Where or how does one find/learn from a Native American Elder medicine man? - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-08-2011, 04:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So on this giant spiritual quest that I have undertaken, I am feeling drawn to Native American spirituality. Dh is part Cherokee and has a soft spot for this and we have surrounded ourselves many times with great books and people. We love pow wows, and sweat lodges. I just finished reading Black Elk Speaks and it was so moving. I think I would live to journey to learn personally from a wise NA Elder or medicine man. We checked with our local Abanacki (sp?) in VT and they said they had no idea of anyone. Do people like this still exist?
Anyone practice NA teachings?
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Old 02-10-2011, 03:39 PM
 
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I hate to say it, but I think you may be in for a difficult journey.  The practice of indigenous religions by non-natives is a very thorny topic and one where if you ask five people you'll get ten answers!

 

I'm speaking as an anthropologist and religious studies scholar and I'm going to generalize (so please forgive me!) but... there are different "types" of religions out there.  Some are based on "right belief", meaning that if you believe X and act upon it then you'll be a "good whatever it may be".  Religions of this nature are generally open since everyone has the opportunity to "believe" and belief is not a limited commodity.  And many "right belief" religions also evangelize... they WANT more believers.

 

Other religions though focus more on "right action".  That means that the specifics of the act are as important (or more important) than the beliefs held by the actors.  These religions are often more difficult to enter since so much depends on specifics.  A ritual can only be done in location X, or an offering can only be made by a person of bloodline Y, or only the fruit of the Q tree is acceptable as an offering.

 

If you move a people from location A to location B, their religion is going to be gutted if it's based on specific "right actions" that are no longer possible.  And this, in fact, happened to many native peoples.  Combine the inability to practice a religion fully with missionary activity (either gentle, as in individual missionaries going to a tribe or forceful, as in deportations and schools specifically designed to wipe out traditional culture/language/belief) and the end result is a religion with a very small membership and a membership that isn't really "open to outsiders".  The majority of indigenous faiths are not evangelical, they're rooted in specific cultural practices, and they don't generally go looking for new members.

 

There ARE people out there who are happy to share their interpretations of specific practices, and people who are happy to teach their personal traditions to others... and if you find that those teachings help you live a better/fuller life or infuse your life with spiritual meaning than that's a good thing!  Magazines like Sacred Hoop may be a good place to start the search, as would asking at pow-wows and similar gatherings.  There are also religions that have grown out of and as a result of cultural changes and these religions are also more "open" (the Native American Church for example, or groups following the Great Law of Peace as set out by Deganawidah).    Either way, books by Vine Deloria Jr. might be another good point of reference (these are academic but readable) or perhaps read some of the "advice to seekers" information (here, they have nice links and demonstrate the sort of response you might get from many tribes) for ideas?

 

Basically, I don't want to discourage you from seeking (and hopefully finding!) your path but I do want you to know that this is a very "hot button topic" for many and it may be a long and sometimes discouraging journey.  Good luck!


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Old 02-11-2011, 05:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks mama for answering!

I am not looking to join "religion", but just want more info. I just picked up a book by Brooke Medicine Eagle and it is in a direction of what I am looking for kind of. Got a great book by Tom Brown Jr called Grandfather. Just amazing. I am looking to expand my spiritual horizons. Off to check out the books and link!
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