Native American Spirituality

Native American spirituality rests upon traditions thousands of years old, traditions that developed gradually as did the indigenous cultures, that blossomed along side of the native civilizations that took root. The European entrance into the long established indigenous ways of life, as well as the industrialization and modernization that followed their arrival, certainly tested the strength of ancient beliefs, but due to oral traditions and other means, much of the early knowledge has been able to survive through the generations, despite the continuous efforts of the newcomers to the continent to replace Native American spirituality with Christianity.

After centuries of efforts at suppression, in recent decades, Native American spirituality has enjoyed a re-emergence, as have Native American languages and other aspects of Native American culture. Part of this relates to the ethnic movements of other peoples seeking equality and part of this reemergence relates to New Age types of spiritual practice in American culture. However, the relationship between Native American spirituality in a modern world and New Age traditions is not without conflict. 

One of the complaints about the New Agers’ fascination with Native American spirituality has to do with a sort of co-opting of culture, one that reflects a superficial understanding of the ancient spiritual knowledge and philosophies that are at the root of Native American spirituality. Another is the merchandising of certain aspects of Native American spirituality, such as the purification rites related to the sweat lodge and the traditions of the shaman.

Many of the concepts that Native American spirituality has preserved for generations have come to have great influence in the way many outside of their culture understand the world around them, something that is especially noticeable in the environmental protection movement. Despite the challenges it faces in a modern world, Native American spirituality has proven itself to be strong and vibrant, able to adapt to the new world, while maintaining its essential beliefs and traditions, as well as influence the thinking of the modern American nation.

Joseph Paige 2006

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