Native American Traditions

Native Americans' decades-long struggle for control over sacred lands is making progress

October 3, 2022

The ConversationWho should manage public land that is sacred to Native Americans?

That is the question that the United States government and some states hope recent policy changes will address by giving Indigenous people greater input into managing such land. Co-management, as the policy is called, might ...

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Native religious leaders say legalizing peyote for all would threaten their practices

September 17, 2022

The possibility that states might decriminalize the general use of peyote is raising concerns among Indigenous practitioners, who employ the cactus in traditional settings like the Native American Church. Already, the Navajo Nation is moving to oppose any changes in the law.

As states continue to decriminalize marijuana, Tracy Willie, director of the Navajo medicine man group Azeé Bee Nahaghá of Diné Nation, Inc., said there could be a domino effect of states wanting to decriminalize peyote, which is a Schedule I controlled substance under...

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Parishioners reclaim Ojibwe language through hymn translation

September 4, 2022

Holding a wooden flute, Larry Martin stood during a recent Mass and welcomed the congregation to join the responsorial psalm. He began: “Aw ge-chi-twaaa-wen-daa-go-zid, Gi-gi-zhe-ma-ni-doo-mi-nann.”

The language was Ojibwe, and the words translated to “Our God is one who is glorious,” taken from Psalm 19.

Martin, a 79-year-old director emeritus of American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, worked with another language expert to convert the English to Ojibwe, the traditional language of many of the American Indian Catholics who worship at...

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Columbia River's salmon are at the core of ancient religion

August 15, 2022

James Kiona stands on a rocky ledge overlooking Lyle Falls where the water froths and rushes through steep canyon walls just before merging with the Columbia River. His silvery ponytail flutters in the wind, and a string of eagle claws adorns his neck.

Kiona has fished for Chinook salmon for decades on his family’s scaffold at the edge of the falls, using a dip net suspended from a 33-foot pole.

“Fishing is an art and a spiritual practice,” says Kiona, a Yakama Nation elder. “You’re fighting the fish. The fish is fighting you, tearing holes in the net, jerking you...

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Reckoning with their history, Lutherans issue declaration to indigenous peoples

August 11, 2022

There was a time when Lutherans were recognized as the advocates for Indigenous peoples, according to Vance Blackfox, director for Indigenous ministries and tribal relations for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United States’ largest Lutheran denomination.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Lutherans vocally supported the American Indian Movement, said Blackfox, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and the first to hold his position in the ELCA. They set an example for how Christians can engage in justice work for and with Indigenous peoples.

Blackfox said it’s time...

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The cost of green energy: The nation's biggest lithium mine may be going up on a site sacred to Native Americans

August 11, 2022

Thacker Pass, a remote valley in the high desert of northern Nevada, will always be sacred for Gary McKinney of the Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. He often visits to honor ancestors said to be killed here by U.S. soldiers in 1865. 

“It’s been a gathering place for our people,” said McKinney, who lives on the Duck Valley Reservation, 100 miles to the east.

McKinney and others are now fighting a new battle over an open-pit mine planned for Thacker Pass, which sits atop a massive lode of lithium.

Source:...

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At Oak Flat, courts and politicians fail tribes

July 26, 2022

In southeast Arizona, the flat-topped mesas and rocky spires of Chi’chil Biłdagoteel (known in English as Oak Flat) give way to grassy basins where Emory oak trees grow, shedding acorns every year that are collected by members of Western Apache and Yavapai tribes. Spiky tufts of agave and cactus spring from ochre hillsides near the sites where the San Carlos Apache hold their coming-of-age ceremonies.  Oak Flat — the ancestral homeland of numerous Southwestern tribal nations and pueblos — is currently managed by the United States federal government as Tonto National Forest. And for...

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A religiously diverse Edmonton hosts Pope Francis' visit

July 26, 2022

As Pope Francis pays a historic visit to Canada, he is encountering a country that is less Catholic, more secular and more religiously diverse than the last time it hosted a pontiff two decades ago.

And the city where he landed on Sunday — Edmonton — reflects that diversity more than outsiders might expect from a provincial capital in Canada’s prairie heartland.

Edmonton and its province of Alberta do have a large, long-settled population of Christians of European descent.

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An interfaith group in Oregon is behind one of nation's strictest gun control measures

July 26, 2022

Oregonians will be voting on one of America’s strictest gun control measures on the ballot this November.

If passed by voters, the gun safety initiative would ban the sale of magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds and would require permits and firearm safety courses to purchase any gun. Applicants would have...

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