Aboriginal Spirituality. Origins. No single founder. Two theories of Aboriginal origin/history in the Americas: They “came out of this ground,” meaning they were here before any record.
Origins • No single founder. • Two theories of Aboriginal origin/history in the Americas: • They “came out of this ground,” meaning they were here before any record. • They migrated from Asia to North and South America by crossing a land bridge over the Bering Strait (between Alaska and Russia) 35 000 years ago.
Origins • Archaeologists have found Aboriginal artefacts dating back beyond 10 000 years. • Including wampum (beaded belts), animal paintings on rocks, bones representing burial rites, and wooden carvings.
Aboriginal Spirituality Around the World • Huge diversity of Aboriginal spirituality. • Indigenous peoples live in every area of the globe. • 80% of world’s 300 million Aboriginal peoples live in Asia. • 13% in North and South America.
Aboriginal Spirituality Around the World • Anthropologists estimate that at the time of Columbus about 100 million Indigenous peoples inhabited the Americas. • 1500 – 1/5 of human race. • Many Aboriginal peoples still believe in and practice aspects of their traditional religions.
Contemporary ABORIGINAL Religion in Canada Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality: Some Common Components
The EAGLE • What do you think the eagle feather symbolizes in Aboriginal cultures?
Eagle feather = symbol of strength. Gives holder power to represent others. Often presented as recognition to someone who defends, fights for, or negotiates on behalf of Aboriginal peoples.
Dropped Eagle Feather Dance To most Native Americans the eagle feather is sacred. So, when a feather falls from a dancer’s outfit, the pow wow must stop and a special ceremony must be performed. In some traditions, a fallen eagle feather is treated like an enemy because it is believed the sacredness of the feather can turn against the person who dropped it. The ceremony is necessary to capture the feather, ask its forgiveness and say a prayer over it to make the feather’s medicine good again. The ceremony is performed by four male traditional dancers, generally veterans (i.e., warriors who have earned the privilege) who dance around the feather. At a certain point in the song, they approach the dropped feather from four directions and attack the feather, usually four times. In some instances, the warrior who actually picks up the feather relates a battle or war story. For most tribes, four is a sacred number, symbolizing, among other things, the four directions. When the feather is retrieved, a prayer is said.
Aboriginal Spirituality In Canada • Canada’s Aboriginal population just passed 1 million!! (2013 data) See map from Ms Howie
Beliefs –Storytelling • Traditional Aboriginal storytellers had to earn the right to be a storyteller. • They were important in teaching and in preserving the history of the group.
Example: The Inuit Their religious belief is grounded in the belief that anua (souls) exist in all people and animals. Individuals, families and the tribe must follow a complex system of taboos to assure that animals will continue to make themselves available to the hunters. Many rituals and ceremonies are performed before and after hunting expeditions to assure hunting success.
Sedna, Mistress of the Underworld An Inuit Creation Myth as recorded by Franz Boaz in 1888, retold by Ms. Howie
The underwater Goddess, Sedna, is in charge of the sea mammals. She is part human and part fish. She observes how closely the tribe obeys the taboos and releases her animals to the hunters accordingly. There is a corresponding array of deities who release land mammals; these are Keepers or Masters, one for each species.
Stories… • Use stories provided from http://www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/firstnations/myths.html • Once you have read 3 stories, choose one and create a picture to visually “tell” the story.
Beliefs - Animism • Everything in the world is alive. • All living things reside in close connection and harmony with one another and move in cycles. • Animism: all things, human and non-human, have spirits or souls, and that person or animal lives on after death through the presence of that spirit.
Beliefs - Animism • Most Aboriginal peoples believe in a supreme Creator. • Other spirits have power to guide human activity. • Inuit call the sea “Sea Woman.” • Iroquois call the sky “Sky Woman.” • Algonquin call the sky “Grandfather.”
