May 27 for Montana Native News Project
Grandmother’s oven was his incubator.
But the gentle heat that rose through a soft blanket into the warming box where he lay was not what Marvin Weatherwax is convinced saved him from death as an infant 64 years ago.
His grandfather’s prayers and medicine did.
Weatherwax says he survived a premature birth because the Creator taught his ancestors to heal with the bodies and spirits of plants. He answered the people’s prayers in dreams and on vision quests that became stories shared through more than a dozen centuries.
The Creator sent Na’pi to form the Niitsitapiiksi, or Real People, in his hands from the Earth’s clay and he baked them over his prairie fire. He breathed life into the five tribes of the Blackfeet Confederacy and gave them the land east of the Rocky Mountains stretching south from the North Saskatchewan River to the Yellowstone River and east across the plains past modern day Great Falls. Na’pi told them to guard this land and that great trouble would come if they didn’t defend it from other peoples. He showed the Blackfeet Nation what the Creator had made to make them strong for this task.
Today the Blackfeet Reservation in northwestern Montana is less than 1 percent of the tribe’s original territory, but the mountains are still filled with the powerful spirits of bears, wolves and thunder. Na’pi also showed them rivers and lakes where the wise, but dangerous, Under Water People lived. Plants to nourish and heal their bodies and souls. Plants often considered weeds today. Plants, a natural resource for the tribe, that could die out unless Weatherwax and other tribal members can help revive the traditions that he says saved his life.