Wednesday, March 17, 2010

HUM 221: Native American spirituality

Cherokee beliefs are not out of line with those of the 500 other federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, bands and nations. Today we'll try to put them in context.

Perhaps the most reliable brief overview of spiritual and religious issues is in the the webpages on Native American Spirituality put up by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. According to OCRT's Wikipedia profile, it has more than 5,000 profiles of different religious groups and beliefs, and it tries to be neutral. Of Native belief systems, OCRT says:
Many followers of Native American spirituality, do not regard their spiritual beliefs and practices as a "religion" in the way in which many Christians do. Their beliefs and practices form a integral and seamless part of their very being.
Preliminary question: What's the difference between religion and spirituality? What's the definition of each? How are they similar? How are they different?

Go to the OCRT directory and link to the page on "Quotations; Introduction; & Origins of Native Americans and read the three quotes at top. Consider each: Is it religious? Is it spiritual? Is it both? Be ready to post your answers, and explain them in writing, if class discussion lags.

Read the rest of the page, especially paying attention to the connection between subsistence and spiritual beliefs.

Go back to the directory and link to the page headed "Development of Aboriginal culture. Absorption of Native beliefs & practices. Tribal recognition" and read it. Note what the Lakota tribe says about "non-Indian 'wannabes,' hucksters, cultists, commercial profiteers and self-styled 'New Age shamans' and their followers." What are their reasons for this attitude?

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