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Native American Spiritual Beliefs Essay

2505 words - 10 pages

I have decided to discuss the topic of Spirituality in Native Americans. To address this topic, I will first discuss what knowledge I have gained about Native Americans. Then I will discuss how this knowledge will inform my practice with Native Americans. To conclude, I will talk about ethical issues, and dilemmas that a Social Worker might face working with Native American people.
In approaching this topic, I first realized that I need to look up some general information about Native Americans in the United States. According to the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), there are approximately 564 federally recognized tribes in the United States today (Who we are, n.d). This group does not include tribes that do not have federal recognition but are recognized at the state level.
Over the history of our country Native Americas have long since been oppressed in trying to practice their Native Religions freely, and openly. It wasn’t until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) of 1978, which “acknowledged the unique nature of Native spirituality” (Limb & Hodge, 2008, p. 618). This law stated that the policy of the United States would be to protect and preserve the right of Native Americans to believe and practice their traditional religions. This was the first major step in the United States history that sought to protect Native Americans and their rights to self-expression of spirituality.
Defining Native American Spirituality
Like many Americans I initially grouped all Native Americans into one melting pot. During the Haskell Indian Nations cultural day, on June 21,st 2010, the speakers talked about how different tribes are not the same; they have different beliefs, cultures, values, and history. Naturally, this would apply to spirituality and Native American religion as well. Limb & Hodge (2008) state that there is not a single definition or common understanding of Native American spirituality. It will vary from tribe to tribe, and person to person. Each tribal member could have a different take on spirituality. This applies to the rest of society as well, as each religion has a different perspective on religion and spirituality.
Garrouttee et al. (2009) discusses that even though the definition of Native American spirituality does not exist, there are several identifiable themes that emerge. The first thing that Garroutte et al. (2009) identifies is that spirits are often associated with animals, plants, and other things in the natural world. Another aspect is the Great Spirit, or father, which is equitable to God in the Judeo-Christian belief. The Great Spirit is more considered to be an omnipresent spirit or collectivity of spirits inhabiting the universe (Garroutte et al., 2009). To many Native American tribes, the material and spiritual realms are wound together and cannot be separated from the other (Limb & Hodge, 2008). To many Native American tribes, existence...

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