An Interview with Dr. Allen “Chuck” Ross (Ehanamani)
Noted Native American Teacher, Author, and now an Actor!
by Brent Raynes
Dr. A.C. Ross was given the Dakota name Ehanamani (Walks Among) by his parents. Ehanamani was Dr. Ross’ patrilineal Great, Great Grandfather. He was a Santee spiritual leader who lived during the Minnesota cultural problems of 1862. He was converted to Christianity, but continued to practice Dakota ceremonialism because of spiritual parallels he found common in both religions.
The present Ehanamani (Dr. Ross) has worked 27 years in the field of education as a teacher, principal, superintendent, college professor and college department chairman. He has lectured on cultural understanding in 44 states of the U.S.; 6 provinces of Canada and 8 countries in Europe. Most recently Japan.
Dr. Ross’s books Mitakuye Oyasin, Ehanamani, and other fascinating materials are available from his website at: http://ehanamani.com.
You may also email Dr. Ross at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
His address and phone numbers are:
Publisher: WICONI WA STE (means “beautiful life” in Lakota)
Dr. A.C. Ross, P.O. Box 480005, Denver, CO 80248.
Tel. 1 (303) 238-3420.
Editor: Your first book was Mitakuye Oyasin, and it was really your spiritual quest, and it takes not only what you were finding out as a Native American, but your research, tied in with so many stories from all over the world, so many different connections. Your research even took you into reading about Carl Jung and his theories about the archetypes of the collective unconscious, in which you also saw a lot of connections with his ideas.
I know that somewhere I had read that someone had stated something to the effect, and I can’t remember where it was, and it might have been you, but anyway they stated that Jung would have made a good medicine man. I wondered what you thought of that?
Dr. Ross: Carl Jung came to America and he studied two groups of Native people in his quest for his psychology. He studied Taos Pueblo, and I believe the other group was the Micmac from Canada.
Editor: Right. He made a statement at one point that a comparable spirituality that used to exist in Egypt still existed among some of the Native Americans?
Dr. Ross: That’s true.
Editor: Interestingly, something that a lot of people don’t know, one of the last books that he wrote was on the UFO phenomenon. He was trying to understand it better. He was ahead of a lot of people in his thinking.
Dr. Ross: That’s right.
Editor: Anyway, I was wondering if in your own words you could tell what Mitakuye Oyasin is to you and how that quest came about for you?
Dr. Ross: It started when I was 17-years-old out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It was June of 1957. I had my first great vision in the Badlands. The northern part of the Reservation is made up of all the Badlands. I had gone to a rodeo and in those days they didn’t have electric lights at the rodeo and so when the sun went down the rodeo was over. So the sun went down and we headed home and we were driving through the Badlands, and in those days all of the roads were gravel. And they were pretty crooked and hilly and I came around the corner and there was a giant telephone post laying across the road. I slammed on my brakes and we bumped over this telephone pole but no sooner than I bumped over it that I realized that it was not a telephone pole. It was a snake, a giant snake, and the chills just went right up my spine and the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
My brother and two cousins were with me and I don’t think they’d seen it. I think that they were dozing off, and I started hollering and screaming and they said “What the heck is going on?” I said, “There’s a giant snake out there!” So they wanted to get out and go look for it. I said, “No, no, no!” I wouldn’t let them get out. We were driving around in the dark with the headlights on looking for it across the Badlands.
There was nothing there. So we left and never told anybody about it because we didn’t think that anybody would believe us.
Twenty years later, the same month, I went on my first vision quest under a medicine man named Dawson No Horse and I had my second great vision. We call vision quest Hanble ceya, to cry for a dream. You fast four days and four nights, no food, no water. On the third day is when I had this vision. There were three spirits that came to me, who came in front and then they flew around me and then stood in front of me. One in the center and two behind his shoulders. They had these hooded robes on and I couldn’t see their face, I couldn’t see their hands or their feet. All of a sudden, the one in the center started talking. It wasn’t a voice. It was a knowing. I guess that’s what they call telepathy. I knew what he was saying. So telepathically he told me that he was the spirit of communication and that he was there to help me with whatever I was going to do on the earth. And the one behind the right shoulder was the spirit of God’s presence. He said he would be with me and he would help me whenever I needed help, and he will be with me to bless me in my endeavors. Behind the left shoulder of the first spirit was a spirit of two parts. The spirit of the serpent and the spirit of the eagle.
The serpent had to do with communications with the Underworld. He said that whenever you need to communicate with the Underworld I am the one that will do that, that will help you. What he meant was, and I didn’t know it at the time, but I learned later that the Underworld is the same thing as the spirit world. Whenever I needed information from the spirit world he would bring it to me.
