Day 15: Dreams From Our Ancestors

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}




Midnight Memories

When the grandmothers speak, the world will begin to heal. —Hopi Proverb

One night this last summer, I had a vivid dream about my Grandma Downing’s house, the one in Ringling, Oklahoma, with a lot of farmland behind it and a shed next door where my Granddad had his own space. I dreamt about the big trees that my brother and sister climbed, about the attic and the back porch where we ran around with my Uncle Michael and Uncle Damon.

I haven’t seen that house since childhood, and the bits of memories I have are wrapped up in my own heart and family photos and stories of how we played there. But I can still smell the biscuits and bacon and fried eggs, and I can still remember the way Grandma told me not to sing at the table with a stern but loving glimmer in her eye.

I dreamt that a friend of ours bought the house and remodeled it, repurposed it to fit their lifestyle today. They busted out walls and opened wide spaces wider. They invited me to see the newly remodeled space, and when I entered, I walked through the house and wept.

I wept for my father’s mother, a woman that I couldn’t see anymore, a woman I hadn’t seen for years before she died when I was in high school. I wept because I missed her presence, her spirit, which I felt close to as a toddler when I’d run through her yard and kitchen and play with the long strands of pearls that were hanging on her vanity mirror.

I wept because I knew that in reality the house burned down when I was in college and isn’t there anymore. In reality, another house lives there and the memories of my Grandma and Granddad are buried in the dirt where the groundhogs live in the pasture.

I woke from the dream with tears in my eyes, and I couldn’t let go of the memories. I spent the morning recalling, looking through that old house with my mind’s eye, seeing the back porch full of wasp’s nests and old furniture; the kitchen TV that played Wheel of Fortune religiously every evening; the side room with the giant freezer and an extra refrigerator to feed the whole family when they came to visit; the door that opened to the attic stairs, all the way up to that stuffy room where my siblings and cousins played school and read books and pretended to be ghosts; the front porch where the aloe plant stood in the corner and old china dishes sat in a hutch.

Something about that place is embedded in who I am, from the tarantula who crawled across the back of my foot to the plants and kittens we played with in the backyard.

Something from that place still invades my senses every now and then, still reminds me that she is there helping shape me all these years later. Her voice still brings me back to all of my ancestors, to indigenous roots that claim me, even today.

That house comes back to see me in a dream, and in her transformation I remember that I am being constantly re-created and molded and formed, constantly sent back to find who I am after all these years, and where she will take me later in life.


Dreams are the funniest things, and

when we ask for them,

you don’t always answer

in the way we’d hope.

Sometimes you answer

in odd and surprising ways,

sometimes calling us back

to something that has

long been forgotten.

And the remembering

can be painful

and hard

and we may not

be willing.

But there

in the quiet of sleep

we find that your presence

leads us into and out of ourselves,

back and forth across thresholds

that we cannot control.

And as we process ourselves,

our life stories, we are thankful that

you cherish them and ask us to recall

key moments, to learn to cherish

our own lives in our own way.

Thank you for that.





This story is from my recently released book, Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places. This is what dreams mean for us, to indigenous peoples as messages and encouragements from the Creator and from our ancestors. They speak to us, help us move forward, remind us of who we are. Without dreams, we miss so much of a world that is longing for us to know it and to know ourselves.


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