the need for strength and vision.
The Upper Lake California Sanctuary is now promised to the White Bison herd under the care of Cynthia Hart-Button and her husband Charles Button and their descendants. The 24 bison are now safely grazing on the slopes of Elk Mountain, ten miles from Upper Lake and the Redwood Forests of Mendocino. Great Spirit has truly blessed us with this land.
Kari Noren-Hoshal is an evolutionary astrological counselor and teacher living in Baltimore, Maryland. Kari’s passion for animal conservation for the White Lions of Timbavati, South Africa, and the White Bison Herd of California has led her to become Director of Education and Secretary to the Board of the White Bison Association. To reach Kari about her evolutionary astrology instruction or the First Annual White Bison Vision Quest to be held in Upper Lake, California, over the 2016 summer solstice week, call her at 410-662-4676 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org; the project’s Facebook page is White Bison Vision Quest 2016. Kari’s website is www.visionquestastrology.com.