The Wolf You Feed ~ A Native American Story

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Crawling out of the teepee at first light, my spirit is buoyed with excitement of the salmon run on the Big River (the Columbia). The echoing roar of Celilo Falls in the background is a symphony, welcoming back the tribes once again.

Rubbing my eyes and taking a cool breath of morning air, there is a light laugh beside me followed by several pieces of salmon pemmican pushed into my hand reminding me while I may not have been born into the Umatilla tribe, I am treated as family.

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I spot a friend from the Nimi’ipuu (Nez Perce) tribe across the way, and remember the spring day long ago in 1838 sitting down with Chief Tuekakas (Joseph the Elder) and a group of men from the Hudson’s Bay Company out of Fort Vancouver.

I was a young kid responsible for translation, fascinated by these leaders discussing the impact of the first party of Cherokees to resist removal to a reservation, not yet knowing their brave march westward would one day be known as the Trail of Tears.

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The impact of Chief Tuekakas’ words that day led me to take the opportunity to travel with his people, the Nimi’ipuu.

The wisdom I collected over those years I hold with gratitude, but my most cherished moment came the day when we stumbled onto a camp of the Umatilla people at the base of the Blue Mountains. All it took was one look and I realized I had found the destiny I had been searching.

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Over the past 20 years since those early days, I have lived with the Walla Walla, rode with the Cayuse and shared many a meal with the Palouse, Tenino and Chinook – learning a culture and a land far removed from my birth home in Scotland.

My memory is faint, but I understand while the climate, terrain and traditions of my homeland are quite different; the love of Mother Earth is the same.

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It is with this thought I can rest my head, my mind drifting off to dreams of the past. Crossing the Atlantic with family and friends in the year 1828 to reach the New World only to watch in horror as disease ripped through our cramped tenement housing, wiping out everything I held dear.

Broke and alone by the end of the year, I snuck aboard a wagon train with a dream to arrive in the Oregon Country to make my destiny. Discovered by the wagon master early on the trail, my skills as a fisherman and hunter proved valuable, and at a young age I had my first job.

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The journey through the free country of the west taught me the land, accepting the beauty it offered. The berries and roots kept us fed. The buffalo, elk and deer honored us with their great bravery as we matched them with our hunting skills.

Not a day goes by where I do not thank the animals, plants and spirit of this land for all they provide, and acknowledge the tacit agreement where we will take care of Mother Earth in return.

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Sitting here today along the banks of the Big River, the current mood of the Umatilla people is of sorrow. During the previous night, a tense meeting with the tribal leaders signaled the inevitable signing of a treaty with Washington D.C. to give up 6.4 million acres of land.

A treaty threatening to strangle the freedom and culture built over thousands of years. When the tribes sign the Treaty of 1855 they will receive in exchange, land designated at the Umatilla Indian Reservation to become a permanent homeland.

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My mind clears as I gaze off into the distant waters of Celilo Falls. My wife Awendela silently sings as she ponders the future of her people, repairing the fishing nets needed for another day’s work.

Biting into my pemmican, I retell an old folktale from the past, drawing a parallel with the clash of cultures we are experiencing today, an emphasis to remain strong and positive.

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An old man spoke to his grandson. “My child,” he said. “Inside everyone there is a battle between two wolves. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”

The boy thought for a moment. Then he asked, “Which wolf wins?”

A moment of silence passed before the old man replied, “The one you feed…”  

Native American Proverb

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Thinking of the world today, I wonder, which wolf is winning?

With the endless cycle of greed that sweeps through men and their politics, I fear the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I feel for the children of this land. The change in lifestyle will be difficult and clashes of culture will create an opportunity for the Evil Wolf to gain traction in the minds of the young.

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Turing around, I watch the children of the Cayuse with their ponies teaching the other kids the essence of the magnificent Cayuse horse dominating the plateau. I smile. We can learn much from the children, for their hearts are pure.

Succeed in educating children well and we ensure a way of life and culture forever.

