Native Rites

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Native Spirituality and Sacred Rites


Many followers of Aboriginal religions, such as the many types of Native Spirituality, do not regard their spiritual beliefs and practises as a "religion" in the way in which many Judeo-Christians do. Their beliefs and practises form a integral and seamless part of their very being.


The arrival of Europeans to the North American Continent marked a major change in Native society. Tens of millions died due to sickness, and programmes of slavery and extermination. Europeans and their missionaries looked upon Native Spirituality as worthless superstition inspired by the Judeo-Christian devil, Satan. Many of the survivors were forcibly converted to Judeo-Christianity.


According to Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, the reduction of the North American Indian population from an estimated 12 million in 1500 C.E. to barely 237,000 in 1900 C.E.? In 1618 C.E.–1619 C.E., smallpox wiped out 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans. Historians believe many Mohawk Native Americans in present-day New York were infected after contact with children of Dutch traders in Albany in 1634 C.E.. The dis-ease swept through Mohawk villages, reaching the Natives at Lake Ontario by 1636 C.E., and the lands of the western Iroquois by 1679 C.E., as it was carried by Mohawk and other Native Tribes who travelled the trading routes


George Catlin, the 19th-century artist, revered the American Indians--"a numerous and noble race of Human Beings," he called them, "fast passing to extinction."


The United States and Canadian governments instituted policies to force Natives onto reservations and reserves and to encourage them to become assimilated into the majority culture. Some sociologists believe that the extremely high suicide rate among Natives is due to the suppression of their own religion and culture by the Federal Governments. This suppression is still seen in the prison administrations; Canadian prisons have only recently allowed Native sweat lodge ceremonies; most American prisons routinely deny permission.


Hopefully these pages will give some honour to the proud native Peoples of North America


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