The purpose of this study in Native Americans thought is to give a general background of knowledge of one of the oldest forms of Spirituality to exist on earth. These belief's were in existence long before Christianity and served the people who practiced them in good stead through many centuries. Although the main teachings will be from a North American Native point of view, the actual practices and belief's were commonly held in many indigenous tribal cultures throughout the world including Hawaiian, Celt, South American Natives, Russian Shamanic cultures as well as many other societies like the Australian aboriginal tribes. This would indicate the common thread of belief and spiritual practice among a variety of people whom had no common connection before the advent of the last two centuries advancements of communications and travel.
We need to know something of this philosophy to understand the "Medicine
or things which served the health of body, mind and spirit.
A Deeper Knowledge
Among all religions, there has always been a simple religion taught to the masses and a special, deeper philosophy taught to those who were selected by various means to serve the masses as either Holy leaders, healers or a combination of both. This is true of many doctrines including Buddhism, Christianity, Mohammedanism and Mormon to name a few. This practice was and is also true of other less well known religions including Native Americans
. Many of the non Christian teachings have been lost to many tribal cultures who are now failing due to the Christian influence often forced upon them by zealous and pious individual's who sought to make themselves alright' by inflicting their belief's on all peoples of the earth.
The advanced teachings of the "Nature Philosophy" were usually taught by the Medicine people to their sons and daughters, or to any young person in the community who showed a deeper awareness of all life around them and expressed an interest in finding deeper truths of life. If sufficient interest and proficiency was shown, the young man or woman was adopted by the Medicine Teacher and initiated into the teaching of the "Natural Way which included the arts of healing and special mental training, including what is referred to today as psychic perceptions and to the uninformed that which is called magic. All of these teachings were given verbally and the student was required to commit them to memory and when the time came for them to assume the role of teacher they passed these teaching on through a rich tradition of oral communication.
With a commitment to yourself, your community and Great Spirit, you can prepare yourself for these thought's and accept them as your truth's and deepen your appreciation for the circle of life which you have chosen to follow.
A Time for New Thinking and a Return to Old Ways.
The time for a renewal of the Spirit is upon us and will intensify as the world is systematically destroyed by greed, wars, sewage, selfishness, and misguided egos. We must act now if we are to survive the negative influences of belief's which ask us to destroy others in the name of God those that don't believe what the stronger more influential believe. The way to enact the truth's which you will be shown in lesson's to come is to walk your walk, and talk your talk. Teach by example not by ego. When others see that you are happy and peaceful and healthy they will want to know more. You will then be obliged to transition from student to teacher to help your fellow spirit's to live a better life. The time has come to take back the power that Great Spirit has given us, from the politician's and the so called religious leaders who themselves are corrupted by the very systems which control them.
The increased interest in Indian affairs along with the increased numbers of people who are searching for wisdom, natural living, and natural medicine, have since proven the need for the manifestation of this vision. In order to KNOW, the people must be taught, and to teach is the mission of all who undertake to follow the path of Nature and Great Spirit.
As a Man Thinketh...
There is an increasing school of thought among many Native Americans s that being an Indian is a state of mind. It is not a matter of skin or hair color. If one thinks like an Indian, or Real Person, he or she is an Indian-a Real Person. If one "with red skin'' thinks like a ''white'' person, then he or she is a " white" person. " As a man thinketh, so is he."
"...it doesn't have anything to do with the color of your skin-it's the way you live your life. The only thing we have to give is the way we live our lives. If you live on this land, and you have ancestors sleeping in this land, I believe that makes you native to this land. It has nothing to do with the color of your skin. I was raised not to look at people racially. What I was taught is that we're flowers in the Great Spirit' s garden. We share a common root, and the root is Mother Earth The garden is beautiful because it has different colors in it, and those colors represent different traditions and cultural backgrounds."
-Oh Shinnah (Profiles in Wisdom, Bear & Co. Publishing)
The purpose of these monographs which comprise the "Nature Philosophy" is to provide an exposure of the old philosophy and teachings to all who feel the Call of Nature and wish to be ''Wiaki,'' a Real Person, a true Indian. This philosophy is not advanced as a religious doctrine which prospective students must believe. The Indian has always felt that each person must come to know the Great Spirit for him or herself, for it is through this personal relationship that we discover our own Medicine, and thus determine our own path in life.
