Why We Celebrate Christmas The Indigenous Way
By Neenah Payne
America is a Christian nation. Christmas – which commemorates the birth of Christ – is one of the most important celebrations of the Christian religion. However, few Americans stop to think that almost all of the ways in which we celebrate this holiday (Holy Day) have nothing to do with Christianity.
Who is Santa Claus? Why does he live at the North Pole, dress in red and white, fly through the night sky in a sled led by reindeer? Why does he come down through the chimney to bring gifts? Why do we bring in pine trees indoors and decorate them? Why do we hang stockings by the fire place? Our Christmas traditions are based on the traditions of the Sami – an indigenous people in Scandinavia.
Could Magic Mushrooms Explain the Story of Santa Claus? explains that:
The story of Santa flying around Earth on Christmas Eve with his reindeer and sleigh is a Christmas staple popular enough to rival that of Jesus’ birth. But where did the idea of flying reindeer and a stealthy gift-giver squeezing down chimneys come from? One interesting theory claims the answer revolves around amanita muscaria: magic mushrooms.
- Christmas, Amanita Muscaria, and Santa Claus
- Shaman Claus: The Shamanic Origins of Christmas
- Santa is a ‘shroom. And the reindeer are all tripping
Saami and Fly Agaric Mushroom
The Saami are the indigenous people of Northern Europe, a living remnant of the continent’s nomadic prehistory. Now numbering, by most accounts, less than 200,000, they are spread across the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia in an area known as Sáami. The northernmost indigenous people of Europe, they are part of the “Fourth World” that spans the North Pole from Siberia to Alaska.
Traditional Saami are reindeer herders whose homes are yurts and log cabins. The thrilling 1987 ski film Pathfinder, the first in the Saami language, documents the story of their founder and shows the similarity of the Saami’s lifestyle and worldview with those of many Native American cultures. Saami survival is dependent on the life and migrations of the reindeer — just as the Plains Indians depended on the buffalo and later the horse. In addition to being a source of food, clothing, and housing, the reindeer serve as means of transportation. Saami use reindeer-drawn sleighs.
Shamans play a central part in Saami life. They reputedly mediate between Heaven and Earth, possess magical powers over wind and other elements, and are able to shapeshift and visit Jábmeájmoo, the Land of the Dead. When Christianity arrived in the High North late in the 17th century, shamans bore the brunt of the combined church-state assault on Saami independence. Their drums were singled out as instruments of the Devil and most of them were destroyed.
Saami shamans wear red and white hats to show that the red and white amanita muscaria (aka fly agaric) mushroom is their sacrament. They wear red and white capes to symbolize their flight through the air when they eat the mushroom on their most sacred night of the year, the Winter Solstice – the celebration of which begins on December 21 and ends on December 25.
The shamans gather the mushrooms and hang them on pine trees to dry. They put them in sacks and deliver them to each household by descending through the roof since the yurts are piled high with snow. The mushrooms are hung by the fire place to dry — just as stockings are hung on Christmas Eve in much of the US. The sacred red and white amanita muscaria mushroom is eaten on December 21, the Winter Solstice, to commemorate the return of the light and to provide a transcendental experience that is said to lead to enlightenment. Reindeer also like the mushroom and are said to “fly” when they eat it!
Santa Claus and Fly Agaric Mushroom
Like the Saami shamans, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, wears a red and white hat and cape, rides magically through the sky in a sleigh driven by reindeer (flying high on the mushroom), carries a sack, and goes down the chimney of each home to deliver gifts for Christmas around the Winter Solstice. We bring pine trees into our homes for Christmas and decorate them – just as Saami shamans put the mushrooms on pine trees. We hang socks filled with gifts by the chimney just as the Saami hang mushrooms by the fireplace to dry. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Santa Claus and our Christmas traditions preserve our connection to our shamanic roots — while hiding and disguising them. However, instead of delivering the magic mushroom which is a pathway to wisdom and enlightenment through direct experiential knowledge, Santa Claus brings gifts we often don’t need or want – and ties us to the material world. It turns a sacred holiday when we could grow wiser into a requirement to shop!
