She would say, “Breathmaker has given you another day on earth. Be thankful and say Sho-naa-bish (thank you) as you wash your face.”
As time went on, I fell into the habit. To this day I say my morning thank you prayer and also a prayer before I sleep. When I build a house for my family, I make sure the bathroom sinks are in such a manner that I face toward the East. When I wash my face or brush my teeth or comb my hair, I am already in position to say my morning prayer.
Another habit I have maintained throughout all these years is I go to sleep with my head toward the East. Again, all the beds in my house are such that you must lie down with your head toward the East.
The old ones believed that when you cross over (die), your soul heads west toward the sunset or darkness, eventually getting onto the Milky Way and enter life eternal.
When you sleep, it is believed that your soul wanders away from your body and mingles with other souls. If you lie with your head to the East, your position repels souls from being near you. If you lie with your head to the West you will attract souls to come to you and influence your soul to go with them on their journey to other souls.
This will cause you to be without a soul in your body. You will be soulless with no direction, confused and make those around you miserable. So to prevent this, you simply lie with your head toward the East.
This is the reason when we bury loved ones we lay them with their heads to the West. There is more, but this is all I will say today.
James E. Billie is Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the first place winner of the 2015 Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) editorial writing award.