Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Just as expected, several people asked how I became an ordained minister. It's a rather long and complicated story, but I will keep it as brief and concise as possible.

In reality, the process of ordination began before I knew what happened. Before my father passed away, he created a way for me to inherit his spiritual responsibilities. I didn't fully understand the implications at the time it happened, but when he died, his 'ministry' essentially passed to me.

For several years, I practiced my father's rituals without understanding their deeper meaning. In time, I began to relate directly to the spirit within his ceremonies. I also began to awaken to a profound realization: my father was a spiritual leader in his own right, and had he belonged to a Christian church, he would have been a priest or minister. Seen from that perspective, I realized my father gave me a priesthood, a calling, and a lifelong ministry.

A combination of events eventually turned insight into action. First, I resigned my membership in the LDS Church and received a letter from Salt Lake City declaring my priesthood 'void.' As much as I trust my reasons for making that choice, I still grieved the loss of 'priesthood authority.' Second, my sister asked me to perform her wedding, but Washington State law only allows ordained ministers or judges to perform weddings. That's when a solution became obvious.

My father's religion is just as valid as Mormonism or the Roman Catholic Church, so why should he be prevented from performing weddings or any other 'ministerial' duties? Inspired by this knowledge, me and two other friends decided to incorporate our Native American spiritual system as a church, legally and lawfully organized under the laws of this state. We didn't create anything new; we simply defined ourselves in a way the government can recognize. After incorporating the church, we received 'ordination' in recognition of our spiritual callings.

We had some hesitation about subjecting our spirituality to the state, but the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Many Native Americans wish to celebrate marriage and find themselves in the awkward position of having to choose a ceremony devoid of their core spiritual traditions. Judges provide mainly secular weddings, and ministers often require people to profess non-Native religions or creeds. We also envision other benefits of incorporation, such as having Native American ministers as chaplains at hospitals and other institutions.

After careful consideration, I received further encouragement from a series of dreams allowing me to move forward with my ordination.

In any case, Native American spirituality is just as valid as any other religious system and deserves the same level of respect, dignity, and official recognition. I'm thankful the Creator gave me this calling and the ability to minister to Native people.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thousand Steps

Part of the old section...

Rhonda on the "Thousand Steps."

My sister told me about an abandoned set of concrete stairs in Greenwood Cemetery called the "Thousand Steps." She said it was worth a visit, and several local websites called it the "most haunted place in Spokane." After some searching, we found the stairs, though I'm certain there are far less than one thousand steps, probably even less than a hundred. Having seen the place, I can't say if I felt any otherworldly presence, but it was fun to find it anyway.

After climbing the steps, we toured the cemetery to read some of the older headstones. I tried to imagine the personal stories connected to each stone. After a while, a somber mood fell over the both of us, and we began to discuss the nature of life and death. What arrangements will we make when we die? How will our children remember us? What will become of us at the end of life?

We could only tolerate the discussion for a short while. We finally left and discussed happier things.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wedding Planner

After presiding over my most recent wedding, I'm already planning to officiate yet another wedding this summer. This evening, I met with the young couple and their parents to discuss specific plans. I'll be sure to post more information as the ceremony draws closer.

On the way home, I stopped by this meadow in Chattaroy to photograph the fog and the evening sky. What a beautiful sight.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Our family celebrated Whitney's baptism today, performed by her grandfather. It was a beautiful ceremony.


We visited the cemetery in honor of Memorial Day (a little early), and in honor of our yearly tradition. In particular, we visited the graves of Rhonda's brother and grandfather. Of course, I had to also photograph the flags.

10 Mile Hike (Minus 3)

Once again, Dakota attempted the 10 mile hike with his scout group, but we only walked about 7 miles before the scout leaders came to our rescue. Dakota hates to hike, so I'm not even sure why he asked to go. Even so, we got some amazing views of the Spokane River. We walked from Spokane Falls Community College to 7 Mile Bridge. In the end, 7 miles is still quite an achievement.


Grandma Great brought her life history to share with my children. Amazingly, they sat with rapt attention for more than an hour as she told stories about her childhood in Joseph, Utah. They love to hear stories about the way things were years ago. I'm thankful they inherited our love of family history.


