Native American Elder, Dine
Tom Tso is a Dine warrior, a medicine man and a ceremonial leader.
He tells about himself: “I am Tom L Tso, a member of the great Navajo Nation of the USA. I was born on August 14, 1938 on the Navajo reservation on top of Black Masa in Arizona. My education started at the Navajo Gospel Mission boarding school from there I went to Phoenix Indian School in Phoenix Arizona. I went to Covington, Kentucky, to further my learning. After going to school I got a job in Chicago, Illinois. While working there I started night classes to learn about auto mechanics. After graduating I resigned from my job and joined the United States Army. I took my basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I took my advance training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. I was shipped off to South Korea for a year and transferred to Aberdeen proving grounds in Maryland. I went to Advance Mechanic school, jungle survival training. We were then sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington as a permanent station. After several months later we got shipped out to Vietnam and fought a war. After coming back to an unwelcomed United States of America with PTSD, I also worked for the Navajo Tribal Government for some years. Afterwards I was silversmithing, making jewelry for about four years. I was hired by Peabody Coal Company in Kayenta in Arizona as a 1st class mechanic. I worked on mining machines, loaders, haul trucks, drills and dozers during night hours. After several years I transferred to the Pittsburg, Midway Coal Company near Gallup, New Mexico. I belong to the United Mine workers of America. So I retired from the mine. During the years I was working for the mines I was also being trained to become a medicine man. So after I retired I started doing ceremonies for sick people. I was doing prayers, healing, and doctoring ceremonies. I also perform sweat lodge ceremonies and I am a Native American Church Road Man, also known as peyote priest. I’m also a Sun Dance Leader and have danced for forty years. Presently I’m the Sun Dance Chief for the Little Big Medicine Sundance at Lukachukai, Arizona. I started dancing at Big Mountain Survival Sundance in 1978. It has helped me with my PTSD and other illness from the war in Vietnam.
The Dine People (Navajo) we have a clan system that we use to greet each other and we are all interrelated with one another. As a Dine Warrior this is who I am.”
Three Native American Elders (Rupert Encinas, Tom Tso and Shirley Tso) will be present at the conference and share the spiritual ways of their ancestors. They will guide Sunrise ceremonies in the early mornings and Sweat Lodge ceremonies in the afternoons. During the days, Tipi at Lilleoru’s Flower of Life park will be their home. This year, Lilleoru invited them as special guests to support the conference in their beautiful humble ways of Prayer.
Welcome to greet the Sun and give the day a blessed start with Morning Prayer! This is a beautiful early morning ceremony guided by Native American spiritual leaders Rupert Encinas, Tom Tso and Shirley Tso from Arizona.
We believe that the Sun God is all powerful, for every spring he makes the trees to bud and the grass to grow. We see these things with our own eyes, and therefore know that all life comes from him. – anonymous, Blackfoot
In the morning as I wake up, I say, “Aho! Father, thank you for letting me sleep through the night and see another day. This is a start of another day. Today, whatever we do, be with us and guide us, watch us and protect us. Let us live through this day, helping each other.” – Thomas Yellowtail, Crow
Sweat Lodge Ceremony
The Sweat Lodge symbolizes a mother’s womb, or the Universe and is a place for cleansing, clearing the mind and healing for Native Americans. It is a sacred and safe space to look inside, to be close to Mother Earth and pray together. Sweat lodges have been there for First Nations throughout North America since time immemorial. It is shared with us by Rupert Encinas, Tom Tso and Shirley Tso from Arizona. We will hold it every evening.
“THE EARTH is our Mother. Our skin is the same as the soil from the Mother Earth, our blood flows as the rivers that flow from the mountains, and our voices are like thunder, The Great Spirit is inside each of us. We are all part of Creation.” Peterson Zah, former chairman and president of Navajo (Diné) Nation
“The tobacco was given to humans for prayer, nothing more”
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