|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
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
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
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
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