We adopted the form, but lost the meaning of the sacred ceremonies. We have turned Christmas into the biggest shopping season that now includes not just Black Friday after Thanksgiving, but the week before Thanksgiving as well as Cyber Monday (and week) following Thanksgiving. Some Americans go into debt trying to keep up with the demand to give gifts for Christmas – gifts people often don’t need or want. Black Friday has become known for the tragic deaths caused as crowds rush to grab goods at supposedly lower prices. Very little Enlightenment in those traditions.
Hidden Importance of Mushrooms Revealed
Mushrooms and Mankind: The Impact of Mushrooms on Human Consciousness and Religion shows that the amanita muscaria (aka fly agaric) mushroom is connected to Santa Claus, Adam and Eve, Jesus, the Last Supper, Pope, Holy Grail, manna from heaven, holy water, Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur, Ark of the Covenant, Easter Egg hunt, Catholic communion, four-leaf clover, Christmas tree, Fountain of Youth, Philosopher’s Stone, War on Drugs, snake, caduceus, dollar sign, etc.
The mushroom provides the Near Death Like Experiences that lead to transcendence which is prized by shamans and is the root of all religions. The book shows the hidden representations of the mushroom in religious art and architecture around the world. So, while the importance of the amanita muscaria and the Enlightenment it provides are hidden in our Christmas traditions, it is also hidden in much more.
Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness, and Save the Planet is an Amazon Best Seller. The Fantastic Fungi film by mycologist Paul Stamets and filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg won the 2019 Audience Award for Documentary Feature at the Maui Film Festival. Watch the trailer, rent, or buy the film at: http://watch.fantasticfungi.com/. The film explains that mushrooms are just the fruit of the mycelia which form a vast underground system of communication all over the world on which the internet was modeled. This network is responsible for the recycling and distribution of nutrients.
Magic of Mushrooms is free on Amazon Prime and shows a wide variety of mushrooms in nature.The fascinating and informative Super Fungi film explains how fungi can help save the world! It features American mycologist Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti who is perhaps the greatest ambassador for fungi! The 50-minute film is also free on Amazon Prime. See the trailer on Amazon for A New Understanding: The Science of Psilocybin.
5 Stunning Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms says there are more than 2,000 species of edible mushrooms. The article discusses some of the more common medical mushrooms: Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Reishi, Turkey Tail, Shiitake, and Cordyceps. However, it points out that even commonly-consumed Button mushrooms are medicinal!
Mushroom: World’s Largest Living Organism
The largest mushroom in the world is armillaria ostoyae — or as it has been nicknamed the ”Humongous Fungus”. Covering 2,385 acres of Malheur National Forest, Oregon, it is the world’s largest organism. From the way the fungus has been growing, it may also be the world’s oldest organism.
Humongous is estimated to be around 2,400 years to 8,650 years old. Scientists mapped the population of Armillaria in eastern Oregon, the genetic material of the fungus, to determine where one fungus started and the other ended. The expanse of the forest and the stable environment has enabled the fungus to spread far. Known as honey mushrooms for their yellow cap and sweet, fruity bodies, they are safe to eat.
The discovery of the giant mushroom has sparked a discussion of what constitutes an individual organism. However, it is agreed that if a being has a set of cells that are genetically identical and communicate with each other, it can be classed as one single organism. So, the blue whale and the Humongous Fungus both fit the bill.
The next largest honey fungus is in the state of Washington. Honey fungus is widely distributed across the cooler regions of the United States and Canada. It is very common in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. These fungi grow in individual networks of above- and below-ground fibers called mycelia. Mycelia work like a plant’s roots. They draw water and nutrients from the soil to feed the fungus. At the same time, they make chemicals that are shared with other organisms in the soil.
Wikipedia says: “One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds. Mycelial mats have been suggested (see Paul Stamets) as having potential as biological filters, removing chemicals and microorganisms from soil and water. The use of fungal mycelium to accomplish this has been termed mycofiltration. Knowledge of the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plants suggests new ways to improve crop yields.
When spread on logging roads, mycelium can act as a binder, holding new soil in place and preventing washouts until woody plants can be established. Fungi are essential for converting biomass into compost, as they decompose feedstock components such as lignin, which many other composting microorganisms cannot. Turning a backyard compost pile will commonly expose visible networks of mycelia that have formed on the decaying organic material within. Compost is an essential soil amendment and fertilizer for organic farming and gardening. Composting can divert a substantial fraction of municipal solid waste from landfills.”
Ayahuasca: The Search For Spirit and Wisdom
The meaning that has been lost in the Winter Solstice ceremonies is now being sought elsewhere.
