A classic Walter move...hamming it up at a relatively ceremonial event, the Gathering of the Waters Ceremony at the Protect the Earth Community Gathering. His son Robin smiling up at him.
At the ceremony people from all over the earth bring a little bit of water from their home watershed to pour into a common vessel. As the water is poured the people speak about their water. The blending of the water symbolizes how all the waters of the world are connected and how we as humans are connected to the water.
Walter had been helping people for hours to step to the microphone and speak about their water supply, which, way to commonly was threatened or polluted. When this woman stepped forth with her pure clean water from her own deep well......well Walter just had to test it out!
Always the character.
THE SAGA OF COPPER MAN
This is a story about the time I spent with Walter Bresette.
My name is Richard Reese, and the lands of my great grandparents lie in what
is called Norway, Wales, and Germany. I now live on land stolen from the
Anishinabe. My home is located 500 feet above Lake Superior, between two
hills, between two ghost towns, between two large copper lodes. To the west
is the Pewabic Lode, home of the Quincy, Pewabic, Franklin, Mesnard, and
Pontiac mines. To the east is Arcadian Hill, the Arcadian Lode, home of the
Arcadian Mine. I literally live in the Valley of the Copper People.
I spend a lot of my life trying to make sense of the world. Thus, I spend a
lot of time deranged and crazy. The way I heal myself is to go to the old
mines and look for copper. The less you think, the more you can pay
attention. Stop the thinker, and all that's left is the wonderful peace and
power of the land. Anyway, my ranch has sort of become an orphanage for the
Copper People. Everywhere you go in my house, and around my yard, there are
clusters of rescued Copper People. It seemed like just a hobby. I didn't
think much about it.
Maybe four years ago, I heard Walter telling stories in Hancock. One story
described the four instructions that the Creator gave to the Anishinabe --
and one of these instructions was to be like stone -- be strong. And I now
know that by caring for the sacred Copper People, I was working on a great
personal need -- the need for strength -- spiritual strength.
The following is a story about the second time I met Walter, written as the
events unfolded, and posted to an online group. As it turns out, this was
the last time that I saw Walter alive.
October 24, 1997 [My friend Vern has been talking to Walter, an Anishinabe
man who is teaching a course at Michigan Technological University, called
"Alternative Views on the Environment." Walter has agreed to give me a
two-hour course to speak my views to the class. On this day, Walter and
Vern have stopped by the ranch.]
Today, I had a wonderful experience. A fundamentalist Native American
walked through my door, sat down, and started telling stories. Walter is an
Anishinabe activist, storyteller, and lover of his home, his family, his
community of all spirits.
He talked about the White Pine Mine, in northern Michigan, which had
recently shut down. He told about how the natives had gathered there to
"spiritually" close the mine. The president of the mining company flew in
from Toronto, they built a fire at the mouth of the mine, and drumming,
songs, and prayers followed. A ceremony had to be held to let the spirits
of the mine know that the horror was over, the machinery would not come
back, and that the healing process could now begin. Some of the elders were
wary of standing too close to the mine mouth, because such awesomely
powerful -- and possibly dangerous -- spirits dwelled within that dark,
gaping, painful wound in the Earth.
We shared a meal, and the conversation continued. I happened to give Walter
a large, green, beautifully-shaped piece of float copper to hold (float
copper is smoothed and polished by passing glaciers). He took it in his
hands, bowed his head, and he and the stone spent quite a spell in deep and
sacred communication. Walter has been fighting mines for years, and he held
in his hands a sacred member of the Copper People, a beautiful being who had
been spared from the crushers, smelters, and factories. Watching the two
together was a deeply moving experience! Brother embracing brother. Love
and radiance filling the room.
Ladies and gentlemen, this profound love for the Earth -- for the spirits of
all beings, animate and inanimate, past, present, and future -- is what is
missing in our discussions, in our culture, in our religions, in our
schools, and in each of our lives. If our hearts are filled and brimming
with love for the community that surrounds us -- the ENTIRE community --
then we would not need to spend our time in these discussions -- we would
need to spend our time in prayer, in song, and in sharing. The Earth has
the answers we are seeking. It is our sacred obligation to seek, to ask,
and -- most important -- to LISTEN!
When we can rekindle that love -- the overwhelming, boundless, bottomless
love that our ancestors had -- and have -- for the Earth, all these
questions that are bouncing around in cyberspace will become pointless and
silly. When our hearts are hot and strong and radiant with that love, we
will cease causing harm -- we will do what is right, proper, and good. We
do not destroy what we love. Love is the answer. Community is the answer.
October 25, 1997
I am bone-tired. So very tired! The last few days have been days of
awesome power. Sleep has not been easy.
Today, I went up to Arcadian Hill to gather apples for the winter. And as I
walked across the land, it was truly alive with spirits. Alive like it has
never been before. I am tired from shedding tears. Sobbing in the woods.
Tears of grief. Tears of pain. Tears of relief. Tears of joy. It is like
I have opened my eyes for the first time -- now as I come to the end of my
When my buckets were filled, I headed back towards the road. Before I got
there, the spirits said to stop, put down the apples. The Copper People had
a gift for you. It was my job to find it.
