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Chakotay during a vision quest

A vision quest was a Native American rite of passage and ritual used to establish contact with a spirit or force when one sought guidance and help, especially during difficult times. While a spiritual practice, it was underlain by science. (VOY: "Sacred Ground")

A vision quest tapped directly into the participant's frontal cortex. A deep meditative state was created similar to an altered state of consciousness in which one could look within and ask questions one might otherwise be afraid to ask. (VOY: "Mortal Coil", "The Fight")

Chakotay used a medicine bundle to embark on vision quests. Generally medicine bundles had to be comprised of items that define a person and ground them, thus allowing them to take the journey into the self. Chakotay's bundle contained a blackbird's wing, a CHAH-mooz-ee stone from the river, and an akoonah, a modern device used instead of psychotropic herbs to facilitate the vision quest and maintain the meditative state. The ritual was almost always commenced by speaking A-koo-chee-moya followed by a request to the spirits for guidance and clarity. (VOY: "The Cloud")

The Akoonah and the stone from the river

In 2370, Lakanta, a member of a Native American tribe on Dorvan V, told Wesley Crusher that he saw Wesley in one of his vision quests he held in the habak. Wesley himself embarked on a vision quest about his own life and saw his father, Jack Crusher, who told him to not follow in his footsteps by becoming a Starfleet officer and instead find his own path. This vision gave Wesley the clarity he needed to do what he felt was right and he resigned from the Academy. (TNG: "Journey's End")

In 2371 Chakotay told Kathryn Janeway about a Native American tradition in which an animal acted as a person's counselor and guided that person through life. Chakotay helped Janeway find her own animal guide by helping her embark on a vision quest. He mentioned that he had attempted to help B'Elanna Torres find her animal guide in a previous vision quest, but the experience had resulted in B'Elanna actually trying to kill her guide. (VOY: "The Cloud")

The medicine wheel was also used by Chakotay's people. When a person was sleeping or on a vision quest, it was said that he was walking the wheel, and the placement of each stone on the medicine wheel acted as a signpost to help point the way back home. (VOY: "Cathexis")

Chakotay performing the Pakra

In 2372, Janeway granted Chakotay the use of a shuttlecraft so that he could perform the Pakra, a solitary ritual commemorating the anniversary of his father's death. (VOY: "Initiations")

When in 2372 Seska told Chakotay that the life of his alleged son was in danger, Chakotay – torn between his duties as a Starfleet officer and the obligation to his child – sought the guidance of his father, Kolopak, by embarking on a vision quest. Kolopak spoke to Chakotay in his dreams and told him that he needs to embrace the child in his heart despite his mother's deception because the child knows nothing of deception and had no say in the circumstances of his origins. This convinced Chakotay to find his son and save him. (VOY: "Basics, Part I")

Chakotay holds the Akoonah used in vision quests to induce a lucid dream

When USS Voyager's crew began experiencing vivid nightmares containing mysterious aliens in 2374, Chakotay proposed that they use their dreams to make contact with the aliens. He suggested a technique called lucid dreaming in which the dreamer takes complete control of his or her dream. Chakotay used the same techniques he used during a vision quest to enter a lucid dream. Remembering a visual cue, such as Earth's moon, reminded him that he was dreaming and he woke himself up by tapping the back of his hand three times. (VOY: "Waking Moments")

When Neelix died during an away mission later that year and was revived by using Seven of Nine's nanoprobes, he found himself in a deep existential and spiritual crisis, as his death experience was not at all what he had been taught. Desperate for answers, he sought Chakotay's help, asking him to help him embark on a vision quest. Chakotay advised him that the vision quest was not a guarantee for answers and that it would take time to interpret the images. During his journey, Neelix saw his sister Alixia, who told him that all the stories he had heard of the afterlife and The Great Forest were lies and that there was no point to living. When he came to, Neelix was mortified, but Chakotay urged him to not jump into conclusions based on what he saw during his vision quest, as there exist many ways to interpret those images. (VOY: "Mortal Coil")

In 2375 Chakotay, while caught with the rest of the Voyager crew in "chaotic space" – an area where the laws of physics are in a constant state of flux – he had vivid hallucinations which prompted him to go on many vision quests to find the answers he was seeking. (VOY: "The Fight")

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