Tag Archives: Sun Dance

New Book Release – Sharing Stories on Our Autism Journey


June is a great month. It official marks summer break from school, as well as the first day of Summer. It is also my birth month, which is why I decided to publish The Road I’ve Traveled on my birthday.

The Road I’ve Traveled is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Its official release date will be on the 19th of June.

I absolutely love the cover. The anchor represents my time in the Navy. The color blue represents my love of the ocean, as well as autism awareness.

The Road Ive Traveled

The Road I’ve Traveled is a compilation of poems and short stories Jennifer wrote during moments of her life where she felt the need to get it all out. She writes about being in the Navy during the tragedies of 9/11, having to deploy to New York where she and her shipmates stayed in New York’s harbor for three weeks, guarding the coastline in hopes of preventing any further attacks.

She writes about loss, love, heartbreak, family. You can see the fondness she had for her grandfather as she includes a heartfelt eulogy she had written moments after his passing.

She also writes about being a single mom, as well as a mom to a child who is on the autism spectrum. The journey they have endured together has been bumpy, but they continue to plow through life, learning about autism and sensory processing disorder as they go.

You can find all of my books, recently published and upcoming, under my name and my pen name, posted on my website: www.twistedcrowpress.com/books
Or, you can find them on Amazon:
For all books published under my name, Jennifer N. Adams on Amazon, click here.
For all books published under my pen name, J. Raven Wilde on Amazon, click here.
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Native American Traditions


In the 1800’s, the government forcible removed all Native American children. They were made to cut their hair and made them wear white people’s clothes. They were even given white people names. They were told to only speak English and to forget about their religion and traditions. There was strict discipline, verbal abuse, and military. The US Government thought they could save the Indian children, but it was mostly a culture shock, killing their self-respect, spirit, and dignity which resulted to suicide. Majority of the schools were hit by disease, such as tuberculosis, measles, and influenza, killing many of the children.

Out of the 300 federal reservation in the US, over 50% leave to find better employment. Most of the Native Americans that leave the reservation join the military. The way to learn about culture, religion, and tradition is mostly from the elders or from Indian Centers. Major cities have built ‘Indian Centers’ to help Native Americans continue with their culture and traditions, teaching arts and crafts, language classes, dances, and powwows. The Indian Centers also help out with job employment, job counseling, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

The word ‘Powwow’ means, “A healing ceremony of spiritual leaders”. Today powwows are a way to maintain Native American history through song and dance. Today it is more of a social gathering of song and dance. Song and dance is the way they maintain their history, it has a connection with their past. The American Indians almost suffered extinction, but today they continue to sing and dance in powwows, that is more like a battle of champions.

Sun Dance and Ghost dance are just a few of the traditional dances. The Ghost Dance began in the 1860’s; created by a Northern Paiute Indian named Wodziwab.  He and his son Wovoka were the first Ghost Dance prophets. They both foresaw that all Indian ancestors will return and that all the whites would die, the Native American’s will be saved and the Great Spirit will return to Earth and live among them.

The Sun Dance has been one of the most sacred ceremonies for thousands of years and is still practiced today by the Lakota, Shoshone, Arapaho, Crow, and Cheyenne tribes. A Sun Dance actually lasts 28 days, but preparation is a yearlong process. The Sun Dance is performed in the summer, starting on a full moon; usually the hottest week of the year. The performer begins his preparation meditating, praying, and spends time in the sweat lodge.

The performers will then sing and dance around the center pole, clockwise, for the first two days. On the third day those that choose to pierce their skin will be pierced and sing and dance for the final two days.

The Sun Dance requires the warrior to dance around a pole they are attached to by a rope. On the end of the rope were wooden skewers that pierced under their chest muscles. They would dance while pulling the rope, causing the wooden skewers to cut and pull on their pierced skin and muscle.

On the fourth and final day the dancers must dance until their skin has been ripped, this completes the sacrifice and the performers become reborn. The performers will then finish the ceremony by sitting in the sweat lodge in prayer.

A sweat lodge is a place some Native American cultures use to help cleanse their spirit, mind, body, and heart, and receive answers or guidance from the ancestors, totem helpers, or Mother Earth. Before entering the sweat lodge, you must smoke a peace pipe. Then they offer tobacco to the sacred fire, say a prayer or ask a question, then the leader smudges them with sage and wafts smoke from sweet grass over them. They will then enter into the sweat lodge, clockwise, followed by the leader. The leader will ask a person that is not in the sweat lodge to bring in the hot stones, then close the door. The leader will begin singing in prayer. A sweat lodge ceremony can last from three to eight hours, depending on each person’s tolerance of the heat that is endured during a sweat lodge ceremony. 

Tobacco is a sacred plant, along with sage, but unlike sage, tobacco has a special meaning. When tobacco is burned, the fire represents the center of the earth. The ashes and smoke carry the message to the Creator, distributing it among the four winds.

