I have always been deeply touched & fascinated by the Native American culture and way of life. At least those were the impressions I got from the stories, pictures and other media content I randomly consumed throughout the years. Such stories recount past tales of the iconic Red Indians’ bravery, folk wisdom and deep understanding of nature and their relation to it in the ecology of things.
[GARD align=left]Of course I couldn’t have had any first hand experience and I doubt whether anyone who had close encounters with the Native American’s original way of life is alive today. A very long time has passed since the last few remaining pockets of unspoiled cultural life have been completely embellished by the frenetic spread of white man’s modern way of life. Gone are the days of the shaman’s ancient rituals or the team enabled hunting tactics.
I always found this deeply saddening. Not in a Luddite kind of way where I despise the onslaught of modernity and romanticize the old and simple way of life. No. It weirdly feels as if the cultural system of most tribes was a successful experiment in human cultural and spiritual evolution that we thrashed thanks to the infinite short-sightedness and destructive greed of Man’s collective ego.
Of course on the other hand I know that talking about Native American culture is too broad to mean anything tangible. There was a big number of tribes spread over vast and wildly different geographical territory in North and South America. Even cultural ways of life differed a lot from one tribe to another. Talking about the Navajo of the South West ain’t the same thing as talking about the Arctic Inuit or the Cheyenne of the plains. Yet some traits converge and overlap.
What I always found deeply fascinating is their deep relation to nature, the earth and the spiritual world. It seems like there was a basic and common philosophy of nature and spirit between the peoples. The first principle is that we are embedded in a sacred web of life and we resonate with it. We have responsibility towards life around us because in this circle of life, we affect everything and everything affects us. There is a deep rooted interdependence in the existence of things – a concept echoed in Buddhist beliefs and modern scientific thought.
In this view, we have no special position in the general scheme of things. We are part of it but not above it. This drastically contrasted with the anthropocentric christian theology of the early white settlers and missionaries. I had always suspected that the dogmatic and ultimately man-created belief that God created Man in his image and gave him power over nature was a license to nourish our narrow egocentric needs and exploit all natural resources around us without second considerations.
The saying of the Tuscarora tribe “Man has responsibility not power” or “In our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations” from the great law of the Iroquois Confederacy, greatly reflects this contrast.
I have collected more Native American saying like these in the below slide show. I hope you enjoy and make sure to share with others. It’s under creative commons license so do not hesitate to redistribute. I will leave you to it.