Americans and other Westerners are flocking to the Amazon to participate in ceremonies with shamans and drink ayahuasca. Some are willing to undergo the demanding experience that includes vomiting for cleansing because they are seeking physical healing they have not found through Western medicine. Others are in a search for meaning they hope to find in the transcendental experiences provided by ayahuasca which are similar to near-death experiences.
People who have consumed ayahuasca report having mystical or religious experiences and spiritual revelations regarding their purpose on earth, the true nature of the universe, and deep insight into how to be the best person they possibly can. This is viewed by many as a spiritual awakening and what is often described as a rebirth. It is often reported that individuals feel they gain access to higher spiritual dimensions and make contact with various spiritual or extra-dimensional beings who can act as guides or healers.
Recently, ayahuasca has been found to interact specifically with the visual cortex of the brain. In one study, de Araujo et al. measured the activity in the visual cortex when they showed participants photographs. Then, they measured the activity when the individuals closed their eyes. In the control group, the cortex was activated when looking at the photos, and less active when the participant closed his eyes; however, under the influence of ayahuasca and DMT, even with closed eyes, the cortex was just as active as when looking at the photographs. This study suggests that ayahuasca activates a complicated network of vision and memory which heightens the internal reality of the participants.
It is claimed that people may experience profound positive life changes subsequent to consuming ayahuasca, by author Don Jose Campos and others.
Don Jose Campos is the author of The Shaman and Ayahuasca: Journeys to Sacred Realms. The Amazon description says:
Along with Don José’s ‘transmission,’ we meet Pablo Amaringo, the world famous visionary painter who talks about his art and his experiences as a shaman. This is the perfect book to introduce you to the profound experiences of Ayahuasca.
The Shaman & Ayahuasca: Journey to Sacred Realms is available on Amazon Prime. The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo by Howard C. Charing contains 47 of the legendary painter’s works. See more about the extraordinary work of Pablo Amaringo.
Paradigm Shift For Western Medicine
The Amazon description says:
Western medicine has not been particularly successful at getting people relief from conditions like depression, chronic pain, migraine headaches, addiction, and PTSD. Dr. Tafur helps us to understand why. I have watched people spend years in frustration and thousands of dollars consulting an army of specialists, without getting real relief from their problem. Because these and others are diseases deeply connected with the state of our emotional bodies. Too often, the Western medical approach fails to address the emotional dimension of illness.
This is where traditional plant medicines, with their ability to alter consciousness and open channels of communication to our emotions, offer so much promise. The stories shared here demonstrate the astonishing—mystical, colorful, metaphysical—effects of ayahuasca and Traditional Amazonian Plant Medicine. Follow Dr. Tafur through the Amazon jungle as he develops a breakthrough understanding of how psychoactive plants interact with the complex network that connects our minds and hearts to our physical anatomy.
What Dr. Tafur presents here is nothing short of a paradigm shift for modern medicine, where sacred plants, used properly in ceremony, take their place as important tools in the doctor’s medicine chest, offering the missing elements of emotional and spiritual healing that have eluded us for so long. For more information see The Fellowship of The River.
The site links to the Return To Origin site.
Dr. Tafur discusses his work with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies and says:
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is now studying whether MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can help heal the psychological and emotional damage caused by sexual assault, war, violent crime, and other traumas. Thus far, their investigation into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has demonstrated very positive and unprecedented results, so much so that on August 16, 2017, the FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA for the treatment of PTSD.
It links to his Modern Spirit Epigenetics Project.
Intelligence In Nature
Jeremy Narby, a Swiss ethnobotanist and anthropologist, studied the connection between ayahuasca and DNA. He wrote Intelligence in Nature and The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. Narby sponsored an expedition to the Amazon rainforest for biologists to investigate how shamans use ayahuasca to gain profound botanical and medical knowledge.
Robert Tindall says in The Jaguar that Roams the Mind: An Amazonian Plant Spirit Odyssey that Jeremy Narby worked with Juan Flores Salazar, an Ashaninka shaman. Narby discusses Juan Flores in Chapter 2 of “Intelligence in Nature” which is online. These and other pioneers are helping to reconcile the West with the indigenous cultures of the Amazon and North America from which we have learned so much over the last 500 years and from which we have so much more to learn.
Narby brought three molecular biologists to Flores’ center for traditional medicine…to see whether, in sessions with ayahuasca, they could ‘obtain biomolecular information’ in their fields of research….the three biologists all agreed they had received information about their paths of research. The two female biologists also reported ‘contact with ‘plant teachers,’ which they experienced as ‘independent entities,’ an experience that ‘shifted their way of understanding reality.’ All three research scientists expressed great respect for Juan’s skill and knowledge; he had been able to orient them so quickly to the realm of visions and facilitate their extraction of useful scientific knowledge from the visionary state.
Drug companies know the value of indigenous botanical and medical knowledge. However, they exploit it rather than help ensure its survival. Bioprospecting and Biopiracy in the Americas by Teo Ballvé says:
A study by ethnobotanist Darrel Posey published in 1990 estimated that the annual world market for medicines derived from medicinal plants discovered from indigenous peoples was $43 billion. However, writes Posey, ‘less than 0.001% of the profits from drugs that originated from traditional medicine have ever gone to the indigenous peoples who led researchers to them.‘
A worldwide fight against biopiracy and patents on life by Martin Khor, Director of the Third World Network says: “There is growing worldwide opposition to the granting of patents on biological materials such as genes, plants, animals, and humans….The knowledge and use of biodiversity reside with these farmers and indigenous people who shared their knowledge and plants freely. Yet, through patent applications, companies are now claiming the exclusive right to produce and sell many ‘modified’ plants and animals.” Biopiracy Consequences shows why this is such a dangerous, foolish policy.
The DVD Amazon: Healing With Sacred Plants is available in Instant View on Amazon.com. It shows the sacred relationship with “plant teachers” and plant medicines that has been lost in the West since the Inquisition. It allows the viewer to experience the power of the shamans and plants to heal individuals and cultures on the deepest physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) Protects Indigenous Cultures
Ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin founded the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) to help tribes in Brazil mark and defend their territories through the use of Google Maps! ACT has been successful in empowering several Brazilian tribes. ACT has now partnered with the Colombian government to develop innovative strategies to protect 14 uncontacted tribes and their vast rainforests. Because national policy declares these isolated tribes have the right to their territories — a policy established with the assistance of ACT—the race is on to protect their lands against encroaching environmental degradation.
See these informative, fascinating videos:
- Mark Plotkin: What the people of the Amazon know that you don’t [Ted Talk]
- Medicine Quest | Mark Plotkin | Talks at Google
- The Healing Forest on Fire | Dr. Mark Plotkin | Talks at Google
The World’s Deep Debts To Native America
Europeans came to this continent not just in search of wealth, but also to escape the political, economic, and religious oppression in Europe. Most Europeans lived as serfs under monarchies. The Inquisition of the Catholic Church had waged terror for several hundred years. Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers details the horrors of the Inquisition which was not only an assault on people (especially women), but on knowledge, the intuitive Right Brain, freedom, healing, the rule of law, and common humanity. Inquisition Against the Cathars of the Languedoc says:
The activities of the Medieval Inquisition were so terrible that the memory of them has survived throughout Europe to the present day. Some Christians acknowledge that this body was one of the most sinister that the world has ever known, and now attribute its work to satanic forces.
When Europeans came to the Western hemisphere in the 15th-17th centuries, they came as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, English, etc. They called the indigenous peoples of these lands “Americans” because they named the continent for Amerigo Vespucci. After the US Founding Fathers declared the separation of the colonies from the British Empire, the colonists adopted the name “American” for themselves. So, in that sense, we all became Indians! Many US states, cities, and rivers have Indian names.
Yet, our connection to Native America is much deeper. America has been described as “The Land of the Free”, but European colonists did not bring the concept of freedom here. Instead, they learned about freedom as they observed Native American cultures. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson studied with the Haudenosaunee (aka “Six Nation Iroquois”) in upstate New York for 30 years. They are the oldest living democracy in the world and travel on their own passport.
Cornell University held a conference in 1987 on the link between the Iroquois Confederacy and the U.S. Constitution. In 1988, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution recognizing the influence of the Iroquois League on the formation of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Chief Oren Lyons of the Haudenosaunee is co-editor of Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U.S. Constitution. This book, written into the Congressional Record, presents the strongest case ever made for Native American sovereignty and has major implications for relations between Indian nations, the United States, and other nations. It has been adopted for courses at 12 universities.
