The Search for Native Spirituality
The concepts began long ago in the ancient mists of forgotten time, a product of divine
inspiration and revelation. Many peoples have many ways of explaining it's origins and a
deep truth is firmly embedded, passed on, from teller to listener. How can a person be sure
that it is so? It was told in the same manner to the father, and his father, and to his before
him. For countless generations it has been told in the same way. It has always been so. The
ideals are so closely tied to the Native Americans that it is impossible to separate from
them. To think of Native American spirituality, the first thought is of the pipe and other
There is a strong feeling about learning the use of ritual by non-native people. There is
always an eagerness by non-native people to incorporate native ways into their spiritual
lives. Perhaps this has to do with the teachings of many tribes that say the sacred ways are
for all people, to be used for all, not just a select few. It is good that more and more
people are wanting to come into the native ways of doing things, the spiritual ways,
honoring the Creator and the Earth.
This is all good! However, there are several problems that are constantly presenting
themselves. Lots of people who decide that they want to walk the "Red Road" just don't
know where to begin, who to ask. or how to go about it.
At worse, they find one of the so called teachers who thinks that they have the
monopoly on this knowledge, who is only out there to capitalize on people's search for
awareness. (, there are these types out there!) Even though I feel that their misuse of this
so- called knowledge will eventually turn on them, they can cause a lot of grief and
misunderstanding in the meantime.
Watch out for anyone who is a self proclaimed (anything). Most real medicine people
will not claim to be a medicine person. They go about doing their "thing" in a very humble
way. They know who they are and that their abilities come from the Creator. They have
no need to go around proclaiming that they are anything. They live their beliefs and don't
have to mouth them. Their way of life speaks for itself. Usually the person who goes
around spouting off about all he/she can do, is doing all he/she can do. Spirituality is not a
game where one person strives to achieve more or do more or better than the next person.
It is a personal relationship between you and your Creator. It is not a race to see who can
build the longest resume of how many seminars you have been to or how many teachers
you have studied under, or whose sweat lodge you have attended. (How many people do
you think asked Black Elk or Pools Crow who they studied with?) It didn't matter. The
fact was that they were able to do what they did. There is no diploma. The learning
process continues for life.
There is one fact! If a person studies under anyone, the only thing that can be taught or
learned is "How to Learn." You. must develop your own relationship with the Creator and
the Spirit World. No one can do it for you. You can only be taught how to begin that
relationship. You may be shown by your teacher certain ways to go about things or ways
to achieve certain goals, but eventually the Creator may lead you to do these things a little
or a lot differently. Each person is different and the Creator will deal with each
accordingly. The ways of the teacher will not always necessarily be the ways of the
There will be times that a student will never be able to do a certain thing that the
teacher can do because the Creator may have only given that gift only to that person. But
perhaps the student will acquire an even greater gift.
There are many who have a great lack of understanding and anyone desiring to follow a
medicine path must put out a lot of hard personal work that is most likely to be measured
in years. No seminar, workshop, or few weeks course is going to make a medicine person.
Owning a pipe or going to a sweat lodge doesn't either. Remember no human has the
power to heal, make rain, or do any of these things. The power only comes through a
person from the Creator. Human power is limited to what is necessary for ordinary
survival, and then spiritual power must be called upon at times.
A medicine person isn't made by a decision like deciding to go to college to make a
doctor. It's a feeling or calling. Not just anyone is meant to be a medicine person. The
Creator didn't design it that way. Besides, few have the commitment or dedication that it
takes or are willing to make such sacrifices.
The key is to strive to make ourselves clean and uncluttered enough as to be suitable
for the Creator to work through. This is done through prayer, ritual, the way we live our
lives and it is hard. Remember when you are alone with the Creator, don't fool yourself.
The Creator knows exactly who you are, what you have done, what you intend to do, and
if you'll do what you say that you will. when ifs between you and the Creator, the only one
you can fool is yourself.
Ask to be a clean channel for the Creator to work through for the sake of others (all
others, not just people). Human beings are a burden for the Creator and Spirits to work
through at best, so be honest with yourself. Be Patient. You will receive only what you
deserve because the Creator knows your heart.
