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FIRST PEOPLES AND NATIVE TRADITIONS

The First Peoples in the Fourth World

NOTE: Texts and quotations by Julian Burger and the indigenous peoples are used with permission of *The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples: A Future for the Indigenous World,* by Julian Burger with campaigning groups and native peoples worldwide. (London: Gaia Books Ltd, 1990. Some of what follows was written by representatives of indigenous peoples; some was provided by non-indigenous people.

Julian Burger explains  that there is no universally agreed name for the peoples he describes as first peoples:
"... because their ancestors were the original inhabitants of the lands, since colonized by foreigners. Many territories continue to be so invaded. The book also calls them indigenous, a term widely accepted by the peoples themselves, and now adopted by the United Nations." (BURGER, p.16)

`Fourth World' is a term used by the World Council of Indigenous Peoples to distinguish the way of life of indigenous peoples from those of the First (highly industrialized), Second (Socialist bloc) and Third (developing) worlds. The First, Second and Third Worlds believe that `the land belongs to the people'; the Fourth World believes that `the people belong to the land. (BURGER, p.18)

A PORTRAIT OF THE FIRST PEOPLES
 
First peoples see existence as a living blend of spirits, nature and people. All are one, inseparable and interdependent -- a holistic vision
shared with mystics throughout the ages. The word for religion does not exist in many cultures, as it is so closely integrated into life itself.
For many indigenous peoples spirits permeate matter -- they animate it. This led the early anthropologists to refer to such beliefs as "animist." (Burger, p.64)

Myths that explain the origins of the world remind people of their place in the universe and of their connection with the past. Some are humorously ironic, others complex and esoteric. Some, notably Aboriginal Dreamtime, speak of the creation of the hills, rocks, hollows, and rivers formed bypowerful ancestral spirits in the distant past. Others describe a dramatic split between the gods and humankind or the severance of the heavens and the Earth -- as in the sudden separation  of the Sky Father and Earth Mother in Maori legend. Others tell the story of how the earth was peopled, as in the sacred book of the Maya of Central America. Myths invest life with meaning. The rich symbolic associations found in the oral traditions of many indigenous cultures bring the sacred into everyday life -- through a pipe, a feather, a rattle, a color even -- and help individuals to keep in touch with both themselves and the spirit world. (Burger, p.66)

Indigenous peoples are strikingly diverse in their culture, religion, and social and economic organization. Yet, today as in the past, they are prey to stereotyping by the outside world. By some they are idealized as the embodiment of spiritual values; by others they are denigrated as an  obstacle impeding economic progress. But they are neither: they are people who cherish their own distinct cultures, are the victims of past and present-day colonialism, and are determined to survive. Some live according to their traditions, some receive welfare, others work in factories, offices, or the professions. As well as their diversity, there are some shared values and experiences among indigenous cultures....

By understanding how they organize their societies, the wider society may learn to recognize that they are not at some primitive stage of
development, but are thoughtful and skillful partners of the natural world, who can help all people to reflect on the way humanity treats the
environment and our fellow creatures. (Burger, p. 15)


PARTNERS TOWARD A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

by Maurice Strong
General Secretary of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

As we awaken our consciousness that humankind and the rest of nature are inseparably linked, we will need to look to the world's more than 250million indigenous peoples. They are the guardians of the extensive and fragile ecosystems that are vital to the wellbeing of the planet. Indigenous peoples have evolved over many centuries a judicious balance between their needs and those of nature. The notion of sustainability, now recognized as the framework for our future development, is an integral part of most indigenous cultures.

In the last decades, indigenous peoples have suffered from the consequences of some of the most destructive aspects of our development.
They have been separated from their traditional lands and ways of life, deprived of their means of livelihood, and forced to fit into societies in which they feel like aliens. They have protested and resisted. Their call is for control over their own lives, the space to live, and the freedom to live their own ways. And it is a call not merely to save their own territories, but the Earth itself.

