Tag Archives: thesis

Water (PDF)

(Excerpt from my master’s thesis titled “Remembering Our Future: The Search For The Salmon ! of Wisdom”, Naropa University – May 2006)

!Water. Myfavoriteplacetobe. “She’sinhernaturalhabitat”,mymomwouldsayaboutme

!The Stanislaus River is the first river I fell in love with. When I was a kid, my family would go rafting down the Stanislaus River on overnight rafting/camping trips, along with my mom’s brother Tom and his family, the McCarthy clan. Those were some of our two families most memorable times, with many enchanting stories shared.

!Atafamilyreunionrecently,myUncleTominsistedweshareouroldstories. “Rememberour rafting trips down the Stanislaus River before they dammed it? Remember the cliffs we dove off of into the warm water pools at Rose Creek? Remember how young Mikey was the first to jump off the cliff? Remember Widow Maker rapids? Remember when Mark Dubois chained himself to the rock to protest the building of the New Melones dam? Those were such amazing times!

!Everyone then began recalling and retelling their stories which at one point in time had been part of our family connectivity, our own river that united our families. But, like a lot of American families, we had built many dams in our own family river system, and the stories stopped flowing. That day at our family reunion, we removed some of the dams, and stories flowed freely. Together we had painted a picture of the river, our river, and our hearts were opening, family restoration was taking place. When we had finished talking story about the Stanislaus, I said “This is the work that I want to do. I want to remember the spirit of the river.”

!Today the Stanislaus River is blocked thirteen times by dams on its way from the Sonora Pass in the Sierras to the San Francisco Bay. After a ten-year battle, the last long whitewater stretch was dammed with the New Melones Dam, which was built to supply the agricultural interests in the San Joaquin Valley by the Army Corps of Engineers, and then eventually taken over by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

!My experiences and memories of the Stanislaus River, and my own personal grief as well as my family’s grief when they dammed the river, has had a profound effect on my wanting to become an environmentalist. It was the actual experience with the river that made a difference. The connectivity dug deep into the core of my soul.


War Dance (PDF)

Teresa Rae MacColl

(Excerpt from my master’s thesis titled “Remembering Our Future: The Search For The Salmon of Wisdom”, Naropa University – May 2006)



“What gives the white people the right to come here and kill my people, take our homes away and treat us so badly? Our blood is the same as other human beings. We are people, too. Just because the color of my skin is brown that doesn’t give them more rights than the Creator put down for all people. I’m trying to make the white man see that the sacred spring on Mt Shasta, the herbal medicines, and the spiritual doctoring we use to heal our people are all connected. It is not something that can be separated out. Don’t they know that the Wintu have had religion to stay well all these years before they came to our land? Our children will need our religious ways, our language and sacred places to call themselves Wintu Indians in the future.”     

  • Florence Jones (Pui-lu-le-met),
  • Winnemem’s spiritual and tribal leader61



When the Shasta Dam was built in 1945, the Shasta Reservoir drowned more than 90% of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s ancestral land. The Winnemem (McCloud River) come from Mount Shasta. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is today proposing to raise the dam again by 19 feet, which would flood many of the remaining Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s sacred sites. On September 8th, 2004, the Tribe performed a War Dance, “Hu’p Chonas”, at Shasta Dam to declare the Tribe’s opposition to the Shasta Dam raise. It was the first war dance performed in over 100 years.62



We sing to water. The sacred places must be protected. We cannot survive the flooding of our people a second time.

–        Caleen Sisk-Franco

Spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu


A mural was created in San Francisco to honor the struggle of the Winnemem Wintu tribe against the raising of Shasta Dam. The unveiling of the mural was in November of 2005. The wall mural depicts Winnemem members at the four-day “War Dance” ceremony that was held at          Shasta Dam in September 2004. The mural is titled “We sing to Water”. Members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe danced in full regalia at the event and talked about their opposition to expanding Lake Shasta. The ceremony was a dedication for the mural and a memorial to Florence Jones, the Winnemem’s spiritual and tribal leader, who died just more than two years ago, Nov. 22, 2003. Her successor is her great-niece, spiritual and tribal leader Caleen Sisk-Franco.


