Indigenous Religions

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Indigenous Religions of the World

What is an ‘indigenous’ religion or belief system? When we hear the term ‘indigenous religion’, what comes to our minds? How do we react internally when those words are mentioned? How do adherents of indigenous religions feel about those outside of their social and cultural circles, who know very little of their beliefs and who understand them even less. And how did the term ‘indigenous’ become associated with various belief systems that, in many cases, preceded most modern religions being practiced today?

The term ‘indigenous’ means originating or occurring naturally in a country, region, etc. Indigenous religions do not constitute a “world religion” in the same way as, Buddhism, Islam or Christianity does. Therefore, an indigenous religion would be loosely defined as a spiritual or religious belief system that originated or began in a certain geographic region, and was inherently native to its inhabitants. In exploring these various beliefs, Fisher points out that “Indigenous spirituality is a lifeway, a particular approach to all of life. It is NOT a separate experience, like meditating or going to church. Rather, it ideally pervades all moments.” (Fisher) Armed with that concept in mind, I will examine three major characteristics of indigenous religions, describe the historical relationship between dominant and indigenous religions, and take a look at the different issues between the two that are being faced as we enter the 21st century.

One major characteristic of an indigenous religion is the overall belief or viewpoint that practically EVERYTHING is spiritually connected, related or somehow dependent on one another. Many indigenous peoples view the circle as the perfect symbol of interconnectedness, as it is seen as having no end. It also symbolizes aspects of ones’ life: birth, youth, maturation and death. Some see it as foretelling of the cyclical nature of the universe and the seasons since...
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