“Nature will tell you,” said Yellowman, also a sundance priest of his tribe. "The land talks to the Cheyenne, tells us that a tornado is coming."

"We spoke to it in our language," Tornadoes are easy to spot, if one listens to the world around them, Yellowman said.

Officials in tornado-prone Oklahoma said Native American lands have suffered relatively less damage over the past 60 years from twisters that have destroyed tens of thousands of structures in other parts of the state.

After the ceremony, whose details are hidden to outsiders to protect its potency, the tornado barreling toward the Native American tribe in the red dirt state took an unexpected turn and veered away, a move not part of any computer modeling for the funnel cloud.

The leaves of the trees whisper warnings, he said, flipping themselves over in supplication to the angry skies. The birds warn by quieting their songs. Livestock file to far ends of fenced-in fields to escape a storm they know is coming.

The Cheyenne-Arapaho people do not leave everything to chance and have built tornado shelters for protection.

At their sprawling complex near the Lucky Star Casino in Concho is Oklahoma's first native-owned television station, CATV-47, which airs weather warnings.

Tornado shelters have been built on the lands of Native American groups that can afford them. The state is working to help finance shelters in less economically vibrant places, including those belonging to Native Americans.

The key is communicating with the tornado, which also talks to the elders.

"He tells us how many lives he will take and how destructive he will be. But he remembers the rituals and the language. Tornadoes are not evil; they reset the balance in nature," Yellowman said.

He compares his tribe's ability to read and predict the weather to an oral Farmer's Almanac, but with the language of the Cheyenne. His people are connected through stories, and he firmly believes the tribes have the spiritual power to protect themselves from dangerous weather.

“We were very strong people,” he said. “The Cheyenne were forced out of our home in Minnesota in the 1600s, pushed out of our original homeland by westward expansion, and to survive, we had to adapt. The first challenge we had to adapt to in Oklahoma was the weather, the tornadoes.”

Responses to "Tribal elder Gordon Yellowman tames twisters with ancient rituals"

  1. Powerful wisdom and incredble people. I love them.

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