We sing to water. We have to give the river a voice. We have to give the fish a voice.”

–        Caleen Sisk-Franco


I was blessed with the great fortune of being present for this ceremony, which took place in a narrow alley in the Mission in San Francisco. I almost did not make it because I was hurrying and scurrying to finish the last pieces of my thesis. After attending the dance, I saw that this was what I needed to experience, this was part of the completion of my thesis writing.

Tears came to my eyes immediately, even before the dancers danced, and before the singers sang. I knew that my experience was different than it would have been had I not spent the last two years working with Apela and all the Elders in ritual and ceremony. I was there at Shasta Dam, at Shasta Lake, and in the water with the salmon and the sturgeon. I could “feel” the water, as they sang for water. I was swimming with the salmon, when they sang for the salmon. And I too was a warrior when they danced their War Dance, one who has been called to fight for the waters of the world. My story, in its completion, is now just beginning.

Journey into my Polish Indigenous Mind (PDF)

Journey into my Polish Indigenous Mind


Atava Garcia Sweicicki


Submitted in Partial Satisfaction of the Requirements

for the Degree of

Master of Liberal Arts in Creation Spirituality

in the

Graduate Division


Naropa University

December 2003

Approved: Dr. Apela Colorado

Project Advisor (Signature)

Approved Marlene De Nardo

Reader (Signature)

In memory of Barbara Kay Dean

September 29, 1942 – October 25, 2003

Dedicated to my family, to Polish ally Nancy Connor, and to the traditional farmers of Poland who fed us and loved us.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Writing in Alignment with My Ancestors 1

Chapter I: Origins and Maps 4

Opening Prayer 5

Discovering Creation Spirituality and Indigenous Mind 8

Indigenous Science 10

Remembrance 12

A Map for Polish Slavic Remembrance: The Story of Baba Yaga 13

Feeding the Doll 18

Listening to the Doll: Intuition and Navigation 19

Cleaning the House: Feng Shui as an Initiatory Rite 20

The Doll Works Magic at Night: Dreamwork and the IM Recovery Process 21

Seeking the Sacred Fire: The Forgotten Medicine of the White Hoop 22

Following Jezi Baba’s Trail: Heeding the Call of my Polish Ancestors 24

Chapter II: Stories from the Polish Land 29

The Dragon and the Lizard 30

Discovering the Polish Dragon 31

The Divine Feminine in Poland: Matka Ziemia, Matka Boze, and Mary Magdalene 35

Matka Ziemia: Moist Mother Earth 35

Marian Pilgrimage 38

Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel 40

The Teachings of the Forest 44

Recovering What Has Been Lost: Finding My Polish Family 49

Chapter III: Synthesis, Antithesis, and Thesis 53

Weaving 54

Lessons in Antithesis 56

The Historical Shadow 57

The Story Repeats Itself 60

Reenactment 63

Dreamtime: Excavating for What Has Been Lost 65

In the Arms of Jezi Baba: In Honor of My Polish Sister Barbara Dean 69

Notes from the Road: The Un-Conclusion 74

Bibliography 80

Introduction: Writing in alignment with my ancestors

“Knowledge in the traditional world is not a dead collection of facts. It is alive, has spirit, and dwells in specific places. Traditional knowledge comes about through watching and listening, not in the passive way that schools demand, but through direct experience of songs and ceremonies, through the activities of hunting and daily life, from trees and animals, and in dreams and visions. Coming-to-knowing means entering into relationship with the spirits of knowledge, with plants and animals, with beings that animated dreams and visions, and with the spirit of the people.” 1

This thesis is my own personal account of coming-to-knowing in a traditional way. I am telling the story about how I, a woman of Polish descent, came into relationship with the indigenous wisdom of my Polish ancestors. The path I walked in this process was the Master’s of Liberal Arts in Creation Spirituality with a concentration in Indigenous Mind. Creation Spirituality honors the original blessing, or sacred nature, of all of creation. Creation Spirituality weaves together the wisdom of western spirituality, indigenous wisdom and post-modern science.