Chief Lyons played a key role in defining the world’s native peoples as “indigenous”, the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2001, and the acceptance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World by Jack Weatherford explains the many ways in which the peoples of the Americas transformed the world — and the great debt the world owes Native America for foods, medicines, concepts of religious and political freedom, philosophy, etc.
Advanced Ancient Civilizations Throughout The Americas
Most Americans ignore the 500 Native Nations because we have been taught that they are “primitive”. However, the Inca were performing brain surgery at a 90% success rate in the 1500s – over 300 years before Europe figured it out. The Incan mail system that ran over the high Andes was twice as fast as that of Rome. Machu Picchu is an engineering marvel that would be a challenge to build today.
Terraced farming was mastered by the Andean Empire (Wari and Inca). Modern Peruvians use terraced farming to grow up to 16 varieties of crops including maize, beans, potatoes, barley, and quinoa. This allows otherwise infertile regions to be productive for sustainable farming. Archaeologist Ann Kendall began studying terraces in the Cuzco region of Peru in 1968. Kendall says that the Incan terraces are even today probably the most sophisticated in the world.
They built on knowledge developed over about 11,000 years. The terraces permit farming on otherwise unusable terrain. The stone retaining walls act like raised garden beds but also retain heat from the sun through the frigid nights protecting the plants from frost. Multiple layers of gravel ensure proper drainage. This is important in a region with more than 76 inches of rain per year.
Terra Preta, meaning “Black Earth” in Portuguese, is a soil-building technique developed by Amazonian civilizations at least 7,000 years ago to correct poor soil fertility. Large deposits are still found with depths of up to 2 meters. Prior to diseases brought by Westerners, this web of communities is estimated to have totaled over 100 million people. Terra Preta may have been what sustained them in harmony with their ecosystems. These fertile, dark soils are an important agricultural resource in Amazonia today. They provide a model for sustainability of food production in tropical environments.
Yet, the West has yet to figure out how ancient civilizations produced Terra Preta which contains 50 times more organic matter and 3 times more phosphorus and nitrogen than neighboring forest soils. Terra Preta would double or triple the soil’s fertility in tropical countries and could reduce/eliminate, hunger for about 1 billion people.
Even heavy tropical rains don’t leach nutrients out of this miraculous earth. Terra Preta is a testament to vanished civilizations of the Amazon Basin and may show how large societies can sustain intensive agriculture on infertile soils. The rediscovery of this lost technique is crucial to creating human sustenance in harmony with the Earth.
Beginning 8,000 years ago, the Inca cultivated the potato and still plant a wide variety of potatoes to ensure a good harvest whether there is a drought or flood, hot or cold weather. The Inca were the first to cultivate the potato and still raise a wide variety to ensure a crop in every climate and terrain. When the Irish adopted the potato, it led to an increase of population from 1 to 8 million people in about 250 years!
However, the Irish made the mistake of planting a single strain. So, when that failed, millions starved and millions more had to leave Ireland. Today, we are making an even worse mistake by allowing Monsanto to gain control of the world’s seeds and food supply with their monocrops. When those fail, it will put the lives of BILLIONS of people at risk — and there may be nowhere to go. Nature uses biodiversity to ensure survival. Nature abhors monocrops and eventually destroys them.
The History of the Potato explains that without the potato, modern civilization might not exist! It shows that as the potato famine forced two million Irish to emigrate, they provided a vast labor force all across Europe that supported the Industrial Revolution. It suggests that turning point in history may not have happened without the vast influx of labor.
Tenochtitlan: Miraculous Capital of Aztec Empire
Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztec Empire, was a city-state founded in 1325 on an island — the largest city in the pre-Columbian world. With its population of 200-300,000, only Paris, Venice, and Constantinople were larger. Hernán Cortés and his men were in awe of the splendid city and wondered if they were a dream. Two double aqueducts constructed during the reign of Montezuma I provided the city with fresh spring-fed water – good for baths twice a day!
Bernal Díaz del Castillo said in The Conquest of New Spain:
When we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and other great towns on dry land, we were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments…. I do not know how to describe it, seeing things as we did that had never been heard of or seen before, not even dreamed about.