The second part was the eagle which is spirituality, so that I would be connected with spiritual endeavors. The eagle, in our ways, flies the highest and the closest to God. That’s why we use him as a symbol for spirituality. This vision happened in June of 1977.
Starting in 1962 is when my quest began. See later I learned that with that first vision of that giant serpent laying across the road that was what metaphysics calls kundalini. It was an opening of my chakras. It was an awakening of my psychic abilities so that I could receive information. And that started in 1962, when I was in Germany. That’s when the quest started. When I was in Germany I came across these German hobbyists who study Native Americans. They learn the language, they make old traditional outfits, they make them the old way, they learn how to dance and sing, and they have sweat lodges. Everything.
Later I visited one of their tepee villages. They allowed no electricity, no radio. Everything in the village had to be like it was 200 years ago. It just brought flashbacks of how we must have lived way, way back.
So my quest started in Germany in 1962 when I met these German hobbyists. I was in the Army Airborne and one of the Germans had asked our Company Commander if we could go to one of their meetings and so the Company Commander called us Indians down there, there were about three of us, and he said, “All right. You guys are going to go to this meeting.” “Do we have to?” one of us asked. “Yup, you have to go.” He made us put on our Class A uniforms and we went. We walked into this hall, they call them gymnasiums (with a pronounced accent…editor), and here these Germans were sitting around an Indian drum and they were singing Indian songs. Boy, I really took a step back. This one old man came up and said, “Where are you guys from?” I said, “Well, I’m from Pine Ridge, South Dakota.” “Oh, you’re a Sioux Indian” (again with an accent…editor). He said, “I’m studying about the Battle of Slim Buttes. What can you tell me about that battle?” I couldn’t tell him anything. I hadn’t even heard of any Battle of Slim Buttes. But I knew where Slim Buttes was because that’s where we used to go deer hunting.
Way, way later, when I started studying my own history, the Battle of Slim Buttes was fought way up in northern South Dakota not down south where we lived. But anyway it was a great awakening. The Germans were the ones that created this interest for me to start learning my own history. Because you see I went to Christian boarding school for Indian boys on the reservation and they never taught us anything about the old ways. They didn’t want us to speak our language, they cut our hair off, and then later I went to the Bureau of Indian Affairs high school and they never had any Native American history either. It was frowned upon to learn your own history, to participate in your own culture, Pow Wows, learn your own language. All of that was really frowned upon. Even condemned, and so as a result that’s how we grew up. We didn’t know a lot of things.
Editor: It wasn’t really until 1978 I don’t think that it was actually legal in the United States for sweat lodges and such.
Dr. Ross: We still had sweat lodges and we even had Sun Dances that were going on. I witnessed my first Sun Dance in 1950. Much later, I Sun Danced under Fools Crow and then Dawson No Horse and then Jimmy Dubray. I Sun Danced for 16 years, and then we started our own Sun Dance. I am now the leader (Chief) of our own Sun Dance, which is held in the Black Hills of South Dakota in July of every year.
Editor: So all of this was an awakening and then later on I know that you were doing a talk about the research that you were doing and at the time you didn’t have intentions of writing a book until someone suggested after one of your lectures that “Hey, this would make a great book. Are you going to put all of this into a book?” At the time you said no, but then later I think it began to stir in you and you began to think that maybe it would be a good idea.
Dr. Ross: Yes, that was important information that you’re talking about. I had started with a lecture series and it just kept growing with all of this information that I was learning, and that’s when that lady said, “You should put it in writing.” I said, “No, I’m not an author.” She said, “Too bad, because this is valuable information. A lot of people could benefit from it.” So with that she planted the seed. Still it wasn’t until much later that I went ahead and decided to write, but in the meantime I was participating in the Sun Dance, and Dawson No Horse said, “Chuck, you’re going to write a book.” I said, “No I’m not.” “Yes, you are,” he said. Then after Dawson died shortly afterwards, the medicine man who had taken his place said that he wanted the first copy.
Editor: The book was first published in 1989.
Dr. Ross: Yes, that’s when it was published, but see I finished writing it in 1987.
Editor: So the medicine man got the first copy then?
Dr. Ross: Yes.
Editor: The book Mitakuye Oyasin deals with Dakota/Lakota mythology regarding the Pleiades, stories of a great flood, how life emerged from red clay, and how all of these things, not only among Native Americans, but cultures all over the world have stories that are remarkably similar. And in rereading your book again I was fascinated to read about the creation myths of many different people and of how animals were created before man, how it often seems to follow that pattern, and then in the Cayce readings man was created from animal endocrine systems which I didn’t realize.
Dr. Ross: It was spirits using the endocrine system, molding man out of the animal, and it took three generations.
