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Healing planet Earth

Down on the banks of Wolf Creek, sounds of the busy freeway and downtown Grass Valley melt into the rushing water.

Sitting on the gnarled roots of a white alder tree, Bill Jacobson closed his eyes and began to sing.

“I was asking the creator to show me the way,” Jacobson said.



Jacobson has been a student of American Indian spirituality for two decades.

A regular participant of the Lakota Sioux Sun Dance ceremonies in recent years, he has devoted his energy to calling back the salmon to their traditional spawning grounds, including the Yuba River.




On Sunday, Jacobson will lead a prayer and ceremony at Castle Pass as part of the Sierra Nevada Deep Ecology Institute’s annual hike and prayers for the healing of the Earth in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Native American flute players from Loping Wolf Drum and Flute Circle of Lake of the Pines will provide music.

The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Sunday and will be followed by lunch and a hike across the meadow to the Pacific Crest Trail. Hikers will walk 11Ú2 miles along the Castle Pass ridge at an elevation of 7,000-7,800 feet above sea level.

“There’s something spiritual about being up high and having grand vistas,” said Marge Kaiser, executive director of the ecology institute. The group’s purpose is “to help us reconnect with nature,” Kaiser added.

Dancing for visions

In the 1980s, Jacobson first sat with Lakota Sioux elder Wallace Black Elk to hear his spiritual teachings in the eastern Sierra Nevada. Black Elk and a Karuk man named Walking Eagle taught Jacobson how to be a fire keeper for sweat lodges.

Jacobson, a technology coordinator for Transamerica Corp., learned songs and eventually the sacred Sun Dance.

For four days and four nights, dancers dance without food or water, Jacobson said. Eventually dancers pierce their flesh and attach themselves to a sacrificed cottonwood tree known as the tree of life. Exhaustion and pain lead to visions.

“We earn them the old-fashioned way. It’s a place where all beauty exists,” Jacobson said.

For people interested in this weekend’s hike and ceremony, carpools will depart from the Eric Rood Government Center in Nevada City at 9:30 a.m. Drivers are needed.

Suggested donations to cover the cost of gas is $5. Recommended donations for the ecology institute are $10. Wear good hiking shoes and pack a lunch, binoculars, sunscreen and a hat.

To drive directly, take Highway 20 to Highway 80, then to the Boreal exit. Turn left over the freeway and follow the frontage road about 1Ú4 mile to the gate. Meet Don Rivenes at the gate at 10:30 a.m. It is about a 20-minute walk to the ceremony.

“We’re really hoping that prayers will work and we can heal the planet,” Kaiser said.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.


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