Tenochtitlan (The Impossible City) explains that Tenochtitlan, built in the early 14th century, was one of the most awesome cities the world had ever seen. With a quarter million people, Tenochtitlan was far larger than any city Spain had. It held twice the population of London or Rome. It remains a mystery how the Aztecs were able to build on such a monumental scale. The Spanish were astounded by how clean the streets were. They were amazed by the re-use of everything. The Aztecs were master ecologists. Aztec medicine was also highly sophisticated. A calendar governed planting.
Engineering an Empire: The Aztecs says that the Aztec empire rivaled Rome in its sophistication with its aqueducts, palaces, and pyramids. Because of its canals, the Spanish likened Tenochtitlan to Venice. It says the Aztecs were a very clean people. The emperor bathed twice a day at the time when plagues caused by unsanitary conditions were killing millions of people in Europe. The Aztec empire was among the world’s most advanced empires.
In the 16th century, the Iroquois taught the French to use pine needle to cure scurvy — 200 years before Britain discovered a lime cure. The Iroquois cure is five times stronger. In the 17th century, quinine (derived from the chinchona tree in Peru) cured Europe of malaria. One of the greatest breakthroughs in 20th century medicine came from a preparation derived from curare that revolutionized the practice of anaesthesiology. Curare made possible the open heart, organ transplant, and hundreds of other surgeries now performed daily in hospitals around the world. In the 21st century, western medicine is again being revolutionized by the science of the shamans.
So, we have not been told the truth about these advanced cultures. It is up to us to re-educate ourselves now because these advanced ancient cultures still have a great deal to teach the world. In fact, they may offer the best option on how the world can solve its many political, agricultural, environmental, and economic problems. Are we yet wise enough to listen?
Better Option Than Capitalism or Socialism
Which Path Will Humanity Choose Now? explains that many younger Americans are leaning toward socialism now because they feel that rapacious capitalism has failed them. However, Jennifer Zeng, author Witnessing History: One Woman’s Fight for Freedom and Falun Gong warns Americans about falling for socialism. In the video Camp Survivor Details Government Organ Harvesting, Zeng says socialists promise heaven on Earth, but always end up giving you a one-way ticket to hell! She details how she and her family were captured and tortured by the Chinese Communist Party. Zeng was held in a Chinese prison and tortured for practicing Falun Gong — similar to Tai Chi — with thousands of others in public parks. She was put in prison four times and assigned to a labor camp.
Capitalism emphasizes the freedom of the individual – often at the expense of the collective good. Thus, the environment gets polluted by corporations focused only on the bottom line and quarterly profits. Dramatically unequal distribution of wealth results in 1% dominating deeply corrupt governments. Socialism and communism sacrifice the rights of the individual supposedly in service to the greater good of the group. That may sound good, but the Soviet Union was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Nazi Germany was run by the National Socialist Party. Russia, Germany, and China committed genocides – each killing tens of millions of their own citizens – hardly serving the common good.
So, is there a third option that protects the rights of each individual but also serves group well-being? How the Founding Fathers took a page from the Iroquois book reports: “Then Slow Turtle smiles and begins to speak about the Iroquois League — an Indian idea of confederation — as a foundation for the Constitution. “Other forms of government have taken a page out of the book of the Iroquois nation,” he says. Supreme medicine man of the Wampanoag nation, Slow Turtle is also executive director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs. “You’ll see a lot of commonalities” with today’s forms of government, he continues. “They’ve all taken a page out of this [Iroquois] book. The bad part about it is they have left out the spirituality. They left the key out of their form of government.”
The small gathering feels the chill of the fall air as a cool wind brings a brightening of the clouds. The homeland of some participants is the hot heart of Africa. One is from a warm Caribbean island off of Colombia. “For the first time people are beginning to realize the debt that the Constitution owes to the native people. There are a lot of new books suddenly coming out about that,” says Medicine Story, medicine man of the Assonets as well as author and storyteller. “Thomas Jefferson and others of the Founding Fathers of the country had studied various Indian nations — particularly the Hodinonhsioni [people of the long house], the six nations, and the [American Indian] Great Law of Peace, which was the oldest United Nations in the world, a continuing peace that lasted for a thousand years.”
“The unity of those people was what really impressed Franklin and others,” says Medicine Story, “and they decided that the 13 Colonies should be unified, and [later] put together this Constitution. The main thing about the Constitution that went wrong in the eyes of the native people, who still value their unity and peace and so forth, is that it was not rooted in a spiritual concept of who they were in the universe.”
