The Path Back to Power
Shaman Elizabeth Herrera
centuries of genocide, forced removal from their lands (estimated total of 93
million acres), and strategic killing of their food source, the buffalo, left
Native Americans struggling to survive.
damaging blows continued during the Americanization of Native Americans’
assimilation effort (1790-1920) by the United States to transform Native
American culture to European-American culture. Native American children were
forced into boarding schools, run by religious groups who taught them
Christianity instead of their tribes’ spiritual customs, and banned from
speaking their own language or dressing in native clothing. And until 1978,
spiritual leaders ran the risk of jail time for practicing their rituals.
is deplorable that our country has a history of genocide (and slavery), and
that Native Americans are still forced to protect themselves against further
encroachment by the U.S. government and private interests. It is also
understandable why many Native Americans are distrustful and angry over these
say that Native Americans are having the last laugh because of the money being
made from the casinos; however, Native American gaming has also
proven to be very ineffective in improving many tribal economies. Native
Americans have the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the United States
of America. And, the Native Americans’ former dignity and way of life, and
their spiritual practices that connected them to nature, animals, and the
skies, water and land have been greatly diminished.
all these tragedies, is it possible for Native Americans to forgive the
trespasses of the past (and present) and rediscover the path to power?
isn’t easy, and Native Americans have received one of the hardest lessons in
forgiveness that can be given. But, the anger that is smoldering inside the
tribes is robbing them of the beauty of their spiritual path — a path that
could be restored through forgiveness.
Americans will not diminish themselves through forgiveness — quite the
opposite. The act of forgiveness will be for them to let go of their anger, be
at peace, and move forward with no resentment standing in the way of them
knowing their true selves.
they feel that their rituals and spirituality are too great a gift to give away
to outsiders. Yet, what greater impact could they have on their oppressors than
to educate them about the Native Americans’ culture, spiritual practices, and
respect for nature. People fear what they do not understand. I can’t think of a
better outcome than to have everyone in this great nation practice, or at least
understand, Native American spirituality.
cannot deny the attraction that Native American spirituality holds for
many people outside the tribes. Why should some tribes live in poverty, when
they could accept love donations or charge for workshops, demonstrations and
apprenticeships to help others become knowledgeable on their way of life.
Native Americans will strengthen their own culture when they teach others by
reinforcing the message and its usage for themselves. And, as more people
understand the Native American culture, it will increase support of the tribes’
ongoing efforts to preserve land and regain the rights to perform ceremonies
that are still banned by the federal government because of the use of
ceremonial plants, such as peyote.
Native Americans feel that it is sacrilege for someone to have few lessons
and then try to teach rituals to others (such as the accidental sweat
lodge deaths that occurred during a recent ceremony. To help prevent
future misinformation and destructive incidences from occurring, the tribes
could offer certifications to help ensure that their rituals and teachings are
performed with respect and knowledge.
can expect a clash of cultures when the typical American’s mentality of “instant
gratification” collides with an ancient belief system. So be it, we will learn
from each other.
Great Spirit is the voice of love. I can think of no better gift that Native
Americans can give to others, and themselves, than to share that love with
every living being, even the white man.
Elizabeth Herrera is a healer, spiritual counselor, teacher and author. She
advanced her studies through the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, but her major
source of learning has been from the Spirit, who offers limitless guidance. She
was fortunate to have known her great-grandfather who was Apache and smuggled
sugar and flour from Mexico into Texas, exchanged gunfire with Texas Rangers,
and crossed paths with Pancho Villa. Visit: www.ShamanElizabeth.com