December 20, 2009 by Thunder Horse
Filed under Culture
Have you ever wondered how animals know when a natural disaster is coming? Why don’t people take these signs into consideration throughout their lives? These are a few questions I have often wondered about. Nature has a way of communicating through its own language. It is up to us to interpret these signs and use them to our advantage. Nature always works in harmony.
When the first European people came to North America, they saw the American Indian praying to animals, plants, rivers, lakes, the sun, the moon, the wind, the lightening, the thunder, and even the birds. They called the Indians heathens and savages. For some strange reason they developed the idea that the Indian did not believe in God, although in many different tribal languages there were references to a Great Spirit, the Great Creator, the Maker, the Great Mystery, or the Great Invisible One. The truth is that not only did the American Indians worship God, but they also respected and communicated with that which God had created.
Despite the forces of assimilation, traditional American Indians and the holy men/women still understand the sacredness of nature. They see the life giving force of the Great Spirit flowering through all things in the universe. Because of ancient beliefs, teachings, and spiritual practices, they feel and maintain a direct kinship with all creations. In the traditional American Indian belief system, everything is a source of power, and as a result it should be revered. The traditional American Indian believes that each living thing in nature has a spirit of its own, in addition to being connected to and part of the Great Mystery. This is why they pray and give thanks to the sun, moon, stars, rain, wind waters, and all those that walk, crawl, fly, and swim, both seen and unseen. We realize we cannot survive or live without our relations. We also realize that they cannot live without us; that’s why there is a reciprocal relationship.
Evidence of this belief system can be found in American Indian myths, legends, and stories. Here one can find reference to the animals and birds as people. The bear is our grandfather, rattlesnake our aunt, beaver our cousin, eagle our uncle, deer our sister, and buffalo our brother. But in a deeper sense of ideology, they are not only our relations but are also considered our teachers, protectors, guardians, supernatural aids, and sources of power and knowledge. This is not romanticism, it is reality. I believe modern people can learn from this ancient reality if they are willing to be open minded. There is a special kind of telepathic and symbolic understanding between the traditional American Indian and his/her relations in nature. We communicate through praying, talking, singing, dancing, meditating, touching, smelling, and/or offering tobacco, herbal smoke, food, or some other gift to one of our relations. Since nature’s language is symbolic, it communicates back to us in a unique way, with natural symbols.storyteller-holyman
Instinct, a natural source of knowledge and power that the traditional Indians uses as part of his/her spiritual growth and development and which most western people and more assimilated American Indians are no longer aware of. Instinct, however, is a reality. It is also a natural system of communication between nature and the species, the mind and the body. The communication might come in the form of a physical symbol, or it might be more intuitive, making itself known through language, appearing as a hunch, a feeling, or an inner voice in a dream or through a vision.
Many western people consider such forms of natural knowledge mysterious, supernatural, or superstitious. They do not understand it and they fear it, and as a result they find ways to ignore or discredit it. The art of studying signs and omens, however, is an ancient form of knowledge that was used by all races of humankind at one time or another in the history of their evolution. Europeans, for example, studied certain signs in nature to find out when to plant or harvest crops, when to hunt, when to make sea voyages, and even when to get married. Have you ever heard “Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight?” Some of this ancient, western knowledge can still be found in the Farmer’s Almanac today. For traditional American Indian holy men/women, natural knowledge has always been a reality and a natural part of their ideology and spirituality. Although communication with nature is an ancient system of knowledge, it is not archaic because this knowledge is still relevant today. We should remember that not all signs, messages, or omens are bad.wolf-moonwolf-moon-native-american
Fact, fiction, or fantasy? Who knows how communication with nature works or why. All I know is that in some situations it does work. Tribal elders and American Indian myths and stories teach us that it is perfectly natural to call up “supernatural” aid when all other resources seem to fail us. We are taught that the earth is full of many different kinds of spirits and powers, both good and bad, positive and negative, physical and spiritual, seen and unseen. Some of these powers are even neutral. We are taught that the powers come in the form of natural forces and elements of nature such as lightning, and thunder, wind and clouds, earthquake and fire; and in the animal people, bird people, fish people, snake people, bug people, tree people, plant people, and rock people. In other words, every part of the earth is a physical and spiritual source of power and energy that directly affects us because we also are an integral part of the great family in Creation.