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Teach as well as learn the way of the world, and we can all sleep better at night listening to the howling of the Good Wolf, sharing its “joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth” with us all.

Yes, feed the Good Wolf. I sigh and take another bite of pemmican…even with the sadness, I believe this shall be a very good season indeed.

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NOTE: The photos above are from the Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon pageant taking place every September in Pendleton, Oregon. A communion of sorts for the farmers and ranchers of the area along with the gathering of Native American Indian tribes of the Northwest, with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation hosting a teepee village of over 300 teepees.

A weeklong experience every one should experience once in life ~ Let’er Buck ~

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197 Comments on “The Wolf You Feed ~ A Native American Story

  1. Your beautifully narrated story brings to life the history of these lands in a compassionate, but thought-provoking way. While we can’t change any of the past, we can choose to feed the good wolf going forward. And your stunning photos truly honor the Native American traditions and culture. The first and the last image are my favorites, in particular.

    • Yes, Tiny I have that same feeling ~ understanding the wolves we have inside while unable to change the past can make the present and future a fantastic place to be. There is so much to admire and learn from Native American culture. Thank you.

  2. “Inside everyone there is a battle between two wolves. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”

    You are definetely a gorgeous, good wolf.

  3. Exceptional photos! I’ve made note of these events on my calendar. Thanks for opening my eyes to more culture and history within reach of Vancouver.

    • You definitely need to come on down and experience all that Pendleton has to offer ~ there is so much here to see and experience during the week…still so much history and beauty that has not changed. The Pendleton Round-Up always takes place in the second full week of September (officially on Wednesday, but so much more happening prior to Wednesday!). Hope to see you there 🙂

  4. Wonderful photography and story. Sadly, the past history of the Native Americans is not necessarily something America can be proud of.

    • Thank you, and while the past is really a twisted part of history, the small changes in the mindset of many to understand what happened and the value of the past (cultures and philosophies) is a positive.

  5. Your words and photos are beautiful and full of compassion and understanding. Unfortunately the freedom of the original nations were stolen and destroyed those many years ago. Your photos brings their life back with in a poignant way.

    • Thank you Otto ~ the incredible changes that have happened over the past centuries has truly wrecked havoc on many cultures and on the environment itself. As sad as it is, to see the cultures that were almost lost still holding ground and influencing minds of today is inspirational.

  6. A beautifully written story Randall. Being from overseas I just learned the story of Nez Perce this year when we visited Yellowstone. Your story makes me think of some of the locations where similar events are going on today. The first that come to mind is locals in the Amazon being pushed away from their land and way of living to make room for commercial business…
    Your photos are stunning as always. I struggle getting good photos of people, but you have nailed it!

    • Thank you very much Inger. Wow, it is so great that you learned of the Nez Perce – one of the large tribes of the Pacific Northwest and the area I grew up. The story of the Native Americans is one that is told throughout the history of the world, and a tragedy. It is fortunate that the culture and beliefs of the people are so strong that it is still around today inspiring many non-natives.

  7. <> I wish this could be taught in schools. Very much enjoyed your photos and story.

    • Agree, the knowledge and the different way they approached life seems more important today than ever before. Thank you.

  8. Randall, Your story is wonderfully written and your images stunning as always. Your portraits in this post are poignant and celebrate a beautiful people and culture. This event must be a very special experience.

    • It is always something to see a culture up close, and the pride and pageantry is so impressive. Thanks Jane, wish you a good week.

  9. Will be sharing these stunning photos with T. We learned about the Cherokee Trail of Tears last yr and he enjoyed interactive lessons on Native American civilization this wk at a nature center where they also played games the Indian children played. In my experience with the Cheyennes of Montana back in the 90s, I learned they prefer “Indian” to “Native American”. Anyhow, it is just too tragic that the treasures America has yielded over the years for all those who’ve melded into this country came at such a terrible cost to the first inhabitants.

