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Nunnehi: A Tribe of “Spirit Travelers”

“I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am at that place within me, we are of the same tribe.– Chief Crazy Horse, 1877

Iusually write to a general audience, but this week I’m addressing a specific tribe of readers and travelers. In Native American folklore, and from my own Cherokee heritage, this tribe is called the “Nunnehi,” (pronounced “Nun-ney-hee”) or “travelers of spirit who can live anywhere.”

While the term “tribe” evokes images of dark-skinned natives, the genre of travelers I’m referring to cuts across all races, cultures, and geographies, much like a diverse cadre of ambassadors representing many nations. To further clarify, the word tribe (from Latin, “tribus”) means “a group of kindred souls who share a common character, conviction, or interest.”

While these “travelers of spirit” dwell within all races, they’ve been documented as living among both European settlers and Indians of the Americas, including the Cherokee, Hopi, Lakota, Inca, Yaqui, Maya, Aztec, Toltec, and Olmec; and to the East among the Sufis, Buddhists, Taoists, Cathars, Druids, Gnostics, Egyptians, and Aborigines. In each of these tribes and in many others around the world, these kindred souls are known to possess both ordinary and extraordinary characteristics. Ordinary as in being real people living down-to-earth lives, and extraordinary in that they travel within a much vaster universe of spiritual presence than everyday living requires.

So what does this unique tribe of spirit travelers have in common? While the color of their skin varies, their cultures, beliefs, and religious convictions differ, and their ages may be decades apart, they all share two common characteristics. First, they’re “wise life travelers,” and second, they possess “light within their eyes where the whole universe dwells.”

In terms of wise life travelers, what sets this tribe apart from most world travelers is that they are also “travelers within.” In other words, as compelling as exploring the outer world is, without also traversing to the depths of their own hearts and souls, such earthy destinations are unfulfilling.

In terms of light, while everyone possesses some degree of light within their eyes as Crazy Horse suggests, the illumination within the eyes of spirit travelers is of a universal order. Universal in that its candescence transcends the glow of life’s finite presence by offering a glimpse into the infinite light of the cosmos.

So, how does one know if they are a member of this unique tribe? Here are some defining characteristics to consider; if they spark your interest, I invite you to learn more, as this could very well be your long lost tribe.

-Regardless of where you may travel and no matter who or what you encounter along the way, you find yourself devoted to living from the light of compassion, understanding, and universal love. And while you may not always be in touch with it, or act upon it, you know it dwells within you, and you return to it over and over again for spiritual inspiration.

-You’ve faced death, annihilation, and meaninglessness, and as challenging as your life circumstances may be, the devastation leads you to a greater revelation. As a result, you do not seek perpetual peace, but rather return to it periodically as a reminder that while your form is susceptible to destruction, your essence is indestructible.

-You possess the ability to observe your own behaviors as if watching yourself from above. And curiously, while you feel somewhat distant from others, you are called to be with them and to share in the joys and challenges of everyday living and belonging.

-You are called from within to travel and to make a difference in the world, to be useful, to engage in and serve noble causes. And while you live your life fully, you know it is not yours alone to live; that it is a shared life with the whole of humanity.

So there you have it. I invite you to learn more about our newly forming tribe here in San Miguel de Allende and locations abroad. We have much to discuss, share, and accomplish together, so connect with us at Also feel free to share the link with other kindred souls.

Oh, and there is one more characteristic our tribe has in common . . . we’re not joiners, and we usually don’t partner well with others. I believe we must venture beyond this limitation if we are to realize Chief Crazy Horse’s visionary salute of “being of the same tribe.” Aho.

Val Jon Farris is an award-winning author and Huffington Post columnist. He is also a spiritual anthropologist and professor of Mayan philosophy. Val Jon hosts expeditions to sacred sites and conducts retreats for those interested in exploring the wonders of the outer world and the mysteries of the inner self. For more information, community blogs, and articles, visit


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