William Edelen: The “Gift”


The Contrary Minister

This is an essay reflecting on the Mysteries of the human spirit, and in particular how this spirit manifests in the ARTS… and ARTISTS.

I want to share with you a recent experience I had in being invited to the dedication of a sculpture of an American Indian entitled… “THE GIFT” to the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

The original purpose for the sculpture was to reside at the Riverside National Cemetery as representative of the American Indian veteran.

The inception of the sculpture… was a birth “by Committee”. Funding was gathered, a Committee was formed and, as usual, everyone had an opinion. Voices grew LOUDER and one of the loudest was that of Maurice Lyons, then Tribal Chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Chairman Lyons disagreed with the artists concept of the Indian wearing a blanket. He said “Wrap him in an American Flag.” A veteran himself, Chairman Lyons felt strongly about this.

It was agreed. Drawings finalized. Contracts signed. Funds released, and THEN it happened. Voices of the Committee changed and grew LOUDER. It was just too much for the artist. The JOY in his spirit deflated with the weight of Committee noise and pressure.

He had to set the SPIRIT FREE. He cancelled the contract, and on his own, in quiet contemplation and meditation in his studio, he continued to create “THE GIFT”. His careful hand guided by the internalized voice, and spirit, of Maurice Lyons.

The name of the sculpture “The Gift” took on many layers of meaning. As you see in the photograph, the American Indian holds in his right hand a medallion. This medallion depicts the “award” or the “gift” presented by President Thomas Jefferson to the American Tribes that assisted in the exploration of the Louisiana Territory, the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

That so many American Indians have fought and died as American Veterans is another layer of “The Gift”, the “gift” of lives sacrificed on behalf of a grateful nation.

The ARTIST continued in quiet meditation in his studio to create “The Gift”, and it emerged, over time, and all the time his own careful hand being guided by the internal voice and spirit.

“The Gift” was completed. It needed to be in its rightful place. The artist knew it would be a “Gift” to the Morongo Tribe.

When he contacted the Morongo Tribe to offer, and coordinate the gift, he was informed that Tribal Chairman Maurice Lyons had “crossed over” the day before. “THE GIFT” was finished, inspired by the HUMAN SPIRIT and was presented to the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, in honor of the life and service of Chairman Maurice Lyons.

(The Sculptor has asked to remain anonymous, but he is a very awake, talented and sensitive human being.)

Being invited to the dedication of this celebration was a very special “gift” to me personally. My entire personal life has been filled with the presence of the American Indian, as a ‘brother’ of the Taos Indians in the Taos Pueblo, christened with the name of “Thunder Hawk” while smoked with Eagle feathers… to being ordained a “brother” to Red Crow Westerman, in the Lakota tradition, and with Cheyenne heritage in my gene pool, being invited to this celebration was much appreciated and very special and significant to me.

Equally significant to me as a former Marine Corps pilot was seeing this magnificent sculpture of an American Indian veteran wrapped in an American Flag.

It was a day that will long be held, cherished, in my memory.

One Comment

I probably have no right as a white person to suggest a name change from “Indian” to something different. Surely there is a term more respectful. The Canadians call theirs First People or First Nations. I live in a city with many visiting and emigrates from East India which are called Indians. Pakistanians reside here, too. We try to respect those who would prefer to be called Persians rather than Iranians.
This is probably one of those “not in my lifetime” things.