Chief Seattle “All things share the same breath—the beast, the tree, the man…the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”
There are so many underlying images that allow youth to grow in beauty. It is important to believe that you are someone and that life is not out to get you. Part of that is that your heritage shapes you, even when you want to deny its influence.
“Someone told me that I’m lucky not to live on the Rez and not subject to all that superstition,” a Native youth flings at me. “Even though I am not traditional, that made me so angry that I wanted to hit him.”
“Every time I hear someone comparing our tradition and saying how superior Christianity is, I want to puke,” says another youth.
My heart breaks when I hear unthinking remarks aimed at demeaning another person’s culture. It hurts the youth so much. It takes away their dignity of being Native. It diminishes their strength of their own spirituality.
I gather up my scattered thoughts and speak to them in metaphors that they can get.
“What these people do not get is that there is only one God. There is not a Christian God and a Native God and a Muslim God. There is only one God. This God has many faces and appears to every culture, instilling spirituality in each. Those who hate or do not recognize spirituality in other cultures deny that there is only one God.
And yet, our Native youth are still confronted with those who want to insist that there is only one way to be connected to the Creator.
“How were you told about that connection when you were young?” I ask.
“My grandmother told me the stories of the first people,” begins one youth. “I was fascinated by all the animals and land sites and water people in it. She always ended her stories by saying that giving thanks everyday for all that has been given and showing respect to everything from Mother Earth to Father Sky even if it is a rock is our religion. I think about that a lot: giving thanks and showing respect seem to be a good religion.”
“I agree,” I say. “The stories I remember are from the Bible and the things I remember are being on a journey and always having to return to our covenant with the Creator when we mess up. Those two things are the basis for many of my teachings to you.”
“Why do so many people say now that they don’t believe in God?” asks a Native young adult.
“I think they have forgotten or never known that they are a part of an ancient story of being connected and pulled to and directed from something awesome and with purpose,” I say. “What do you think?”
“I feel sorry for them,” concludes a youth. “They make all their decisions about how they feel and what they do. They aren’t connected to others in a significant way or to the deep urges inside them. They don’t see beauty or harmony or balance as something necessary for them. They don’t have a story to hold on to. It is very sad.”
We talked about this some more and will continue to ponder what this means.
What is your story and how are you connected to something deep and with purpose?