Grandma Great is visiting our home from Arizona. Of course, my children adore her and were thrilled to see her again. In these photographs, Whitney is 'reminding' grandma how to play the childhood game 'Say Say Oh Playmate.' It is wonderful to see the generations overlap with such simple enjoyment and love.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


(left to right) Inge, Me, Norma, and Dena.

Several years after my father died, I dreamed he returned with an important message from beyond the grave. In short, he said he would provide me with "spiritual guardians." He said he and my aunt Marlene would act as my guardians in the spirit world. On the other hand, Norma, Dena, and Inge would serve as my spiritual guardians in the world of the living. "You can trust them to be your spiritual teachers," he said. Since that dream, I've looked to these women for guidance, support, and inspiration.

When I realized all four of us would attend Marc and Randi's wedding, I asked them to pose for this photograph. I'll always be thankful for their influence in my life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I recently officiated the wedding of Marc Andrew and Randi Wynne, and as it turns out, my old friend Merle Andrew is father of the groom.

Merle and I became friends back in the day at the Medicine Wheel Academy. I was a teacher and Merle came in to give lessons in the Salish language. The students loved Merle's gentle, non-judgmental way of presenting the material. He related to the students in a meaningful way and became a powerful ally for language and culture. He certainly earned my respect.

Now I'm excited to participate in the marriage of his son.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Wedding

Congratulations to Marc Andrew and Randi Wynne; they were joined in marriage on Saturday May 19, 2007 on the floating bridge at Riverfront Park. I had the privilege of attending the wedding as a guest, and as it turns out, I got to perform the ceremony. We certainly didn't plan it that way, but if you read the following entry, you'll see why. We had absolutely zero time to prepare, but the ceremony turned out beautifully. It is a happy day I will long remember with fondness.

The Minister

Nearly 30 minutes late, with hundreds of guests already waiting, the judge was no where to be found. The wedding party was on the verge of panic, wondering how the ceremony would proceed without an officiant. At that point, I raised my and meekly said, "I can marry them."

Everyone stopped and just stared at me for a moment, when my aunt broke the silence, "Are you an ordained minister?"


No one waited for an explanation. They simply breathed a collective sigh of relief and refocused their energy into getting the bridesmaids lined up.

I went ahead and told the groom where to stand. He looked back at me nervously and said, "Where's the judge?"

"He's not here," I said, "I'll be performing the ceremony."

He got a momentary look of panic and said nervously, "Have you done this before?"

"Don't worry," I said, "I've done this a few times."

At that point, the bridesmaids and the groomsmen appeared at the top of the stairs and began their march toward the front of the stage. There was no more time for questions or objections.

I arrived a guest, and by the end of the ceremony, I had performed a public ministerial act in the presence of hundreds of witnesses. I hadn't wanted to go public with my ordination, but now half of Wellpinit knows. I'm just waiting for people to start asking how I became a minister. That's a story for another day.

By the River

I paid a visit this evening to my friend Stanton who teaches guitar at Holy Names Music Center. We visited only a minute in his office when he invited me for a hike through the rain along the Spokane River. He took me to a place where wild onions grow abundantly. The top photograph shows the purple onion flowers against the pink setting sun. The second photography shows the Spokane River under the rain and mist.


Did I mention I like the color green? Well, I like green when it represents living things like grass or trees. This is a shot of Esmerelda Golf Course in northeast Spokane. I subbed this morning for a fellow teacher just across the way.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lilac Parade

My family attended the annual Lilac Parade for the first time ever. I was a little hesitant at first, but after only a few minutes amid the festive atmosphere, I remembered how much I love parades. I mean, how often can I tell my kids to go play in the street and it's all okay? We had a blast and will likely attend next year.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I had an interesting conversation this morning about life. A friend was telling me about a void he often feels, like a hole in his heart. He said he used to drink and party so people would accept him, but he realized that wasn't the way.

As I looked across at him, he seemed so young and earnest, as though I might suddenly tell him the secret to life. Unfortunately, I could only say I often feel the same, and like him, I know partying is not the answer.

I felt myself floundering for a moment, like perhaps I had disappointed him for not saying something more inspired. How had I allowed myself to forget my own values and beliefs? Yes, I often feel something missing, but then I remember simple things like gratitude. Just the other day, I remember digging roots and feeling overcome with emotion. For one brief second, I felt deeply connected to my father and his fathers, and all our grandmothers and grandfathers. For one brief second, I saw one small piece of all that's real and I stood with wonder and awe.

