We were playing at our camp when my older brother — who was standing on higher ground than I — saw something in the distance. He stood upright, then perfectly still. After a few moments he turned to me in a look of panic I had never seen before, pointed in a direction opposite from where he was looking, and screamed, “Run! Run!” I was startled at his behavior but I knew that something was very wrong, so I ran. And I ran.
I ran as fast as I could, weaving through the brush and constantly changing my course as I was chased by a white man on a dark horse. I thought I might be close to safety when I darted through some bushes, but I ran right into a creek that was too wide to jump across. As I paused for a moment to decide how to continue, the white man shot me in the back.
In intense pain and sudden shock, I stumbled forward into the creek, bent over with one hand in the creek. As I attempted to stand up and regain my balance, I was shot in the back again. This time my body flew forward towards the opposite side of the creek. I tried to control my fall but could not, and my torso slammed against the land. The right side of my face was pressed against the ground, my eyes still open. My right arm was trapped under my body, my left arm was somewhere down my left side. My legs lay in the creek’s water.
Not knowing that I had no chance of survival, I thought to crawl up the embankment and away from the man, but no part of my body responded to that thought. I looked at the beautiful green grass and brown dirt immediately in front of my face and tried to hold that vision in my mind. My eyes closed on their own.
When I opened them again I was standing on this same side of the creek, looking back at the white man on the horse, still on the other side of the creek. As I looked at him I tilted my head to the right and I “knew” he was trying to decide whether my body needed to be shot one more time. “No,” he thought, “the Indian is dead.” I followed the sight of his rifle down to the creek’s edge where my body lay. “That’s me,” I thought.
As I looked at my body I felt an inexpressibly deep love for it, and out of some instinct I put my soul’s hands together, pulled them up to my head, closed my eyes, and bowed to my body. I bowed deeply and stayed in that bow for some long time, and if it started off as a bow of sadness, it ended as a bow of immense and intense gratitude.
As I came up from the bow, tears fell out of my soul’s eyes and flowed down its cheeks. The tears were not of sadness, but of that gratitude, and of joy for having been given this life, and of love for this life and for everything here. It was the deepest love I have ever known.
After some period, I turned my gaze from my body to the water in the creek, and though it’s impossible to describe, I was the creek. I felt its coolness, its movement, and I heard its sound. I was coolness, movement, and sound, and it was beautiful.
I turned my attention across the creek to the white man’s horse, and when I did so, I was the horse. I felt its breath, and I became its heart pounding.
I looked at the white man, and knew what he knew, felt what he felt. He felt the thrill of having killed me, but buried beneath his pride and other emotions he also felt the conflict of remorse.
As I felt him I began to weep harder, until the tears streamed down my face without control. From some place deep inside my heart or soul I looked at him and whispered, “I forgive you.” I didn’t know where those words came from, but the feeling welled up even stronger and I repeated it, this time more loudly and with the conviction of all of my love: “I forgive you.” I wept and wept at my love and forgiveness for that man.
I closed my soul’s eyes and the scene I saw changed. I saw my people back at our camp as they were all murdered by more white men. First I saw my sister killed, and as the white man slaughtered her I said, “Brother, I forgive you, for you know not what you do.” My sister’s soul appeared to me, and I held her hands and pulled her to me in a tight embrace. I kissed her forehead and said, “Sister, I love you so much. Go now, and feel no pain. You are love, and you are free.” Her image faded away as tears of love streamed down my cheeks.
I saw my older brother fight with all of his strength, will, and skill, until he was finally killed by three white men. My brother’s soul appeared to me, and I turned his back to the scene. I hugged him with all of my being and said, “My brother, you are in no pain, I love you, and you are free.” As I let go, his image also disappeared.
I looked at the white men who had just killed my brother and instead of wanting to take out some revenge, all I felt was pity and sadness for them. “I forgive you,” I said to each man.
