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Nature is this man's classroom

From his rural home in South Wales, Algonquin Michael Bastine travels the Northeast sharing his Native American traditions, urging all to rediscover nature. His theme is respect, and it drives him to visit prisons, college campuses and local churches to teach about herbal medicine, earth cycles and mystical events.

>Are you a mystic?

I don't think so, but others do because of the unusual things they have witnessed or heard or experienced when I'm around. I think anyone is capable of that. I burn the sacred tobacco and offer it when I ask questions. Sometimes the response is immediate. Sometimes it's hours or a day or more.

>What is sacred tobacco?

A plant we grow. I was gifted with seeds. It doesn't grow for everybody. I have some in my pocket. It's green. It's the plant we use to talk to the creator, where all the information resides. We ask for guidance and assistance.

>You were raised in the Roman Catholic religion?

Yes, but it didn't resonate. I didn't enjoy being at church. It didn't give me anything. It seemed more oppressive, a down kind of way to facilitate a spiritual experience in life. And then I was introduced to Mad Bear.

>Was Mad Bear a medicine man?

Yes, but he would not accept the title even though he was someone who understood plant medicine, spiritual medicine, just about every element of life. Medicine people always use spiritual assistance with their healings. It's quite different from Western medicine.

>What's the last herb you used?

Milkweed. It's typically known for removing warts, or -- and this is what I've been experimenting with -- skin eruptions. I thought I would just use basswood, but when I put the milkweed on, you could feel it was doing something. Within days, it healed.

>Nature has taught you a lot.

I have learned from the elders or medicine people that if you want to learn every lesson of how you relate to life, it's right here. As human beings, we are more like the crow because we're social. We stay in groups. We keep our families together for years. The hawk does not.

>Are you a man of solitude?

Sometimes, probably more times than not, but you work with it. I like to be around people, but I also need a break. That's when I hang out with corn stalks.

>Do you think we should be flying to the moon?

We're not ready, not the way they're doing it. They're not ready. They can't even get along in their own neighborhood. We treat our homeland by divide and conquer. That's respectful? That's accepting and honoring of other life? And you think we can go to other places and bring this element with us. I don't think that is acceptable.

>Do you have a computer?

I have one at work that they force me to use, but it's not a good mix with my life. I struggle at it. It's not something I enjoy. People are so afraid of computers, that they would take away jobs. If they could only see how much more they are spending than if they would have kept that secretary.

>Globally, people are going green. You were the original green.

They're not even green yet. They just use the word. They don't know what it means. It's like describing to a blind person what the color green is. You know what green is? Stop interfering. If they stop interfering, it will return.

>What do you think about Halloween?

I was questioned about that some years ago at the Goodleberg Cemetery. When we are relating to those who have passed, there's a little phrase they put on the grave stone, "Rest in Peace," and that's what it means. It doesn't mean tours, and recreation around the cemetery. It means you have taken the responsibility from your ancestors, and you will protect the place they are buried and allow them to rest in peace. Halloween uses the spirit world to scare people. We don't like attaching fear to the spirit world. We can be spooky and scary without death, without being final.

e-mail: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com

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