“Listen, for I speak but once….As I gaze across the waters of the shimmering Fox River, I see the smoke of thousands of teepees where I once saw only gentle prairies and lush forests abundant with game. Many moons ago my people were among the first voices to be heard in this land. We came to live in peace with nature. We hunted and fished. We married, bore children and died at our appointed time. The bones of my people mingle here with the earth. We loved this Valley. It was with great sadness that we had to leave our home. We were few, and the settlers were many. The spirits of my ancestors have never left this great Valley, and occasionally, you may glimpse our shadows or feel our presence as we tread silently along the shores of our beloved Fox River. Our final prayer as we left our land was that you would love this Valley as much as we loved it. We were one with the earth, sky and water. We were the Neshnabek, the “People” of the Valley.”
This inscription is on this statue, located in St. Charles, Illinois. It is called Ekwabet (“Watching over”) and it is a standing figure of a Pottawatomi Indian chief who is overlooking the Fox River flowing by next to him. He is holding a peace pipe in his proper left hand. He is looking into the wind which blows his hair back. He wears an animal skin cape and long pants. The plaque, with above inscription, rests below the statue and tells the story of this peaceful people, their love of this valley and how times change. The statue was designed by Guy J. Bellaver, at the time a St. Charles resident.
This statue and its poem have so many layers of meaning for me personally. It is where I stood in reflection, some 20 years ago, and asked if the energies of the Fox River Valley would welcome my settling here, after a lifestyle change and move from New York City. The energies opened their arms. I gratefully welcomed their embrace and moved in. It’s been a wonderful twenty years, filled with peace and opportunity, with growing a business, deepening my relationship with the peaceful nature spirits of the area, and mastering photographing these energies.
These same energies helped me know when my own time was coming to an end, and to peacefully move along. There is dignity in this very normal process of growth and change in a time-constrained physical realm. At this time in our country when we are struggling with societal changes, it seems appropriate to reflect on the dignity inherent in knowing when your time is over, and peacefully moving on.