Here in New Mexico we live in proximity to three Native American reservations and nineteen pueblos. The peoples who live in these lands are unique, each with their own culture and beliefs. Their distinctive ceremonies and traditions have developed over the centuries and are truly their own.
Much has been taken from these peoples over the generations. Their remaining lands may be small, but like a rock that a great river has flowed around, they are still here.
To learn more of these peoples is to be made aware that they are distinct and different in many ways. Never confuse a Navajo (Dineh) with a Mescalero Apache (or try to get them to live together as General James Henry Carlton did at Bosque Redondo). But like the great civilizations of history, their ways and beliefs are authentic, arising from a direct experience of the land and the lives of their people, leavened by a healthy dose of reflection and tested through the generations.
Don’t show me any wealthy suburbanites stopping off at a sweat lodge on their way to the tennis courts. (Believe me, this happens.) You want to show respect to indigenous peoples’ spirituality? Develop your own and leave theirs be. You can’t power shop for a spiritual vision or a value system. And if yours is borrowed, it isn’t real.
So honor Native Americans by reflecting on YOUR experiences, not theirs, and by examining YOUR own relationship to the land, not theirs. And then, once you have a better idea of who you are, where you are, and why you are here, maybe then we can all get together as human beings and help each other out a little bit.