While no one would suggest that the remainder of the more than five billion people on our planet would live at the level of indigenous
societies, it is equally clear that we cannot pursue our present course of development. Nor can we rely on technology to provide an easy answer. What modern civilization has gained in knowledge, it has perhaps lost in sagacity. The indigenous peoples of the world retain our collective evolutionary experience and insights which have slipped our grasp. Yet these hold critical lessons for our future. Indigenous peoples are thus indispensable partners as we try to make a successful transition to a more secure and sustainable future on our precious planet.

     -- excerpted from theForeword to *The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples,* by Julian Burger


VOICES OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES on: Earth

"Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people."
     -- A DUWAMISH CHIEF (Burger)

"The Earth is the foundation of Indigenous Peoples; it is the seat of spirituality, the fountain from which our cultures and languages flourish.
The Earth is our historian, the keeper of events, and the bones of our forefathers. Earth provides us with food, medicine, shelter, and clothing. It is the source of our independence, it is our Mother. We do not dominate her; we must harmonize with her."
     -- HAYDEN BURGESS, native Hawaiian (Burger)

"One has only to develop a relationship with a certain place, where the land knows you and experience that the trees, the Earth and Nature are extending their love and light to you to know there is so much we can receive from the Earth to fill our hearts and souls."
     --INTI MELASQUEZ, Inca (Burger)

"Man is an aspect of nature, and nature itself is a manifestation of primordial religion. Even the word `religion' makes an unnecessary
separation, and there is no word for it in the Indian tongues. Nature is the `Great Mysterious,' the `religion before religion,' the profound
intuitive apprehension of the true nature of existence attained by sages of all epochs, everywhere on Earth; the whole universe is sacred, man is the whole universe, and the religious ceremony is life itself, the common acts of every day."
     --PETER MATTHIESSEN, Indian Country (Burger)

"We Indian people are not supposed to say, `This land is mine.' We only use it. It is the white man who buys land and puts a fence around it. Indians are not supposed to do that, because the land belongs to all Indians, it belongs to God, as you call it. The land is a part of our
body, and we are a part of the land."
     -- BUFFALO TIGER, Miccosukee (Burger)

"When the last red man has vanished from the Earth, and the memory is only a shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people, for they love this Earth as the newborn loves its mother's heartbeat."
     --SEALTH, a Duwamish chief (Burger)

"When Indians referred to animals as `people' -- just a different sort of person from Man -- they were not being quaint. Nature to them was a community of such `people' for whom they had a great deal of genuine regard and with whom they had a contractual relationship to protect one another's interests and to fulfill their mutual needs. Man and Nature, in short, was joined by compact -- not by ethical ties -- a compact predicated on mutual esteem. This was the essence of the traditional land relationship."
     -- OJIBWAY MAGAZINE

"Our roots are deep in the lands where we live. We have a great love for our country, for our birthplace is here. The soil is rich from the bones of thousands of our generations. Each of us was created in these lands and it is our duty to take great care of them, because from these lands will spring the future generations of our peoples. We walk about with great respect, for the Earth is a very Sacred Place."
     --Sioux, Navaho and Iroquois Declaration, 1978


Economy, Wealth and a Way of Life

The economic life of indigenous people is based not on competition but on cooperation, for survival is only possible when the community works together. Most small-scale indigenous societies have elaborate systems for sharing food, possessions, and ritualizing conflict.... Indigenous forms of economy cannot, of course, satisfy the needs of a burgeoning world population now nearing six billion. But the knowledge and, especially, the values of the peoples practicing them are vital. The scientific community has recently begun research into indigenous skills in resource management. But it is, above all, wisdom that is needed in Western culture -- we all need to learn respect for the Earth, conservation of resources, equitable distribution of wealth, harmony, balance and modest cooperation. In 1928
Gandhi wrote:
     "God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the
manner of the West . . . It would strip the world bare like locusts."
     -- (Burger, p.42)

"An Innu hunter's prestige comes not from the wealth he accumulates but
from what he gives away. When a hunter kills caribou or other game he
shares with everyone else in the camp."
     -- DANIEL ASHINI, Innu (Burger)


War and Peace, Life and Death

     " `Was it an awful war?'
          `It was a terrible war.'
     `Were many people killed?'
          `One man was killed.'
     `What did you do?'
          `We decided that those of us who had done the killing should never meet again because we were not fit to meet one another.'"
     -- SAN describing a war  to Laurens van der Post (Burger)

In Papua New Guinea hostilities between groups are part of the cycle of events encompassing long periods of peace and enmity. War is just one aspect of cultural life. The idea of annihilating the other group is absent; indeed, the Tsembaga and Mae Enga are known as the peoples who marry their enemies. War is a means by which the individual and the group find their identity, and is largely ceremonial. . . even on the point of war there is always a ritual means of stepping back from open confrontation. Anger can be channelled into a "nothing fight," a competition of insults and shouting. Or else it may lead to a real fight, with blows exchanged and sometimes even serious casualties. After a war a lengthy process of peace-making begins. Gifts, ceremonies, and marriages establish links and obligations between the parties. (Burger, p.62)

~ excerpted from A Sourcebook for the Earth's Community of Religions

Jerome Bushyhead, Morning Prayer

 

Beauty is before me, and

Beauty behind me,

above me and below me

hovers the beautiful.

I am surrounded by it,

I am immersed in it.

In my youth, I am aware of it,

and, in old age,

I shall walk quietly the beautiful

trail.

In beauty it is begun.

In beauty it is ended.

---- Navajo

 

 

NATIVE AMERICAN SPIRITUALITY

Robert Staffanson
Executive Director, American Indian Institute

While Native American spirituality is not easily defined, it has
several defining characteristics:

     a) Recognition of the interconnectedness of all Creation, and the
responsibility of human beings to use their intelligence in protecting
that inter- connectedness. That applies particularly to the lifegiving
elements: water, air and soil.

     b) A belief that all life is equal, and that the presence of the life
spark implies a degree of spirituality whether in humans, animals or
plants. In their view the species of animals and birds, as well as forests
and other plant life, have as much "right" to existence as human beings,
and should not be damaged or destroyed. That does not mean that they
cannot be used but that use has limitations.

     c) Their primary concern is with the long-term welfare of life rather
than with short-term expediency or comfort. They consider all issues and
actions in relationship to their long-term effect on all life, not just
human life.

     d) Their spirituality is undergirded by thankfulness to the Creator.
Prayer, ceremonies, meditation and fasting are an important part of their
lives. But they ask for nothing. They give thanks: for all forms of life
and for all the elements that make life possible, and they are concerned
with the continuation of that life and the ingredients upon which it
depends.

~~ excerpted from http://www.silcom.com/~origin/sbcr/sbcr072 

 

Earth Teach Me

 

Earth teach me stillness

as the grasses are stilled with light.

Earth teach me suffering

as old stones suffer with memory.

Earth teach me caring

as parents who secure their young.

Earth teach me courage

as the tree which stands all alone.

Earth teach me limitation

as the ant which crawls on the ground.

Earth teach me freedom

 as the eagle which soars in the sky.

Earth teach me resignation

as the leaves which die in the fall.

Earth teach me regeneration

as the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself

as melted snow forgets its life.

Earth teach me to remember

kindness as dry fields weep

with rain.  

----- Ute Indians of
North America

Native by Karl Bang

This was sent to me without credits, the only thing I know is that it was called Gathering.

WISDOM FROM THE NATIVE AMERICAN LEADER TECUMSEH

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion; respect others in their view, and
demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life,
beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its
purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the
day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of
salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely
place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

"When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of
living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in
yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not
like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when
their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their
lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a
hero going home."


Hear me, four quarters of the

world,

A relative I am !

Give me the strength to walk the

soft earth. Give me the eyes to see and the strength to

understand.

Look upon these faces of children

without number,

That they may face the winds and

walk the good road to the day of quiet.

This is my prayer; hear me.

---- Black Elk

A site of interest containing information on the Native Calendar, and many other

interesting bits of information.

Native American Entrance

another one sent to me with no credits

Dana Tiger's Ritual Traditions of the Human Woman

Wow... An AMAZING site of links to information on SO MANY Native American tribes,

issues, arts, etc.. my site can be just a tiny window into the world of

Native American Websites...

 

 

Sorry, this came with no credits.... please email me to inform me so I can properly dignify this piece of art.

The Sacred Hoop

Then I was standing

on the hightest mountain

of them all,

And the round beneath me

was the whole hoop

of the world.

And while I stood there

I saw more than I can tell

And I understood

more than I saw.

For I was seeing

in the sacred manner

the shape of all things

of the spirit

And the shapes

as they must live

together like one being.

And I saw that the sacred hoop

of my people

was one of many hoops

that make one circle,

wide as daylight and starlight,

And in the center grew one

mightly flowering tree

To shelter all the children

of one mother

and one father.

And I saw that it was holy.

-----Black Elk

We Belong To The Earth

This we know.  The earth does not

belong to us; we belong to the earth.

This we know. All things are connected

like the blood which unites one family.

All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls

the sons and daughters of

the earth.

We did not weave the web of life;

We are merely a strand in it.

Whatever we do to the web,

we do to ourselves.

----- Attributed to

Chief Noah Sealth

Margaret Tindell's Window to the Sacred World

Jerome Bushyhead, New Beginings

 

 

 

 

A honored artist and leader wrongfully accused

One of the most popular of Leonard Peltier's works, the original oil painting is owned by Jane Fonda. The warrior represents fortitude, respect for all living things, and strength. His use of color intensifies the power evident in his subject's eyes, expression, and presence.  Leonard Peltier was a Native American working for the social benefit of other Native Americans when he was wrongfully imprisoned for murdering FBI agents. To this day even the FBI does not know who committed the murder, and many people all over the world including Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Amnesty International, among many many other individuals and groups have worked for this honored man's freedom.  To learn more...

 

A few Native American Resources....

Folk art and crafts

The Swimmer Collection of Native American Indian Art 

Art for sale... I was extremely impressed!!

to The Peachtree  Plantation

 

NATIVE AMERICAN -- CHRISTIAN WORSHIP

NOTE: In North America, as in many countries, there has been a
considerable range of interaction between Christians of many denominations
and indigenous peoples from a variety of tribal communities. Some
indigenous people are reclaiming parts of their heritage and combining
them with the Christian message. The description which follows explains
several elements which may be utilized in cross-cultural worship. One of
the goals here is to appreciate the gifts, rituals, and meanings found in
the traditions of "the other" -- as the Native American believers
themselves experience those meanings.


THE CIRCLE: For Native American people, and for their theology, the Circle
is the symbol that expresses their unique identity as a people. It
expresses the sense of wholeness, harmony, unity, and mutual
interdependence that is at the heart of Native civilization. The Circle is
a powerful metaphor for the special insights and gifts that Indian and
Eskimo people bring into the Christian faith as part of their ancient
cultural heritage.

THE DRUM: In Indian country, the term drum means more than just the
physical instrument itself. It implies also the singers who are seen as an
organic part of the music; they are also the instrument of the drum. The
drum, a perfect representation of the Circle, embodies the heartbeat of
the body of Christ.

THE FOUR SACRED DIRECTIONS: Within the Circle, the points of the spiritual
compass indicate the four sacred directions of God's creation. These
directions represent the eternal balance of the harmony and goodness of
the world. They can be illustrated by different colors, depending on the
tribal tradition.

OUR MOTHER, THE EARTH: Here is a very precious part of Native American
theology; it is one that must be accorded great respect. Speaking of the
Earth is not done casually in Native worship; rather, the living Earth
shows the nurturing, sustaining power of God in all its warmth and beauty.

CEDAR, SAGE, SWEET GRASS AND TOBACCO: Many tribes have a form of incense
to purify the place of prayer and worship. Any of these four can be used
individually or collectively as incense during a service.

NATIVE HYMNS: A great many traditional Christian hymns have been
translated into Native languages. One hymn, "Many and Great, O God, are
Thy Works," is actually a Dakota hymn, translated into English, and a part
of some hymnals.

     -- Excerpted from the service booklet for "A Celebration of Native
American Survival," held at the National Cathedral on October 12, 1992.
(Derived from a longer article written by the Right Reverend Steve
Charleston, a Native American, titled "Planning with Native Americans for
a Shared Worship Experience," this explanation was previously printed in
"Eco-Letter" of the NACRE, Fall-Winter 1992.)
 

~~excerpted from http://www.silcom.com/~origin/sbcr/sbcr057

 

Native American Coloring pages... for kids of all ages...  

 

PLASTIC MEDICINE MEN

A Resolution of the 5th Annual Meeting of the Traditional Elders
Circle

     ED. NOTE: This resolution was made at the Meeting of the Elders 
Circle at Northern Cheyenne Nation, Two Moons Camp, Rosebud Creek,
Montana, on October 5, 1980. It represents an early response of many by
traditional elders as well as by the American Indian Movement and others
to clarify that the Native American spiritual tradition is not for sale,
is not legitimately sold, and that the components of the religion must be
kept in balance by highly trained leaders who are legitimate
representatives of the tribes. The elders feel that in many cases the
appropriation of Native spirituality by non-Indians is another attempt by
the dominant culture to take from the Indians, and shows considerable
disrespect for the Native tradition and culture.

It has been brought to the attention of the Elders and their
representatives in council that various individuals are moving about this
Great Turtle Island and across the great waters to foreign soil,
purporting to be spiritual leaders. They carry pipes and other objects
sacred to the Red Nations, the indigenous people of the western
hemisphere.

These individuals are gathering non-Indian people as followers who believe
they are receiving instructions of the original people. We the Elders and
our representatives sitting in Council give warning to these non-Indian
followers that it is our understanding that this is not a proper process
and the authority to carry these sacred objects is given by the people,
and the purpose and procedure is specific to time and the needs of the
people.

The medicine people are chosen by the medicine, and long instruction and
discipline are necessary before ceremonies and healing can be done. These
procedures are always in the Native tongue; there are no exceptions and
profit is not the motivation.

There are many Nations with many and varied procedures specifically for
the welfare of their people. These processes and ceremonies are of the
most Sacred Nature. The Council finds the open display of these ceremonies
contrary to these Sacred instructions.

Therefore, be warned that these individuals are moving about preying upon
the spiritual needs and ignorance of our non-Indian brothers and sisters.
The value of these instructions and ceremonies is questionable, maybe
meaningless, and hurtful to the individual carrying false messages. There
are questions that should be asked of these individuals:

     What Nation do they represent?
     What is their Clan and Society?
     Who instructed them and where did they learn?
     What is their home address?

We concern ourselves only with those people who use spiritual ceremonies
with non-Indian people for profit. There are many things to be shared with
the Four Colors of humanity in our common destiny as one with our Mother
the Earth. It is this sharing that must be considered with great care by
the Elders and the medicine people who carry the Sacred Trusts, so that no
harm may come to people through ignorance and misuse of these powerful
forces.

     Signed,
Austin Two Moons, Northern Cheyenne Nation; Larry Anderson, Navajo Nation;
Thomas Banyacya, Hopi Independent Nation; Frank Cardinal, Sr., Chateh,
Alberta; Phillip Deer, Muskogee (Creek) Nation; Walter Denny,
Chippewa-Cree Nation; Chief Fools Crow, Lakota Nation; Peter O'Chiese,
Entrance, Alberta; Izador Thorn, Washington; Tadadaho, Haudenassaunee; Tom
Yellowtail, Wyola MT.

NOTE: The Elders charged the American Indian Movement and others with
responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the Indian traditions. AIM
then made a resolution in 1984 naming some of those whom the Elders have
in mind, and asserting, among other things, that "attempted theft of
Indian ceremonies is a direct attack and theft from Indian people
themselves." Some of those named are non-Indian authors and ritual
leaders; others may be native Americans, but may also be distanced from
their tribes and not designated as representatives of the people.

~~ excerpted from http://www.silcom.com/~origin/sbcr/sbcr073

 

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