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Native American Spirituality

   By: John Cali

Native American Spirituality
John Cali

A member of our Chief Joseph discussion group recently wrote me asking if Joseph would talk about Native American spirituality in one of our newsletters. Here’s her letter:

“Hi John,

“I have no clue as to whether this would be an appropriate topic for a future newsletter, but I thought I would share this thought with you anyway.

“I have read a fair amount, but I know I am very ignorant with respect to Native American spirituality. So perhaps sometime Chief Joseph and you could share some of the unique aspects of Native American spirituality.”

My response:

“Thanks for your posting, and for your suggestion about Native American spirituality. It's an excellent suggestion. Joseph and I don't usually make a distinction between spirituality, as a general concept, and spirituality as practiced by any particular group of people. Whether that group be Native American or any other people.

“But the Native Americans certainly did have spiritual values many humans today have lost sight of--respect for our Mother Earth, respect for animals, respect for one another, respect for the sovereignty of each individual.

“I don't know as there's anything unique about these Native American spiritual values. They're really human values. And it would behoove all of us to pay more attention to them, and to what's really important to all of us on this beautiful blessed planet of ours.”

And Joseph’s response:

Chief Joseph

What you might call Native American spirituality is not essentially different from most other forms of human spirituality. It is not unique in its essence. It may, however, be unique in its practice.

Basically, Native American spirituality is simply a reverence for life, a respect for the divine spark in all life, in all beings. In that way it is pure, as contrasted with the dogma, theology, and laws which often drag other forms of spirituality away from their roots, if you will.

The intent and essential nature of most forms of human spiritual practices are good. And if more humans were more practiced in simply allowing their brothers and sisters to follow their own paths, then none of the religious turmoil that pervades your human society could exist. Everyone would be following whatever path he or she felt was right. And not caring what paths others were following.

But you do care what paths others follow, even though it’s none of your business. And that is exactly what’s given rise to all the senseless dogma, laws, shoulds and should-nots humans often impose on one another.

We are not saying Native American spirituality is superior to any other form of spirituality. We are saying if you all get back to your spiritual roots, you would find only minor, meaningless differences among your many spiritual paths. And you would not feel the need to impose your own beliefs and values on another individual or another people.

Spirituality, as we see it, is simply an awareness you are all more than the humans you know yourselves as. And the awareness all of creation, whether you consider it animate or inanimate, is more than the simply physical. All beings, all that is, are infused with the spiritual essence of the divine.

Many Native Americans practiced this pure form of spirituality in the past, and some still do. Many non-Native Americans practiced it in the past, and many still do. It’s obvious, however, many people, Native American or not, have strayed from their spiritual roots.

You can get back to your spiritual roots by simply acknowledging all that exists is divine. When you get back to your roots, you will--in John’s words--have respect for your Mother Earth, respect for animals, respect for one another, respect for the sovereignty of each individual.

Copyright © 2004 by Great Western Publishing

About the Author

Since 1992, John Cali has been communicating with a spirit called Joseph. In one of his many physical lifetimes, this spirit was incarnated as the legendary Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe in what is now Oregon.

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