Who practices Modern Indigenous American Traditions? People from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. Like all good traditions and spiritual practices, they have the tendency to grow. In terms of Native American spirituality, the Lakota traditions have done the best. This is so because the Lakota people have always shared with others, adopted people as family (Hunka) and have always helped others without hatred and judgement. That is why it is a blossoming tradition. The Navajo have had a hard time generating interest among their youth in the practice of traditional ceremonies. Since they have been reluctant to pass their sacred ways outside of their own blood relatives they have suffered the total extinction of many important rites in very recent years. Nowadays the Navajo are related to every race on earth and come from all walks of life. Like most nations of the earth, a small percentage of them are involved in Lakota ceremonials!
There is this illusion that indigenous traditions must remain unchanged, like the anthropologist frowning over the Sun Dance Chief taking flesh offerings with a surgical scalpel instead of a flint knife. The anthropologist has totally missed the point and cannot see the practicality, wisdom, and level of detachment inherent in non-domestic spirituality (attachment and sentimentality are enhanced in domesticated animals).
The true indigenous spiritual leaders have the same ethics and humility as most of the world religions. In the first century, Christianity immediately spread from being Jewish to embracing Greeks, Ethiopians and any one else that expressed an interest, this is a natural phenomenon that can be seen everywhere. The Catholic Pope is nether Jewish, Greek, or Italian right now he’s of American Indian heritage! One might argue that Native spirituality cannot be compared to Christianity even though it is the chosen path of most Native Americans. Others would say that in the story of Christianity the Jews represented the good traditionalist, staying in line with the sacred ways. Nothing could be further from the truth because the Jewish tradition has always been open to the public. People all faiths continuously convert to Judaism and always have. It is not uncommon for a man to undergo a circumcision operation in the hopes of becoming admitted to Judaism. Like the Navajo they too are international, global citizens!
Like all paths to God, you’ll find a Catholic and Protestant versions of all of them. There are the purist fundamentalists, the spirit filled ones in rapture, as well as closet atheists who think they are spiritual because they are part of a religion. All of them play important roles as it truly takes all kinds!
We are constantly reminded at our ceremonial functions of the strange circumstances of the changing world in which we live. There are a lot of misconceptions about spirituality in general and folks these days have allot of different motives for being involved. It is up to us that the coming generations not pollute indigenous ways by making them domesticated. This has been what has hurt the worlds greatest spiritual paths more than anything else. Domestication is warping our perception, the only thing we take with us beyond this life!
What makes Indigenous traditions, of any kind, so powerful is that they are wild and untamed. They access that part of the human psyche that is unmolested by industrialization. It is ever important for the human race to hold on to the magic that is swiftly receding away from us. Many new age philosophies would disagree with this, but let me point out that they are a strictly domesticated variety of human beings. When any animal is domesticated, or even when wild animals are caged or subjected to routines, they tend to slip into neurotic behavior patterns, like living in a made up fantasy world.
Many do not realize that the Lakota Sun Dance is an international religion, for example. There has emerged many powerful medicine men and spiritual leaders representing Lakota traditions from the world over. Many people are against this (mostly nonspiritual people). It is truly mysterious how the spirit moves, a person may acquire spirit helpers through association with a tradition, through marriage, by ordination and by birth. Sometimes it runs in the family as was the case with Daniel Dunglas Home and Carlos Mirabelli. There is also the case where someone is born with miraculous powers outside of spiritual tradition altogether.
There are hundreds of cases of human foot prints fossilized in stone, any where from 1 million to 90 million years old, a testimony to the awesome mystery of human kind and what lurks deep within our human consciousness. Modern Indigenous American Spirituality is in constant flux as we our selves are redefined by what we know, and that goes for all of spirituality, everywhere!
Only the last remaining indigenous traditions of the world still have miraculous, seemingly impossible things as commonplace. Spiritual leaders of domestic religion, sadly, cannot begin to imagine the reality of the aboriginal spiritual world (whats left of it).