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American Indian Spirituality

Every tribe is different in their beliefs. This said, however, there are some things that are common to most.

Most did or do believe in Shamanism. However, this should not be confused with a religion, because it is a spirituality, not a religion. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing. Being in a religion is helpful in shamanism, because it often implies spirituality as well, but it is certainly not required. The author has taught shamanism to many people of different faiths, from Christian to Hindu, from Buddhist to Wiccan. As put by the late Modoc Chief and Shaman, Edison Chiloquin, “The Shaman is the healer of the tribe. He is also the spiritual leader. Usually, he isn’t a religious figure.”

Most are mono-theistic. This means that they believe in one ultimate creator, often referred to as the Grandfather. For the Cherokees, this figure was most often symbolized as the sun. The term “grandfather” denotes a position of respect, rather than one of gender. At the same time, they believe that the Earth is a living entity and that we should work with it, rather than taking advantage of it. The earth mother provides us with everything we need to live, survive, and to be happy. We also believe that there are spirits all around us. In this, we are not any different than Christians or Muslims or whatever, who believe in angels, but a single creator. This is something that is commonly misunderstood by many religions, especially by those who have a hard time actually learning about other religions with an open mind.

Most believe that people are all in an ongoing journey on a balance of good and bad. The goal is to do good and to help others. But people are also all flawed, and they sometimes do things selfishly. What is happening to them is a direct result of which way the balance tips. A person who is mostly selfish will pay the price for that. A person who mostly does good will receive what is due. It may not be immediate, but it will happen. This belief was strongly taught by Chief Chiloquin.

It can be said that most believe that nature itself holds the key to many answers. People can learn from, be healed by, can find food to eat, can find shelter, if we simply observe nature. Too few people do this, and the result is obvious.

While different tribes feel differently, and believe differently, the native American as a whole, tends to value honestly, loyalty, and love. Many are or were fierce warriors, but even they prefer peace to conflict. They know that there are times when war is necessary, but are love abiding people as a whole. Many other people share these ideals, and see this as a good and healthy thing.