Lessons from the Wheel of Life

Photography by: Stephen Austin Welch
Lessons from the Wheel of Life
The book offers a year's worth of prayers, assuming readers recite one daily. "Usually after a year of doing this," says Yraceburu, "a person can form their own articulation with spirit, because they've felt the connection."

If the prayers sound a bit like self-help affirmations, it's only Yraceburu's background showing through. She came of age with the women's circles of the 1970s and the personal healing techniques of more recent years. Terms like "active listening," "inner child" and "personal truth" are as much a part of her vocabulary as references to spirit guides and other Quero concepts. "I want to present the stories of evolution as I was taught them, but I want to translate them into the language of now," she says. "Language evolves. This is something that has always been recognized in Native oratory. Language changes to encompass the energetic paradigm of the time."

bridging cultures and philosophies
Raised by Ten Bears, her paternal grandfather, on Arizona's White Mountain Apache reservation, Yraceburu seems uniquely suited to the job of updating the old ways. With Apache heritage from her father and European blood from her mother, Yraceburu believes that her status as a "half-breed" places her in a position of strength for carrying the message of the Quero to people of other races.

In many ways, she acts as a bridge--not just between cultures, but also between traditional earth-based philosophies and the more psychologically based healing approaches of contemporary times.

Having one foot on and one foot off the reservation, Yraceburu is like an emissary for her ancestors, reminding people in this age of chaos to reconnect with spirit and nature. Brooke Medicine Eagle, author of Buffalo Woman Comes Singing, has called Yraceburu's teachings "mystical poetry" and said that the erosion of the traditional connections between elders and youth is one of the reasons why "what Maria has received from her grandfather Ten Bears and her Quero Apache culture is so rich and valuable. It is rare and beautiful, and she has devoted her life to its development and sharing."

Yet many times when Maria Yraceburu speaks of Ten Bears, she doesn't seem like a harbinger of messages at all. Her face lights up into a broad smile, and she looks like a young girl who's the apple of her granddaddy's eye. Perhaps it is his warmth and compassion, as much as his wisdom, that she is destined to pass on to future generations.