One night in the middle of February, I was hanging in the shop around 10:30pm, having a bit of food, when suddenly bright headlights lit up the storefront. Something was happening in the parking lot in front of the shop. Was it the cops? A moment later a middle-aged man with long, wild hair stuck his head up against the front window. Peering inside, he was gesturing for me to approach him…
Those who know Seaweed & Gravel know that the iconic image of the great Lakota Sioux warrior, chief, and spiritual leader, Sitting Bull, has been a part of our spirit and culture since the formation of the store and brand nearly ten years ago. We have always used Sitting Bull’s image with the greatest of respect and admiration, to show appreciation for the people who inhabited this land long before us, who lived a life deeply connected to nature and to the earth, which is something we here at Seaweed & Gravel, as lifelong surfers and ocean lovers, value immensely. To us, Sitting Bull also symbolizes non-materialistic values, ancient wisdom, and the value of aging and weathering, even tarnishing, which reflects in our love for all things vintage, especially motorcycles and clothing. In some ways, we have seen ourselves, as many of you undoubtedly have, as non-conformist outcasts from the modern world, although not sorrowful outcasts, but courageous, creative, bold, and perhaps even heroic ones. Again, harkening the strength and resolve of Sitting Bull and the great Sioux people. Over the years, our shop has been visited by Tribal Elders from San Diego County’s Native American Council and they have supported and sanctioned us in our use of Sitting Bull’s image, agreeing it was being used with the utmost of respect. Further, proceeds from Seaweed sales have been donated to the Navajo and Hopi covid-19 relief funds over these past couple years.
One night in the middle of February, I was hanging in the shop around 10:30pm, having a bit of food, when suddenly bright headlights lit up the storefront. Something was happening in the parking lot in front of the shop. Was it the cops? A moment later a middle-aged man with long, wild hair stuck his head up against the front window. Peering inside, he was gesturing for me to approach him. I walked up to the front of the store, presuming he was either drunk or needed help.
“What’s up man?” I questioned cautiously through the front window. “You alright?”
“Maaaan,” he called to me through the glass, “your Sitting Bull mural—it’s beautiful!”
I smiled. “Yeah, it’s really special.”
“I was just driving by,” he said, “and I spotted it from the road. I had to come see it.”
I opened the front door of the shop and walked outside into the unusually cold 45 degree San Diego air. Our eyes locked and he began telling me a story.
“Many years ago, I had a vision,” he said. “The vision opened up all of these memories and I saw that in a previous life I was a Sioux warrior, a Lakota. I fought alongside Sitting Bull in many battles. I saw so much death and suffering, it was terrible. During the massacre at Wounded Knee, although I survived, I was captured by the U.S. Cavalry. Men from the cavalry tortured me, and then I was hung. But before I died, I saw a great eagle feather in the sky above me. It was radiant, and I prayed to the Great Spirit to allow me to be reborn in the body of a white man so I could live freely upon the earth and not be hunted because of the color of my skin or my culture. I prayed that I could live again and worship mother earth and the Great Spirit in peace.”
I nodded, listening. I could relate. I have always felt a strong connection to the indigenous elders of this land, particularly Sitting Bull, Black Elk, and the great Sioux warriors and medicine men.
“Years later,” he continued, “I was doing some work on one of the reservations in the southwest when a tribal elder approached me. She greeted me as if she knew who I was. She had this big smile and she said to me, You come from the time when our ancestors prayed to be reborn in the bodies of white men so they could live in peace in the presence of the Great Mother. Of course I hadn’t told her anything about my vision, but she knew…”
I never did get this gentleman’s name during our brief encounter outside the shop on this February night. Nor did I find out where he was coming from or where he was going, but our meeting was impactful and the intensity of it still resounds. Perhaps I was there too, perhaps we knew each other back in those dramatically changing and challenging times of the late 1800s. I’ve thought of this fellow many times over the past month, and of course I cannot say whether his vision was imagination or truth, but two things were clear. One, his respect for Sitting Bull and the Native American people was very deep, and two, finding Seaweed & Gravel and our iconic mural on a dark winter’s night, served as a beacon of remembrance for him, guiding him back to himself, guiding him home.
Written By Ari Marsh