The Indigenous Mind Concentration is a natural extension of the philosophy of Creation Spirituality. In the Indigenous Mind concentration, each student reconnects with their own ancestral culture or cultures. Guided by world-class indigenous elders, the students in Indigenous Mind gain an understanding of indigenous knowledge that is firmly rooted within their own cultural background.

Like many traditional people worldwide, my Polish ancestors have a rich tradition of stories, legends and folk tales. Many of these stories are encoded with cultural, historical and spiritual information. Rooted in this storytelling tradition, my thesis has emerged as a story that weaves together personal narrative, history, folk traditions, mythology, dreams, and indigenous wisdom. Two short videos from my ancestral journey to Poland accompany my written thesis: “Thank You Mother Poland” is a video collage of scenes from the Polish countryside, set to the music of Polish composer Frederick Chopin. “Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel” documents my and Barbara Dean’s adventure in which we discovered Saint Mary Magdalene’s abandoned and looted chapel at Kalwaria, Poland.

1.F. David Peat, Lighting the Seventh Fire, The Spiritual Ways, Healing, and Science of the Native American (New York, NY: Birch Lane Press, 1994), 64

Telling one’s personal story has power/relevance in the realm of traditional knowledge, the power of specificity. Kim Johnson, whose doctoral research explored the path of a European American woman recovering her traditional mind, writes:

“Elders and teachers from living traditional cultures have taught me that recovery of the good mind, the mind that is healthy and whole, begins in the specificity of each person’s story,. Generalities only point in the direction of healing, while specificity is the place where healing occurs. I can speak in truth from my own experience.”2

As the stories from my thesis developed, I discovered they naturally grouped themselves into three chapters. The first chapter, “Origins and Maps” gives background information and introduces indigenous science and the ancestral remembrance process. In this chapter, I explore a map of the Polish Slavic remembrance process: the fairy tale story of the fearsome witch Baba Yaga. I explain how BabaYaga’s trail led me to follow the path of my Slavic ancestors and make an ancestral journey to Poland.

The second chapter, “Stories from the Polish Land,” the heart of my thesis, arose from my ancestral journey to Poland. These stories reflect my direct experience with Polish people, Polish land and Polish spirits. I tell the story of my encounter with Smok, the Polish dragon in Krakow. In the section titled “The Divine Feminine in Poland,” I relate my encounters with three of the faces of the Divine feminine in Poland: Matka Ziemia (Moist Mother Earth), Matka Boze (Mother of God), and Saint Mary Magdalene.

2 Kimmy Karen Johnson, “On the Path of the Ancestors: Kinship with Place as a Path or Recovery,” (Doctoral dissertation, The California Institute of Integral Studies, 2001) 31.

The video “Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel” corresponds to the story I tell here about our pilgrimage to Magdalene’s chapel. In “Teaching of the Forest” I tell the story about an encounter with a Polish elder and forest crone. In the final section of Chapter II, I relate the experience of meeting my own flesh and blood relatives in Poland.

The third and final chapter of my thesis, “Synthesis, Antithesis and Thesis”, includes the stories and reflections about my process of integration and coming-to-knowing. In this chapter I delve into the lessons taught to me by the historical shadow o my Polish ancestors/ and discuss how this shadow continues to play out in my own life. “Reenactment” relates my encounter with my first Polish traditional ceremony. In “Dreamtime” I talk about the ways my dreams have supplied valuable information in the remembrance process. At the end of Chapter III, I give tribute to my dear Polish friend and companion, Barbara Dean, who joined the world of the ancestors on October 25, 2003.

Three is a sacred number to my Polish Slavic ancestors. The number three appears any times in Slavic fairy tales, mythology, folklore, and rituals. By structuring my thesis into three interconnected parts, I am symbolically aligning myself with the wisdom of my ancestors. As I do this, I am weaving together these three parts into one complete story. As Lakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr writes:

“Since, in the Indian system, all data must be considered, the task is to find the proper pattern of interpretation for the great variety of ordinary and extraordinary experiences we have. Ordinary and extraordinary must come together in one coherent comprehensive storyline.”3

3Vine Deloria, Jr, “If You Think About It, You Will See That It Is True,” Revision, A Journal of Consciousness and Transformation: Indigenous Science (Washington D.C.: Heldref Publications, 1996), 39.