Manataka American Indian Council







Native Thought


Christian Belief

“The foundations of each are a universe apart”
By Seen Wah Mah (Carl Knight)


I debated awhile as to whether to address this issue any further and have decided that I might briefly say some things about why the two ways, Native and Christian, don't fit in with each other.

Christianity is built upon the premise that humans are sinful, needing repentance and redemption, that they need a redeemer, and someone to intercede for them to God.  All Christian religions believe this ardently.  It is the very basis of church doctrine.

Before contact, the Indian looked at the world around him, saw that all things the Creator made was good.  Whether four-legged, two-legged, winged, finned, creeping and burrowing, rooted and growing, all had a relationship with each other.  Each had a purpose, there was balance upon earth and in the skies above.  He knew also he was good, as the Creator made him so.  If he did something harmful to himself, his family, his surroundings, he knew his act came from wrong thinking, and he knew he had to make the wrong right, whatever it took.  Because of this understanding of connectedness and balance, he looked at everything in terms of family.  The Great Spirit did not have a gender, and was simply considered to be the Maker Of All Things, the Great Mysterious.  He knew the Creator lived in all things, and all things lived in it, even himself.

Along comes the missionary who tells him he is a heathen (whatever that means), that he is sinful (whatever that was), and that he is hopelessly lost to himself and his ancestors who have walked on unless he submits himself to the teachings of the church.  He didn't know even the concept of sin. He knew nothing of which the missionary spoke, but he liked the presents he received, he liked the idea of a father.  If he did not want to give up those items which helped him to maintain his relationship with his Creator, too bad, they had to go.  If he resisted, he was heavily penalized by those he saw as stronger through sheer numbers or authority.  This created a heavy burden and great confusion within him.

So, many acquiesced and converted, did what they were told to do, and in time forgot their Old Ways.  The church was happy, the Indian appeared to be happy.  All was well.

Not quite.  The Indian experienced suppression, orders or-else, discrimination, self-hate, loss of self-esteem, etc.  If they were Christian they might fare a little better, but found themselves being made over into someone they were not.  Now generations later, descendants of these Indians look for something besides what the church offers them.  Maybe the call of the blanket is heard.  And he then tries to walk with a foot in each world.  Neither world is satisfied, and cannot be, because the foundations of each are a universe apart.  One says, even though you did nothing wrong you are still sinful because you were born in sin and shapen in iniquity, and you must do it our way.  The other says, I am good, the Creator made me so, I have love and respect for all things, if I think wrongly and do something hurtful I must correct it and make it right, I stand alone before my Maker, I am responsible for me and for all my family, I have all I need to walk a good path. 

Sin and guilt is the wedge that splits the two irrevocably apart.


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