As I recently wrote, I don’t know about Native Americans and would like to learn more, especially about spiritual matters. To that end I contacted the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and received a very helpful reply. Evidently there are over 500 tribes in the United States, each with their own unique beliefs and practices. Many tribes are reluctant to share publicly because of past experiences with people taking advantage of that, one way or another. The book by Dakota intellectual Vine Deloria, Jr.,”God is Red: A Native View of Religion” was recommended.
This interest is because I have recently had the opportunity to spend a little time with a fairly large gathering of (about 50 or so) Native Americans who gathered with us as we publicly showed our support of those who are trying to protect our waters, by attempting to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. I have had a few opportunities to speak with some of the Native Americans. And opportunities to hear them speak, pray, and sing. Having been a life long runner, I was moved to tears by videos of Indigenous youth running from North Dakota to Washington, DC, to deliver petitions against the pipeline.
We Caucasian/European people don’t have a spiritual vocabulary, and maybe no one does, I couldn’t say. I have always felt my spiritual experiences could not be confined by, or reduced to words. They are so much deeper, higher, wider, more profound than that. That is why my Quaker experience has been such a blessing to me. To worship together in silence for an hour provides occasions to engage with that which is beyond words, beyond ourselves.
Central to this spiritual practice is that whatever you experience must be integrated into every moment of your life. The spiritual guidance you receive is intended to guide how you live your life. A large part of that is how you engage with others, and respond to their spirit. We are all brothers and sisters. All my relations. Quakers have a saying, “there is that of God in everyone and everything.”
This is why I was so moved by the experience of being among Native Americans, because I immediately recognized this in them. In how they treated each other, and those of us who they didn’t yet know, how they engage the spirit, and how they have always treated the Earth.
During our Quaker silent meetings for worship, the spirit sometimes moves one of us to speak a message. I was recently given such a message to share with the meeting I attend here in Indianapolis, North Meadow Circle of Friends.
It is difficult to express how deeply I have been affected by my new connections with those working on the Dakota Access pipeline struggle here, including a number of Native Americans. Rev William Barber uses an expression that is new to me, “deep calling unto deep.” I was surprised at how effortlessly a spiritual connection was made among us, until I realized it is the same spirit.