There are, however, certain truths which are inherent in every religion, in every tribe which teaches and practices "Nature Philosophy". The acceptance of these concepts will free the mind from crippling restrictions which have been imposed by the society of the white race and the religious doctrinal practices found in that culture. There are included here, quotations by Indian leaders and wise people from several different tribes over a two hundred year period which clearly show the widespread acceptance of these concepts.
Nature Spirituality (All Truth can be found in Nature)
The Native American did not speculate on abstract concepts and ideas. The belief was that if Great Spirit wanted a truth to be known, He would cause this truth to be made manifest in Nature for people to contemplate upon.
"The Indian made an effort to know of spiritual things from his own observations of nature, because all truth can be found in Nature. There is a spiritual beauty in the realization that the world has been deliberately made or created, and is in perfect balance ecologically, and that is not by chance. Lastly, it is based upon spiritual revelation of the truth to the individual. When it happens for you, you then KNOW... and no one else can tell you otherwise
-ELI Gatoga, Cherokee (1914-1983)
"Civilized people depend to much on man-made printed pages. I turn to the Great Spirit's books which is the whole of his Creation. You can read a big part of that book if you study nature, You know, if you take all your books, lay them out under the sun, and let the snow and rain and insects work on them for a while, there will be nothing left. But the Great Spirit has provided you and me with the opportunity for study in nature's university, the forests, the rivers, the mountains and the animals which include us.
-Tatangi Mani or Walking Buffalo, Stoney Indian, Canada
"The Lakota was a true Naturist-a lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest on the earth and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing."That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him..."Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle. For the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them and so close did some of the Lakotas come to, their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue. .
"The old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man' s heart away from Nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. So he kept his youth close to its softening influence."
-Chief Luther Standing Bear, Lakota Sioux (born 1868)
An Overlying Spiritual Feeling
In his observation of Nature, the Indian not only enjoyed the beauty that abounded in his environment, but was also aware of an overlying spiritual feeling that exists throughout all of creation.
"When a man does a piece of work which is admired by all we say that it is wonderful; but when we see the changes of day and night, the sun, moon and stars in the sky, and the changing seasons upon the earth, with their ripening fruits, anyone must realize that it is the work of some one more powerful than man. Greatest of all is the sun, without which we could not live... We talk to Wakan tanka and are sure he hears us, and yet it is hard to explain what we believe about this."
-Mato-Kuwapi - Chased by Bears, Santee Yanktonai Sioux (1843-1915)
"Everything as it moves,
now and then, here and there,
The bird as it flies stops in one place to make its nest,
and in another to rest in its flight.
A man when hegoes forth stops when he wills.
So the god has stopped.
The sun, which is so bright and beautiful,
is one place where he has stopped.
The moon, the stars, the winds, he has been with.
The trees, the animals, are all where he has stopped,
and the Indian thinks of these places and sends prayers there
to reach the place where the god has stopped
and win help and a blessing. "
-Anonymous Dakota Sioux wise man circa 1890
"We were lawless people, but we were on pretty good terms with the Great Spirit, creator and ruler of all. You whites assumed we were savages. You didn't understand our prayers. You didn't try to understand. When we sang our praises to the sun or moon or wind, you said we were worshipping idols. Without understanding, you condemned us as lost souls just because our form of worship was different from yours. "We saw the Great Spirit's work in almost everything: sun, moon, trees, wind, and mountains. Sometimes we - approached Him through these things. Was that so bad? I think we have a... stronger faith than that of most whites who have called us pagans... Indians living close to Nature and Nature' s ruler are not living in darkness.
"Do you know that trees talk? Well, they do. They talk to each other, and they'll talk to you if you listen. Trouble is, white people don't listen. They never learned to listen to Indians so I don' t suppose they' ll listen to other voices in Nature. But I have learned a lot from trees: sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit."