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Answers from Chief Joseph
from the January 2005 Star Beacon
Native American Spirituality
by Chief Joseph and John Cali
A member of our Chief Joseph discussion group recently wrote
me asking if Joseph would talk about Native American spirituality
in one of our newsletters. Here’s her letter:
“Hi John, I have no clue as to whether this would be an
appropriate topic for a future newsletter, but I thought I would
share this thought with you anyway.
“I have read a fair amount, but I know I am very ignorant
with respect to Native American spirituality. So perhaps sometime
Chief Joseph and you could share some of the unique aspects of
Native American spirituality.”
“Thanks for your posting, and for your suggestion about
Native American spirituality. It’s an excellent suggestion. Joseph
and I don’t usually make a distinction between spirituality, as a
general concept, and spirituality as practiced by any particular
group of people. Whether that group be Native American or any
“But the Native Americans certainly did have spiritual values
many humans today have lost sight of — respect for our Mother
Earth, respect for animals, respect for one another, respect for
the sovereignty of each individual.
“I don’t know as there’s anything unique about these Native
American spiritual values. They’re really human values. And it
would behoove all of us to pay more attention to them, and to
what’s really important to all of us on this beautiful blessed
planet of ours.”
And Joseph’s response:.
What you might call Native American spirituality is not essentially
different from most other forms of human spirituality. It is not unique in its
essence. It may, however, be unique in its practice.
Basically, Native American spirituality is simply a reverence for life, a
respect for the divine spark in all life, in all beings. In that way it is pure,
as contrasted with the dogma, theology, and laws which often drag other forms of
spirituality away from their roots, if you will.
The intent and essential nature of most forms of human spiritual practices
are good. And if more humans were more practiced in simply allowing their
brothers and sisters to follow their own paths, then none of the religious
turmoil that pervades your human society could exist. Everyone would be
following whatever path he or she felt was right. And not caring what paths
others were following.
But you do care what paths others follow, even though it’s none of your
business. And that is exactly what’s given rise to all the senseless dogma,
laws, shoulds and should-nots humans often impose on one another.
We are not saying Native American spirituality is superior to any other
form of spirituality. We are saying if you all get back to your spiritual roots,
you would find only minor, meaningless differences among your many spiritual
paths. And you would not feel the need to impose your own beliefs and values on
another individual or another people.
Spirituality, as we see it, is simply an awareness you are all more than
the humans you know yourselves as. And the awareness all of creation, whether
you consider it animate or inanimate, is more than the simply physical. All
beings, all that is, are infused with the spiritual essence of the divine.
Many Native Americans practiced this pure form of spirituality in the past,
and some still do. Many non-Native Americans practiced it in the past, and many
still do. It’s obvious, however, many people, Native American or not, have
strayed from their spiritual roots.
You can get back to your spiritual roots by simply acknowledging all that
exists is divine. When you get back to your roots, you will — in John’s words —
have respect for your Mother Earth, respect for animals, respect for one
another, respect for the sovereignty of each individual.
Great Western Publishing
Copyright © 2005 by John Cali
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