Over and over again I forgave each white man as they slaughtered every man, woman, and child in my tribe. Sometimes the scene was so horrific I threw my soul into the body of the victim in an effort to save them from the pain. In doing this I wanted to feel the victim’s pain so they wouldn’t have to feel it themselves.
Each time the victim was stabbed, cut, or shot, I received their pain, and cried out in agony. This continued until my tribal mate’s body died its physical death. When this end came, I usually found myself on my hands and knees in the place of their body. Blood flowed like a river from my wounds and my mouth; tears flowed from my eyes. The only time a death ended differently was when I was raped before being murdered. In those cases I found myself laying in a fetal position on the ground, bleeding and crying, with the added feeling of having been violated sexually.
Regardless of the cruelty imposed, each time the body died I gathered myself together, stood up, looked at the white man and repeated the same words: “Brother, I forgive you. How I wish you could see, you aren’t killing me, you’re killing yourself.” I then hugged the victim’s soul, and spoke softly, “My friend, it is over. I love you now, and forever. Go in forgiveness, and in peace.”
My forgiveness flowed from the deepest part of my being. I forgave the white men because of their ignorance, for not knowing why they acted, and for not knowing how they were harming themselves. I wept for their forgiveness, for the pain they were inflicting on others, and the pain they were inflicting upon themselves.
I don’t know how long it took, but finally all of my people were killed. After it ended I walked around the scene. I knew that I had to move on, but I felt a desire to stay in this area that I had known and loved for a few moments longer.
Finally, I willed myself to my favorite area, a place where I liked to sit underneath a broad tree, down by another branch of the creek. As I sat there a dark wolf came out of the tall grass and spotted me. The wolf looked at me, lowering its head initially out of fear, but then lifted it again when it saw that I was no threat.
“Wolf,” I said, smiling, “How are you? Do you know that I love you? What a wonderful gift it is to see you here.” The wolf was not afraid of me, but it did not approach me, either. As he looked at me he cocked his head to the side slightly, then stood up straight, turned, and trotted away, looking back at me once as he ran off.
I sat there in my favorite spot as long as I could, trying to hold onto it, hold onto its memory, until the time came that I could stay no longer. I closed my eyes, breathed one last breath, and then felt a rush of air and the sensation of flying, and knew that my time in this place had come to an end.
I opened my eyes slightly, but bright light pouring in made it hard to see. I paused, then opened my eyes more. Moving only my eyes, I looked to the right and saw a white sheet under my head; to my left I saw a white sheet pulled over my left shoulder. Looking down I saw that the light was pouring in from a large window on the wall down by my feet. “I know this place,” I thought, and remembered that this was my apartment. Thinking harder, I remembered that the year was 2015. Then an all too familiar feeling arose. “Not much time,” I thought.
My body was already shaking, so I rolled over to my right, leaned over the side of the bed, and vomited into the trash can that I keep there for times like this. It’s not easy to vomit into a trash can while laying in bed, but after many experiences like this, I’ve gotten better at it. I started to reach for a kleenex on the side table, but then realized I wasn’t finished, and vomited once more into the can.
I hovered like that over the trash can until I thought I wouldn’t vomit again. I pulled a kleenex out of the box on the night table and wiped my lips, then dropped it into the can. I pulled another one out and wiped off the bed and my hands, then got one more and wiped the floor and the outside rim of the trash can.
I sat up in bed, took a small sip of water from my nightly glass, rinsed my mouth, spit the fluid into the trash can, then repeated this once more. I put my glass back down on the night table, then pulled my blanket up and around my back and sides. I wrapped both arms around my waist, sat in a fetal position, and rocked back and forth gently in bed as my body continued to shake uncontrollably. “This is killing me,” I said softly.
I sat there, rocking gently, then closed my eyes and just tried to breathe, focusing on my breath. One breath at a time.
After a few breaths, a feeling welled up from somewhere deep inside, and I whispered one last time, “I still forgive you.”
(A dream from October 1, 2016.)