~ Siggiez ~
There are many things I want to say; am not sure where to start. Our ancestors did not have a religion, they had a Way of
A Way that kept one constantly aware of the sacredness and oneness of all Life. They understood that all things
come from Creator, are one with Creator, that Creation and Creator are ONE.
One can say that Creator is Life, Love, Intelligence,
and since all are of Creator, all things have Life, Love, Intelligence - Spirit. All things, from the farthest Star, to the
smallest grain of Sand.
On arising in the morning, you faced the East, and thanked Creator for the new day and for
the warmth and light of "Father Sun"; you honored Father Sun for the job he was doing, as assigned by Creator, the
source of All.
You also honored the Spirit of the East, in charge of helping with new beginnings like the day, among
other things. You emerged from a circular structure (most traditions, not all) which also faced the East.
As you ate
your first meal of the day, you thanked Creator for Mother Earth who nurtured and sustained all that you had, from your food,
to your clothes, to your dwelling; and you thanked Mother Earth for her part in this Cycle of Life.
When the food had
been harvested, the workers had prayed, thanking Creator, Mother Earth, and the Spirits of the plants. A gift had been left
in return for this bounty.
If there was meat, the hunter had prayed that the animal who was to offer themselves for survival
and health of the family show itself, and the hunter asked before killing for permission to do so.
When you took any
thing for your use, Standing People (Trees) for lodgepoles, or watercraft, or tools, you first asked permission, and gave
a gift in return, as well as a prayer of thanks. Many tasks had rites, or ceremonies, as part of the task. These too were
ways of thanking the rest of Creation for their gifts to the Two-legged Family.
When making anything, be it a dreamcatcher,
a dress, a home, you continually asked for the guidance and assistance of the spirits of the materials and thanked Creator
for them. It was a given, that the spirits were part of Creator and Creator's messengers, and there to help. You need only
The whole Way of Life reminds me of the Catholic Saint I read about who offered everything she did to the Lord,
and thanked him, from scrubbing a floor to arranging flowers.
I think her name was Theresa, but am not sure. (A visitor
sent email confirming it was Ste. Theresa. Thank you.) That is the way our ancestors here on Turtle Island lived, is it not?
I believe that at one time Two-leggeds all around Mother Earth had this Knowledge and lived in closeness to All Our Relations,
thus with Creator. But by the time the Europeans came here to Turtle Island, they had lost this Knowledge and no longer lived
They did not even understand what Jesus taught, although they thought they did. So because they did not understand
that the Creation and Creator (God) are one, they thought we were "heathen".
But I think it is they who really
were. The Natives of Turtle Island had (have) a very advanced Philosophy and Spirituality, and lived it every hour of each
day (most did, there are always exceptions in all Creation); many still do. And Creator is Creator, the Great Mystery, whether
called God, Allah, Wakan Tanka, Dios, Dineh, or whatever. "A rose by any other name smells the same."
Native Religious Development
Because of the wide range of habitats in North America, different native religions evolved
to match the needs and lifestyles of the individual tribe.
Religious traditions of aboriginal peoples around the
world tend to be heavily influenced by their methods of acquiring food, whether by hunting wild animals or by agriculture.
Native American spirituality is no exception. Their rituals and belief show a blending of interest in promoting and preserving
their hunting and horticulture.
The arrival of Europeans marked a major change in Native society. Tens of millions
died due to sickness, and programs of slavery and extermination.2 Europeans and their missionaries looked upon Native Spirituality
as worthless superstition inspired by the Christian devil, Satan. Many of the survivors were forcibly converted to Christianity.
The US and Canadian governments instituted policies to force Natives onto reservations and to encourage them to become assimilated
into the majority culture. 3 During the middle decades of the 20th century, whole generations of children were kidnapped,
forcibly confined in residential schools, and abused physically, sexually and emotionally. In Canada, these schools were operated
on behalf of the Federal Government by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, United and Presbyterian churches. Both the government
and these religious institutions have been hit by a multi-billion dollar class-action lawsuit. Claims against the Anglican
Church are much greater than the Church's current assets. They may be forced into bankruptcy by legal costs.
spirituality was suppressed by the U.S. and Canadian governments. Spiritual leaders ran the risk of jail sentences of up to
30 years for simply practicing their rituals. This came to an end in the U.S. in 1978 when the Freedom of Religion Act was
Some suicidologists believe that the extremely high suicide rate among Natives is due to the suppression
of their religion and culture by the Federal Governments. This suppression is still seen in the prison administrations; Canadian
prisons have only recently allowed Native sweat lodge ceremonies; most American prisons routinely deny permission.
today follow many spiritual traditions:
Many Native families today have been devout Christians for generations.
Others, particularly in the Southwest have retained their aboriginal traditions more or less intact.
a personal faith that combines traditional and Christian elements.
