Thank you Tim for speaking up, and for allowing me to reprint your wise words.
I have always believed there are many spiritual paths. We are not to interfere with each other. My spirit goes on alert when I hear: "Everyone not Christian is going to hell." "We are the chosen people.", and any other lines used to implant fear and judgement. I heard these kinds of pronouncements frequently when I was growing up In Oklahoma. Non-Christians or traditional Indians were silenced, or hid.
In the last few years this misguided fundamentalist pitch has become a fever of self-righteousness in Oklahoma. What happened to respect? Does the Maker love and care only for the roses, and dismiss to hell all others of creation?
Debunking the myth of Christianity
Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji) 7/24/2006
© 2006 Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.
A letter from an angry reader from Oklahoma chastised me for attempting
to explain why the Iraqi people hate America. She wrote, "Tim Giago
should realize that America is a Christian nation. Jesus Christ appeared
to Black Elk, not to the Muslims."
I wonder how many Indian nations consider themselves to be "Christian
nations." The two most potent weapons brought to the Western Hemisphere
by the European invaders were disease and the Church. While the diseases
unknown to the indigenous population destroyed millions of lives, the
Church destroyed cultures, religions, traditions, languages and customs.
The early demise of the Indian people can be equally attributed to both.
The letter writer, an Indian woman, continued, "We as Americans are
crusaders. We bring democracy to a dark and ignorant country." Is that
what the "crusaders" brought to the Indian people? Native Americans did
not become included in America's form of "democracy" until 1924, nearly
150 years after America's settlers signed the Declaration of
Independence. The "independence" and "democracy" was for white Americans
only. It was not until 1946 when Arizona and New Mexico finally ratified
the Constitutional Amendment that made Native Americans United States
citizens. For the first 30 years of his life, my father, born and raised
on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a fluent Lakota speaker,
was not a citizen of the United States.
The settlers who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom
outlawed most religious rites of the Indian people. The Sacred Sun Dance
of the Great Plains Indians was banned and its practitioners subject to
arrest and incarceration.
The Church created the myth that Jesus appeared to Black Elk in order to
convince other Lakota that Black Elk had seen the light and had become a
Christian in the end. His own family members dispute this outlandish
claim. As a matter of fact, Black Elk faced prosecution for practicing
the traditional spirituality of his ancestors. He had to perform some of
the sacred rites of the Lakota in secret.
The revival of the traditional religious practices of the American
Indians has grown stronger over the years and came out in the open after
passage of the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act was passed in
1978. Can you imagine that "Freedom of Religion" was finally granted to
the Indian people 202 years after the Declaration of Independence?
There are those Native Americans who have attempted to integrate their
Christian roots and beliefs with Native spirituality. Can this happen?
Would the practitioners of the ancient Indian religions allow this? I
think not. First off, Christianity is foreign to the Native people of
this Hemisphere. It was brought from across the sea by the invaders. For
the most part Christianity is based on the teachings of a Jewish rabbi
Whereas, the traditional spirituality of the Native people has existed
long before the settlers landed on these shores. One Wicasa Wakan (Holy
Man) named Rick Two Dog, an Oglala Lakota, can trace his spiritual
family and advisers back more than 500 years. That even pre-dates the
coming of the Pilgrims with their overly righteous views of
Let's face it. The early settlers found the religious practices of the
Native people difficult to understand and distasteful and they dismissed
them, with a wave of the hand and a prayer, as heretical. Since the
Native people did not, according to the settlers, have a religion, they
were therefore pagans that had to be converted.
For an Indian man or woman to say that Jesus Christ is their Savior and
Lord is to deny thousands of years of the inherent spirituality and
religious customs of their own people. And to believe that they can
incorporate this foreign religious concept into their traditional
beliefs is now being discarded by many Indians that have returned to
their own traditional customs and beliefs. They see with eyes wide open
what Christianity has done to their ancestors and to themselves and they
I would like to hear from the Indian nations and have them tell me how
many of them consider themselves to be "Christian nations."
I have no bone to pick with Christians or their beliefs as long as they
practice those beliefs without interfering with my own beliefs and with
the beliefs of those who are not Christians. I attended an Indian
mission boarding school where Christianity was crammed down my throat
from the minute I awoke to the minute I went to sleep. It's not that
this was bad enough, but to debunk and criticize the traditional beliefs
of my ancestors in order to implant this new religion into my young mind
was outrageous. If the Church cannot apologize for the atrocities
committed against the Native people how can I be expected to forgive
them and least of all participate in their religious hypocrisy.
The Founding Fathers of the Indian nations will not be found carved on
Mount Rushmore. Instead their bones will be found in the dust of the
land walked upon by they and their ancestors for thousands of years,
long before the settlers came. And in the space of a short 500 years the
newcomers have brought this continent to the brink of self-destruction.
America may well consider itself a Christian nation, but please do not
willfully discard those of us who are not. We are also Americans and we
are also citizens of our own nations.
(Tim Giago is the founder and first president of the Native American
Journalists Association. He can be reached at email@example.com
or by writing him at 2050 W. Main St., Suite 6, Rapid City, SD., 57702.
He was also the founder and former editor and publisher of the Lakota
Times and Indian Country Today newspapers)