A Firefighter’s Lesson Part 3: Keeping A Trust Sacred


No one knows how far back the Chips lineage goes. It is fair to assume that it goes back, perhaps thousands of unbroken years along with the Sioux. Records begin in the early 19th century with two boys from different families being orphaned at a young age. They were adopted by a grandmother, who raised them as siblings. the name of one was wopture (Wo-p-tuch-ha). The other was named Curly, who as he grew older became known as Crazy Horse.

Woptura was recognized from the beginning as a bearer of the Medicine. Some say that he is one of the Immortals. It was he who made the packet of medicine Crazy Horse used on his hair that kept him impervious to bullets in war. (Crazy Horse had his jaw impaled by a mistress’s jealous husband, but that was the only such injury he sustained in his time, and never in the war.)

On the day Crazy Horse was lured to a nearby fort and held captive, family legend has it that Woptura rode after him, furiously trying to catch him in order to return the bundle he had been mending. It was too late. Crazy Horse, unprotected for perhaps the first time in many years, had been killed.

Woptura lived in very turbulent times. Around the turn of the century, all Sioux children were taken from their families and placed in mission schools. Speaking the native languages ​​was prohibited, and all medical practices, songs, ceremonies, and rituals were prohibited at the risk of heavy punishment from the government.

Already an old man, Woptura went underground and kept the forms of medicine alive. John “Fire” Lame Deer claims that all Lakota Medicine people today trace their lineage back to Woptura. It was Woptura, according to most, who originated the Yuwipi ceremony.

Woptura had a son who inherited his Medicine. They named him Charles “Horn” Chips. “Chips” was the best government agents could do when the family tried to explain that woptura was the film of fine, thin particles found on top of the pond water. Others described it as the very fine powder of ground buffalo horn. Even today some family members write their name French friespyes to distinguish itself from the government designation.

Charles “Horn” Chips was called Ellis. Ellis did not inherit the powers however, he was a tremendously accomplished singer who went on to create the Sioux National Anthem. Ellis, who lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation, married a woman named Victoria from the Rosebud Reservation, about 75 miles to the east, and they had three children.

When it was discovered that the youngest, Godfrey, would speak to the spirits during Yuwipi ceremonies (as offered by Horn Chips), Ellis obtained government permission to pull him out of grammar school and take on the full-time duty of training him in Medicine. . ways. To my knowledge, Godfrey was the last healer to be granted that privilege. The “edict,” which I saw, said that if father and son, or Godfrey alone, were in town on a school day, they would both be thrown in jail. Ellis brought his son from healer to healer for his training, while teaching him everything he himself had learned while helping his father.

It was quite a while before I became familiar with this story. For a long time, all I knew was that this family, which I was quickly learning to love, carried something very powerful and special when their intent was focused on the good of others, and it was in their blood.

They had taken me to some people to show me an example of the Spirit in action. They allowed me to learn and participate with them in the sacred ceremony and ritual of their people. They were extremely controversial among their people. Spirit had told Ellis in the 1980s that the Cannunpa was for all. They were the only traditional at the time welcoming seekers of all colors and orientations into what had once been almost exclusive territory for people with Native American blood. By way of explanation, Charles offered, “There are a lot of Indian spirits around and not enough Indian bodies to go back to.”

Not once was I told what or how to believe. I was always told to continue to cultivate my own relationship with Spirit, to build my own medicine, to find how Spirit spoke to me so that I could help others. If I encountered their Lakota spirits in the process, well then, it wasn’t for me to buy what they told me. about them, it was my challenge to build a relationship with what was really there.

And so when they asked me about Sundance, even at that early point in my relationship with the Chips, I knew it wasn’t Godfrey’s request.

Next: A brutal reality.