Native American Spirituality

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Native American Spirituality

The purpose of this essay is to present the spiritual world of the Native Americans, which is one of the oldest forms of Spirituality that exists on earth. The main reason why I have chosen this topic is because I want to find out more information about their spiritual dimension and perhaps to understand better the main differences between our religion and theirs. In order to better observe this aspect, I will be analyzing the religious beliefs of three Native American tribes, such as: The Iroquois, the Apache and the Dakota tribes.

To start with, I consider it relevant to mention that the Native American religions centers on a collection of beliefs, which vary from tribe to tribe. However, almost all tribes practice a modified monotheism , which is the belief in the Great Spirit. They also have an animistic belief in individual spirits residing in animals and forces of nature, but none of these is higher than the Great Spirit (Hirschfelder & Molin, 1992). 

In other words, this means that Native American spirituality is nature-based, since it is so closely connected with the earth. As I have previously mentioned, many Native Americans believe in The Great Spirit, who is “the high deity amongst all of the spirits” (Hirschfelder & Molin, 1992). Since ancient times, the Native Americans have believed in a Supreme Being whom they called "father" and they believe this entity is either a man or an animal, especially a wolf, which has human thoughts and is even able to talk (Panther-Yates, n.d).

In order to control the forces of the spiritual world , the Native Americans used ceremonial practices, since these were considered to “renewed the bond between human beings and the spirit world” (Irwin, 2000). I will later on mention about these ceremonies and the person who is entitled to contact the spirits.

In order to have a better understanding of their beliefs I have inserted here one fragment of the spiritual speech held by Charley Elkhair, one of the Native American indian: “We are thankful to the East because everyone feels good in the morning when they awake, and sees the bright light coming from the East; and when the Sun goes down in the West we feel good and glad we are well; then we are thankful to the West. And we are thankful to the North, because when the cold winds come we are glad to have lived to see the leaves fall again; and to the South, for when the south wind blows and everything is coming up in the spring, we are glad to live to see the grass growing and everything green again. We thank the Thunders, for they are the manitous that bring the rain, which the Creator has given them power to rule over. And we thank our mother, the Earth, whom we claim as mother because the Earth carries us and everything we need.” (Elkhair in M. R. Harrington, 1921).

When researching for this essay I came across a very interesting comparison belonging to professor Harrington, who states that: “ The juxtaposition of a personal creator God and anthropomorphic animals derived from mythology is no more inappropriate, however, than the behavior of Christians at Christmas time who set out a creche depicting the birth of Jesus next to a Christmas tree derived from an ancient pagan festival” ( Harrington, 1921). Another interesting element about at the Native American religions is the fact that they are basically free of any priesthood. However, there are still people who have a special connection to the spiritual world, called shamans: “Shamans are spiritually gifted people who through a variety of means have acquired the ability to help others through trance and dream journeying” (Irwin, 2000). Moreover, it is quite strange that the white anthropologists have often used the name "medicine man" (even though many were women) to indicate a mixture of shamanic and priestly capacities (Irwin, 2000). Shamanic trances can be induced through a...
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