Life is beautiful and all the world a Garden of Eden. Somehow we've forgotten, and so we live daily with suffering.

As I heard myself speaking these words, I am so thankful for the opportunity to remember my own wisdom and to choose something brighter than despair.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Heaven on Earth

I took a morning run with a friend down by the Little Spokane River, behind the Bozarth Retreat. He was duly impressed with all the natural beauty and called it a "Heaven on Earth." I have to say I agree, which might explain why I go back there again and again.

Monday, May 14, 2007


The roots may be bitter, but the flowers are quite sweet. I returned this morning to show a friend the location of some local bitterroot and saw the hillside abloom with pink flowers. This photograph captures something of the beauty we saw.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Mom gets the place of honor on the daily blogosphere. She joined us for a special Mother's Day dinner in our home. She even agreed to pose for this photograph, which is somewhat unusual. Lot's o' love to you mom!


My sister Michelle, (or affectionately, 'Chelle Belle), visited our home for Mother's Day and prepared her famous spinach dip. This photograph shows her standing in our front yard. Aaron and Dakota are standing in the background. I really like this picture of her.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Jeanie Garvey gets the place of honor on my blog tonight. We celebrated her birthday at a little place called The Shop, near 9th and Perry. We had a great time visiting with a relatively new circle of friends connected to the Garvey clan. I only wish we could have stayed longer, but we had to hurry home and tuck the kids into bed.


This afternoon, I saw five biplanes flying in V formation over downtown Spokane. That's gotta be a good sign of something, right?


Rhonda and I had a few minutes alone this afternoon without children, so we stopped in at Far West Billiards and shot a few rounds of pool. Neither one of us is very good, but enjoy the friendly banter between shots. I'm sure Rhonda would want me to tell you she won at least once, which is a big deal for her. We had a great time.

Glass Alley

Here's a strange little bit of Spokane culture. This photograph shows an alleyway near the Old Spaghetti Factory. It doesn't look anything but ordinary, but my son Anthony tells me it is a well known gathering place for kids on the street. In fact, he was at some kind of party at Glass Alley the last time he was arrested. Some other time, he got into a fight there, complete with spectators and people taking bets. Well, I made up the part about taking bets, but it's probably not far from the truth.

Early Celebration

We celebrated Dakota's 12th birthday a few days early at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Dinner was great, as always, and Dakota became the luckiest kid alive when his grandma gave him plane tickets to Missouri. The two of them will visit relatives in Arkansas and watch Mike and the kids perform in the Nauvoo Pageant.


I took my wife and children to dig brown camas. At first, the kids only wanted to play, but I was delightfully surprised when Whitney decided to try digging a few roots. She actually did better than Rhonda and got somewhat excited by her success. Not much later, McKenna joined her mother and sister, and then Dakota joined me. Before long, digging became a game between the boys team and the girls team. It became a friendly competition where everyone cheered if someone found a big root. The whole time I felt deeply happy and blessed to have my wife and children by my side for this important cultural activity.

In the photograph, Rhonda and the kids are walking back to the car after digging brown camas.


When we dug roots today, we found a hilltop literally covered with bitterroot in bloom. The whole hill looked alive with pink flowers. It really is amazing how these flowers grow in the most inhospitable terrain, tucked among rocky basalt crags with hardly any soil. They seem so delicate and yet they thrive in the most barren places.

Indigenous Education

Digging roots with my children provides an important piece of indigenous education. They learned to identify several traditional food plants and learned stories from our ancestors. I'm proud to share this heritage with them.

Burned Memories

I drove to Wellpinit yesterday afternoon and saw a column of smoke rising behind the clinic. Turns out the old quadplex senior housing was destroyed in a controlled burn.

Before going home, I stopped to see the fire; the walls were completely gone, and only a few small flames and smoldering ashes remained.

The ruins of that old house brought back a poignant memory. The first time I returned to Wellpinit after my parents divorce, I was about 8 years old. My yaya Messie lived in one of those houses and my father brought me there before anywhere else. I opened the screen door and saw my yaya standing in the kitchen with her back toward me. She had long black hair mixed with gray that she kept in a loose pony tail down her back.

