"As the sun rose in the nation's capital, more than 70 tribal leaders from around the country stood in the rear parking lot of a Washington townhouse-turned-office building and circled a small fire.
Each held a handful of sage and tobacco to toss into the flames, and the people listened or prayed along as Alma Ransom of the Mohawk Bear Clan stood and voiced aloud her thanks to the Creator — in English and in her traditional language.
She pointed to the smoke "piercing the sky" and gave thanks to the four winds and the four directions, and she led the group as it turned in unison, east-north-west-and-south, never minding the backyard views and the waking street noises of an urban neighborhood in the nation's capital.
The people were there on this early morning Tuesday to bless a building, to consecrate a home, to establish the Embassy of Tribal Nations, and to mark what they hope would be a shift in the federal government's policies toward Native people.
"This is an important day," Jefferson Keel of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma told the gathering after the prayer ceremonies had been completed and the songs had been sung. "This is a special day. This is a new day for Indian Country."
As president of the National Congress of American Indians, Keel has an office in the new embassy building in northwest Washington that houses his organization. So it's no surprise that Keel is predicting a new era for the country's more than 4 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives."
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Embassy Dedicated in Advance of Conference
(Reznet News 11/3)