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Native American Spirituality

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What is Native American-American Indian religion? Native beliefs are not a religion like the formal organized religions such as Christianity or Islam but a way of life and each tribal nation has their own ways which mean there is no one belief system among the native people. The Lakota have a way different from the Hopi or the Cherokee there is no one size fits all.  The information on Native American Spirituality that is out there on the internet or in books ranges from inaccurate school projects by school children, to deeply biased generalizations of religion that does not relate to the Native people, then of course we have the pretenders claiming to be Native American shamans to scam money off of people where they take what little they know of our ways and corrupt them or mixed them up with other tribal ways. If you see a person claiming to have learned from a Lakota and then a Cherokee it raises eyebrows because to us as Native people that seems is really strange because our ways are so different.
There are few reasons we see for people to be looking for information on Native American religions. The first is educational because you're a student doing research or those who want to find out because cultural curiosity or those who are lost in their own lives looking for a quick fix to their problems, the problem is going to be identifying the authentic and trustworthy sources. Unfortunately, so are plenty of ill-informed non-Indians (or people of Indian descent) who think they know a lot more than they do. And so are those unscrupulous souls willing to pretend they're something they're not in hopes of making a buck or getting a little attention.
Spirituality not for sale. Money is never accepted by authentic holy people in exchange for Native American/Indian ceremonies like sweat lodges or sun dances, nor for spiritual items like medicine bags or smudged items.  (They might sell arts and crafts, of course. Use your common sense--a devout Catholic might sell you a hand-carved crucifix to hang on your wall, for example, but he wouldn't sell communion wafers over the Internet or charge you admission to bring you to his church! Selling dream catchers or fetish carvings online is one thing, but don't believe information provided by anyone who is trying to charge people for smudging or blessing anything, making medicine, or letting them take part in a sweat lodge or dance. They are not authentic sources of information.)

Native people do not inviting you into their religion/spiritual ways on their webpage or invited you to become a member of their group by the internet is not the way Native people educate about their way of life. Authentic Native/Indians may seek to educate strangers about their culture which is only done face-to-face and after knowing the person for some time. Spirituality is a life time of training

Claiming to be American Indian shamans, talking about tarot cards and Wiccan/pagan things, or talking about crystals and New Age things. These things have nothing to do with Native American Spirituality or Native people. I've got nothing against shamanism, paganism, or the New Age: none of these things are traditionally Native American. Shamanism is a Siberian mystic tradition, Wicca is a religion based in pre-Christian European traditions, Tarot readings are an Indo-European divination method, and the New Age is a syncretism belief system invented, as its name suggests, in the modern era. None of them have anything to do with authentic Native American-Indian traditions, and anyone who thinks they do is likely to be wrong about anything else he claims about Native American Spirituality as well. Wiccans and New Agers don't have any more knowledge about actual American Indian beliefs than you do.

Identifying only as 'Native American' or 'American Indian' (an authentic person would list their actual tribal affiliation). They would tell you I am Lakota-Osage-Omaha and they would tell who they are related too by name. Be a little wary of people trying to speak with authority who identify as "mixed-blood" or "of Indian descent" or having a "Cherokee ancestor." There are certainly some mixed-blood people who were raised in their tribe's culture, but they don’t identify themselves as mixed blood but by their people tribe. A person who has rediscovered his Indian heritage as an adult is a seeker is not a teacher. He is not qualified to speak authoritatively about Native American Spirituality or culture, for he wasn't raised that way and doesn't have any more knowledge about it than anyone else learning about it second-hand--including you.
If you're trying to learn about Native American/American Indian spirituality because you want to become a part of it you face the problem of not being born into the tribe nor living and grow up in the culture and prime target for the fake shamans. American Indian spirituality is not evangelistic. It is private and entirely cultural way of life that does not have to share with outsiders unless an individual choice to share. You cannot convert to 'Native American' any more than you can convert to African-American or Korean or any other cultural identity you would need to be raised in to understand. The only way to 'join' a Native American spiritual tradition is to become a member of the cultural group, and it's impossible to do that because you either have to be born into the tribe or adopted into the tribe.  
For those who believe they have the right to native beliefs because maybe there grandmother was part Cherokee or maybe they had Native blood 10 generation ago we suggest you honor your relatives by not abusing their ways learning that respect for the traditions that are thousand of year old. Please don't pay some new-age shaman to perform fake "Native American" rituals that would have offended your ancestors, go physically to their tribe in person and re-connect with their other descendants. It will be hard work convincing the people there that you are genuine but if you go with humility and patience you will eventually be accepted, and that is the ONLY way you will ever become part of the spiritual tradition you desire. There is no shortcut to that. Native spirituality belongs only to the cultural group, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to make some money off of you and/or to take a power trip at your expense.
Please respect our way of life by not abuse our spiritual belief, we do our best to pray for the world as whole.
TaMake Waste Win-
Hunkpapa-Sihasapa-Oglala Lakota Ihunktonwana-Pabaska-Sisseton Dakota

Well said earthw7, well said.

Lim lemtsh,


critter - a white non-ndn person:
Good post Earthw7. Thank you.

I was trying to put up a statement to explain our point of view
as we have so many people who come to the site and
defend the fakes shamans and
believe what they are doing is not wrong.

Defend the Sacred:
Thank you, LaDonna. This is good.  I'm thinking we should move this to non-frauds and pin it, so people new to the board can benefit from it.


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