American Indian Religion

I am a firm believer that we can not tiptoe into the future while bearing the heavy burdens of our past . . . it just won’t work.

The theme of this blog is ‘change’ but I don’t believe change is even possible until we begin to face the reality of our belief systems. One of those most cherished is our religion, another is cultural superiority.

We are an arrogant bunch and it is often hard for us to see our failings, individually as well as corporately, so from time to time I will post things to try and jar us out of our superiority complex . . . this is one of them.

The question behind this post is: What if we would have listened and learned from the American Indian in the very beginning and decided to assimilate and co-exist instead of conquer? What kind of society would we have today had we done so?

The American Indian Final Solution

For the US government, it was a solution to the so-called Indian problem. For the tens of thousands of Indians who went to boarding schools, it’s largely remembered as a time of abuse and desecration of culture.

‘Kill the Indian … Save the Man

The federal government began sending American Indians to off-reservation boarding schools in the 1870’s. The Army officer who founded the first of these schools said, “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with that sentiment, but only in this way: “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” Fifty years later, the founder’s philosophy was still common practice.

In 1945, Bill Wright, a Pattwin Indian, was sent to the Stewart Indian School in Nevada when he was 6 years old. He remembers matrons bathing him in kerosene and shaving his head. He remembers that all the students at the boarding school were forbidden to express their culture. Everything from wearing long hair to speaking a single Indian word. Wright said he lost not only his language, but also his Indian name. (something very important to an American Indian)

“I remember coming home and my grandma asked me to talk Indian to her and I said, ‘Grandma, I don’t understand you,’ ” Wright says.

“She said, ‘Then who are you?’ ”

Wright says he told her his name was Billy. ” ‘Your name’s not Billy. Your name’s ‘TAH-rruhm,’ ” she told him. ”

And I replied, ‘That’s not what they told me.’ ”

Tsianina Lomawaima, head of the American Indian Studies program at the University of Arizona, says that from the start the government’s objective was to “erase and replace” Indian culture. “Language, religion, family structure, economics, the way you make a living, the way you express emotion, everything,” says Lomawaima.

Following is a link to one of the few books written about Indian religion before the Whites arrived. I am amazed, having never read this book, how closely this book resonates with my own beliefs. Beliefs I’ve discovered on my own after I left the Christian church and began many years of inner searching for the truth and meaning of my existance . . .



  1. waxnwings

    In ‘Black Skin White Masks’ Frantz Fanon writes eloquently on this very sentiment – displacement & erosion of culture and identity – although in the context of the African-American individual. Most interesting is his exploration of the problems faced by those displaced of their language and culture when they are left not only with fragments of a cultural identity, but fragments which have been re-interpreted through the very eyes of their historical oppressors. In this manner, the individual is forced interpret their ‘black-ness’ as the ‘white other’, rather than a ‘black person’. It’s an interesting read and applies well within colonial theory in general. Thanks for the post.


  2. Anonymous

    So, I read what you wrote and thought “Good grief! It is absolutely ridiculous isn’t it…?” Then even before I’d clicked on the link… the tears came.
    What is WRONG with us? WHAT IS IT? As I sit in my kitchen I can’t believe what people (we) do to each other, I don’t understand it and I never will. Thank you for bringing these words and truths into my kitchen. It won’t change anything that’s happened but it could change my day, me, it could reinforce my determination to move further and further away from ideas, institutions and people that insist in drawing distinctions between their way (the right way) and other ways (the wrong ways)… and that’s just the ones that I’m aware of as so much is sub-conscious, absorbed and learned as ‘real’. Western ‘civilised’ society is so broken and ironically, so deprived. We are strangled by stuff and choking on crap…

    I will stand outside today at some point and face into the wind, I will search out the warmth of the sun’s wintry and watery rays and I will look for the light of the moon tonight.


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