Native American Spirituality: “simply another form of spiritual expression”

Valerian Three Irons

Valerian Three Irons

This is perhaps the first time that someone who lives Native American spirituality has sat on the Campus Interfaith Council (and has been asked to write a column for the Collegian, no less). First, understand that I am speaking for myself and not for all Native Americans. Mainstream society tends to stereotype. In North America, there are more than 500 indigenous nations, each possessing its own history, culture, language and spiritual ways.

Many Native Americans who live traditional spiritual ways do so privately. My comments are not meant to convert others. Rather, they are meant to enlighten and dispel myths.

In my experience, many South Dakotans know little about Native Americans. Students from the eastern seaboard, for example, seem to have more knowledge about Native Americans than many South Dakotans do.

People have many questions about Native American spirituality. Most are innocent and are asked with utmost sincerity. One question asked is “Do Native Americans pray to God?” The answer is yes, if one’s spirituality so dictates. Many of us believe in one God who created us.

Native spirituality helps individuals live a good life and connect with our creator. We believe in our dreams and visions. They help us understand our life’s path and our connection to our creator and to all living things. We attempt to live by virtues like honesty, respect, courage, compassion, generosity, fortitude and humility. We live them rather than profess them. We also believe that no man or institution should come between self and God. Each day is sacred. We progress and grow spiritually by living as best we can by the virtues we have been taught. We all come into this world with certain strengths and challenges. They are part of our path. Our spiritual outlook is holistic; it includes all parts of self: mind, emotion, body and spirit.

As with all spiritual ways, we have rituals and ceremonies to help us live in a natural world created by God. We say all things, including tree, rock, water and air as well as plants and animals are alive and sacred. We acknowledge the four directions, the circle of life, the sun, the moon, the wind, the earth and all elements.

During an 1854 speech, Chief Seattle of the Suwamish Nation said, “Whatever befalls the Earth – befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

There is no need to convince anyone else of our beliefs. Perhaps that is why you don’t see people knocking on doors and asking to come in and talk to you about Native spirituality. If people come to Native spirituality it is because of attraction rather than promotion.

I would like to say that Native American spirituality is not so different from other faiths; it is simply another form of spiritual expression.

E-mail comments to Valerian at [email protected].