I walked to the clearing where the Arcadian #4 shaft once was. The voices
said to go to the right. I did. Follow the edge of the woods. I did.
Eventually, I saw the green dot in the gravel. I gave it a kick, and three
inches of dirt moved. I knew that I had found what I was supposed to. The
stone was dirty and heavy.
I walked to a puddle and broke open the ice. I began washing the stone, and
the center fell out -- it was hollow. It had an arch of copper sticking out
of the top of it, sort of shaped like a rainbow. But the rainbow wasn't
complete -- there was a break in the middle of it. Two fingers of copper
were bent over facing each other, as if preparing to kiss.
When I came home, I took the brush to the stone, and half of the rainbow
fell off. It was weakly connected to the stone. After I finished cleaning
the stone, I looked at it again. At one end of the stone, a little copper
man is sticking up -- a torso, neck, and head -- with eyebrows, a nose, and
Here's where the story gets interesting. The man is bent forward and is
looking down. He is bowed, as if in prayer. He looks like you did the
other day, while holding the float copper. It was an amazing sight to
behold. This man has been in prayer for maybe three billion years --
somewhere around the time that the first single-celled beings appeared in
the Mother Sea.
The copper man is waiting for you.
November 1, 1997
Love and Greetings to my Brothers and Sisters!
Halloween has passed, and the spirits of our ancestors have returned from
the Other Side -- to be with us, to listen, to teach, to love, to celebrate,
to pray, to give thanks.
On Thor's day there was a gathering in the Valley of the Copper People. A
feast for the dead. A celebration of their return. A ceremony of
welcoming. A ceremony of the Anishinabe People, the indigenous people of
this land -- led by an Anishinabe man named Walter.
I was born on Thor's day, and during the feast for the dead, my 45th year
passed away, and my 46th year was born. Thor is a power being. When giants
obstruct his path, Thor smashes their skull with his sacred hammer. Thor is
the god of the THUNDER!!! and LIGHTENING!!! His rumbling and crashing
excites the release of the fertilizing showers of spring rain -- the rains
that call the tender green sprouts out of the Earth, the rains that call the
tender green leaves out of their swollen brown buds, the rains that call the
Frog People to sing in the pond in the Valley of the Copper People, the
songs that call the Goose People back from the south -- the songs that tell
them to build nests, to make love, to lay eggs.
But the green is gone. The Frog People have returned to their homes in the
mud. The Goose People have returned to their homes in the south. The
spirits of the ancestors have returned from their homes on the Other Side.
They are here now. It is the other season. The season of the ancestors.
The season of snow and quiet and rest and peace. The season of dreams, of
voyages, of stories.
I am bound by my honor to not reveal what took place in that gathering, but
I can tell you that it was good. It was healing. It was strong. It will
be remembered for long years. It was a time of softness, of gentleness, of
I can tell you that after this gathering, I had a dream. I dreamed that I
held an ancient wooden war club, a club once held by a man of great power, a
man we refer to as Black Hawk. This club was once buried, then dug up by
White ones, then returned to a Native man. This sacred club has a ball at
the end of its handle. On the ball is carved a network of diamonds. When
this club was first born, the edges of the diamonds were sharp -- their
purpose was to cut and tear open White skin, to excite the blood to flow in
But this sacred club is very old. It has been on the war path, defended
ancient communities, spilled the hot red blood of the White invaders -- it
has been buried and unburied, stolen and returned. And over the years, this
club has been touched by many hands, loved by many hands, softened by many
caring touches. Its edges are no longer sharp. Through many years of love,
its cutting diamonds have become smooth and gentle. In this dream, the
loving touch of many hands have removed the war from this club. It has been
given a new song -- a song of peace. That was my dream.
I can tell you that after this gathering, there is a new spirit in this
place, the spirit of the Bear People. Sitting beside the Copper People
gathered in this place is a bear claw, a gift, a spirit of protection. Of
this, I can speak no more, because this is all I know.
I can tell you that after this gathering, there is a new Copper One in this
place, from a clan of Copper People that I had not met before. Most of the
Copper People I meet have the same shape that the Creator gave them three
billion years ago -- when all continents were one, and the Keweenaw was
south of the Equator. While other stones crumble into dust, the Copper
People remain strong and unchanged through the ages.
They watched the coming of the first two-leggeds. They watched the
dinosaurs come and go. They watched the first dragonfly zig, zag, and
hover. They watched the first beings crawl up out of Mother Ocean, onto a
beach of brown dry land. They see with Long Eyes -- they have listened to
the Story of Life from the time when the Creator spoke its first words.
The Creator gave the Copper People a tough skin, an abrasive skin -- like
coarse sand paper. You can recognize a Copper Person while blind folded, by
touch. When you touch their skin, it feels like a cat's tongue. I am
speaking of the clan of Earth Copper.
But some Copper People have been changed. Some have danced with the
glaciers. Some of been smoothed by the dancing of the Ice People. These
smooth ones are of the clan called Float Copper. But this New One is not of
the clan of the Float People.