Editor: Native American myths and other cultures around the world talk about man emerging from clay and scientists are looking at clay as really being where life originated here on earth. So your book was really ahead of its time in a lot of ways. A lot of things are now being talked about more than they were back when you first presented these ideas.
I understand that you were in a movie with Eddie Murphy?
Dr. Ross: That was October, November this past fall. I had just gotten back from South Dakota, where I work during the summer months in the tourist industry. I work at Crazy Horse Mountain. I had just gotten back October 1st. I was dog tired. My cousin called me and she said, “We need you! We need you!” I said, “Who needs me?” “Eddie Murphy’s making a movie here and I know the agent that’s recruiting actors and she said that she needs an old Indian man with long white hair that can pray in his language.” I said, “Oh wow, well yeah that’s me but listen I just got back and I’m tired and I’m going to take a month off.” No, no, no,” she said. “Don’t do that. You’ve got to do this movie.”
So she talked to the agent. The agent calls me and said, “They’ll pay you $750.00 a day.” Oh well, maybe I’m not so tired after all. So we did the movie.
Editor: I read in an interview done by a newspaper in Lakewood, Colorado, that quoted you as saying that you were surprised at the accuracy and detail on a star blanket and such that they went into. That it was done respectfully.
Dr. Ross: Yes, I talked with the guy that was the head of props. He was the one who was told to get a star blanket and did all of the research.
They had about 20 trailers in their caravan and this was out in the country and they had created a reservation scene out in the country, here in Colorado. They had all of these big long white trailers, with Paramount Pictures written on the side, and I was coming down the road, and this prop man was there. They have make up trailers, the wardrobe trailers, trailers for extras, for the actors, main actors. They had their own kitchen, their own kitchen crew. It was like a little town on wheels.
Anyway I stopped by the prop trailer and just started visiting with him. He said, “By the way, I’m the one who had to find a star blanket.” Then he went running and brought it out and said, “Is this the proper (kind)?” I hated to say no, and after I listened to him I knew I couldn’t say no. See he got a star blanket and we use star quilts, and so it was basically the same, but all of the research that he had done on it really surprised me. Also when we went out to the reservation scene whoever set that up was familiar with what’s going on on the reservation.
Editor: What kind of a role was it that you played?
Dr. Ross: Medicine man. A spiritual leader called Red Bear. There were only three lines that I had. It took three days to shoot the three lines.
Editor: Well for $750.00 a day you’ve got to drag it out a little. (we laugh)
Dr. Ross: They came to me and asked me about a star blanket and so I talked to them. Everything was in Lakota. Then he asked me to pray over the star blanket, so I did, and then they said, “Cut, cut, cut! We’ve got to make that prayer shorter.” So we’d do it again and then they’d “Cut, cut, cut! We’ve got to make that prayer a little bit shorter.” Pretty soon after three days it was just an acknowledgement. It wasn’t really a traditional prayer. But it was all in Lakota. They didn’t know what I was saying.
Editor: Did you get to meet Eddie Murphy?
Dr. Ross: Well I didn’t get to shake his hand but I was on the same set with him.
Editor: There’s an experience in your book that I read that fascinated me years ago. It was in 1967 and you were on a Hopi reservation and you observed a Mother Kachina climbing up a ladder out of a kiva and she actually levitated.
Dr. Ross: Started to float.
Editor: I know that you didn’t stick around but I wondered how high up off the ground she went.
Dr. Ross: Just kind of levitating just a few feet above the ladder. You know, the ladder comes out of the kiva and it only sticks up 4 or 5 feet and then she levitated just a couple feet above that and I was gone. I was out of there.
When I graduated college I went down on the Navajo reservation and taught for five years and while I was down there I married a Hopi girl, so I visited the Hopi reservation every weekend. That’s how I got to know about the Hopis. And as you know, in my book, the main stories are Lakota stories, but they’re intertwined with the Hopi and the Navajo. Then those three are intertwined with other religious philosophies over the world.
Editor: Right, they all have so many interesting parallels. The Hopi, of course, described the same upper five energy centers as the Hindus and the Buddhists, which you pointed out in your book as well, and there’s always the Pleiadian aspect too.
My wife wanted me to tell you that in reading your book Mitakuye Oyasin that it influenced her years ago, to the point actually that she had a dream about it, where you wrote about walking the Red Path, where you look straight ahead and you don’t get distracted by the things on the left and the right, you get back to it later. She had a dream where she was actually doing that. There were things in her dream to her left and right that she didn’t want to look at so she just kept looking straight ahead.