Medicine Story’s eyes pan the cloudy sky and blowing branches as he speaks. “[Native Americans] remind themselves of that [concept] continually so that their deliberations come from a very unified place, a place of deep spirituality. And you don’t have the right and the left, the adversary principle operating there all the time. “I have been with councils of chiefs of those people and found them to be the wisest deliberations I’ve ever seen in any group of human beings on this planet.”
How Native Americans Can Guide The World Again
So, it is spirituality that is missing in our Christmas celebrations, in our medicine, our agriculture, and our system of government. The hidden meaning in our Christmas traditions and the growing interest in ayahuasca perhaps reflect a desire to incorporate this missing ancient wisdom.
The Language of Spirituality is a DVD that can be purchased or streamed. It documents the discovery by physicists and linguists that Native American languages better convey concepts of quantum physics and consciousness than Western languages. As the DVD shows, the noun-heavy Western languages make it difficult to convey the fluidity and motion inherent in verb-intensive Native American languages which is essential to an understanding of quantum physics and consciousness. With their sophisticated understanding of reality, these indigenous cultures have much to teach the West.
In his Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea, Carter Phipps shows that the West is now beginning to understand the key role of language for individuals and cultures — and the importance of the concept of process, movement, being, life. Since language influences how we see the world and understand reality, it is clear now that Native American languages provide a more accurate view of the universe. This indicates the importance of ensuring the survival of Native American languages and cultures.
What do Native Americans know that can help heal the world spiritually, politically, economically, and environmentally now? In May or June, the Haudenosaunee hold the Drums Along The Hudson Festival. at Inwood Park in Manhattan. Native American cultures are aware of our dependence on all the forces of life and have a profound sense of thanksgiving, respect, and responsibility. The Mohawk (one of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee) are famous for their Thanksgiving Address, an hour-long prayer that is said before and after major meetings, events, and ceremonies.
Mohawk elder Tom Porter gives a short version of the Thanksgiving Address during which he thanks the people for coming and thanks everything from the sun, moon, stars, rain, air and birds; oceans, lakes, rivers, and fish; trees, food plants, medicinal herbs; animals; enlightened teachers; and the Creator. It is a very powerful experience of acknowledgement of our dependence on all of Nature.
What would be the impact if the Thanksgiving Address were widely adopted by Western cultures? Would it help us take the time to consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations – as the traditional First Nations do? Would it help us respect life and create a more sustainable culture?
In the video Chief Oren Lyons – Keynote Speech: Keeping the Homefires Burning Gathering, Chief Lyons discusses the importance of the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace in the founding of the United States and to the world today. The League of Nations, now the United Nations, was founded on the Haudenosaunee model. Chief Lyons, an artist, drew the painting below of the Iroquois Tree of Peace.
John Trudell, a Santee Sioux leader of the American Indian Movement said that Americans often talk about their freedoms and rights – but rarely mention their responsibilities. He explained that with rights come responsibilities. The video Trudell is fascinating.
In addition to his music career, Trudell played roles in a number of feature films, including a lead role in Thunderheart. In the film, Val Kilmer plays a half-Sioux FBI agent investigating a murder on a Sioux reservation. The script is based on events that took place on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975 in South Dakota involving an armed standoff between Indian activists and the FBI which culminated in the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier in 1977 – a case Amnesty International lists as unfair.
As Kilmer’s character reconnects with the Sioux and recovers the memories of his indigenous heritage, he discovers that the FBI is there to protect a uranium mine that is poisoning the water and killing all life on the reservation. Near the end of the film, his FBI colleague says, “He’s going native!” In remembering his native roots, Kilmer’s character becomes a protector of the river and the Earth. Kilmer’s character is everyman — reminding us that we must all “go native” to remember the importance of protecting the Earth before we destroy all life on the planet.
In a pivotal scene, when asked why he’s such a threat, John Trudell’s character delivers a riveting performance cited by many as the film’s highlight. He points out: “Sometimes they have to kill us because they can’t break our spirit. We choose the right to be who we are. We know the difference between the reality of freedom and the illusion of freedom. There’s a way of Earth and a way not of Earth. We choose the way of Earth. It’s about power, Ray. ”
Trudell was a popular speaker around the nation. He said that Americans often talk about their rights and freedoms – but rarely about their responsibilities. He pointed out that with freedoms come responsibilities. It is that sense of responsibility for the Earth and the next seven generations that is missing in both capitalism and socialism/communism. It is a sense of responsibility that grows out of Native Americans’ awareness of our dependence on all aspects of Nature for our survival.