These words may sound a bit harsh, but we live in a very unstable society. A society
where one can twist the truth and still be considered honest, where one can cheat a little
and still not be crooked. I only wish to convey that when you are evaluated by the Higher
Powers, your normal programming in this society doesn't count. What we think we are
doesn't count. What others think we are doesn't count. The Creator knows who we are
and if we will be suitable to work through.
Ceremonies are powerful took that are of several purposes. Ceremony is - to honor or
give thanks to or for certain things/situations, to petition for things, healing and to
simply give back. These can have a hard and set way of doing them. In some instances
ceremonies can and are created for specific purposes. whether Healing, petitioning,
Honoring, etc., ceremonies usually have a certain way that they should be done within
their cultural context.
There was a question once asked that if the Creator is so powerful, why does he have
to have ceremonies? He don't! WE DO! Ceremonies are took that the Creator has given to us that helps us to concentrate, focus, and to reach higher levels than we normally can achieve as human beings. If is human nature to be tempted to add something to or to change something, so be careful. If the Creator wants you to do something a little differently, he will let you know. We have been given ceremonies to accomplish certain things. They have been tried and proven for- thousands of years, so why would we want to change them without the Creator's direction? Do we know better than the Creator?
The ceremonies of different tribes can sometimes be very different. One thing that
anyone should be cautioned against is getting stuck in the "this is the only way it should be
done" rut. Remember that Native American Tribes were different nations. We cannot
classify Italians and Germans as being the same, even though they are Europeans. So we
cannot classify Native American ways the same even though they are all "Indians". Their
ceremonies will most of the time vary and be different from tribe to tribe. Sometimes from
band to band, and even sometimes from individual to individual.
So don't get caught up in "this is the only way" thing. The Cherokees do things
different than the Lakota, and the Cheyenne do things different than the Chippewa,
and SO on. Watch out for people who think that they have the "only way". There may be
a certain way that the Cherokee do a pipe ceremony, and it will be different from a Lakota
pipe ceremony. A ceremony can be correct within context, but because the two air
different, it doesn't make either wrong.
But remember too, that just taking a pipe, pointing it at the directions and then smoking
it, don't necessarily constitute a pipe ceremony. Always take the time to learn to do things
correctly. If you want to learn the Lakota way, then pursue it. If you want to follow the
Cherokee way, then pursue that. It's the same with any other.
Choose a path then follow it. There is no such thing as the "Indian way". There are so
many different concepts contained within the category "Indian way". Indian ways are
different, just as are Christian ways which contain hundreds of different denominations,
each doing things differently. Does a Catholic do the same as a Baptist? Does a Navaho
do the same as a Crow?
There are a great many people who write and ask where they can find a medicine
person to study with, to consecrate their pipe and for other various reasons. It is hard
indeed to know bow to answer such questions. Most medicine people would rather keep
their lives private while quietly continuing to work with their people. Others remain
aloof of the general public who would like to pick their brain and learn their ways. This I
suppose is a remnant from old days when they were severely scorned for such
knowledge. These medicine people remember being laughed at and would rather not
expose their knowledge to further ridicule. Another thing concerns patience. It is not a
good idea to walk up to a medicine person (if you find out where one is) and ask for their
knowledge. Time and patience are in order here. The time should be taken to establish a
good relationship before asking anything. Spare time few people have. On the other
hand there are quiet a few medicine people who travel about doing workshops, who are
sincere about teaching people and sharing with them. They do charge a fee for their time
but not for their ceremonies. Their fees are only to cover their travel, food and lodging
costs. There are listings of times and places that they will be in many publications.
It is a tough world out there for anyone who has decided to walk the Red Road. When
choosing a way or path to study, be careful, be patient, use a lot of common sense and
don't try to be something that you're not Also beware of teachers who seem to charge
excessive amounts of money for their services, you will be better off in the long run.
(c) Copyright 1999 by Thom Ravenhawk Sturgill. All rights reserved. TSE Publishing & EarthKeeper Medicine Society.
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