Native American Spirituality
Origins of Native Americans
A traditional Native American prayer:
"O Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I come before you, one of your children. I am small and weak. I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made, my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise, so that I may know the things you have taught my people, the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be superior to my brothers, but to be able to fight my greatest enemy: myself.
Make me ever ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes,
so that when life fades as a fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame."
A Native American prayer concerning the environment:
" Great Spirit,
give us hearts to understand;
Never to take from creation’s beauty more than we give;
Never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed;
Never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth’s beauty;
Never to take from her what we cannot use.
Give us hearts to understand
That to destroy earth’s music is to create confusion;
That to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty;
That to callously pollute her fragrance is to make a house of stench;
That as we care for her she will care for us.
We have forgotten who we are.
We have sought only our own security.
We have exploited simply for our own ends.
We have distorted our knowledge.
We have abused our power.
Great Spirit, whose dry lands thirst,
help us to find the way to refresh your lands.
Great Spirit, whose waters are choked with debris and pollution,
help us to find the way to cleanse your waters.
Great Spirit, whose beautiful earth grows ugly with misuse,
help us to find the way to restore beauty to your handiwork.
Great Spirit, whose creatures are being destroyed,
help us to find a way to replenish them.
Great Spirit, whose gifts to us are being lost
in selfishness and corruption,
help us to find the way to restore our humanity." 7
||"The culture, values and traditions of native people amount
to more than crafts and carvings. Their respect for the wisdom of
their elders, their concept of family responsibilities extending
beyond the nuclear family to embrace a whole village, their respect
for the environment, their willingness to share -- all of these values
persist within their own culture even though they have been under
unremitting pressure to abandon them." Mr. Justice Thomas
Berger, Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, (a.k.a the Berger Inquiry), Canada.
"Rather than going to church, I attend a sweat lodge; rather
than accepting bread and toast [sic] from the Holy Priest, I smoke a
ceremonial pipe to come into Communion with the Great Spirit; and
rather than kneeling with my hands placed together in prayer, I let
sweet grass be feathered over my entire being for spiritual cleansing
and allow the smoke to carry my prayers into the heavens. I am a
Mi'kmaq, and this is how we pray." Noah Augustine, from his
article "Grandfather was a knowing Christian," Toronto
Star, Toronto ON Canada, 2000-AUG-09.
"If you take [a copy of] the Christian Bible and put it out in the
wind and the rain, soon the paper on which the words are printed will
disintegrate and the words will be gone. Our bible IS the wind."
Statement by an anonymous Native American woman.
A quote from Native American Religions by Arlene Hirschfelder and Paulette Molin
(Facts on File, New York, 1992, ISBN 0-8160-2017-5) is instructive:
".....the North American public remains ignorant about Native
American religions. And this, despite the fact that hundreds of books and articles have
been published by anthropologists, religionists and others about native
beliefs......little of this scholarly literature has found its way into popular books
about Native American religion..." 1
Yet Natives culture and religion have great value. They have made many contributions to
North American society:
||An awareness of concern for the environment.
||Food staples such as corn, beans, squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
||The design of the kayak, toboggan and snowshoe.
||The original oral contraceptive.
||Cultivation of cotton.
||Over 200 drugs, derived from native remedies.
It is ironic that the wine that is the Christians' most sacred substance, used in the
Mass to represent the blood of their God, has caused such a trail of devastation within
Native populations. Meanwhile, the Natives' most sacred substance, tobacco, has caused major
health problems for so many Christians.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the population of American Indians and
Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race, was 4.5 million as of
2005-JUL-01. 2 According to the most recent Canadian census, in 1991, there were 1,002,945 Canadians with North
American Indian, Métis and/or Inuit ancestry. 10,840 Canadians are recorded as following an
aboriginal spiritual path; this value is believed to be greatly under-reported.
From where did Native Americans originate?
There are at least three conflicting beliefs about the origin of Native
Scientific beliefs: There had been, until recently, a consensus among scientists that perhaps
9200 BCE -- some 11,220 years ago:
- The Western Hemisphere was completely devoid of humans.
- Much of the world's water
was frozen in gigantic ice sheets. The ocean levels were much lower.
- The floor of the Bering Strait between Siberia and
Alaska was exposed, forming a land bridge between the two continents.
- Hunters from Siberia were able to walk to Alaska. They
might have turned
east to what is now central and eastern Canada, and then spread out through the Great Plains and into what is now the American
Southwest. Within a few thousand years, they had made it all the way to the tip
of South America.
Recent archaeological discoveries have convinced some scientists that people may
have first arrived at North and South America far earlier than about 9200 BCE "in many waves of migration and by a number of
Excavation of the Monte Verde site in Chile has shown that human habitation
existed there 12,800 years ago, more than a century before the first
evidence of habitation in North America and before a Siberian land bridge
would have opened up. The migrants may have navigated the open seas.
Alternately, they may taken smaller craft and hugged the coastline down what
is now Alaska, U.S.; British Columbia, Canada; and the western coast of the continental
U.S. to what is now South America3,4
The Heiltsuk Indigenous people on the Central Coast region of British Columbia have tribal stories about a small section of the coast of British Columbia. William Housty, a member of Heiltsuk Nation, said that his nation's:
"... oral history talks of a strip of land in that area .... It was a place that never froze during the ice age and it was a place where our ancestors flocked to for survival."
British Columbia archaeologists have excavated the site of an ancient settlement in this costal area, on Triquet Island, north of Vancouver Island. They have dated it to about 12000 BCE -- about 14,000 years ago. That was before the time of Roman Empire and the Egyptian pyramids. It was during the last ice age when glaciers covered much of North America.
Archeologist Alisha Gauvreau, a student at the University of Victoria, led a team who discovered artifacts including carved wooden tools, and a hearth containing charcoal flakes. She said that the site gives a new meaning to the First Nations' concept of "time immemorial." She said:
"When First Nations talk about time immemorial, it just goes to show how far back the occupation of this land goes ... in deep time."
William Housty said:
"This find is very important because it reaffirms a lot of the history that our people have been talking about for thousands of years." 8
Many Native people find the suggestion that their ancestors
migrated to North America only about 13,000 years ago to be
quite offensive. 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Arlene Hirschfelder and Paulette Molin, "Native American Religions,"
Facts on File, (1992). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com.
"American Indians By the Numbers," InfoPlease, at:
J.N. Wilford, "New answers to an old question: Who got here first?"
New York Times, 1999-NOV-9
T.D. Dillehay, "Monte Verde: A late Pleistocene settlement in
Chile: The archeological context and interpretation," Smithsonian
Institution Press, (1997). Read
reviews or order this book
This is not an inexpensive book!
Vine Deloria Jr., "Low Bridge, Everybody Cross," a chapter in
book: "Red Earth, White Lies,"
Vine Deloria, "Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of
Scientific Fact," Fulcrum Pub (1997). You can read
reviews and/or order this book savely from Amazon.com. New copies are expensive. Amazon also links to sources of used books.
Unknown author. Copied from the First People web site at: http://www.firstpeople.us/
Roshhini Nair, "Archeological find affirms Heiltsuk Nation's oral history," CBC/Radio Canada, 2017-MAR-30, at: https://www.cbc.ca/
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Latest update: 2018-JUL-21
Author: B.A. Robinson