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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Native American Religious Identity: Unforgotten Gods

Weaver, Jace(editor) (1998)
Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books

ISBN: 1-57075-181-1

Description: Paperback, xiv + 242 pages.

Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books Preface, 17 chapters, contributors, index.

Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books Betty Louse Bell, Steven Charleston, Viola F. Cordova, Diane Glacy, Donald A. Grinde, Jr., Leana Hicks, Freda McDonald, Dennis McPherson, Homer Noley, Margaret Sam-Cromarty, Andrea Smith, Tweedy Sombrero, George Tinker, Jace Weaver, Craig Womack.

Excerpt(s): 15. Walking in Balance: The Spirituality-Liberation Praxis of Native Women. ...

It is unquestionably true that there is much intolerance toward, and ignorance about, Native religions and cultures in the United States. We still do not even have freedom to practice our traditional religions. But as activist/scholar Gabrielle Tayac (Piscataway) notes, intolerance toward Indian religions cannot be addressed by educating White people about our spiritual beliefs, because our religious oppression is not based on ignorance but on the seizure of Indian lands upon which Indian spiritualities are based. It is not an accident that Congress allows the use of peyote by the Native American Church but will not pass a law protecting Indian sacred sites, since the latter would entail a threat to U.S. government corporate control over Native lands. Writing defenses of Indian spirituality outside of a discussion of land claims not only leaves us open to cultural appropriation but diverts attention from the central issues of sovereignty over our lands and resources. (Andrea Smith, page 188)

17. Losing My Religion: Native American Religious traditions and American Religions Freedom. ...

Native religious traditions are very different in character from Christianity and Western religions. First, they are not primarily religions of ethics, or dogma, or theology. Rather, they are religions (if one may even use such a term with regard to Native traditions) of ritual practice. Further, they are not only religions of ritual observance, but they also permeate every aspect of daily life and existence. Natives, as is commonly said, draw no distinction between everyday life and their spirituality. There is not, as there is in Western religion, a sharp bifurcation between sacred and secular or profane spheres. Finally, Native religious traditions are intimately and inexorably tied to the land and often cannot be practiced merely anywhere, as can Christianity. For this reason, Native land claims, whether or not they are advanced in this manner, carry in themselves an explicitly religious claim.

The First Amendment guarantees that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Though it speaks in absolute terms ("make no law") and refers to "exercise" of religion, a word that on its face would seem to refer to practices, it in some sense does not mean what it says. The legislative history and subsequent interpretation both make clear that the concept of religion it embodies is a very Western, Enlightenment ideal. It is the flip-side or, if you will, the perfect corollary to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, also protected by the First Amendment. One is free, within certain defined parameters, to say or print whatever one wishes. Likewise, one is free to believe whatever one wishes. One is not free, however, to do whatever one wishes, even if one feels compelled by religious belief to do so. As Vine Deloria, Jr., and Clifford Lytle put it in American Indians, American Justice, "Beliefs are beyond the reach of the government no matter how unorthodox, but religious practices can be regulated by the state." ...

The First Amendment and the concept of religion it embodies thus can never afford full protection to Native religious traditions. It cannot encompass religions of ritual practice, or those that cannot be separated from other aspects of life into their own distinct sphere, or those that depend upon a particular place for their performance. It cannot do so, I argue, because, as intimated by historian James M. Washington in his article "The Crisis in the Sanctity of Conscience in American Jurisprudence," although it has a particular conception of religion, it lacks a concept of the sacred or the holy. (Jace Weaver, pages 219-220)

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