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We focus on Native
American spiritual practices rather than religion. For
the Native American, spirituality was a way of life. There
were 500 hundred plus nations scattered from “sea to shining
sea” north to Alaska and south to the Yucatan peninsula. It
is a mistake is to believe that all of the 500-600 tribes were
alike in their beliefs. Like most indigenous peoples,
their ceremonies were tied to the land and their way of life.
Each tribe’s rituals were connected to the specific
qualities of the land that they called “home”. Because of
the particular history of these tribes, their way of life was
severely curtailed by the coming of the European settlers, and
many spiritual practices and rites have been lost forever.
Although most of Native American societies did not have a
written language or holy book, some tribes were very advanced
and had written history and very organized spiritual
ceremonies and practices. Some tribes were totally destroyed
and others moved thousands of miles from the ancestral home.
It is only in the last 25 years has the importance of the
Native American culture and spiritual beliefs became more
popularly known. By delving into the practices and
beliefs and experiencing their essence for ourselves, we can
be enriched by them and reach a better understanding of
traditions that have been practiced for thousands of years.
One general truth
that threads throughout the Native American spiritual beliefs
is the belief of the Mother Earth spirituality. The
Native Americans felt that the earth was our mother, the sky
our father, and all things were interconnected. The many
Creation myths of the Native American stress the mutuality and
interdependence between people and other forms of life.
There is mutual respectfulness required when interacting with
trees, birds, and plants and also natural forces such as the
wind and the rain. Their creation stories empathize that
Creation did not just happen a million years ago and end
there, but that the Spirit that first infused the world is
still with us now and can be experienced as “immanence”,
the spirit which imbues all things.
Americans usually had several names as they progressed through
life. They often had characteristics of nature in their
names and as they progressed they changed their names to
reflect their experience of life. Some tribes also used
totem poles for protection of their land and homes. It
is possible to adopt an animal totem for yourself for the
lessons that it can bring you. Sometimes the animal
chooses you through a dream or in a daily experience and
sometimes, through study and reflection you can choose an
animal that exemplifies qualities that you would like to
strengthen in yourself.
Wheel: Many of the Native American tribes had a belief
that life a journey that made a circle and they had many
medicine wheels that they used to understanding their path.
There are generally common beliefs about the four directions
and the totem animals of these directions. Also the lessons of
each “road” are often outlined in the literature about
Native American spiritual practices.
Some tribes created a shield that was painted with symbols for
protection in battle. Other tribes used to collect
various objects and carried these objects in a leather bag on
their person for protection.
(usually combined with prayers or meditations invoking the
help of the Great Spirit or Ancestors)
Take a nature
walk, “hug a tree”, and commune with the nature
spirits all around. Experience the
interconnectedness of life. Let your thoughts be of
appreciation, appreciate the sky, the breeze, the colors,
the total experience of the natural beauty around you.
shield. Meditate on how you want it to look and then
attempt to capture that on paper. Or, on your nature walk,
have the intent of finding objects that you would want to
include in a leather bag that you carried with you for
Smudging, use of
sage: Many ceremonies were of blessing and cleansing of
the environment and the body. Smudging is one such
ceremony was many tribes used sacred herbs to cleanse the
body and area with smoke with specific intents in mind.
Some were for cleansing; other types were for inviting
creativity and improved harvest, etc.
Human Aura and Purifying Environments
(ie., homes and buildings) is traditionally done by burning
sage, an herb found in nature.
1. A bundle of sage is tied together and lighted to produce
smoke and a purifying scent. The sage stick can be used like a
wand circling the smoke around a person, over the head and
body, to cleanse the aura.
A lighted sage bundle can be taken to the four corners of a
structure and ashes from the sage placed on doorways.
2. Use sage, sweet grass, or one of the purer tobacco and burn
in glass bowl. Gently wave your hand over the flame and
bring the smoke to your heart center first and then over your
head and up and down the spine. Then take throughout the
room or environment. Remember to keep in mind your
intent, your desired result from doing this type of smudging
as you move the smoke around the area.