    • It is so cool that T. is learning of this history – and there is nothing like being involved and experiencing the culture up close with interaction. The preference of what they like to be called, that is worth a post all itself from their Anglicized tribe name (e.g. Navajo) to their tribe name in their own tongue (e.g. Diné (Navajo)) to a mix of names. One thing that is very clear is the tremendous pride they have in the history of their tribe and as a race. It is beautiful to see. Thank you Diana.

    • Thank you very much Simon ~ their culture and outlook of life is something I think people are turning to now (both for peace and to understand the value of nature).

  10. Thank you for this beautiful post!
    The photos are great, and your words are so fine and true.
    I will remember the story about the two wolves for a long time 🙂
    Best wishes from far-away-Denmark!

    • So great to hear from you – this story (as with many of their proverbs) are fascinating and very fitting for the world today. Wishing you a great day all the way in Denmark 🙂

  11. As a young child I totally identified with the “Indians”, and during my play I merged with them. I was one. I was a little Native American boy or a girl depending on a mood. I made my costume, a feathered head band, I made my bow and arrow and run wild through the meadows and forest of my land. It didn’t matter that I was a little girl growing up in a communist Czechoslovakia whose culture and doctrines were far removed from the plight and wisdom of the Native American people. Actually we shared the oppression, but I knew nothing about that consciously being too young.
    You are absolutely right when you say that we have so much to learn from children, they are the ones that feed the good wolf and they have a wisdom of the heart. That’s why it is so important to nurture them, protect them and those of us who are awake teach them right. There’s our chance to get it right and overpower the bad wolf. Thank you Randall for writing that and for the beautiful photos! I am getting acquainted with my new camera, I love it! A lot to learn. And guess what! I snapped my first lightning!
    Love & Peace
    Gia xox

    • Great story, nothing quite like the imagination of a kid to see things so clearly. The ability to find things that are fascinating and to learn from is what is nice (instead of fearing as older adults tend to do automatically and – perhaps unknowingly – oppression begins). The Wolf story is one of my favorites. Looking forward to seeing your lightning shot – very cool. Cheers and thank you Gia.

      • Definitely! It’s a shame that people are so pressured to loose touch with their inner child – the innocence, wisdom, imagination and the magical way through which they view the world.
        Luckily a lot of us are able to resist 😀
        The Wolf story is great I will remember it. 🙂 Thank you too and have a nice day! Gia x

  12. Thank you for sharing this. This is a wonderful experience to read about. Kind of felt like I was there. I,ve been to two powwows which was really something but this post is so alive. Hope to experience something like this one day. Always look forward to your posts.

    • The past culture of North America is pretty stunning to think about considering it happened not that long ago…and the wisdom I believe is just now being appreciated as insightful and important on a global scale. Thank you very much – wonderful comment.

  13. Sigh. Your photos are incredible, so beautiful and I love all of them. I have never seen in my life Native American live. I wish that someday. I could meet them. I am great fan of the literature of Wild West and my favorite writer is Zane Grey.

    I know that it is uncivilized to give a link to my old post presenting, but if, You are interested to see how I have seen Native American’s life in Finland, then take a look at my post which tells about the life and the times of Sitting Bull. Otherwise, remove it. Thank You.

    Native Indian life.

    Have a great day!

    • Thank you for the great comment Sartenada ~ hopefully someday you will be able to experience a feel for the West. Western books were one of my favorites growing up. There was Zane Grey but for me it was Louis L’amour :-). Very cool to see how you’ve experienced such a lifestyle in Finland…thank you very much for the link and wish you a great day.

  14. What a fantastic story you have woven around that profound quote Randall! And how wonderfully your images capture the beauty and dignity of these lovely people. An absolute treat for the senses. Thank you.

    • Thank you Madhu – the two wolf story is one I always enjoyed reading as a kid. Growing up around this culture educated me a lot more than I realized…

  15. Great photos and post as usual. It’s nice to see close-ups of a culture and people that aren’t featured too much. It is a shame what happened to their ancestors but at least they are still surviving and able to maintain some of their identity.

