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Jay North
Mr. North has been featured in People Magazine, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The New Yorker, and thousands of other publications. Moreover Jay has appeared on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, World News, Sunday Magazine, and hundreds of other TV and radio talk shows voicing informed opinions on edible flowers and organic farming.
Organic Corner

Open Spaces, My Life and Times with Leonard J. Mountain Chief
by Jay North, Proud Adopted Son of Leonard.

The Pipe Ceremony

One day Leonard said to me, “Occasionally we, the people, require a healing; occasionally we require guidance from the Great Spirit. Let’s smoke a while, my boy.”

Leonard and I walked north, out into the field not from his house on the Res at Old Agency, Heart Butte Montana. It was a crystal clear morning and the view of the Lewis and Clark mountain range that day was spectacular, with wild flowers in bloom and big puffy clouds overhead. Leonard laid down a Hudson Bay trade blanket and a pipe bundle wrapped in buffalo hide decorated with eagle feathers, and we sat.

“When we smoke the sacred pipe, we ask the spirit of our elders and the Great One to be present with us as we begin,” Leonard explained. “The pipe bundle, the pipe and the tobacco, are in themselves very healing and we ask that our prayers be heard.”

Leonard spoke about how smoking the pipe was a tradition in our religion and culture; for centuries the people of the nation have used the pipe in ceremony and counsel. He told me that long ago a beautiful young woman gifted a beautifully adorned pipe, also wrapped in buffalo hide, to the people and after, she herself became the buffalo and disappeared, but not before she spoke these words:

Before smoking the pipe, lift it up to the Creator and ask, first to retrieve your soul in the Creator’s vision. Ask then for whatever gift you wish to receive or give away.

Point the pipe to the West and give thanksgiving that all

darkness has been removed from yourself, the people and the Earth.

Point the pipe to the North and give thanks for purification and for providing all things in all forms.

Point the pipe to the East and ask the Creator for guidance in all ways, things and matters of the heart.

Point the pipe to the South and give praise and thanksgiving for all things in nature and the power to protect and serve her.

After pointing the pipe to the sky and to the earth, fill the bowl with sacred tobacco, clear your mind and inhale the smoke. This is my gift to you from the Creator himself, she said to the people.

Before he began to smoke, Leonard chanted and sang songs in praise and thanksgiving. He lifted the pipe to the West, then to the North, East and South, and in each direction he gave thanks for our being together that day. He prayed that one day all people would come together in peace and understanding and live as one tribe. “There is no other way,” he cried.

Leonard handed me the sacred pipe and asked me to smoke and inhale. “This is our sacred pipe, take it, look at each grain of tobacco and hold in it in your hand as you would a small child. Cherish this moment, clear your mind, and smoke,” he said.

As I sat there with Leonard on this beautiful day, I looked up at the incredibly beautiful mountain view and the sky, and just then a bald eagle, sacred to the tribe, flew overhead. Leonard cried, “Fly high, use wisdom.”

I lifted the pipe to smoke and inhale, and as I did I asked the Creator to hear our words of thanks and praise. I prayed that we would be delivered from what no longer served us well: “I ask in your name that the path we are to walk serve only real need, and to let go of the ties that bind our hands and the weight that holds us down.”

I lifted the pipe to the West and asked that the darkness be lifted and only our path be illuminated.

I lifted the pipe to the North and asked for purification.

I lifted the pipe to the East and asked that the sun bring new life.

I lifted the pipe to the South and asked for guidance from the animal kingdom, that I might be guided on my way.

The bald eagle carried my prayers to the Creator so they could be heard and seen closely by the Great One.

I went into a trance. I got up and danced and I cried in praise to the Creator and to Leonard, my father on the Earth. I gave thanksgiving for the day, this I did for almost one hour, until the heat and exertion brought me back down off my feet and firmly planted me back on planet Earth.

Leonard said to me, “Your vision is clear. You know your way; only you could deny this now.

“Smoking the pipe today has given you great insight to your to walk your path,” he said. “You have had a great vision so many require; Go out and communicate it to the world, share what you have seen and know, accept gifts, but also give freely. Know that the solution to every problem lies in your own heart and never disparage your strength to solve these riddles. Try not to get angry at those who do not see, or cannot understand; it is not their time to know of such great power. You, my boy, have come to realize your own strength and power. Never give it up. When uncertainty arises, clear your mind, smoke the pipe and ask, for that you wish to see more clearly. The answers have always been with you; they were given to you by the Creator at birth.

“When you share these stories and the way of the people, do not expect any followers, and if people do not hear your words, go on your own path, for you have found the path to be of loving service to them, as I am with you here today. With those that do hear, give praise and thanksgiving and allow them to continue on their own path.” The way in Blackfeet terms is the redpath and the way we choose to walk or follow.

Leonard’s hope and prayer was always the same, that one day people would be able to look outside of themselves, see the world around them and find a way to listen and be of service. He always had great hope that this could happen.

Leonard and I would smoke the sacred pipe many more days and each time I could feel myself becoming more aware of the Great Spirit and feel Him in my presence and see my path illuminated. To the Blackfeet people there is nothing more important than a man knowing his purpose and the path to follow it. I give thanks and praise to the Creator and to Leonard J. Mountain Chief for walking with me every step of the road.

Leonard gifted me a beautiful pipe one day and asked that I carry it with me on my walk and to take it into ceremony with those who wanted to come in, and ask them that they might quiet their mind if even only for a short while. “Look deeply,” he asked, “and tell them to look deeply also. May their souls be retrieved, renewed and freed and they will find the true way, the only path that they must walk.

Your job is not to teach,” he said, “but to guide and listen. Never take the pipe for granted. Smoke only with reverence for the Great One and never lead one into ceremony who does not belong there.”

Leonard J. Mountain Chief died in 1999, and before his passing he adopted me as honorary member of the tribe and as his son. His guidance is with me here today.

Jay North


Open Spaces: My Life with Leonard J. Mountain Chief, Blackfeet Elder from Northwestern Montana

Open Spaces Synopsis

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