Understanding Native American Spirituality (March 14, 2009)


Spirituality was addressed from varied Native American perspectives, featuring Greg Sarris, Tribal Chair of Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, a renowned writer; Eric Wilder, former Tribal Chair of Kashia Pomos and grandson of renowned Pomo healer Essie Parrish; Lakota Harden, a Lakota Minnecoujou/Ihanktuwan activist; D’Shane Barnet, Mandan/Akirara, Planning Director for the Native American Health Center in Oakland; L. Frank,Tongva/Ajachmennet, a well known California artist and linguist; Albert Tenaya, noted musician of the Ahwahneechee Paiute of California Miwok; David Escobar, Lenca-Poton from El Salvador, who advocates for Natives at the Marin County Board of Supervisors; and Colleen Hicks, Executive Director of the Marin Museum of the American Indian.

Throughout the day, teachings of the Native American traditions were interwoven with cultural and historical information, setting the context. Speakers addressed such difficult topics as racism, poverty and tribal sovereignty as they elucidated their respectful, reciprocal relationship with the world of nature, sharing Creation Stories and some of myths and legends that form the foundation of Native American cultures and beliefs. The teachings on the relationship among human beings, and between humankind and Nature were particularly timely, as “the Earth does not belong to man, but man belongs to the Earth.”  The talks also reflected the high regard for ancestors and for women, especially mothers, in these cultures that balance the masculine and feminine principles.

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