A crowd gathered around spiritual leader and member of the Northern Ute tribe Lacee Harris early Wednesday morning outside the Browning Center. As part of the 9th annual Native Symposium, Harris conducted a sunrise ceremony for the crowd, chanting in his native tongue and sharing thoughtful messages.
As people around him shivered, Harris said, “I know you’re cold. But if you think about it, this is how our old people used to be all the time.”
This was just the beginning to an eventful day on campus for the symposium “Ceremonies, Songs and Prayers: Slowing Down to the Sacred Pace of Life.”
Adrienne Andrews, coordinator for the Center for Diversity and Unity, led the event this year.
“This was a wonderful event to learn about Native (American) heritage,” said Andrews. “It was a meaningful opportunity for us to discuss ways in which we could be mindful about being in the present.”
Harris, a licensed clinical social worker, community advocate and builder, discussed the impact of the high-speed, high-use mentality on the environment. He spoke of how the Earth is damaged by the effect of human waste. Yet he encouraged the audience to move forward.
“You can’t do anything about yesterday,” Harris said. “If you screwed up, you screwed up.” He added that the only way to change the future is to adjust your way of thinking now.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the keynote speaker, belongs to the Lakota Sioux Nation. He has had such prestigious honors as receiving the Canadian Wolf Award in 1996, as well as speaking on peace and unity at President Clinton’s 1996 inauguration. Furthermore, he became the 19th-generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe when he was 12 years old, an enormous responsibility and he was the youngest in history to do so.
Looking Horse spoke on the theme of slowing down to the sacred pace of life. His intent is to restore pride back to his lands, culture and spirituality, and he spoke to the audience on living life in peace and patience.
“When you try to make things happen, you jump back just as fast,” Looking Horse said. “Walk in a sacred manner. Walk upon the Earth in peace and harmony.”
After the address, Looking Horse led a prayer in the Shepherd Union ballrooms before the luncheon. Kamiah Lansing, a Native American student on campus, sang the national anthem in her native tongue.
Table participants shared their ideas and input on what Looking Horse talked about, based on guided questions at their roundtables. Sodexo provided a meal of Three Sisters Soup.
At the close of the event, Looking Horse gave a call to action, causing Andrews to stop and reflect back on the day.
Just before the end of Looking Horse’s address, Andrews noticed that he was going past the clock, which was pushing back the time of the luncheon. Five minutes went by, then 10, when she realized that she was not listening to his message.
“Rather than being in that moment fully able to enjoy it, I was driven by the clock,” Andrews said. “When I realized what I was doing, I was able to switch it off.”
Andrews took the lesson to heart, and used the day to slow down to the sacred pace of life.