Pilgrimage in the USA: the Native American ways (Part I)

Before starting my research about Native Americans (indigenous people of North America) and their sacred places I had the idea to make a list of all of them. However, the more I read, the more sacred places I discovered, and well, the US is big. These are only a few places from the long list, by chance I started with them and have decided to stick with them. Another conclusion made from reading about indigenous people is that living so close to Nature, they have a special relationship with every part of it. They also believe that some places have special – mystical and healing – power or energy and that’s were the sacred ceremonies usually take place. Perhaps, they do not walk pilgrimages to these places but visit them during gatherings, say their prayers and give their blessings.

The Medicine Wheels

That is what the circles of stones are called that, according to scientists, represent astrological calendars of Native American Plains tribes. To them the word medicine means something spiritual and mysterious and these sacred places were and are used to perform spiritual ceremonies. There are a few hundred Medicine Wheels that exist in the territory of the USA and Canada. However, due to their fragility most of their locations are kept secret from the public.

Travelers in the US can visit The Bighorn Medicine Wheel, Wyoming in Bighorn National Forest (see the link for visitors information). The Wheel is accessible during the daylight hours, but might be closed due to ceremonies or snow. Scientific study on the medicine wheels can be found on Standford University Solar Center website. And the explanation of the meaning for the Native Americans can be read on Native Americans Online.

The Devil’s Tower

This lonesome mountain in the plains of Wyoming is a sacred site for several conflicting tribes of Native Americans: Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone Indians. The mountain is open for visitors, however, the climbers are asked to back off the mountain in June as religious ceremonies are held during this month.

Visiting information can be found in the National Park Service website, the legend of how it was created according to Native Americans and its formation are explained on Sylvans Rocks website, and a personal pilgrimage made to the mountain on The Green Mango Blog.

The Guadalupe Mountains

There are four mountains in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, New Mexico, that are sacred to Mescalero Apache tribe: Guadalupe, Sierra Blanca, Oscura Mountain Peak and Three Sisters Mountain. According to the Apache religion these mountains marks the four directions of the universe. Additionally, the mountains are a medicine place and the higher you get the stronger feeling of sacredness it is. More information on Apache religion is in Mescalero Life blog.

It is easy to visit Guadalupe Mountain – there is a hiking trail and information hiking trail map. Sierra Blanca Mountain is in the Mescalero Apache Reservation territory, perhaps it is a good idea to consult the tribe before hiking it – official Mescalero Apache website. Oscura Mountain, unfortunately, is not open for visiting because it is a part of the US military’s White Sands Missile Range. Three Sisters (also known as Tres Hermanas) Mountains are accessible to the public (I did not find any information about visiting restrictions or national parks that these mountains belong to). Short overview of a hike there in 2018 can be found here. And some interesting facts about the healing powers of the sacred Apache mountains – here.

One more sacred mountain for Apache as well as Tonkawa and Comanche tribes is called The Enchanted Rock. It is in the state of Texas and the visiting information is in the national park website.

 

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