1. Drumming has been used for centuries by tribes for
ceremonial dancing, communication and meditation. It is based
on the beating of the heart, consistent energy vibrations that
evoke healing and spiritual awareness. Cycles, such as the
changing of seasons, the full moon, etc, are often the focus
of ceremonial drumming.
2. Gather a group of persons with drums and other percussion
instruments who wish to tune into the heartbeat of Mother
3. Drumming can be combined with chanting and dancing to
create harmonic rhythms. (Try drumming and/or dancing in a
fellowship for an hour or so).
1. Usually a right of passage into adulthood, the vision
quest is a time of solitude in nature for self-examination,
seeking a vision of one’s unique purpose as well as
connection with a guardian spirit.
2. A type of vision quest can be undertaken during a
fellowship, giving opportunity for participants to spend time
in the outdoors (whether a few minutes or hours) to seek
guidance from the signs in nature. Ask for totems
(living signs or symbols, ie., animals, birds, fish, insects,
etc. that give meaning and a spiritual message to the person).
Technique (from the Ojibwe Tribe)
1. Separate fingers and make “claws” of each hand.
With hands facing each other, quickly rotate “claws” until
energy is felt in the space between fingers (may feel like
2. Then quickly place hands “claws” on body part that
needs healing. This technique generates a lot of energy and
heat. Try it on yourself or others.
There are many
prayers in Native American traditions for various purposes,
including, wisdom, healing, peace, hunting, planting,
fertility, transition, wisdom, guidance, etc.
A Totem Meditation: Meditate on the qualities of what
you would like to bring out in yourself over the next year.
Meditate on any animal that may help you on your journey
toward those goals. Ask the animal for its assistance.
Ask the animal for its wisdom and guidance. Write down
your insights. You may choose to use research tools such as
the internet to find out further information on your animals
and their attributes commonly known in the Native American
A Meditation on
Purpose & Direction: “The Creator gave humans the
ability to have visions, to find their purpose or reasons for
being here, knowing all along that people sometimes lose their
Humans are imperfect beings. We all stray from the Good Path.
Then we dream of better times and of a better life, for
ourselves and for all who are important to us. And we live to
make it real. That is what makes us human.” Maskewisen
(Be strong), Mi-iw (That is all)
--From “The Good Path” by T. Peacock and M. Wisuri (Ojibwe
The Indian Ten
Treat the earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
2. Remain close to the Great
3. Show great respect for your
4. Work together for the benefit
of all mankind.
5. Give assistance and kindness
wherever it is needed.
6. Do what you know to be right.
7. Look after the wellbeing of
mind and body.
8. Dedicate a share of your
efforts to the greater good.
9. Be truthful and honest at all
10. Take full responsibility for all your actions.
“May it be
May it be beautiful
May it be beautiful
All around me.
It is finished;
It is finished.
-Traditional Dinah (Navajo chant)
“Oh Great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives me life to
the world, Hear Me! I come to you are one of your many
children. I am small and weak. I need your
strength and wisdom. “May I walk in beauty. Make
my eyes behold the read and the purple sunset. Make my
hands respect the things that you have made, and my ears sharp
to hear your voice. Make me wise so that I may know the
things that you have taught your children—the lessons that
you have hidden in every leaf and rock. Make me strong,
not to be superior to my bothers, but to be able to fight my
greatest enemy: myself. Make me every ready to come to
you with straight eyes, so that when life fades as the faded
sunset my spirit will come to you without shame”.
-- John Yellow Lark
Warron BigEagle's Harmony Spirit, Village & Farm
Warron BigEagle is a Cheyenne Medicine Man and a Lutheran
(Place of Peace) American Indian Council
[site is gone - where did it move?]
Music: “Spirit Nation”, CD
“Natives”, Peter Kater & R. Carlos Nakai, CD
"The Medicine Way: How To Live the Teachings of the Native
American Medicine Wheel" by Kenneth Meadows
"Seven Arrows" by H. Storm (Plains Indians)
"Mother Earth Spirituality" by Ed McGaa, Eagleman (Sioux)
"Native American Medicine Cards" by Jamie Sams
Movies to rent (Plan a Spiritual Cinema Night
The Last of the Mohicans
Dances With Wolves
Dreamkeeper, A Hallmark Production available on DVD