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Remembering Errol Medicine

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From Tom Manley, President Emeritus of Antioch College

Very sadly, I write with news of the passing of Errol Medicine, a true friend of Antioch College and a beloved elder to many in our immediate and extended family.

Errol Medicine in Glen Helen gathering water and observing the mounds of the Lenape people. Photo courtesy of Dawn Knickerbocker.

Errol was a remarkable individual in so many ways: a teacher and healer, a father and former soldier, a servant-leader and advocate for peace. His life seemed to reflect every bit of the complex human experience that challenged but never defeated his spirit. Errol’s resolve to stand strongly through his words and acts of generosity, dignity and freedom, even when his physical body made actual standing too difficult.

A Lakota Native, Errol Medicine was introduced to the College by Antioch alumnus and former trustee, Matthew Morgan ’99 in November 2018. It was the height of the refugee and borderlands struggle precipitated by the Trump administration. Errol, his son Clayton, DuWayne Redwater and Wiyaka Eagleman joined a group of Indigenous peoples, Water Protectors, activists and allies invited to the College for dialogue on contemporary issues. The ensuing gathering was animated and inspiring, to say the least.

Through this encounter and others, Errol fell in love with Antioch and befriended, and was befriended by, many members of the College and local community. The following spring, he returned to campus for nearly a month to lead a series of ceremonies, including the Wiping of the Tear, Hunka and Wopila ceremonies.

These moving rituals and his charismatic presence opened minds and hearts to the power of generous community and helped the College develop a more respectful attitude to its occupation of native land and begin fledgling steps toward meaningful acts of acknowledgement and justice. Errol’s perspective was but one of a number of voices and stories offered in guidance. It should be noted he played a key role in the redesign of important aspects of our own Commencement ceremony in order to pay proper respect to the land.

As I thought about Errol yesterday, two things came to mind. First, his capacity to demonstrate compassion and wisdom was not despite his personal suffering but rather rose from his appreciation that shared burdens and blessings were of the same source material from which compassion, wisdom and sustaining love grow.

Second, his active grasp of something Mother Teressa had observed: “The most terrible disease we see is not leprosy or tuberculosis but the feeling of not belonging.” Errol used his powers and later life to address that terrible affliction by opening and reopening the circle of belonging wider and with kindness.

We will find a way to celebrate and give thanks for Errol Medicine’s life. For the moment, let me leave you with some of Errol’s own words:

“Sometimes it’s (not a) person but a way of life that makes us change. We see that it works for so many. Why not me? And you get the calling. You take it up. Now you see it so different…Your eyes and ears open for the first time for so many things. Take the path that he set you on and walk in faith and trust.”

Peace, justice and well-being for you all.

Header image: Water Protectors Panel at Antioch College during Earth Week in April 2019. The panel featured Errol Medicine, Dakota from Wakpala; DuWayne Redwater, Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Jheri Neri, Director, Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition; Guy Jones (not pictured), Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, founder of the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans; Corine Fairbanks, Oglala, Lakota, A.I.M. Ohio, W.A.R.N.; and Nina Bergland, Youth Climate Intervenors, via Skype. The panel was hosted by Dawn Knickerbocker Anishinaabe from White Earth Nation and Shane Creepingbear ’08, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.