The Story of How the Cedar Tree Became a Gift from the Creator
This story about the Cedar Tree was told to me by Bear Heart:
“A long time ago, there lived a human being who always went out of his way to help the people of his village.
“When the elders could no longer hunt for themselves, he would bring them food.
“A young couple getting married could count on him to help make their tipi poles and gather the hides needed to cover their lodge.
“If a child’s family was killed, he would take that child in and raise it as his own.
“And there were many more good deeds he performed that no one knew of, because he never sought praise or attention for his actions. Every day he remained alert to what he could do to help his tribe, and he did so with good humor and enthusiasm.
“Many years went by in this way and all the while the Creator watched this man and took note of his virtues.
“At long last, when the man’s hair had turned to snow, and the days ahead were becoming fewer, the Creator thought, ‘All these years I’ve watched him help my people. I could use someone like him to be helping out all the time. I’m going to immortalize him.’
“So the Creator turned the man into a cedar tree.”
Bear Heart continued:
“There are many uses for cedar — it stays green year round, so it can be gathered and dried at any time. Burning dried cedar on coals creates smoke and we can pray with that smoke — it carries our prayers up to the Heavens.
“When children are restless in a home, burning cedar calms them down.
“When you just don’t feel too good for hardly any reason at all, you can burn cedar in your home and you’ll feel better. The cedar already knows what’s needed to bring harmony because he was a man who knew how to help people.
“So that’s the story of cedar. He was a man once.”
Stories teach our children
Of all the Native American stories I’ve been told, this story of how cedar came to the people is my favorite.
Such stories told to children impressed upon them that everything is gift from the Creator, everything has a purpose, and the importance of developing good character and helping one another. A lesson wrapped in a story – a perfect teaching tool.
And just one more example of the importance of reading to our children!
Over the years I have met many people with a thirst for learning about Native American spirituality. Some are anxious to attend or perform traditional Native American ceremonies, or even want to become a “medicine person” or “shaman.”
But character is the cornerstone of the indigenous spiritual way of life. When a medicine person considers taking on an apprentice, he or she looks for someone with good character, who will not misuse the medicine ways to hurt others.
The purpose of carrying medicine, or of following the Native American spiritual path, is to help the people live balanced lives — that is what all traditional Native people, including the medicine people, seek.
To get up in the morning grateful for a new day and to do one’s best each day, looking for where you can be helpful — that’s what Native people call walking the Red Road — the road of life. Practicing these simple teachings is the way to walk that road in a good way, and your life will be blessed by it.
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Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman” and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com