By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary
My husband and I recently spent a weekend at a Native American “talking circle” fire ceremony honoring spirituality. Native American tribes across the country have been engaged in reestablishing their ancestral traditions, some restricting this renewal to blood natives, but many — like the tribe we visited — welcoming non-natives into their circles. They consider us universally connected, since each one of us has originated from a native tribe somewhere.
Being spiritual is not the same thing as belonging to an organized religion. Natives tend to agree with Wikipedia’s definition of spirituality as “the search for ‘the sacred,’ where ‘the sacred’ is broadly defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of veneration [references in original].” I define “the sacred” as respect for and acknowledgment of the connectedness of all of us with each other and with everything in the universe.
Two centuries ago, our federal government shamefully attempted to eradicate native culture by separating all native children from their parents and isolating them in boarding schools.
Cutting off generations of Indian children from their culture was an offense and a tragedy of monumental proportions. Native people today all over the country are reconnecting, re-educating, re-establishing the ancient spiritual traditions, languages and cultures that were lost, sometimes transforming those old boarding schools into centers for the reclamation of their culture. And some are drawing non-natives, like my husband and myself, into their circles.
Had the spiritual ways of the Indians been revered, rather than reviled, by whites, we might have learned a thing or two that is now missing from our own culture.
Modern culture is dominated by corporate power and profit devoid of spirit. Our government is a virtual plutocracy, as we have seen, run by representatives beholden to the wealthy who finance their multi-million-dollar campaigns. These representatives reciprocate by passing into law bills that were crafted by corporations to favor their interests.
According to the ancient sacred concept called “the commons,” life-sustaining necessities — such as water, land and biosphere — once belonged to everyone. Today, control of those necessities is being appropriated by industry. Corporations can legally establish ownership rights of water that once belonged to “the commons,” then bottle it and sell it back to us.
Other corporations develop genetically modified seeds that withstand toxic poisons, then farmers spray those toxins on crops and call the product “food.” Farmers are prohibited by contract from saving and replanting the toxin-resistant seed the following year. The corporation aims to keep farmers and the public dependent upon them alone for our food.
The fossil fuel industry is the most lucrative of all time right now, and also the most polluting. But their billions are able to persuade lawmakers to prevent renewable fuels from replacing fossil fuels as our principle energy source.
It’s disgraceful that from birth our need for life-giving sustenance becomes a cash cow for soulless corporate profit.
I’m for joining the Native American community in reclaiming the sacred.
Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.
Posted May 15, 2014