Native American church is a mixture of Christianity and Native American traditions. Peyote is used for Native American church ceremonies or recreation by the Great Plains Native Americans. It is a small, hallucinogenic cactus that can be found in south Texas and northern Mexico. When chewing peyote it can cause vomiting, but the person will experience a feeling of great joy, but is not addicting. During the ceremonies is singing, praying and playing drums.

A few other Native American traditions are, Why do Native Americans have long hair? It is a symbol of spiritual health and spiritual strength. It is a symbol of power and a source of pride. In some tribes, to cut ones hair means they are in mourning. Animal totems are spirit guides that usually stay with us for life, depending on which direction we take. They help us choose our path in life. Medicine wheels are a sacred hoop that represents harmony, connecting us with all living things on earth.

Native American Sun Dance


The Sun Dance has been one of the most sacred ceremonies for thousands of years and is still practiced today by the Lakota, Shoshone, Arapaho, Crow, and Cheyenne tribes. To witness a Sun Dance ceremony as an outsider, you must have an invitation. I have had the opportunity to not only watch a Sun Dance, but learn about the sacred ceremony in its entirety.

A Sun Dance actually lasts 28 days, but preparation is a yearlong process. The Sun Dance is performed in the summer, starting on a full moon; usually the hottest week of the year. The performer begins his preparation meditating, praying, and spends time in the sweat lodge. A particular group of people begin setting up the Sun Dance grounds during this time. A scout will go out to look for the best Cottonwood tree, when one is found, a ceremony will take place to bless and thank that tree before it is taken down and used as the center pole for the Sun Dance. The center of tree represents the tree of life and sage and tobacco is tied on to the top of the tree before placing it in the ground. A circle is then formed around the pole of other trees.

Once the circle is finished, the performers will go into the sweat lodge to pray, then enter the circle. Once they enter the circle, all eating and drinking stops for four days. The performers will then sing and dance around the center pole, clockwise, for the first two days. On the third day those that choose to pierce their skin will be pierced and sing and dance for the final two days.

In old times the Sun Dance required the warrior to dance around a pole they were attached to by a rope. On the end of the rope were wooden skewers that pierced under their chest muscles. They would dance while pulling the rope, causing the wooden skewers to cut and pull on their pierced skin and muscle. Today, not all tribes pierce their skin.

On the fourth and final day the dancers must dance until their skin has been ripped, this completes the sacrifice and the performers become reborn. The performers will then finish the ceremony by sitting in the sweat lodge in prayer.

A lil culture here and there


Being a military brat and also a military veteran, I have had the chance to see the majority of the United States and part of the world. My parents made many trips to historical places and museums when I was growing up. I love history. I enjoy reading the stories of where people came from.

Traveling, as well as moving around the country, gave me an insight to other cultures. For example, when I was six, my step dad was stationed in Key West, Florida. We lived across the street from a married couple; she was Japanese and he was Puerto Rican. Now and then we would be invited over for dinner, each time we went it was always something different; he would cook something from his home country or she would cook something from her home country. On occasion she would babysit my sisters and me and she would show us pictures of Japan and make Japanese popcorn for us; their kernels are black.

A few years ago I got the chance to live with a Cheyenne/ Arapaho family in Oklahoma for a summer. I was also given the honor of attending a Sun Dance. Not many “outsiders” are asked to come and join them, so I was more than elated when I was asked. To me it was more than just an honor; it was an experience to learn about another Native American culture than my own Native American heritage as I am Cherokee and Choctaw. It was the first time I had eaten buffalo, as well as fry bread.

Sun Dance is more than just watching warriors dance, there are rules to be followed, mostly for us women. Of course I always have to ask why; it’s more of a curiosity as to why these rules are set. For instances, if a woman is menstruating she cannot get closer than fifty yards from the Sun Dancers, it makes them sick. There is a certain dancer that has a lizard painted on him that is of great importance to the Sun Dance; he is named the lizard man. I was told not to stare at the lizard man; I could glance his way, but only for a quick second. The lizard man holds strong power for the one offering himself in the Sun Dance and staring at him will cause him harm.

In UAE (United Arab Emirates) Dubai, a group of my shipmates and I rode camels through the desert, stopping at an oasis. They had cooked a large meal for us that included sheep, chicken, vegetables, and camel meat; camel is like our cow here in America. They wouldn’t allow us to pass up any food that was offered, so camel meat was put on my plate whether I wanted it or not. However, I did taste it and to me, it was the nastiest meat I’ve ever eaten. There was also a belly dancer, henna hand painting, and a hookah. A hookah is a machine that you can smoke flavored tobacco from. If you have ever seen the cartoon movie Alice in Wonderland, the caterpillar smokes a hookah. I didn’t give the hookah a try because I was afraid it wouldn’t be tobacco in there, but instead there would be something illegal and I would get in trouble.