On August 5, a peyote prayer ceremony will take place to honor the one-year anniversary of the death of Whaakadup Monger at age 63.
Since I’m unable to attend, I wrote up some of my favorite memories of this remarkable man. With the permission of his wife Lisa Stakiyote Monger, I’m sharing them here both to honor Whaakadup and in the hope of inspiring others toward their own radical healing and compassionate work for others.
I first met Whaakadup at a Native American Church (NAC) peyote prayer ceremony (meeting) in Suquamish, Washington in 2003. It was the 3rd NAC meeting I had attended. Two memories stand out from that meeting.
In the morning, after the long night of praying with Grandfather Peyote, Whaakadup fired up a large barbecue and grilled salmon for everyone. I remember his big energy and booming baritone voice as he worked over the salmon and called out cheerfully to anyone within earshot, “Let go and let God.”
The other memory from that meeting: I realized right away at the first meeting I participated in that the prayer songs were going to be my way to connect with this beautiful medicine path. By that 3rd meeting I had learned a set of 4 songs. When the instruments came to me, Pete didn’t expect me to have already learned some songs, so he told me to bless myself with the instruments and pass them along.
I said I wanted to “try” a set. In his deep, gruff voice, Pete barked, “Don’t try, just do it!” For years after that, especially when he was running or sponsoring a meeting, Whaakadup would playfully tease me when the instruments got to me, saying, “Hey Steve, are you gonna try tonight?”
Another favorite memory of Whaakadup was at a meeting he was sponsoring. When called upon to speak, he talked about the sexual abuse of a young child close to him, maybe a grandchild. With deadpan delivery, he said, “I asked our wise elder Kanucas what I should do and he told me to pray for the man. But he didn’t tell me I couldn’t pray for him to be run over by a Mack Truck.”
Over a 12-year period, I attended a lot of meetings that Whaakadup was part of and a few he ran. I always appreciated his strong, no BS presence. You’re expected to stay sitting upright all night for 12 hours or more in these peyote prayer ceremonies. Whaakadup was sitting beside me for the night at one of those meetings. Deep into the night he turned and whispered in my ear, “The things I love the most hurt me the most.” I asked what he meant and he said, “I love this way of life and these meetings, but I’ve been in 13 car accidents and fallen off 3 roofs, and I’m hurtin’.”
One more sweet memory: One of the roles during those all-night meetings is that of cedarman. Whaakadup took that role numerous times. The cedarman sits near the roadman (ceremony leader). When there is movement in the tipi, such as when someone returns from outside, the cedarman reaches into a bag of dried, ground cedar and tosses some on the fire while reminding the returnees to bless themselves with the cedar smoke. Whaakadup was the most generous cedarman I ever encountered over those 12 years. He would often jump up, throw a big handful on the fire, and call out, “Cedar for everybody.” That simple gesture said a lot about who he was.
Whaakadup Monger was living testament to the power and potential of radical healing with the right kind of support, in this case the Native American Church and its sacramental peyote medicine, along with traditional Sweat Lodge and similar practices. He came through a really rough early life that included a stint in prison, to dedicate his life to helping others in need.
I have a long history with Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetans claim that the soul continues to develop through successive incarnations. If the Tibetans (and many others) are right, I’m pretty sure the spiritual growth Whaakadup experienced in this lifetime and the compassionate work he did for others will result in a fortunate rebirth so that he can carry on being a blessing to the world.
“It’s better to speak with less Thunder in your mouth and more lightning in your fist. In other words, don’t talk about it, be about it! Say what you mean and mean what you say or don’t say it at all, cuz words don’t impress, the world is full of Betty Crockers, Big Talkers.” – Whaakadup Monger.