Insights into Native American Wisdom, Beliefs, and Teachings
Native American Stories

The Dream Catcher, Iktomi (the spider)

Long ago when the world was young an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In this vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi the spider picked up the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, horsehair, beads and offerings on it, and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life; how we begin our lives as infants, move on through childhood and onto adulthood. Finally, we go to the old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle. "But," Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, "in each time of life there are many forces; some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But, if you listen to the bad forces, they'll steer you in the wrong direction, and may hurt you. So these forces can help or can interfere with the harmony of Nature."

While the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web. When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the elder the web and said, "the web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. Use the web to help your people reach their goals, make good use of their ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will catch your good ideas and the bad ones will go through the hole."

The elder passed on his vision to the people, and now many Indian people hang a dream catcher above their bed to sift their dreams and visions. The good is captured in the web of life and carried with the people, but the evil in their dreams drops through the hole in the center of the web and are no longer a part of their lives.

Guardian Wolf
Adapted from the words of
Chief Dan George
Chief of the Salish Band, Burrard Inlet, B.C.

I wanted to give something of my people’s past to my grandson. So I took him to a quiet spot in the woods where he sat on a blanket at my feet, and listened as I smoked a prayer pipe and spoke. He moved not a muscle, as I explained how the grasslands, forests, and streams had always provided our people with everything they needed; food and water, clothing and shelter, and all those healing medicines … plus the wisdoms and teachings of the creatures with whom we shared Nature’s bounty.

I told him of the special powers that had been given to every creature. He was awed as I related how the Wolf Nation had become the people’s guardians … and that for him, that day, I wanted do the Wolf Ceremony. I explained how I would sing the Sacred Wolf Song … and that they would want to come to preside over the process. In this way it would assure that the bonds between my grandson and the Wolf Nation would be life-long. It was to be the beginning of my grandson’s initiation into the ancient teachings that had guided all native peoples since the beginning of time.

I started with some howls … calling for the attention of the Wolf Nation… and then, I began to sing.

I sang … and in my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat.

I sang … and in my words were the powers I inherited from our forefathers.

I sang … and in cupped hands I held my medicine bag … that link to all creation.

I sang … and in my eyes was the sparkle of love.

I sang … and my words floated on the sun’s rays from tree to tree.

When I had finished … it was as if the whole of the world listened with us … to hear the wolf’s reply.

We waited a long time … but there was no reply. I started over and sang it all again … humbly, but as invitingly as I could … until my throat ached and my voice gave out.

Then suddenly, I understood why the wolves had not heard my sacred songs. There were none left in those woods … and my heart filled with tears. I knew I would never again be able to share that part of my past with my grandson, or with anyone else for that matter. We waited a little longer … but nothing happened.

I had sung so hard there was nothing left of my voice … but finally I turned to my grandson and whispered, “It is finished!”

He quickly checked his watch to see if he could still be on time for his favorite TV show, and he asked, “Can I go now?”

I watched him disappear toward home … and wept in silence … realizing that everything I had learned, from when I was a boy until now … all that … was finished too.

The wolf and I … our time had passed … and only Nature mourned the loss of our relevance.