Pan Indianism is a recent and growing movement which
encourages a return to traditional beliefs, and seeks to create a common Native religion.
The Native American Church
is a continuation of the ancient Peyote Religion which had used a cactus with psychedelic properties called peyote for about
10,000 years. Incorporated in 1918, its original aim was to promote Christian beliefs and values, and to use the peyote sacrament.
Although use of peyote is restricted to religious ritual which is protected by the US Constitution, and it is not harmful
or habit forming, and has a multi-millennia tradition, there has been considerable opposition from Christian groups, from
governments, and from within some tribes.
Deity: A common concept is that of a dual divinity: a Creator who is responsible for the creation of the world and is recognized
in religious ritual and prayers
a mythical individual, a hero or trickster, who teaches culture, proper behavior and
provides sustenance to the tribe.
There are also spirits which control the weather, spirits which interact with
humans, and others who inhabit the underworld. Simultaneously the Creator and the spirits may be perceived as a single spiritual
force, as in the unity called Wakan-Tanka by the Lakota and Dakota.
Creation: Individual tribes have differing
stories of Creation. One set of themes found in some tribes describes that in the beginning, the world was populated by many
people. Most were subsequently transformed into animals. Natives thus feel a close bond with animals because of their shared
human ancestry. Dogs are excluded from this relationship. This bond is shown in the frequent rituals in which animal behavior
is simulated. Each species has its master; for example, the deer have a master deer who is larger than all the others. The
master of humans is the Creator.
Emergence of the Tribe: This is a concept found extensively in the Southwest. The universe
is believed to consist of many dark, underground layers through which the humans had to climb. They emerged into the present
world through a small hole in the ground - the world's navel. Other tribes believe that their ancestors have been present
in North America as far back as there were humans.
Sacred Texts: Many tribes have complex forms of writing. Other tribes
have preserved their spiritual beliefs as an oral tradition.
Afterlife: In general, Native religions have no precise
belief about life after death. Some believe in reincarnation, with a person being reborn either as a human or animal after
death. Others believe that humans return as ghosts, or that people go to an other world. Others believe that nothing definitely
can be known about one's fate after this life. Combinations of belief are common.
Cosmology: Again, many tribes have
unique concepts of the world and its place in the universe. One theme found in some tribes understands the universe as being
composed of multiple layers. The natural world is a middle segment. These layers are thought to be linked by the World Tree,
which has its roots in the underground, has a trunk passing through the natural world, and has its top in the sky world.
Shamans: Although the term "Shaman" has its origins in Siberia, it is often used by anthropologists throughout
the world to refer to Aboriginal healers. Spirits may be encouraged to occupy the Shaman's body during public lodge ceremonies.
Drum beating and chanting aid this process. The spirits are then asked to depart and perform the needed acts. Other times,
Shamans enter into a trance and traverse the underworld or go great distances in this world to seek lost possessions or healing.
Vision Quest: Young boys before or at puberty are encouraged to enter into a period of fasting, meditation and physical
challenge. He separates himself from the tribe and go to a wilderness area. The goal is to receive a vision that will guide
his development for the rest of his life. They also seek to acquire a guardian spirit who will be close and supportive for
their lifetime. Girls are not usually eligible for such a quest.
Renewal Celebrations: The Sun Dance amongst the Plains
Natives is perceived as a replay of the original creation. Its name is a mistranslation of the Lakota sun gazing dance. Other
tribes use different names. It fulfilled many religious purposes: to give thanks to the Creator, to pray for the renewal of
the people and earth, to promote health, etc. It also gave an opportunity for people to socialize and renew friendships with
other groups. A sweat lodge purifies the participants and readies them for lengthy fasting and dancing. It was successfully
suppressed in most tribes by the Governments of the US and Canada. However, it survived elsewhere and is now being increasingly
Sweat Lodge: This is structure which generates hot moist air, similar to a Finnish sauna. It is used for
rituals of purification, for spiritual renewal and of healing, for education of the youth, etc. A sweat lodge may be a small
structure made of a frame of saplings, covered with skins, canvas or blanket. A depression is dug in the center into which
hot rocks are positioned. Water is thrown on the rocks to create steam. A small flap opening is used to regulate the temperature.
As many as a dozen people can be accommodated in some lodges.
Hunting ceremonies: these involve the ritual treatment
of a bear or other animal after its killing during a successful hunt. The goal is to appease its spirit and convince other
animals to be willing to be killed in the future.
Prophets: The Abramic Religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam)
trace their development through a series of patriarchs and prophets. Native religions do not have as many corresponding revered
persons in their background. Some Native prophets include Handsome Lake in the Iroquois Confederacy, Sweet Medicine of the
Cheyenne, and White Buffalo Woman of the Lakota & Dakota tribes.
Traditional housing: There were many variations
across North America: conical wigwams or tipis, long houses, and cliff dwellings. The shape of the structure often represents
a model of the cosmos.