This New One is of the clan of the Water Copper -- beings who have danced in
the waves for centuries, beings who have danced with the beach gravel,
beings who have become soft and gentle while dancing with the soft and
gentle water of Lake Superior. Their touch brings sensuous pleasure. Their
song is kindness, caring, peace.
On the morning of Halloween, I got up, built a fire, and made coffee. In a
cloud of tobacco, Walter and I spoke and listened. I will share some of
these words with you.
I had asked Walter for feedback on my talk of the previous day. My words to
those students were not charged with tension, fear, and anxiety -- but with
directness, with sincerity, with power. But some said that my words had
stirred fear. This was not my intent. My motive had been to inspire
thought, concern, awakening, action -- to inspire seeking and questioning,
learning and communication, healing and transformation, gentleness and
I wanted to start a spreading fire that would lick the spirits of the
masses -- and race across the land, cleansing and purifying, burning and
renewing, killing and giving birth. But Walter told me that the mystery
that he was pursuing was not one that required many people -- just a few --
maybe ten or twenty.
When I gave my talk, I asked a question -- why did most of the
civilizations, in the lands that we call the United States, collapse --
before the invasion of the Whites? Was it a shortage of firewood (they had
no axes made of the Iron People)? Was it disease? Was it the terrible new
technology of the bow and arrow? Or was it a spontaneous collective act of
intelligence, of healing, of gentleness and peace?
Walter told me a story. He told me of a legend he had heard of, the legend
of a people who live south of the border, up in the mountains. In these
mountains are ruins, the ruins of an ancient civilization. These people
told Walter that one day their ancestors got up, packed up, walked out of
the city, and closed the great gates behind them -- never to return again.
He told me another tale, of a phone conversation he had with another Native.
He said, "I don't think they're going to leave -- it looks like they're
planning on staying here." The man said, "Who are you talking about?"
Walter said, "Those White people." He continued, "Maybe it's time for us to
have a Ceremony of Welcoming for them, so that they will feel more at home
here -- and start caring for this land."
On the day of my talk, I told the students that our culture and its schools
only talks to one brain, the left brain, the brain of linear thought,
reason, rationality, analysis. Our right brain withers, shrinks, gathers
dust. Our right brain is the brain of creativity, of vision, of prayer, of
spiritual power. I suggested to the students that since we all have two
brains, maybe we ought to use BOTH of them!
Walter described his two lives to me. One life is public -- he works for
Native rights, for peace, for the environment. He travels around the world.
He has met many famous people, and many unknown people who have important
stories to tell. His other life is spiritual. His sacred life is a
spiritual quest, a pilgrimage, a search for answers to great mysteries.
His sacred life is a world of spirits, powers, mysteries, visions,
prophesies, stolen fires, frozen objects, ancient beings, lost scrolls,
forgotten caves -- a world of seeking, of questioning, of discovering, of
I have lived for 45 years mostly by using my left brain. To my mind,
Walter's sacred world is 100% irrational, mysterious, incomprehensible,
purely and absolutely nonsensical. Yet, it stirs inside me profound
feelings, forces, spirits, something important. There is much that my
people have forgotten, much that we need to remember.
I suggested that Walter speak of his sacred life to the students, because it
was of such great importance. He laughed! "If I told them those stories,
they'd all start FOLLOWING me! I'd NEVER be able to get rid of them!" He
said that nearly every single White person is looking for a LEADER, someone
to give them instructions, someone to FOLLOW! They don't know how to
conduct their own lives, to find their own paths, to live their own visions.
We talked a bit longer, then Walter suddenly got up, picked up his bags,
declined an offer of breakfast, hugged me, and walked out the door. I just
sat still. I spent the entire day doing nothing. I didn't read anything.
I didn't turn on my computer. I didn't return phone messages. The radio
As the afternoon grew old, I went out the door and took a long, long walk.
Mists were filling the air, a heavy fog was rolling in. The wind was
blowing hard from the east -- from Norway, from Wales, from Germany -- the
lands of my blood and my people. As I walked in the darkness, along Quincy
Hill ridge, high above the valley below, I sensed that I was not alone. I
was walking with a crowd of spirits, uncountable in number, my ancestors, my
family. I was not alone. My people were with me.
This Halloween day was like no other day that I have lived in all of my 45
years. It was like a dream. I was completely relaxed, comfortable,
content, satisfied, fulfilled. For the entire day, hour after blessed hour,
I was a being of immense and total peace, happiness, and quiet. I have met
the gentle and peaceful clan of the Water Copper. I have dreamed a dream of
a war club that sings of peace. This was a day of nothing but peace!
The ancestors have returned. My prayers go out to one and all of you! I
pray that you will have a pleasant reunion! I pray that the coming season
will be a time of learning, of remembering, of awakening, of healing -- a
time of good stories, warm fires, loving words, and peace.
Journey in peace, my dearest friends, my Brothers and Sisters! Find peace!
Create peace! Celebrate peace! Peace to one and all!