    • Thank you and agree. It seems their culture is more relevant to a good living these days than ever before ~ I think people are now beginning to understand the true wisdom of the tribes around the West.

  16. beautiful. I heard this story as a Buddhist story and then as a Kabbalist story and then as a Christian story and now as an Indian story – which makes the most sense. But yours had the nicest photos. It’s a good one.

    • I’d really be interested to hear the Buddhist, Kabbalist and all similar stories ~ such similarities with all the major religions/philosophies intrigue me. Thank you very much Jayne and wish you a great day.

  17. Reblogged this on Kev's Great Indie Authors and commented:
    Another great storytelling with awe-inspiring pictures from Randall. This will sweep you away to spirits of another realm.

    • Thank you very much ~ I hope December finds you well… With the greys and blah of winter upon us, nothing like a little color to keep the mind well. Cheers ~

  18. Incredible – as always Randall! The colors, the action shots, and the emotional pull of each photo are all of exquisite quality and professionalism. You’re absolutely right about the nobility of teaching and education. Tricia and I have been sketching out a plan on how we can educate while still making a living wage. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for trying to keep the ‘Evil Wolf’ at bay. 🙂

    • Thank you Shawn – you and Tricia definitely have the right idea about the nobility of teaching and educating…an important part of the journey we are on. It seems like you both are doing quite well in those regards – and wish you both a great year ahead.

  19. You are an amazing storyteller, each post has a series of photographs that go very well with the article!! I really like the Indian proverb of occurrence of two wolves in a person, and that there is a constant fight between the two, the person that finally emerges shows the characters of one of the wolves!! All in all, an outstanding post and beautiful photographs!! 🙂

    • Thank you Chaitanya, and I agree the Indian proverb holds so much truth to it. It would be good to wake each morning and think about the two wolves – and then to go about the day feeding the good one. It is important to know that both live inside us. Wishing you a great year ahead.

    • Thank you Simon, and that is a thought I should have every day – not a bad way to live. Wishing you a great day ahead.

    • Thank you Ariane, this was a fun post for me to write ~ growing up with all this history around me. Cheers to a great New Year!

  20. I wonder if there is a new story in the making at a computer near you …. if you’ve escaped those figures , phones and the desk just maybe 😉
    Happy Christmas to you Randall !

    • A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you Poppy, I hope your 2016 is getting off to a great start ~ out and about with camera in hand. Take care!

  21. You have such an amazing way of telling a story Randall and your photography are just out of this world! These captures are really amazing and what an outing this must have been! I’ve always been fond of that Indian proverb and I always get such a sense of deja vu when I see photos like this. This is a great reminder as well for everyone to feed the good wolf. Thanks for sharing. 😀

    • It is now that I am older that I appreciate growing up around this culture…always knew it was there, but to begin to understand their amazing culture is simply a treat. The wolf story one of my favorites 🙂 Thank you Sophia ~ cheers.

      • It must be so wonderful. I have such a great admiration for them and I am sad that they were taken away from all that they have known. They have such a great knowledge of nature and all that goes with it.

        You are very welcome Randall. Cheers. 😀

    • Thank you very much ~ I’ve been very lucky to have lived in this area of Oregon to have learned more of their culture. Very powerful.

      • Hi Dalo, you replied to my comment instead of commenting on the author /blogger. He/she might not see it

      • Thank you ~ actually I am the author/blogger 🙂 Wishing you a great week ahead and a Happy Year of the Monkey(新年快乐,猴年大吉).

      • Oh! Beg your pardon!! What honour!

    • It is something to see how closely knit the tribes in the Pacific Northwest part of the USA are, it is great to see. Incredible culture. Thank you Xota ~

  22. Pingback: The Wolf You Feed ~ A Native American Story | Federflüsterin

    • Thank you Noelle, one of those times every year I look forward too ~ and the last shot is one of my favorites, a great place to be.

  23. Pingback: The Wolf You Feed ~ A Native American Story, I hope you enjoy this as much as I.  God bless. | Unchain the tree

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