I didn't say anything, but the sound of the screen door slamming shut made her turn and look. When she saw me standing in her kitchen, she pulled one hand to her mouth and drew in a quick breath. Then she dropped her work and threw her arms around me in a tight embrace. I could feel her tears dripping onto my face as she rocked me back and forth like a baby. Through her sobs she repeated one simple word: "Yaaaaaya, yaaaaaya, yaaaaaya..." (grandson, grandson, grandson...)

As I watch the flames burning the last remains of her house, I remember that beautiful day and feel lucky to have been loved by my yaya.


The other day, I was driving to work when I saw one of my students running down the street. I stopped to see what he was doing so 'far from home' (I always assumed he lived near the school. "I'm running to school," he told me.

"But that's 5 miles away." I said in disbelief.

"Yeah," he said like it was no big deal to run five miles, and then five miles on the way home.

As it turns out, he runs everywhere and keep exceptionally fit. He inspired me to start running again. It's time to take better care of myself.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Andrew Rosell

Andrew Rosell was a student at Mount Spokane High School and recently died at the intersection of Nevada and Magnesium. He was hit by a recycling truck while crossing the street.

Mourners built a makeshift memorial on the southwest corner of the intersection. I was surprised to see the memorial on the news, especially since I pass that spot every day on my way to work and hadn't noticed.

I stopped at the memorial on my way home from work this evening and met Andrew's brothers Jesse and Dustin(?), along with several friends. We spoke briefly about the accident and their feelings of grief. I have intense empathy for these young people as they struggle to understand the tragedy and injustice of death. We only just met, but my prayers go out to the family of Andrew Rosell in this hour of darkness.


I love dogwood flowers!

I went for a walk this afternoon during my lunch break and found these dogwood flowers shining brilliantly in the sun. Of course, I had to stop and photograph them. I have no other story to tell about them. They're worthy of showing for their own sake.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mount Saint Michael

The facade of Mount Saint Michael's Convent and School.

A "Black Robe" priest conversing with a visitor.

My wife and I visited Mount Saint Michael to witness a health fair sponsored by the school children. The event was advertised at the college, and I had thought more of the community would be involved. However, when we arrived, we didn't see many people not directly connected to the school.

Even so, I enjoy visiting spiritual places. Ever since my mission to Guatemala in 1991-1993, I feel a certain fascination for monastic life. During my mission, I befriended a man who had taken temporal vows as a Catholic monk for 8 years before finally leaving the monastery. I only remember his first name: Fausto. He and I had many long discussions about theology and religious faith.

I had hoped to speak with one of the priests this afternoon, but he was engaged in another conversation. Perhaps we'll meet another day.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


A brief lightning storm passed over the Spokane area this evening, just after sunset. My children and I rushed to the summit of 5 Mile Prairie to attempt to capture the lightning on my digital camera. After more than a dozen photographs, only this one even came close to catching a hint of lightning. If you look on the left side of the picture toward the lower part of the clouds, you can see the smallest crackle of light. You may have to enlarge the image to actually see it. Just click anywhere on the picture. Nothing to celebrate, for sure, but I accept this as a challenge to get the perfect shot... someday.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Military Farewell

Adam Wiltse took a new turn this week when he enlisted in the United States Army. He surprised us all after returning so recently from a mission, and I'm sure he distressed his mother. He says he plans to eventually study medicine.

My family hosted a farewell reception for Adam this afternoon. He arrived a full two hours early, and the rest of his clan also arrived before the scheduled time. By 4:00, it seemed like more than a hundred people had literally invaded our home; grandparents, cousins, friends, etc.

We wish him well on his newest adventure.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


My cousin-niece Gabrielle had her birthday celebration this afternoon at the infamous Chuck E. Cheese. I would not generally want to subject myself to that suffering, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend a day with my extended family, especially the ones I haven't seen in a long time.

After all the noise and gross pizza we could stand, my daughter shocked us all when she walked up to the man in the mouse suit and asked me to take her picture. This is the same little girl who was so terrified of the mouse, she nearly assaulted him on more than one occasion. But here she is, conquering her fears. Beautiful.


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