Honoring the Spirit of Native American Traditions

Earlier this week I was invited to a Native American fire circle. I really didn’t know what to expect but I said yes right away. As a matter of fact I didn’t even completely read the description my friend sent me, I trusted her, and the first four words sounded good to me:

To honor all life, all Veterans and warriors, all people, and all those who are traveling to the next realm. Sit by the fire and share in the stories told by the Native American Elders and by the storytellers. Come and hear stories told to share the values that sustain a culture.”

Hidden Beauty and Virtue

As I drove through the countryside just west of Manchester toward my friends house I marvelled at the life that is hidden in these woods. Sometimes I feel like living in New Hampshire is like being part of some secret society. There is so much heritage, so many people and lifestyles, such beautiful scenery, but you will never see it New_hampshire_in_autumnfrom the highway or in the movies or magazines. It is hard to describe, you just have to come and drive through the hills and valleys. It’s like nowhere else on earth.

This drive was a perfect set-up for the evenings event. I met my friend and we drove another 10 minutes to her friends house, Noodin, a storyteller and educator of Native American traditions. It was a very casual gathering of about 12 to 15 people in his backyard, sitting around a fire. It reminded me of the many years of family camping I did while growing up.

Noodin began by telling us that it takes a very long time to get a good understanding of Native American spirit teachings. He said that to really understand you have to learn the language, because Native Americans think differently and express themselves differently than white people. He said that words and expressions can have many layers of meaning so they are not easily translated. He also said that Native Americans teach and learn by “doing”. The spiritual, ethical and moral awareness comes through participating in the traditions and way of life.

Survival of the Human Spirit

Many things that Noodin said were like echos of things I have heard before. There were similarities to the Shamanistic beliefs of eastern cultures, as well as Buddhism and Taoism. Even the ‘Creation Story’ had similar traits to the Judeo-Christian creation story. It amazes me how there is this timeless worldwide connection to a belief in the invisible human nature and the spirit world. Noodin also mentioned that Native Americans do not put down other beliefs and traditions – but they would also like to preserve their own.

“To Native American Aboriginal People there is no one way to honor the creator and the creation. The Elder will often say, “all of Spirit understanding is true.”

It’s not easy to preserve spirit traditions and teachings because life offers so many external distractions. Add to that the historical problem of one culture forcefully dominating another and I would have to say it’s miraculous that spiritual values and traditions survive at all.

All religions struggle with this problem, and all religions have changed over time. Unfortunately much of Native American traditions have been lost due to the brutal treatment of the white culture. But Noodin is a white man who is a living example of restoration in process. He was once an insurance agent, the product of an Episcopal upbringing, a typical white American business man – until he felt called to walk a different path.

The value of teaching, sharing, giving

For a few relaxing hours we sat around a campfire and listened. I felt like I was being bathed in truth and goodness. Noodin invited others to speak several times, but most of us just wanted to listen, to absorb whatever we could glean from his teaching, realizing that there was so much that we still didn’t understand.

White Mocs book cover 09 09 2010Everything that was being taught had to do with living for the sake of others, the interconnectedness of all life, and allowing spirit to lead the way. I was reminded of how important our spiritual life is, and that we have to work at understanding our spiritual nature and keeping the internal in the subject position. I felt so grateful that this man was offering his time to share his heart and wisdom with us.

The current American culture is so focused on material wealth, physical beauty, having more, doing more, being more all the time. In very subtle subconscious ways we are all affected by it in one way or another. But one day those things will all go away and the only thing left will be your spiritual heart and mind. Is your spirit beautiful, loving, caring, giving and sharing?

Walking Spirit in a Native Way

Noodin, aka James B. Beard has written a book called “White Mocs on the Red Road”, with the subtitle ‘Walking Spirit in a Native Way’. You can also learn more about his work on his website: northeastcultural.com and his blog: northeastcultural.blogspot.com

 

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4 Responses to “Honoring the Spirit of Native American Traditions”

  1. gservito
    October 24, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Beautiful – thank you. Only one problem: envy of NH 😉

    • October 24, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

      Thanks Gerry, you could always move here.

  2. Jim Beard
    October 25, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    Thank you for your beautiful article . it’s good to know that you captured the heart of what I hoped to share.

    • October 25, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

      You are welcome, it’s my pleasure.

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