I have soared the skys on the wings of eagles.
You may think that because of my Native American heritage I have an advantage over you when it comes to a personal totem.
You would be wrong in this assessment.
A totem comes from the Great Spirit working through your inner spirit and not from any tribal affiliation. Everyone has a totem - they just do not realize it.
When I was fourteen, my uncle took me into the mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. This was a ten-day journey by horse deep into the mountains well away from inhabited territory.
Our trip was ostensibly to do some hunting, fishing, camping and to enjoy the great outdoors.
The real reason, I later learned, was to give me an opportunity to know myself and my heritage better. My uncle was well versed in his Native American heritage.
I learned many valuable things during this wonderful trip. The greatest was that I had a special protector who looked after me, one to whom I could tell my deepest fears and boldest ambitions.
This was not the biblical angel that most Christians envision, it was my totem.
The third day into our great journey we camped near a crystal clear stream beneath a breathtaking mountainous overhang. After establishing our camp, my uncle made a sweat lodge and explained to me how and why it was used.
He stated that we did not have time to undergo the lengthy rituals that most young Native American men must endure in order to find their personal totem, but it was important that I find mine. The sweat lodge was a short cut to this great experience.
This warrior among warriors, this man of magnificent courage and knowledge, told me that his totem was Beaver. Beaver chose him, he said, because of his love of home and family.
To avoid a lengthy story I will simply note that I was discovered by my totem. Very often, you are not the one who selects a totem; it is the totem that selects you. This is as it should be.
My totem turned out to be Brother Eagle.
I have always loved the mountains and reveled in the beauty of the skies. I love and relish the freedom of the outdoors and the wind blowing in my face. Heights have never held fear for me; I often gaze wistfully from mountaintops yearning for the power to fly.
Over the years I learned that Brother Eagle chose me for a reason. The eagle, to my people, also signifies freedom.
In the military I spent my life freeing the oppressed. Wherever I went, Brother Eagle went with me, protected me, gave me courage, pushed me to go that one step beyond.
I have soared the skies in my parachute and reached out to touch the face of my totem. I have hang glided off 10,000-foot cliffs and glided with the thermals and waves of freedom knowing that Brother Eagle was protecting me.
But most of all, I look to the Great Spirit (God) in thanks that he has sent Brother Eagle to accompany me on my life’s journey.