Native American Healing And Spirituality Religion Essay Example
While reading the materials for class and researching native American Spirituality on my own time, one characteristic of this branch of beliefs has stuck out to me. The relationship that natives have with the Earth is a cornerstone in their belief system that allows them to have a deeper connection with what they revere as holy. It is with this reverence that they protect the Earth and integrate its teachings into their lives in a way that promotes the preservation of nature and its resources. When the natives respond to the call from mother earth they strive to live their lives harmoniously, as a single string in the complex and ever-changing tapestry that is nature on this Earth.
In native religion, they hold a reverence for the Earth, unlike modern western culture. In the Native American religion, they believe that we came from the Earth, and were put here by Mother Earth to preserve its beauty and resources, that is why they often refer to the Earth as “mother.” American Indian children were often taught about life's many lessons such as suffering and courage through stories. In contrast to many western stories, the main characters in native stories were often animals such as eagles, coyotes, and salmon. It was believed that through the integration of these lessons into your life you would become more interspersed in the tapestry of nature.
Sacred rituals were often used in native culture to mark the changing of seasons, reaching a milestone in life such as puberty, or to socialize with other tribes and honor the tradition of their culture. These Rituals are not always used for a singular purpose, for instance, a common tradition for native Americans is taking part in a sweat lodge. The sweat lodge is a healing practice that purifies your body and soul through the use of objects whose symbolic roots have dug deep in native culture. The small circular structure of the sweat lodge represents the womb of Mother Earth, the place where life originated in all its purity. Inside the womb, the steam making process honors Air, Fire, Water, and Earth: The rocks represent the body of mother Earth and the fire used when heating the rocks is representative of the light that shines on and gives life to the world.
Mother Earth comes up often in rituals, their spirituality emphasizes her importance not just in their lives but in the lives of all things that live on this planet. Native culture cannot be summed up by looking at only a few tribes seeing as their rituals and spiritual practices varied from tribe to tribe. However, the majority of tribes can be categorized as hunter tribes or agricultural tribes. This set of terms comes from the varying ways these tribes obtained food and therefore what the majority of their lives revolved around. Mother Earth plays a pivotal role in the everyday lives of native peoples, which is why she comes up so often in their spiritual practice. For example, The rain dance was a ritual often performed in the southwestern part of the United States. It was thought that by performing the rain dance Mother Earth would provide them with enough water for either a specific season of the year.
Today many Natives still participate in many rituals such as a sweat lodge, Pow Wow, or smudging. These religious practices hold deep tradition in native culture but sadly over the years, native peoples have lost many traditions. Like many other cultures around the world at the time, native Americans did not keep written records of their lives. Because of this many traditions and important information regarding the native religion has been lost. Much information was also lost During the European conquest of the North Americas, it is believed that Nearly 70% of the native population was lost due to the conquest. Many Natives died from illnesses that they were unimmune to such as influenza, or they were slaughtered by the Europeans. With all of this death, it is no wonder many of their traditions and rituals died along with them. However, many spiritual practices remain today and are being passed on. When native children are taught about their historic practices it allows them the opportunity to hold those values sacred and do their best to respect the traditions of their culture. They will then pass those values on to their children, continuing a cycle of learning while furthering the influence that the respectful practice of native tradition has on their culture.
Sadly in western culture, we do not share the same respect for the Earth as native peoples. Many westerners believe that man was put on earth to govern nature and to do with it as they will. This idea is conveyed in the book of Genesis as "Just after his creation man is given the crucial responsibility of naming the animals. He is their master and commander. It is his task to subdue the earth.”7 This idea has pervaded western culture to the point of animal abuse, the mass killing of a species to the point of extinction, and the pollution and overpopulation of the world as a whole. A key aspect of Native culture is holding the land in respectful regard, never taking more than you need, Never waste what you have been given, and creating a relationship with the earth, in turn receiving what you need to survive. This idea differs greatly from culture to culture but most notably in western culture. We continuously exploit the land without any regard for future generations or regard for the earth itself. We pollute the air, dump waste into the sea and use all the natural resources which cannot be replenished at the rate we consume them. These acts of eco-terrorism do not leave future generations with a hopeful world but a world that is dying and in need of desperate saving.
It is said in the native tradition that all living beings come from a singular source: mother Earth. Seeing as all living things originated from the same source it is clear why Natives believe that All living things were created equal and are born to integrate themselves into the complex tapestry of nature. But once again this idea is refuted by westerners who have a completely opposing view. In modern western culture, factory farming is a common practice where they mistreat animals by feeding them steroids and keeping them in small enclosed spaces with other animals: their sole purpose is to become food. This harsh practice provides us with plenty of food but at a heavy cost. We are not only mistreating a living thing for our benefit but in the conditions, these animals are kept and we, in turn, do not provide ourselves with healthy food choices. We lack the respect and forethought to treat these animals as equals as the natives have for generations, it is actions like these that worsen the outlook for the Earth and our spiritual connection with it.
It is up to us and future generations to make up for the mistakes our ancestors have made and the mistakes we are making now. When we lose our connection with the earth we forsake ourselves and our spirit. I believe that through the integration of native practices we can begin to build a healthier world that is more respectful and accepting, and in turn, restore our connection with land and spirit.