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Two Ravens: The Life and Teachings of a Spiritual Warrior

Price: $14.95

Manufacturer: Destiny Press
Pages: 164
by Louis Two Ravens Irwin and Bob Liebert, Destiny Press.
Two Ravens has been widely accepted by many Native American readers as an accurate portrayal of life for a Native American over the past several decades. Its lessons and descriptions of their spirituality are steeped in the culture. Two Ravens was a remarkable man who overcame many obstacles, including a deep mistrust of the white race; and his story has a universal message of how a life can be turned around from anger and despair to balance a spiritual healing.


From the age of three years I had felt a deep connection to Native American ways. Louis Two Ravens Irwin was the one who showed me that these feelings were real, and put his reputation on the line to say that these ways were to be carefully shared with all races for the survival of our Mother Earth. He had a gift for teaching the real foundations of Native spirituality; not for the purpose of self-aggrandizement and technicolor visions, but for personal growth and giving back to the community. The book traces his journey from a traditional upbringing through boarding school, war, gangs, alcoholism and back to the spiritual ways of his people. Together with his basic teachings he used in his counseling work, I believe this book to be the clearest, most inspiring and useful book on a Native American life and teachings out there. The following excerpt is a teaching from Louis' Arikara grandfather from my book Two Ravens: The Life and Teachings of a Spiritual Warrior.


When I look at my own life I know that it is possible for anyone to change with the help of ancient ways. My grandfather said that we are all born holy, but through our lives we experience different things, and we forget that we are a part of the balance, one with the Creation. The Old Ones said that the first thing a baby can hear in its mother's womb is the heartbeat of the Mother Earth, and the little one will hear it in the drum of the powwows and ceremonies. We can still hear it in the drum, and there is a part of us that never forgets our oneness with the Creation.

I have found a reason to live in the fight for survival of my people, and I had even begun to relearn something of our spiritual ways, but there was still much anger inside of me. I would still fall off the wagon and get myself into trouble and hurt others. I had spent many years using my wife's sickness, and the war, and anger at the white man as an excuse to drink. I lied and I used my own people. Every time I would do these things I would tell myself, "Well, I've done the worst, it can never be that bad again," and the next time it would be worse than before.

I remember well the day my grandfather passed away. Before the burial there is a feast for the one who passed on and an all-night vigil of the ones who wish to honor him. Late that night I went out under the stars, and suddenly I felt my grandfather's spirit right there with me. I could feel his presence, just like when I was young and he'd sit beside me on that big rock in the creek and not say anything. It made me feel good.

For a long time after that my thoughts would go back to my grandfather and the things he taught. These things made me want to change, but I lacked the courage. I knew that people are very slow to forget the kinds of things I had done; my own people have a very long memory. It was then I remembered and began to understand a teaching my grandfather had given me when I was jut a kid.

When I was growing up, my cousin and I were always getting into some kind of trouble. Grandpa would tell us not to rope and ride the calves because they were too young and we could yurt them. There was a bluff over the creek behind his place that we always jumped off of, even though Grandpa warned u about it all the time. We always thought that Grandpa never knew we'd been riding those poor calves and all those things that we knew he'd get on us about.

One day, though, Grandpa took us back to a little spot behind the granaries where he stored the corn and the wheat that he farmed. I can still see him with his big white hat as he kneeled down and started to sharpen a willow stick. He took a rock and pounded the willow stick into the ground and said that from now on whenever we did something we knew we shouldn't do, we should pound a stake into the ground. "And knowing you guys," he said, "you're going to be cutting a lot of stakes."

But then he told us that every time we were about to do something we knew was bad, and then kept ourselves from doing it, we could pull out one of the stakes. My cousin and I each had our line of stakes. "Now, only you guys will know how many stakes you have. I won't ever come out here. This will be your place. You will be the only one who will know."

For a while we were faithful about pounding a stake in when we knew we did something wrong. But after a while, it became a game for us. We'd think about bad stuff to do, and then not do it just so we could pull up a stake.

One day we were feeling proud of ourselves because we had both pulled up all our stakes, and we ran off to find Grandpa. We finally found him and said, "Grandpa, come and see. We've been really good, and all our stakes are pulled up."

Grandpa didn't say anything. He just walked slowly out to our little place and acted like he was studying the ground very carefully. "God, good job. I'm proud of you guys. You pulled up all your stakes. But I still see something there."

We looked at the ground and said, "Oh, you mean those holes. We can just cover them up."

Grandpa said, "I see the holes there, but you can't cover them up so easily. When you put a hole in the ground, you hurt our Mother. And when you do those things I tell you not to do, you put a little hole in my heart. As you go through life, if you're not living in a good way you will put holes in the hearts of people, even the ones you love, and people will never forget these things. But there is a way you can begin to fill in the holes.

"These holes you put into our Mother. You can pull the stakes out, but it takes time to fill in these holes. After time has passed, and the wind and rain and the passing animals and the dust come along, these holes will start to fill. That is the way in your life; time will pass and those things you have done will begin to fade. But if you live in such a way that your mind and heart and your speech and actions are one, and are of service to your people; if the people begin to say, "He used to be that way, but now he walks a good road," then maybe you can come back and finish filling in some of those holes. It's not your words but your actions that help to fill in the holes. Changing helps to fill in the holes. Remember, it's not what you say you are, but what the People say you are."

Grandpa got up and slowly walked away, and we sat there just staring at the holes we had made in the Earth.

As we travel around the Medicine Wheel, the Sacred Circle of Life, we will come to an obstacle or a hole; it may be something that comes from our childhood, or a difficulty, or some way we have treated others. Many people will try to o around it - you might go off and find a new religion or a new relationship or something - but we will always stumble into that hole again. I believe it is possible for anyone to turn his life around, but filling in the holes takes longer. As we begin to fill them in we can begin our spiritual walk.

We can never deny where we came from or forget the things we have done or that others have done to us, but as we learn to live in the balance we discover ways to begin to fill in the holes. The past is just shadow memories, but they are very real at the same time. These shadows follow us around and can cause a lot of pain. But you will get to where you can pick yourself up and begin to walk the circle, learning and growing once more.

I had left may holes in my path, and I would create many more. Many holes I would never fill. It would be years before I truly began to walk a spiritual road, before I found my sobriety. There was too much anger and fear and hurt in ways that I hurt others, but in my grandfather's teachings I found a way that I could begin to be whole again. He taught that the true path of the warrior is to face our greatest enemy, the one within ourselves. That is how we begin. A lot of time would pass before I found I had a great ally.

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