Manataka American Indian Council
“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
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