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Native American Wisdom

Native American Wisdom

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Published by Daisy

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Published by: Daisy on Jan 30, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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"Is there not something worthy of perpetuation in our Indian spirit of democracy, where Earth, our mother, was free to all, and no one sought to impoverish or enslave his neighbor?" 
 — Ohiyesa (Charles Alexander Eastman)
"We do not chart and measure the vast field of nature or express her wonders in the terms of science; on the contrary, we see miracles on every hand – the miracle of life in the seed and egg, the miracle of death in a lighting flash and in the swelling deep!" 
 — Kent Nerburn
The attitude of the American Indian toward the Eternal, the Great Mystery thatsurrounds and embraces us, is as simple as it is exalted. To us it is the supremeconception, bringing with it the fullest measure of joy and satisfaction possible in thislife...The worship of the Great Mystery is silent, solitary, free from all self-seeking...It is silent, because all speech is of necessity feeble and imperfect; therefore the soulsof our ancestors ascended to God in wordless adoration… Our religion is an attitudeof mind, not a dogma.
There are no temples or shrines among us save those of nature. As children of nature,we are intensely poetical. We would deem it sacrilege to build a house for The Onewho may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of the primeval forest,or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzy spires and pinnacles of nakedrock, and in the vast jeweled vault of the night sky! A God who enrobed in filmy veilsof cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-grandfather Sunkindles his evening camp-fire; who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, orbreathes forth spirit upon fragrant southern airs, whose war canoe is launched uponmajestic rivers and inland seas — such a God needs no lesser cathedral.
We first Americans mingle with our pride an exceptional humility. Spiritualarrogance is foreign to our nature and teaching. We never claimed that the power of articulate speech is proof of superiority over "dumb creation"; on the other hand, it isto us a perilous gift... We believe profoundly in silence — the sign of a perfectequilibrium. Silence is the absolute poise or balance of body, mind, and spirit. Thosewho can preserve their selfhood ever calm and unshaken by the storms of existence— not a leaf, as it were, astir on the tree; not a ripple upon the shining pool — those,in the mind of the person of nature, possess the ideal attitude and conduct of life… If you ask us, "What is silence?" we will answer, "It is the Great Mystery. The holysilence is God’s voice." …If you ask, "What are the fruits of silence?" we willanswer, "They are self-control, true courage or endurance, patience, dignity, andreverence. Silence is the cornerstone of character."
Naturally magnanimous and open-minded, we have always preferred to believe thatthe Spirit of God is not breathed into humans alone, but that the whole createduniverse shares in the immortal perfection of its Maker… The elements and majestic
forces of nature — lighting, wind, water, fire and frost — are regarded with awe asspiritual powers, but always secondary and intermediate in character. We believe thatthe spirit pervades all creation and that every creature possess a soul in some degree,though not necessarily a soul of conscious itself. The tree, the waterfall, the grizzlybear, each is an embodied Force, and as such an object of reverence.
We original Americans have generally been despised by our white conquerors of ourpoverty and simplicity. They forget, perhaps, that our religion forbade theaccumulation of wealth and the enjoyment of luxury. To us, as to other spiritually-minded people in every age and race, the love of possessions is a snare, and theburdens of a complex society a source of needless peril and temptation… It is simpletruth that we Indians did not, so long as our native philosophy held sway over ourminds, either envy or desire to imitate the splendid achievements of the white race. Inour own thought we rose superior to them! We scorned them, even as a lofty spiritabsorbed in its own task rejects the soft beds, the luxurious food, the pleasure-worshipping dalliance of a rich neighbor. It was clear to us that virtue and happinessare independent of these things, if not incompatible with them… Furthermore, it wasthe rule of our life to share the fruits of our skill and success with our less fortunatebrothers and sisters. Thus we kept our spirits free from the clog of pride, avarice, orenvy, and carried out, as we believed, the divine decree — a matter of profoundimportance to us.
As children of nature, we have always looked upon the concentration of population asthe prolific mother of all evils, moral no less than physical. It was not, then, whollyfrom ignorance or improvidence that we failed to establish permanent towns and todevelop a material civilization. We have always believed that food is good, whilesurfeit kills; that love is good, but lust destroys; and not less dreaded than thepestilence following upon crowded and unsanitary dwellings is the loss of spiritualpower inseparable from too close contact with one’s fellow men.
Prayer — the daily recognition of the Unseen and the Eternal — is our one inevitableduty… We Indian people have traditionally divided mind into two parts — thespiritual mind and the physical mind. The first — the spiritual mind — is concernedonly with the essence of things, and it is this we seek to strengthen by spiritual prayer,during which the body is subdued by fasting and hardship. In this type of prayer thereis no beseeching of favor or help… The second, or physical mind, is lower. It isconcerned with all personal or selfish matters, like success in hunting or warfare,relief from sickness, or the sparing of a beloved life. All ceremonies, charms, or other

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