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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Vision Quest

Sacred Pipe


Sun Dance

Vision Quest

Medicine People


Visual representation of nature's laws

"In traditional Dunne-za [athapaskans of the Peace River area] life, every person experienced a series of childhood vision quests to which he or she referred in later life as a source of power and identity. By the time a person had become an established elder of the ban, his or her Ďmedicines,í as these powers are called in English, were known to everyone within a circle of related bands. During the course of a lifetime, what had once been intensely personal became a focal point of public information. The circle of a personís life among the Dunne-za was a trail of telling secrets.

The Vision Quest

Series Coordinator - Dr. Earle Waugh
© 1980 Access


The childhood vision quest experience is private and secret. If a child reveals the story that came to life during the dream space alone in the bush, the power may turn against him or her. Only the old people know, through their dreaming, what story may have possessed a child away from camp. Only people whose dreams visualize the trails of animals in the bush can articulate the vision of children when they are away from camp. Only by dreaming back to their own encounters which the medicine animals of mythic times can they see themselves in the visions of children. When the children return to camp from their time alone, they sense a balance has been realized between themselves and the old people. Growing up in the camp, they had come to know the medicine stories active in the lives of the old people, but had not yet discovered their own connection to the medicines. They knew the taste of every kind of meat, the warmth of fur against their kin, but not the animals themselves, alive and autonomous. They knew the medicines within the old people but not these same medicines within themselves.

When the children return to camp from the bush they can look to the old people within themselves. They can look ahead to the circle of their lives, telling secrets of the vision quest. In the span of life between child and old person, the medicine stories of a childís experience alone in the bush become an old personís stories known by everyone in camp. The stories become real in the theatre of their telling. They always remain secrets but during the course of a lifetime become known to a widening circle of people. By the manner of their telling secrets, Dunne-za children establish themselves as people of knowledge. Thus the story of an individualís life becomes part of the stories known to all. This diffusion of information balances the vision quest during which a story known to all becomes part of the childís experience" (Ridington 215).

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