Native American spirituality vs religion

Native American spirituality vs religion

Hi all!smudging

I am continuing on with the writing of the Red Man, the Cree man who helped me write my last post. I have written a few posts about the history of the Native people (see my history and trauma category on the right) and about the philosophy and spirituality (see category on the right too). I have discussed the influence of the White man and religion on the trauma that was inflicted on the Native people. Because although not always intentionally, trauma was inflicted in the name of religion. Not an easy topic to discuss or read about but it happened. Assimilation was the goal, to take the Indian out of the man. In the name of Christianity, traditions were forbidden, beliefs were ridiculed, and cultures were erased. Or at least, they tried to. So today, let’s look at the concepts of religion and Native American spirituality.

What is the Native fight?

Some would say we are on the war path, fighting a fight we might lose if we do not know who we are fighting against. If we do not know, we will fight ourselves and everyone close to us. Who

Chief Dan George

Chief Dan George

is the enemy then or what is the enemy? Chief Dan George once said: “When you came to this land, we had the land and you had the bible. Now you have the land and we have the bible”. Maybe it is time to wake up and smell the aroma of fear. To remember who we are and in a sense, we were not religious. Native people became “religious” as a military ploy, pretending to believe in a religion so the religious ones would stop killing them. Guess what? Even though we pretended, they still killed us.

Native spirituality vs religion

Religion and the Red Road are diametrically opposed to each other in a few different ways. First of all, let’s clarify something. The Red Road or Native Spirituality is not considered a religion. It is considered a philosophy. The word philosophy is Greek for “a love of wisdom”. We love wisdom wherever it comes from. From the White, Red, Black and Yellow man. Indeed, the concept of the Medicine Wheel dictates that once the attributes of the Red, White, Black and Yellow men are acknowledged, that’s when the medicine wheel is complete and whole. All knowledge is important, from all men.

Religion is a doctrine, a system of thoughts where all thoughts and truth come from a book, the bible let’s say. Religion tends to instill fear in people, the fear of hell, of doing bad, or burning in hell. However, one cannot get to the happy hunting grounds through fear. The Bible tells you to fear, to fear the God who has the power to kill you. Rebelling against God is bringing judgment upon oneself, inviting wrath into one’s life (Romans 13). I don’t know about you but living in that kind of fear does not seem like a very serene way of living.


The Priest and the Elder

The difference that I will describe here is bone chilling and beautiful at the same time. The Beothuk Indians, Indians from the tip of the Canadian East coast, are now extinct. But they gave us this pearl of wisdom to think about.

A priest is sitting with an Elder of the tribe. The priest says: “look at your children, running around, screaming and laughing. You had better take the rod to them or they will one day embarrass you in public. If you spare the child the rod, you do not love them. And secondly you had better give yourself to the land or you will burn in hell”.

Beothuk woman and child

Beothuk woman and child

The Elder’s response, is worth a moment of reflection. I will repeat what he said verbatim, word for word. “First of all, we do not hit our children! We have respect for their dignity. Second of all, we do not believe in this primitive fear that you call hell. You brought that here with you and you can take it back when you leave”.

Sense or nonsense, that is the question. In the name of religion, natural Natives were killed throughout the world. The Crusades, the Inquisition. For some, this might be an occasion to ask themselves, why do I know little about my people but a lot about the Bible? You might know the saying “What belongs to Ceasar, let Ceasar have”. Well, maybe what belongs to Jesus and his people, let Jesus and his people have. The people of the Bible only have respect for their ideas and show a hatred for the truth of anyone else. But the land speaks to you and their land speaks harshly to them. We live in the promised land and maybe we should live like we have heaven here on earth. We have our ancestors around us, we walk on their land, the land of our children. Let us live in peace, joy and love. Let us be who we were meant to be, not who we were made to be.

elder quote


All my Relations



8 thoughts on “Native American spirituality vs religion

  1. Aikaterini Markakis

    Hello Emily,
    This is a wonderful post and I enjoyed it much as always!
    Religion killed spirituality in my opinion. So much pain and so many wars and death occurred in the name of God! So many great civilizations were destroyed because of religion, native Americans being one of them..
    This is a post more people have to read. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  2. Cathy

    Hi Emily,

    I come from Asia and have very limited knowledge about Native American and their culture. So pardon me if my question sounded too shallow. Who is the Elder? What is his main role in a tribe?

    Thank you.

    1. Emily Post author

      thanks Cathy! An Elder is simply a spiritual leader for a tribe. Some say Elders have been through hell and back. The Elder is the informal chief, people listen to him and his wisdom

  3. Debby

    I agree with much of what you have to say. Religion is all about laws and rules, and that is not what the God of the Bible ever wanted for us. Relationship with God is what the Bible teaches. That’s why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees so often, because they wanted the people to follow the letter of the law rather than the heart of the law. Many churches today are still that way. I do have an American Indian heritage, and do agree that what was done to our people was horrible beyond words, but a lot of it was done by the government, in the name of religion, because they wanted the land. The first people who came made friends with and got along fine with the Indian people.

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Debby
      a lot of trauma was inflicted to get the land I agree. Numerous initiatives from the government were geared toward stealing the land. Unfortunately, there were other initiatives that were not land motivated, such as Residential Schools, in which Catholics tried to assimilate native children. A place where abuse was rampant. The intention might have been somewhat good at the beginning but what followed was over a century of abuse. Sad


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