Dr. Ross: In the dream that I had the Red Road was floating in the air and I was walking on that road, floating in the air. At that time I was having a hard time dealing with my alcoholism and on one side of this road was a bunch of teetotalers, my friends. They were teetotalers. They didn’t drink and they were calling me, “Come over here, Chuck! We don’t drink! We don’t mess with that booze.” I said, “No, I must stay on the Red Road.” Then I looked at the other side and there were a bunch of my friends and they all had a big party and they’re all tipping them up. “Come on, Chuck! We’ve got the wine and women over here. Come on, we’re going to have a good time!” I said, “No. I just want to stay on this Red Road.” And as I was going down the Red Road the temptations from both sides kept coming to me and finally I learned to say “later.” Not to say no but to say later.
Later I learned in the AA that in the alcohol counseling program they’ve got what they call “one day at a time” and it’s the same concept, and what they say is that when temptation comes to you, you don’t say yes and you don’t say no, you say later. You postpone it. You say, “Well I’m not going to drink today. I might drink tomorrow, but I’m not going to worry about tomorrow. I’m just going to worry about today.”
Editor: Yeah, just take it one day at a time.
Dr. Ross: Yes, that’s the same thing as the Red Road. You don’t say yes and you don’t say no, you just keep walking the road and when temptation comes you postpone it. Whatever it takes, you say later.
Editor: Were there any areas or aspects with the recent video, 2008 Predictions With Ehanamani, or anything that you wanted to specifically mention or touch upon? I know that there are so many areas it’s hard to address them all.
Dr. Ross: What we were trying to establish is unity, cooperation, brotherhood. All of those concepts will bring us together as one people. I didn’t realize it at the time that all of this was happening to me I was just reacting. It was like my life was already planned for me and I’m just here doing what they want me to do. See that all stems back to when I was a boy of five years old and I fell into a flooded river and drowned and my dad jumped on a horse and went riding down the river as fast as he could. He found me floating in the water. I had a big parka on so I didn’t sink, I was still floating. He pulled me out, and in those days they didn’t have CPR so he just held me upside down and was pumping me and he said all kinds of green water was coming out. I started crying and came back to life.
In the Indian way they say that if you die and then come back to life you’re going to be a special person. In the metaphysics, they say that if you die and come back to life you’re going to be a Walk-in. Walk-ins are special beings that return into the bodies and these people are leaders and they help us here on the earth.
Editor: Right. Many people who study near-death experiences say that after the experience that the people often have a new awareness. They develop psychically, and some of them also have perceptions of angels or communications with departed ones and such.
Dr. Ross: But see I was only five years old and I don’t remember much at all of that.
Editor: But it happened.
Dr. Ross: Yes. I’m not trying to say that I’m a special person. That’s not what I meant by telling that story. All I was saying is that all of these things through all of my life just happened to me as a result of certain things and I end up doing certain things.
Editor: Right. They often have a universal pattern. What happened to you has happened to other people too.
Dr. Ross: Like I said in my book, I tell these stories and I don’t ask anybody to believe me because you have your own mind and your own free will. Everybody has their own free will to do and say what they want. I’ll just tell you the story and if you want to believe it okay and if you don’t want to believe it then it’s okay. It’s what happened to me.
Editor: Well I believe it. I’ve heard these stories and read about them from so many places now that for me it all fits, and anyway I believe we’ve got a good interview here too!
Dr. Ross: I just want to say one more thing. When I was doing the research for the prophecies of 2008 for that presentation on the DVD, I was surprised to learn that in 2008 there’s going to be a big push for unity. There’s going to be somebody pushing for and establishing unity, and that will begin this year and it will gradually build up to where more and more people will start thinking that way and by 2012 that’s going to be paramount, the unity, cooperation, and brotherhood.
Editor: Now that’s according to the prophecies of Gordon-Michael Scallion?
Dr. Ross: Yes. Then I was surprised to hear that Obama when he’s talking is pushing unity.
Editor: And it’s a very Mitakuye Oyasin, “We are all related” concept.
Dr. Ross: Yes. The word itself, Mitakuye Oyasin, is a prayer word and literally it means “all my relations,” but spiritually it means “we are all related.” Everything. The four-legged, the winged ones, green things, all the living things in the water. Not only human beings but everything is connected and everything is related. It’s a word that we use at the end of our prayers. When we’re finished praying that’s what we say. Mitakuye Oyasin.
Editor: Well Dr. Ross, I sincerely appreciate all of this information and insight that you have shared with us. Thank you.
• The book, Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related) is in the 21st printing with over 100,000 copies sold. It won the top 50 New Books Award in 1992 at Frankfurt, Germany (the world’s largest book fair). It contains the real history of America based on the oral history of 33 different tribes.
• For more information, visit Dr. Ross’s website: http://ehanamani.com.