Monday, July 19, 2010

My experience with Harley SwiftDeer Reagan

Harley Reagan, also called SwiftDeer - he's a controversial guy.  If you've ever Googled him, you may have found some pretty derogatory stuff, along with the good stuff.  I've had the opportunity to work with him in several arenas over the last few years, and here's what I know.

He is undoubtedly an experienced and skilled martial artist.  I know this because I have been on the receiving end (in teaching moments) of some of his seemingly effortless but stunningly effective techniques.  I have also seen him work with high-level black belts from other disciplines, and have observed the respect they give him.  I can only imagine that the folks who doubt his skills have never visited him in his dojo.

The man loves to shoot.  The Deer Tribe Gun Club, which he founded, holds all-steel matches every month, and has been doing so since before 2000 (when I first learned about it).  Harley Reagan is an NRA training counselor, and runs NRA classes throughout the year.  That takes dedication, and to more than just shooting: to learning and passing on the art and science of safe and skilled gun handling.

His curiosity is boundless.  I don't know many people who read as much or as widely as he does (nor who encourage others to do so much as he does).  His knowledge base is really quite impressive.

He is extremely generous in private arenas, and often (though not always!) compassionate in a grandfatherly way.

His teachings in spirituality are both broad and deep, and useful in practical ways.  The body of knowledge and ceremony that is the Sweet Medicine SunDance Path (at least, the parts of it I've seen) is profound.

And, on top of all that, it is absolutely impossible to lose sight of the fact that SwiftDeer is human.  He's just a guy.  Anyone who forgets that (that is, who tries to see him as a "guru") is quickly reminded of his human-ness as soon as they spend a little time in his presence.  He can be cranky, obtuse, opinionated, stubborn, frustrating, and funny as hell.  And, like any teacher, you can't take everything he says at face value.  You are responsible for what you do with what he says.  But he, at least, is completely up-front about that.  Anyone who has heard him teach has almost certainly heard him say, "Don't believe anything I say.  Validate it for yourself."

That's something I appreciate in a teacher.


  1. Woman of the World, what you say is a good description of the Swiftdeer I have also been privileged to interact with over the last 9 years.

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  3. "Don't believe, validate it for yourself." I guess once you've validated it you will believe it. A true teacher wouldn't ask you to form beliefs by whatever means because beliefs stop questioning by giving answers. Better to choose a teacher who's not interested in what beliefs you acquire, only that you continue to question.

  4. I don't agree with your premise, Stiffmouse. In my experience, validating something doesn't mean that then I believe it and am done with it. It works out more like this: in the process of validating, I see many things that I don't know yet, and become curious about those. As I continue to explore, I see more and more that I want to know more and more about, including nuances of the original question. Thus, rather than closing doors, the validation process (i.e., learning for myself) opens them, and I become my own teacher. I like that.

  5. DTMMS. If one starts with a premise, a teaching, one in essence works out from it to test its validity. Out of a hundred one premise is offered and it works. The teaching and teacher are validated and one progresses. My problem is that teaching gives the confidence of knowing from a small amount of investigation around a predefined start point. It fills the north mind with pride and breeds a dependency on the teacher for more. I totally agree with you that it’s good “to want to know more about the nuances of the original question” but the original was offered, not as a question but as a teaching to validate. I would, in fact did, feel I was being guided along a pre-defined path. I balked at that. Don’t get me wrong, I found the medicine material useful, the people lovely, and the information given in good faith but it was too easily received as Rules and Laws. But we’re all different, I’m glad it works for you.

  6. I just heard that SwiftDeer died on September 10, 2013. I was a student of his and the DeerTribe for 8 years. The teachings changed my life and I continue to teach what I was taught. And, I have always started (and always will) each class by saying, "Never believe anything I tell you. I ask that you come to class with an open mind and if what you hear speaks to your heart, you are welcome to stay as long as you wish. If it doesn't go find something that does. But, never stop learning." Thanks ThunderStrikes

  7. I heard of Harely's passing too. It saddened me deeply. His influence in my life has never waned, even though the last time I saw him was probably the mid to late 80's. What I learned from him has been a benchmark by which to validate truth, and it has never failed me.

  8. Harley SwiftDeer Reagan was a Great Man, today great men are a rareity, it is most regretable that he has passed on.

    For me, his greatest input was the Assemblage Point knowledge and practice.

    His Assemblge Point work lives on in more medical & scientific terms, for example see:

    Please all accept my best regards, Jon Whale