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The event that shaped Cindi Quay’s life may be the one that took place at a pow wow in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, in late August 2003. Amid the teepees and lodges, she danced in the rain with an Ojibwe man. And she received her Native American name from a medicine man named Keishko.

Prior to the pow wow, she simply thought of herself as Cindi, the name people used for her as she grew up in Wisconsin and in Denver, North Carolina, where her father’s company sent him in 1994. 

But here she was at the pow wow, thinking that if she brought Keishko some tobacco, he might have a vision and endow her with a traditional name.     

 "The guy I was dating at the time,” said Quay, “had asked me to make him a new yellow ribbon shirt for the occasion. And I made myself a warrior dress of indigo - warrior signifying I was called upon to protect my people and walk in truth. Dancing in the circle in the rain, I could feel my feet pressed to Mother Earth, with the thunder touching our vibrations, while praying for any of the people who needed it.  

"As we came out of the circle, the sun came up and Keishko accepted the invitation to be at our campfire that night. Then I suddenly realized I was blue underneath from the rain washing the indigo dye all the way down to my feet into my moccasins. At the campfire Keishko said, ‘I had a vision about you coming. When I saw you dancing in the rain I knew there was a name for you. You are Waaskay Beneshee Quay. Blue Bird Woman.'”

Blue birds, he said, are very rare, and they bring either lots of happiness or great sadness, he said. Quay resolved to find the middle way.  

Known as "Blue Bird" around Black Mountain by those who know her well, she had to work hard, she said. She had to learn how to survive while raising two children with no child support. To find happiness - and the middle way - she prayed every morning outside her home to the Great Spirit, giving thanks for the beauty each day holds.

She always loved camping in the Blue Ridge, and that's how she ended up moving to Black Mountain. In her tent during one camping trip, she had a dream about deciding among three feathers. She chose the middle one, plucked beneath the wing of a hawk flying high, seeking its home.  

In the late 1990s she went to a big gathering in Mars Hill where she met a woman from Black Mountain who did ceremonial healing. Later, Quay in another vision saw herself in her mother’s womb - in these particular mountains. She learned that her parents had their honeymoon here and that her pregnant mother couldn’t travel on after becoming ill.

Seeing herself in her mother's womb, "I also didn’t want to leave (Black Mountain), didn’t want to travel on," she said. "I belonged, even though I was later born in Wisconsin. I was home here."

Quay created a thriving mail order business called Cindi’s Sacred Garden (cindissacredgarden.com) that sells all manner of traditional Native American healing herbs that she’s cultivated. Among her products are tinctures like mullein root to treat spinal problems, fresh milky oats to treat neuropathy and Arnica Montana deep tissue salve for arthritis pain and sprains. And so forth.

She can often be seen on Saturday mornings behind her booth at the Black Mountain Tailgate Market behind the First Baptist Church.     

Call of the Valley is writer Shelly Frome’s periodic feature about what draws people to the Swannanoa Valley.

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