How I look at social justice and spirituality has been profoundly affected by my recent experiences with Native Americans. These things are difficult to put into words, but similar to Quaker meetings for worship, there was a palpable sense of spiritual connection I immediately shared when I joined groups of Native Americans, initially when we gathered together in downtown Indianapolis for prayers and to raise awareness about the dangers of the Dakota Access Pipeline. And then much more fully when I was blessed to spend significant time and experiences with people, who became my friends, on the First Nation-Climate Unity March in September, 2018.
I have been studying The Sacred Tree: Reflections on Native American Spirituality. (that link includes both paperback and Kindle versions).
“The Sacred Tree was created by the Four Worlds Development Project, a native American inter-tribal group, as a handbook of Native Spirituality for indigenous peoples all over the Americas and the world. Through the guidance of the tribal elders, native values and traditions are being taught as the primary key to unlocking the force that will move native peoples on the path of their own development. The elders have prophesied that by returning to traditional values, native societies can be transformed. This transformation would then have a healing effect on our entire planet. This handbook is being used by the Four Worlds Development Project to eliminate widespread drug and alcohol abuse in tribal communities. It is now being shared for the first time with all members of the human family desiring personal growth.”
“The ancient ones taught us that the life of the Tree is the life of the people. If the people wander far away from the protective shadow of the Tree, if they forget to seek the nourishment of its fruit, or if they should turn against the Tree and attempt to destroy it, great sorrow will fall upon the people. Many will become sick at heart. The people will lose their power. They will cease to dream dreams and see visions. They will begin to quarrel among themselves over worthless trifles. They will become unable to tell the truth and to deal with each other honestly. They will forget how to survive in their own land. Their lives will become filled with anger and gloom. Little by little they will poison themselves and all they touch.”The Sacred Tree: Reflections on Native American Spirituality.
“It was foretold that these things would come to pass, but that the Tree would never die. And as long as the Tree lives, the people live. It was also foretold that the day would come when the people would awaken, as if from a long, drugged sleep; that they would begin, timidly at first but then with great urgency, to search again for the Sacred Tree.”
As I was reading this I recognized the Sacred Tree growing in the circle at Scattergood Friends School. The photos below were taken over the years at annual session of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), showing the protection the tree offers. You can tell these photos are from the shelter of the Sacred Tree, because of the wooden floor and benches the people are sitting on.