Values Change For Survival
The Sioux prayer Mitakuye Oyasin, which means “All My Relations” captures this sense of responsibility. It is a very humble prayer for all peoples, all animals, all plants, the stars –– everything. To Westerners, “relative” means a blood relation. Yet, indigenous cultures understand that we are related to and dependent on everything – air, water, soil, plants, animals, the sun, moon, stars, etc. The reality is that our very existence depends on lowly bees which pollinate 30% of our food supply and on earthworms, bacteria, and mushrooms! Adopting this profound perspective changes our outlook on life. What a different sense of our place in the world it creates!
When Chief Oren Lyons spoke at the United Nations in 1977, he was there as the representative of the world’s indigenous peoples to present their rights and needs. Yet, with the understanding of our dependence on the Circle of Life, Chief Lyons pointed out that animals need representation as well. He reminded the UN delegates: “I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the creation”.
In focusing on a spiritual connection which leads to individual enlightenment through the use of mushrooms, ayahuasca, vision quests, or other means, Native American cultures understand that individual freedom and empowerment is not at the expense of the group. Enlightened individuals see their role in life as serving and strengthening the group. So, there is no conflict between the freedom and rights of individuals and the common good. Strong, enlightened individuals create a strong enlightened society that is a blessing to the Earth and works for the good of the coming generations.
It’s very much like a smorgasbord. If every person brings something to the table, everyone can enjoy the feast. Individuals are proud of and noted for what they give. However, in America, Forbes magazine lists and celebrate billionaires – without regard to how they got the money or how they use it.
When Chief Lyons later spoke at the UN, he explained that the conclusions of the world’s spiritual leaders at a recent meeting were summarized in four words: Values Change For Survival. See the video of his speech on this topic. The group warned that if the human race is to survive now, we must change our values to be in line with those of the world’s indigenous peoples. The world’s Wisdom Keepers have held onto those traditions despite 500 years of assault. We owe them a great debt for that.
The only question is whether we have the humility and wisdom to listen and learn now. Perhaps we can start by recognizing that our Christmas celebrations are a reflection of our desire to connect again with our shamanic roots. The growing interest in ayahuasca is another indication of the longing for an expanded and deeper understanding of reality and our place in the universe.
Can We Choose Enlightenment Now?
We are taught to believe that the purpose of life is to get a good education so we can get a good job, get married, buy a nice home, support our children, go on vacations, and fund our retirement. In this way, we have been kept on a treadmill and in a mental and spiritual prison while believing we are in the Land of the Free. We have been robbed of the meaning of life and the real purpose of our existence.
Perhaps we can use this Winter Solstice to remember the return of the Light and can see Enlightenment as the goal of our lives and nation. Perhaps we can begin and end all our major meetings with thanks to all creation (all our relatives) and think about the effect of all our actions on the next 7 generations rather than just on the bottom line this quarter.
Many of our states, cities, and rivers carry Native American names. Our name as “Americans” identifies us with the first peoples of this continent. Our system of government and many of our foods and medicines are gifts from Native America. Our concept of freedom and God-given unalienable rights was inspired by Native American traditions.
Perhaps we can now remember our deep debts to Native America. Perhaps now we can honor the wisdom traditions they have maintained for over 500 years under great pressure. Maybe we can begin to accept the 500 Native Nations as our brothers and sisters and learn more about their cultures, traditions, values, and goals. Perhaps we can consult with Native Americans and seek their guidance now as our Founding Fathers did. Perhaps we can finally honor all our treaties (laws of the land) with Native America.
Perhaps the Native American understanding of enlightenment and empowerment of the individual for the good of the whole can rescue us from both rapacious capitalism or socialism/communism. Perhaps we can see how free, enlightened individuals are the best foundation for a free and enlightened society so there is no conflict between individual rights and the needs of the group.
Rather than just accepting gifts from Native America, perhaps now we can also give back. Perhaps we can contribute to the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) and other organizations to help protect the Amazon and the peoples of the rainforest. Who will be our guides now and in the future if not these wise cultures that have guided us so well and in so many ways for 500 years?