Lunch With The Hopi Medicine Man

Don Chapman
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May 30, 2007
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I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona ... not that it’s pertinent to anything, really, but there I was a couple of weeks ago, standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and I’ve never before had the opportunity to start a column with the line from the iconic Jackson Browne-Eagles hit Take It Easy, and am not likely to ever get another, so ...

We - my daughter Dawn and I on the day after her graduation from Northern Arizona U. in Flagstaff, as well as my Honolulu acupuncturist Dr. Peggy Oshiro and several of her meditation students in two other vehicles - were making a pit stop in Winslow en route to the Hopi Indian reservation. There we were to have lunch with the medicine man who five years before 9/11 predicted a foreign attack by airplanes on two New York high-rises, killing thousands, causing a war about money and oil ...


After a drive through the Painted Desert and past fantastic rock formations and remnants of the ancient inland sea (where fossilized sea creatures are found at 5,000 feet elevation), we meet the Hopi spiritual leader in a restaurant on Second Mesa ...

His name is Martin Gashweseoma - pronounced the way it looks - but people simply call him Grandfather Martin. He is 85, and when he speaks he looks you directly, unwaveringly in the eye. He was trained in the ways of the spirit world and the ancient practices of the Hopi people by his uncle Yeukioma, who spent 17 years imprisoned on Alcatraz for hiding his children and refusing to send them away to the white man’s schools, in 1906. Like the Dalai Lama, whom he has met twice, Grandfather Martin has been invited to speak at the United Nations ...

The peaceful Hopi originated with the Mayans of Central America, he says, but at some point they migrated north. Up at Third Mesa where he lives is the village of Oraibi, believed to be the longest continuously inhabited piece of real estate in North America - for at least 1,100 years ...

After lunch, I drive Grandfather Martin up to his house at Third Mesa with Dawn and his friend Sakina Blue-Star. Streets are sandy, and on the roof of his traditional home he’s raising three juvenile golden eagles, a spiritual symbol for the Hopi. Grandfather Martin invites us in to talk some more, and he is no more enthusiastic about the world today than he was when he predicted 9/11. Producing a copy of the “Mayan Codex,” a series of highly complex hieroglyphics, he explains the meaning. The first three figures representing the Hopi people survive attacks from Spaniards and other outside forces because they remain rooted in Mother Earth. Only when they forsake those essential roots do his people - and all people, he says - lose their way ...


Following Mayan-Hopi belief, Grandfather Martin says we are nearing the end of the “fourth world,” which will end with a complete “cleansing.” He draws a finger across his throat, and the Mayan drawing indeed shows the head of the fourth, rootless figure being severed. He urges wealthy people to spend their money now, and tells Hopi people to remain living in their villages high on the mesas to remain safe. After the cleansing, he believes a fifth world is coming, one populated by “onehearted people who all speak the same language.” ...

I ask if there is anything that we can do as individuals for this world. “It is set. You first have to heal yourself,” he says, and it echoes words I’d heard from the Dalai Lama barely two weeks earlier on Maui ...

We’re struck by the similarities between Hopi and native Hawaiian culture and beliefs. In fact, Grandfather Martin was invited to the Big Island a few years ago to interpret cave petroglyphs. After coming down from Third Mesa, we’re invited into the home of a Hopi woman named Rowena, Sakina’s hanai daughter, who is a member of the Hopi’s Sand people. Their aumakua, as it were, is the lizard - just like the Hawaiian mo’o. She greets us with chanting, while burning sage and waving the smoke toward us. When we leave, she asks us to pray for rain - up on the mesas the Hopi people are feeling the effects of climate warming, and the level in the natural spring from which Grandfather Martin and other Hopi draw their daily water is dropping year to year ...

Back in Flagstaff, a newspaper story reports that climate warming is happening in the American Southwest at a faster rate than in the rest of the country. Unfortunately, warmer also means drier ...

three star

Speaking of the Dalai Lama, here are a few out-takes from my May 16 cover story:

* The 14th Dalai Lama, his representative in the U.S. Tashi Wangdi says, is not a big follower of sports or popular culture, but he has seen the films Kundun, which tells the story of how he was discovered, trained and then forced into exile at age 24, and Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt. Of those, Kundun is the more historically accurate. He has never seen Caddie Shack, nor Bill Murray’s classic ramble about ending up at a Tibet golf course and caddying for the Dalai Lama: “He’s a big hitter, the lama, long ... We finish 18 and he’s gonna stiff me, so I say, Hey, lama, how about a little something for the effort, you know? So he says, Oh, no money, but when you die, on your deathbed you’ll receive total consciousness. So I got that going for me, which is nice.” But His Holiness does watch in-flight movies, and when he ran into Robin Williams started laughing and exclaiming “Ah, Mrs. Doubtfire, very funny!”

* As he did for the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Big Island in 1990, Shep Gordon, the Maui agent who coordinated the Maui events, arranges for special meals for the Lama, and again for Maui artist Piero Resta and his potter wife Gail to create dinner plates, bowls and cups with Buddhist symbols. The food is prepared by Mark Ellman - asparagus soup, filet mignon and grilled salmon from his Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina on the first day. Filet mignon? “I was blown away, I thought he was a vegetarian,” says Chef Mark. “But the Tibetans are big meat eaters. It’s cold up there.” The next day’s menu from Mark’s Penne Pasta Cafe was scrapped when the Lama called and said he was in the mood for French onion soup and Pasta Bolognese. Shep and wife Renee Loux were previously married by the Dalai Lama, and for dessert he was served Renee’s Dolphin Vegan cookies with wild jungle fruits from Hana.

* Shep says it makes sense to follow the Dalai Lama’s teachings if for no other reason than self-interest: “In a very selfish sense, if you practice compassion, you’re guaranteed to get happy.”


* Going through security at the Kahului airport on my way back to Oahu, I was gathering my stuff out of the plastic bin and putting on my shoes when a woman in a National Transportation Safety Board uniform spotted my copy of the Maui Arts and Cultural Center magazine with the Dalai Lama’s smiling face on the cover. She asked if I’d had it autographed, and I said no. “Oh,” she said, “I did!” It turns out even the Dalai Lama has to go through airport security. She asked him for an autograph, he obliged and shook her hand. She looked me in the eye and said earnestly: “It was a life-changing moment, you know.” I said I understood, that I’d never forget the two days at the stadium. “OK, gimme five!” she said, held up a blue latex-gloved hand, and I slapped her five. “You have a really wonderful day, sir,” she said as I departed.

And I thought, eh, maybe there is something to this compassion stuff. Because if you can get people at the airport to treat you like a human, with compassion, then ... who knows?

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