During the Industrial Revolution Native American Culture was persecuted to the point of near extinction. Unknown to most scholars, American Indians would have suffered total genocide had it not been for Christian protests, Theologians, Religious lobbyists and Lawyers. It was public outrage that saved the American Indian, not our prowess on the battlefield.
In the 1890’s, James Mooney, an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution, attended Peyote meetings among the Kiowa and the Tarahumara. Finally, in 1918, after testifying in favor of American Indians at Congressional hearings, Mooney advised various tribes to obtain a legal charter to protect their religious freedom. With Mooney’s help, the Native American Church was officially incorporated in 1918. Today it is the most widespread Native American religion in the world.
When most people think of Indigenous American Spiritual practices they think of the The Sun Dance, Vision Quest and Sweat Lodge. These ceremonials are gaining in popularity but are actually very rare. Very few Sun Dances exist, with around only 300 annual Dances. For the Native American Church on the other hand, there are probably a minimum of 300 Ceremonies every weekend in North America. That sounds like a lot, and compared to The Lakota Sun Dance and Sweat Lodge, it is. For the most part, Indigenous Spirituality is very rare.
Most Native Americans are Christian. There are indigenous spiritual traditions in the United States, The majority of them are very small groups and are very secretive. The Hopi spiritual tradition is literally held together by a handful of people.These great traditions are dwindling because the younger generations are not willing to take part in them and because the elders are not willing to share them outside of their own tribes.
Indigenous Spirituality is wrought with problematic issues. Like most spiritual organizations, many people are attracted to them for the wrong reasons. There are many people who Sun Dance who are alcoholic and have other addictions. There are Native American Church members of 20 years who are not genuinely spiritual. This is an issue in many spiritual paths. On a positive note, Native Traditions have served to attract people from all walks of life to make major changes in there lives and taught many to pray and behave themselves in a spiritual manner when they would not do so otherwise.
The beauty of the Red Road and it’s spiritual journey rests in it’s ability to empower the individual. The seeker is to find his or her’s own answers through a direct connection with the divine. Not to say that there are no intermediaries or leaders, there are. Seekers must push forward on their own steam and make real and personal sacrifices for the spiritual connection. No one can do that for you, your spirituality rests upon you alone and that is a truly universal truth.
No matter what sacrifices you have made, how many dances you have completed, how many ceremonies you have attended, the fact remains that your connection is within you and is dependent only upon your personal effort. Spirituality is an internal process. You may have the great fortune of sharing and celebrating that expression with others within a group, but the genuine connection always occurs within.
At some point the light of spiritual awakening dawns within. At this point one may become aware that others are not sincere and may be involved for selfish reasons. This is an inherent problem in all spirituality everywhere and is all too evident in Native America. Spirituality is a process, so it is very important not to be in a place of judgement. A path may have attracted someone with the romanticism of Native heritage or the allure of ancient mystic practices. Medicines like Peyote and Ayahuasca attract many people, some are beckoned by narcotic curiosity alone. Whatever the case may be, at some point the seeker is faced with the inevitable spiritual dilemma of one’s own divine connection.
Most American Indian Spiritual leaders hold other spiritual paths in the highest regard and are not in judgement of race. In this day and age it is of utmost importance for all religions to have respect for one another and to learn from one another as well. It is crucial now for us to see the bigger picture, far above our cultural influence and personal opinions is the bigger picture. What is the Center of the Universe’s view on Native Spirituality as opposed to anything else? What does God think about what kind of spiritual group you are a part of? what is important to our Mother Earth in terms of how we pray?
In Indigenous American spiritually we say that “there is no wrong or right way to pray” and “don’t make someone wrong for praying”. When involved in the task of spirituality it is important to keep a clear and unhindered perspective. beyond every thing you think you know, there is the reality of your connection to the divine. It is essential to strip your self of illusions about spirituality, to lay bare and honest ones intentions on the path.
Indigenous spirituality does this very well, but, for the spiritual seeker we advise you to learn everything you can about spirituality. Keep your mind as open as you can. All spiritual paths should lead to the same place and most of them may have some piece of the puzzle. Tolerance between the worlds’ religions may be the key for all of us to having a better relationship with the divine. Try for a moment to disregard the human concept of god and imagine Gods’ perspective of the whole issue.
There should be less emphasis on form and more emphasis on function. Having a pipe (Canupa) means nothing without being on the other end of it with a prayer. Whatever path you follow, others will criticize you for that and if we are to reach world peace , the criticisms need to come to an end. Tolerance, respect and love are what the spiritual paths teach and even an atheist will agree that these things are great. If you are on the Red Road don’t forget why you do what you do.