Beliefs - Animism • Aboriginal spirituality turns to many spirits because Aboriginal people believe they have more than one specific need in nature/life. • Example: a fisherman strives to be on good terms with the spirit of the sea. • A farmer strives to please the spirit of the rain or sun.
Beliefs - Animism • Black Elk, Sioux holy man from Great Plains said; “We know that we all are related and are one with all things of the heavens and the earth…May we be continually aware of this relationship which exists between the four-leggeds, the two-leggeds, and the wingeds…”
Beliefs – Creation Stories • Often oral. • Offers a response to questions of existence: • Why certain things in the environment are the way they are… • Where do we come from? • Where do we go when we die?
Beliefs – Death/Afterlife • In general, Native religions have no precise belief about life after death. Some believe in reincarnation as a human or animal after death. Others believe humans return as ghosts, or that people go to another world. Others believe that nothing definitely can be known about one's fate after this life. • Combinations of belief are common.
Beliefs – Death/Afterlife • Example: Sioux of Great Plains believe that four souls depart from a person at death. • One of them journeys along the “spirit path,” and is judged by an old woman. • She determines whether the spirit should carry on to reconnect with ancestors or return to Earth as a ghost. • Other souls enter fetuses and are reborn into new bodies.
Beliefs – Totems • Links Aboriginal peoples to their ancestors. A totem is any supposed entity (plant, animal or mythical being) that watches over or assists a group of people, such as a family, clan, or tribe • Ojibwa identify each totem group by the name of a bird, fish, animal, or reptile. • Totem poles can tell stories or represent the totems of a clan or tribe, (more totem poles)
Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality “I’ve never yet met an Indian atheist” David Bird • To understand Aboriginal spirituality, you have to come to terms with a particular history • Small scale, frequently nomadic hunter-gatherer societies, surviving in harsh climates, suddenly, had their traditional way of life turned upside down by a number of intrusions
Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality • What has emerged in the post-residential school aboriginal community in terms of religion/ spirituality? • Religious Diversity • Adherence to forms of Christianity (Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Pentecostal, etc.) • Return to forms of Traditional Aboriginal Religious practices (both pan-Indian and localized “reconstitution” of ancestral religions) • A mix of the two, adopted and practiced at varying levels of devotion
Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality • Religious Dynamics at play in contemporary Aboriginal spirituality • Aboriginal Christianity has adapted in some cases to include aspects of traditional Aboriginal practices • E.g., Since 1984 Catholic church allows Aboriginal ceremonies like “smudging” to be a part of mass
Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality • There has also been an attempt to revive the religion of the ancestors in what is frequently labeled “Traditionalism” • This is an attempt to re-construct ancient rituals and practices of one’s tribal ancestors and has run on two tracks • Pan-Indian Spirituality—a free exchange of ideas and rituals between disparate North American Aboriginal nations, e.g., Black Elk’s works as a sort of “Bible”; pow-wows, medicine wheel • Local tribal revivals—an attempt to rediscover localized rituals and practices
Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality • Religious dynamics at play in contemporary Aboriginal spirituality • It remains the case that most native peoples in Canada will still self identify as “Christian” (much more so than the population at large) • In practice, in terms of religiosity, expect some mix of Traditional and Christian
Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality Some items of interest for understanding Aboriginal Spirituality • Medicine wheel Lets do the test!! Medicine Wheel TestOnce you complete the test read about all four directions and briefly describe each one in your notes. • SmudgingWhat is smudging?
Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality • Pow-wow – Social and traditional gathering for dance, food and song • Drumming the heartbeat of the nation, the soul of Mother Nature, the pulse of the universe. • Sweat lodge - How to build a sweat lodge What is it about?
Canadian Aboriginal Spirituality • Mysticism/ Medicine Man/ Shamanism: Aboriginal Healers: with drum beating and chanting, spirits may be encouraged to occupy the Shaman's body during public lodge ceremonies. The spirits are then asked to depart and perform the needed acts. Other times, Shamans enter into a trance and traverse the underworld or go great distances in this world to seek lost possessions or healing. And so many more…