Tony Mandan, an elder of the Three Affiliated Tribes, gave a blessing of the ground at the groundbreaking ceremony last week for the tribes' refinery project, west of Makoti on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
Tribes do traditional blessings but each tribe may do them slightly different, and it varies from person to person conducting the blessing and according to that person's spiritual revelation.
Pete Coffey Jr., compliance officer of the Three Affiliated Tribes' Historic Preservation Office, said, in his interpretation, blessings are usually offered for anything or any project that affects and/or benefits the people in general.
"My interpretation is that it is not the ground that is blessed because it's Mother Earth. She blesses us with life and sustains us, not the other way around. I would say the overall project that prayers are offered for so that things begin in a good way for something that will benefit all the people," he said.
During the blessing at the refinery site, Mandan asked the crowd to turn each direction north, south, east and west.
"In my interpretation, this is done to simply ensure everyone's prayers either go out to all four directions or praying to all four directions and everyone needed to be "in sync" figuratively speaking," Coffey said.
Those who give the blessings may use different "medicines," such as sage, cedar, sweetgrass or water. Some give the blessing without any "medicines," Coffey said. "Each does it according to their own spiritual path, he said.
Blessings often are done in the Native language and sometimes are interpreted in English for those who do not understand the language, Coffey said.
The tribal Historic Preservation Office headquarters are located west of New Town, with a satellite office in Parshall.