Authentic Native spirituality, in my experience, is shared not taught and is rooted in the joys and suffering of distinct peoples, their lands-all their relations. It is fundamentally about respect and integrity of personhood.
Frank Supernaught, a Cree Elder, once shared his people's spiritual traditions around the medicine wheel to a largely white audience at St. Andrews-Wesley Church in Vancouver.
Without bitterness, he spoke first about the history of Native-settler relations, the land, treaties, residential schools, alcoholism and suicide in Native communities.
He was most eloquent, however, about the need to heal the distrust, fear and anger between our two peoples.
Speaking from the heart and as a Cree, the medicine wheel then became a powerful symbol of beauty and reconciliation, not a spiritual gimmick for white seekers.
The sale and consumption of new age Native spirituality by white people embarrasses me as a white person. It suggests, not merely a spiritual vacuity, but a spiritual sickness. How could we feel it is legitimate to cherry-pick Native spiritual practices, ignoring the devastation of Native cultures caused in good part by our greed and duplicity, our imposition of an alien faith? I once had a dreadful vision of new agers traipsing around Wounded Knee in 1890, collecting pretty bits and bobs of spiritual regalia from the frozen bodies of Indian women, children and Elders, to the tune of "Tiptoe through the tulips. . ."
I always felt uncomfortable in China, when white Canadians proudly presented to their Chinese hosts gifts of First Nations carvings and paintings. Health and welfare statistics on Native Canadians are so damning; did we not feel some contradiction in offering up Native art as quintessentially Canadian?
And yet, the art was so true to the spirit of the land called Canada, its mountains and lakes, animals and birds, big skies and vast North, that I kept my reservations to myself. Subconsciously it was also a tribute to the beauty and vision of First Nations peoples, who indeed have not vanished.
In today's pluralistic world, spiritual practices are mingled and shared. I am a Christian, but the teachings of Confucius, the Dalai Lama and Native Elders have profoundly enriched my understanding of life and death, joy and suffering, justice and healing. At heart, however, all of these traditions are about respectful and loving relationships in a community, not individual gratification or salvation. This, I think, is what authentic Native spirituality is all about. First Nations people have been very generous with their insights from the Creator, and I thank them for it.
I saw an old copy of Windspeaker at our Indian Friendship Centre, wrote down the phone number, and subscribed for one year. I received my first issue. As I read it, I cried with joy, whispering aanii, boozhoo, hello, across the land to all my relations. I listened to words speak to me from the pages. Reading the "Buffalo Spirit" section, I felt among the circle of the readers, listening, being taught by the Page Speaker Teachers.
Miigwech. Thank you.
Buffalo Spirit is a joy to read. A gift from the heart. . . In the midst of the 506 years of darkness for Indigenous people, this paper's like a breath of fresh, pure, mountain air of millenniums past.
I am a 15-year-old Metis youth from Manitoba. Learning and exploring what Buffalo Spirit has to offer completely opened my mind and made me realize all that I could do for my nation.
Everything in Bert Crawfoot's message was right. The youth and the Elders have to work together in order to preserve the beauty and knowledge in our heritage. At first I thought it was wrong of photographers and TV crews to "invade" spiritual ceremonies. We are living in a fast pace, high-tech society. It's hard for our traditions to meet the new expectations of humanity. ButI feel the only way to truly experience a spiritual ceremony is to be there in person. It is a shame that so many people choose to gain knowledge about the important things in life from their televisions.
I believe that the only way for one to define who they are is to go back to their roots. Having something like Buffalo Spirit on the Web is a brilliant way to offer people a glimpse of where they come from and help them on their spiritual journey.
Your message is out there. As a concerned and proud youth I thank you and congratulate you.
In the spirit of Riel,
I don't get a lot of time to read while I'm pursuing a degree and raising a family, but I was flipping through the pages of Windspeaker and I grabbed Buffalo Spirit to read at a later time. I only recently read it and felt the power of the words. As I read on, tears came to my eyes and I cried. I agree with one reader. The Buffalo Spirit is "important to save."
The stories and Elders' words helped me realize that I am on the right path and that I still need a lot to learn, especially my language. I am part Dene and white and I feel that growing up in an urban area has kept me separated from Native spirituality and Native culture. The only experiences I had were when I lived on the trapline for many months of the year at a very young age.
As I grew older, I carried those nature moments with me in hopes to return there some day. As a youth I felt lost and chose the drugs and alcohol path, many times thinking of suicide. I traveled south to explore the powerful Cree spirituality and Native culture. They have accepted me and never closed the door of healing and guidance.
Even though some of my family members said that Dene don't need to attend the sweatlodges, I still needed somewhere to go to rid me of the ghosts and negative energies that were deep inside. The guiding Elders showed love and are always eager to help the young people find their path for the journey of life.
As a Dene I kow I will not go as far as dancing the powwows, but I will continue to attend the healing ceremonies and assist with needed prayers for the youth and lost people.
I thank Buffalo Spirit for bringing me the teachings of the Elders and I will recommend that others read it to assist on their journey.
It makes my heart happy to read the positive articles of your publication. I am non-Native and because of this I feel a bit like a trespasser on your site. This is not because of the content, but rather because I hope I am not "trying to be something I am not."
My life has been without spiritual guidance, that I have been aware of, but I have always had that feeling of something greater than people, with something directing me or speaking to my will.
I want to say I think our lives would all be much healthier if my forebears had listened and learned from the spiritual teachings of your forebears...
I hope you don't mind if I "tune in" on cyberspace for a little spiritual uplifting. It agrees with my inners more than going to church.
Letters from our online readers at www.ammsa.com