HRT 3M1 UNIT 1 North American Aboriginal Spirituality http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXTRGMhXWGY Aboriginal Peoples • “Aboriginal peoples” is a broad term referring to people who are First Nations, Metis, and Inuit. • According to Statistics Canada (2006 Census) more than 1 million people in Canada are Aboriginal – which might seem like a small proportion of Canada’s total 31.6 million but the growth rate within Aboriginal communities is what is interesting. Between 1996 and 2006 the Aboriginal community across Canada experiences a growth rate of 45%; as compared to the 8% growth rate for non-Aboriginals. • Of the Aboriginal population in Canada, most Aboriginal people (8 out of 10) live in Ontario and the Western provinces (MN, SK, AB, BC). Though they are less likely to live in urban centres. Aboriginal Peoples • Many Aboriginal peoples identify themselves with a term that means “the people” in their language. For example, “Inuit” means “the people” in Inuktitut, the Inuit language. Similarly, “Anishinabe” means “the people” or “good people”. • Until the 20th Century Aboriginal cultures have been oral ones. Traditionally, Aboriginal peoples have relied on memory and memory keeps – people who have received the sacred teachings from the elders and other spiritual leaders. • Elders: Aboriginal men or women who are recognized, respected, and consulted for their wisdom, experience, knowledge, background, and insight; an elder is not necessarily one of the oldest people in the community. Colonialism in North America • Aboriginal peoples have a long tradition of seasonal food growing and gathering, hunting, fishing, and spiritual and cultural activities. Their oral traditions reflect the knowledge and wisdom of generations. • Europeans came to North America as explorers, traders, colonizers, settlers, and missionaries. Over time, the contact between Europeans and Aboriginal peoples had a range of impacts. In some cases, for example, Aboriginal peoples helped early Europeans by teaching them survival skills. Colonialism in North America • Many Europeans considered their own ways “civilized” but Aboriginal ways “uncivilized”. They believed that Aboriginal peoples should give up their own traditions. • As early as 1701, treaties were signed to define promises, obligations, and benefits. They covered land, hunting and fishing rights, and other issues concerning Aboriginal peoples and Europeans. Colonialism in Canada • Reserves were created, which set aside parcels of land for specific First Nations peoples use. • The Gradual Civilization Act (1857) was passed to assimilate Aboriginal peoples into European culture. • Assimilate: Absorb one group into the culture of another Canada’s Reserves: http://www.pgic-iogc.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-INTER-IOGC/STAGING/imagesimages/ai_pubs_ar0809_2_1301074557452_eng.jpg Colonialism in Canada • The Indian Act (1876) set out the federal government’s responsibility for education of Status Indian children aged 6 to 18. It allowed for the setting up of residential schools run by Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Catholic churches. Colonialism in Canada • Starting in 1885, one West Coast Aboriginal ceremony – the potlatch – was banned. In 1895, Aboriginal ceremonies, dances and festivals were banned. The banned ceremonies where often conducted in private. The ban was officially lifted in 1951. • In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed the rights of Aboriginal peoples and had a powerful and positive effect of legal issues relating to Aboriginal peoples. Statement of Reconciliation • After the Canadian public became aware of the abuses (cultural, physical, emotional and sexual) that had occurred at residential schools, the schools were eventually closed. Both the federal governments and the churches apologized to Aboriginal peoples. • Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccDrfJeC 2zQ&feature=related Statement of Reconciliation • In 1998, the Canadian government acknowledged its role in the cultural and spiritual impact on Aboriginal cultures. It issued the “Statement of Reconciliation”, in which it formally expressed profound regret for past actions. • It also included an action plan to help with healing for residential school students, to improve health conditions among the Aboriginal population and to speed up land claims. • The creation of the territory of Nunavut in 1999 was the largest land claim settlement in Canada’s history. National Aboriginal Day • In 1996, Canada declared June 21st to be National Aboriginal Day. Each year, Aboriginal people celebrate their past and future together. • National Aboriginal Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhvBMWdVnHo Worldview & Religion • The Aboriginal worldview sees the sacred in all creation – in every aspect of humans and the environment. All life is seen as interconnected. • In the Aboriginal belief of animism, Aboriginal people believe that power comes from a common origin and that energy inhabits all things: The Siouan people of the plans call it Wakan. Wakan Tanka is the Great Spirit. The Iroquois call it Orenda – a wandering spirit. The Algonian-speaking people call it Mantiou or “the Great Spirit” • Some things have a greater quantity of this spirit or energy, while other things have less of it. A certain tree, a certain mountain, a certain animal may have more power than others. Learning the power of each thing is central to Aboriginal life. Aboriginal Beliefs: Northern Lights • A common Aboriginal belief for the Northern Lights is that the dancing waves of colour are powerful guardian spirits; the spirits of ancestors dance across the northern sky, weaving their way through the black of night, moving in harmony with the eternal rhythms of Father Sky and Mother Earth. The Role of the Shaman • Aboriginal people pass on to each other their knowledge of the spirit powers through teachings – mainly oral teachings. • In addition, they perform a number of rituals that keep the world in balance. Certain men and women possess a greater quantity of power than others. They are more able to deal with these powers than other people in the community. • Such a person is known as a shaman, or in some areas, a medicine person. • Shaman: An Aboriginal spiritual leader The Role of the Shaman • Traditionally, the shaman uses these powers for the benefit of the community: helping hunters find their prey, making it rain for farmers, making love charms, but especially healing the sick. • The shaman functions as a physical and spiritual healer and performs ceremonies for healing, and the spiritual needs of the people, using special knowledge of appropriate medicines and herbs. • The shaman also remembers and tells the spiritual teachings of the community – for example, by telling in a chant how Earth was created. Symbolism of The Circle • The circle is sacred! • Time is considered to be circular – divided into four seasons. • The planets rotate around the sun in a circular motion. • Meeting often involve forming a circle. • Traditional Aboriginal shelters are circular (igloos, teepees, and wigwams) • Dancing intended for the renewal of all creation is done in a circle. • The sacred pipe is passed from one to the next in a circular motion. Music & Ritual • Drums are sacred objects of different sizes, types and purposes, and are used in ceremonies. They represent the heartbeat of the nation and of Mother Earth, the pulse of the universe. The heart and the drum chare the same purpose and responsibility: providing life through its beat. • The powwow is a dance of renewal for the restoration of right relationships and the healing of all of creation. It is a community celebration, a time to get together to sing and dance, and to celebrate one’s identity, heritage, and language. • Drumming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSbGBJQvavg The Eagle Feather • A symbol of strength, the eagle feather gives the holder the power to represent others. It is often presented as a gift of recognition to someone who defends or negotiated on behalf of Aboriginal peoples. • When the eagle flies overhead, it means that Mother Earth will prosper. Making Connections • The Seven Grandfather Teachings were the teachings given to the Anishinabee people early in their history. The first elder was given gifts of knowledge by the seven grandfathers to help the people live a good life and respect the Creator, Earth and each other. • