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Issue 1

Welcome to the first issue of Spirit Path! I have decided to begin at the beginning. Sounds simple, yet it is really quite difficult! I am going to endeavor to explain American Indian Spirituality basics in order to provide you all with the foundation of everything that is to come.



There are hundreds of different American Indian cultures. Some are government-recognized Tribes, some are not. Each and every different group has it's own spiritual beliefs. Their origin beliefs are different, their ceremonies and rituals are different... it is like all the religions in the world! There is a difference between how the Catholics worship the Creator and how the Baptists worship, or the Buddhists, and yet they are all worshiping the same Creator. No difference here.  However, there are some fundamental similarities that are universal to virtually all American Indian cultures. These similarities are what I am going to do my best to outline here.



Indigenous people were here in North America for thousands of years before Lief Erikson or Columbus happened upon them. They had evolved into different cultures, and yet they all had a basic belief in a single Creator. The single biggest difference between their beliefs and the beliefs of the European invaders was that American Indian cultures have no concept of the idea of an organized 'religion'.

The very idea of an organized religion in which one must have a leader and go to a certain place in which to worship is an odd concept to us. American Indians almost universally believe that God, the Creator, is everywhere. He/She exists in every leaf, blade of grass, every animal and every rock on Mother Earth. Everything is made by the Creator, everything is sacred and worthy of respect and honor, and everything is alive. Humans are but one part of the grand scheme of the Creator, and must live in total harmony with all that there is. No one person is closer to the Creator than any other. To worship the Creator, one must only look around. Speaking to the Creator is the right of every person, without the intervention of any other person. You can not be closer to the Creator than when you are simply outside in nature.



No one can 'own' the Earth or anything on it. Since everything natural is the gift of the Creator, how can any one person claim to own it? Even personal possessions are only 'things', and are readily given away to anyone who is needy. It is a sort of 'we are all in this together, so we have to take care of each other' way of living. Now, I don't want to get into a big thing here about raiding, which was common, or warring, which happened. I am speaking only of the spiritual view of the indigenous peoples of North America here! {As an aside, when it came to making war, the man who was able to touch an opponent without injuring or killing him was much more admired than the warrior who killed. American Indians did NOT invent scalping! The French taught us that, as a way of proving the number of enemies that were killed while helping the French} The man who would not take care of his relations was considered lower than a dog. 

Now when the 'Black Robes' (priests) came and attempted to "convert the savages", their story of religion was so foreign to the natives that it was considered laughable. If you value all life, the idea of torturing and killing your God (the crucifixion) is bizarre! We never understood the principles of original sin, or the need to kill the Creator's son in order to absolve it. We believe that all life is sacred from the moment of birth. Many were converted eventually, but the resulting loss of our culture was a total devastation to us.

 

The idea that American Indians worship the Sun and Moon as Gods is incorrect. The entire idea of the so-called "pagan" worship of many Gods was invented by the Black Robes. It started as a result of our value and honor for all things. We believe in the Creator, and only ONE Creator. We also believe that all things were created by the one God, and are worthy of respect and honor. The Creator is known by different names by different cultures. I like the Lakhota Sioux name, WakanTonka, which literally means "The Sacred Mystery". It is from this name, which can also be translated to "The Great Mystery" that the name "Great Spirit" came from.



Today, there is still much discrimination against American Indian ceremonies, rituals and beliefs. American Indians are denied their religious rights in most prisons, for example. Sweat lodges, smudging and medicine bundles are not allowed to American Indian prisoners almost universally. Unscrupulous wannabies are claiming to be Medicine people, and are charging money to "teach" people spiritual ways, or for attending ceremonies. The public will attend ceremonies and take photos without asking, bring liquor, or just be disrespectful in general. It is a source of great pain to us.



In conclusion, American Indians are and have been extremely spiritual. Our Spirituality is a part of us, and cannot be separated from who we are. The traditonal American Indian spends every moment of every day striving to live in harmony and balance with the universe. It is not an easy task in this modern world.

To read this article on line, you can go to: http://spiritpath.freeservers.com

Next time I will discuss our Spiritual leaders, Medicine people, and why the term "Shaman" is meaningless.

All comments, good or bad, are welcomed. 

Two sites that you might want to take a look at concerning this subject are:

Native American Spirit about Native Spirituality

Commentary about people charging money for native spirituality

 

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