Manataka American Indian Council
Native American Spirituality Brochure
Home Health Care / Hospice Providers
Whether in formal settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and clinics, or in home health or hospice situations, those with American Indian spiritual beliefs are entitled to practice their religious beliefs without barriers of policy.
Adherents do not fit stereotypes and can be found among all walks of life and within all regions of the country. There are Finnish Salish in the Northwest and Black Indians in the Southeast; and all mixes all over the U.S.
None should be denied practice of religious beliefs; nor should any one be the arbiter of the legitimacy of Native American beliefs, whether a federal or tribal government, and certainly not the health care provider.
The history of American Indians is too lengthy to debate here, but policies since the 17th century have tended to force Native Americans to adapt to European culture, seek to deny their cultural roots and “pass” for white, be assimilated by other groups, or retreat into reservations or off reservations into large population centers. Consequently, in addition to the diversity of various tribes and lineages, not all Indians “look like Indians,” all who practice Native American spirituality aren’t enrolled with tribes listed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or carry a BIA card or fulfill specified blood-quantum ratios.
The U.S. government assigns individual tribes it recognizes the duty of determining tribal membership via blood quantum to ensure limitation of federal benefits. But not all Native groups are federally recognized; even historical tribes, such as the Delaware, which signed the first treaty with the U.S. government after it was formed, had its recognition rescinded this century and is in a legal dispute with the federal government over reauthorization. Federal recognition of tribal affiliation has no bearing on the spiritual beliefs or practices of a tribe, band or group; so, relying on BIA recognition cannot be a reliable indication.
Further, the U.S. government does not certify religious groups, denominations or churches under the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause. Religious affiliation is between adherents of a religion, not the government or any third party (see: Everson v. Board of Education, 330 US 203, 91 L. Ed. 711; also federal rules, regulations, especially regarding federal funds for private agencies could apply). Health care providers in home health/hospice environs should accept the declaration of faith of the individual for spiritual belief/practice.
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