I was recently at an inipi ceremony on Fort Carson and since I had just recently had my gall bladder removed I was not healthy enough to participate so I was set to watch the door. What I was not prepared for was that watching the door also meant watching the wakancapi, children. All the kids were young boys and while their parents prayed in the sweat lodge they set out to play. Everyone grabbed sticks and headed out into the bush around the inipi site for a game of tag.
It took quite a long time for them to decide who was “it” no one wanted to be the “bad” guy but someone had to play the role. The argument went on for some time before it was decided that “The Hulk” would be a suitable baddy. I am not sure why the settled on the big green meanie but I think it is because the Hulk, in his unfortunate alternate color scheme, is inherently dangerous but the Hulk is not exactly bad. Every one of the kids wanted to be good at heart; they all wanted to be a hero in one way or another.
After watching them I noticed that the size of their stick seemed to indicate status. The boy with the smallest stick always seemed to be left just a bit behind in some ways. I decided to try something out. I grabbed a saw and fashioned a very nice “stick” with a Y at one end. When I was done creating it I caught up with the unfortunate boy carrying the smallest stick and traded it out for the one I had made. The play dynamic instantly changed as all the boys suddenly decided that the stick I had provided was imbued with special powers. Again they ran off to find Hulk but the pecking order was vastly different.
Time to experiment; what would happen if I leveled the playing field by creating an entire set of similar sticks. I set to work and handed them out as I finished them. I was surprised when the original stick was still the “best” stick and the current owner was deemed the most powerful. It had nothing to do with size, or age but the stick was all important. The role of Hulk passed from child to child but Hulk could never hold “The stick of ultimate power”. Hulk was powerful enough on his own, in the minds of the kids who knows what would happen if Hulk got the only thing in their universe that could stop him.
The game went like this.
One Hulk, the baddy but not really a bad guy just dangerous.
4 other kids armed with sticks.
1 stick was the ultimate stick.
The 3 kids would try and flush out the Hulk and chase him to where the one holding the powerful stick could trap or somehow subdue the Hulk.
Once that was accomplished, rolls and sticks would be exchanged and the game would start again.
It was good to see the children play. It was even better to realize that they all wanted to be good, strong, brave, and honorable. The play was fair and although a minor injury occurred when one unfortunate player took a stick to the mouth, apologies were quickly offered and accepted and other than an “ow that really hurt” everyone went on with their game. Power and leadership was not determined by size, age, family name or as with the sad case among Indians these days, amount of Indian blood. Power and control was accepted, held, and then passed on without the typical drama that I am used to seeing day in and day out in this world.
I hope those children keep their honor, fairness, playful spirits and ability to forgive. I think sometimes adults dismiss such things as childish and throw them away too quickly and the world is all the worse for it. Tunkasila please watch over and protect the young warriors on their path.
The Stick of Ultimate Power being held by the one in the grey shirt.