Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised
Tuesday, June 09 2015
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Returning to Native Spirituality

Itís my favorite time of year. Itís a busy time of year for summer ceremonies, rituals and powwows. Itís the beginning of the new year for some. Itís a time to reconcile the year. Itís time to reflect on oneís conduct. Itís time to reconnect with the Creator. Itís time for renewal.

As someone who came to learn Ďthe Nativeí way of life a little later, Iíll share with you some of the experiences I had in my effort to reconnect with our traditional ways. I will not share specifics about different ceremonies, but I will write about how I approached learning about our sacred way of life.

My parents were part of the generation of people who were forced to assimilate, so keeping me away from our traditional native way of life was not negligent, but it was them protecting me. I learned later from them that they were protecting me from the profound sense of loss they experienced.

I am thankful for the protection of my parents and the choices they made. When I did chose to return to our way of life, they struggled with my decision. Eventually, they helped me and came along with me in my rediscovering our ways. Over time, they became ardent supporters until they died.

When I wanted to learn more about our traditional ways, I approached a relative who was active and participated regularly in traditional Native way of life for help. They happily stepped forward; to this day, they continues to teach me many things and I seek their advice.

Choosing a spiritual leader, or medicine person, is an important step. Find them then get to know them, trust your gut. Iíve learned and witnessed people who have been spiritually traumatized by questionable people, so be careful. I follow the medicine people that my family has been with for several generations.

Natives are rich in oral traditions and many of our teachings are kept this way. These teachings are passed along by generations. I learned quickly there was no book available for me to study, review, and be tested about.

With many of the ceremonies, the fundamental philosophy is the similar. Iíve learned the difference is the interpretation of implementation is varied according to the medicine person or other traditional keepers of this knowledge. These medicine people have their own visions that are guided by the Creator.

When I go to support Native friends at their ceremonies then I show respect. First, I inquire with my friend how I can be supportive to them at their ceremony then ask if it would be OK to be introduced to their medicine person. Secondly, I introduce myself to their medicine person. I share with them who my medicine person is (I found they know each other). I let them know that I am there to be in a supportive and ultimately, for me it is to show reverence for our way of life.

I approach our traditional Native way of life with profound respect. Unfortunately, there are some people who exploit our traditions. Iíve witnessed most of these people are Ďnew ageí spiritualists. When I interact with them, Iíve learned to speak out to them about how disrespectful they are being. Also, this type of abuse is never OK.

I donít mind people wanting to discover and appreciate Native culture in all of its beauty, but I do not condone the appropriation of it. Appropriation is stealing, if you are there to support them please show the reverence for Native ways.

There are people who hunger to know and amongst them are some people who are dogmatic in their approach. Iíve been to many Native ceremonies were caucasian people behaved crazy. They were the ones regulating everything that is Native. They were impassioned about their view of what should be, or what shouldnít be. They, again, were creating the rules. NOT OK.

When people want to engage with me about their religious views, oftentimes, I donít. Religion and spirituality are deeply personal. They are the main causes of wars around the world. I talk about these matters with my small group of friends and family, not with random strangers. When Iím approached by religious zealots, people sharing their word of God, or impassioned dogmatic religious people, then I recognize them, but I donít engage with them.

I am the furthest from knowing everything about our traditional way of life; I know this. Also, I approach my interactions humbly. I listen. I learn. I recognize them for the sacred lessons they are and a way of life that has sustained us for generations.

If you are amongst those who had these ways stolen from you and you have an urge to return, then Iíd encourage you to. Our communities are small and we know each other, so there is someone available to help you reconnect. Iím grateful I did.

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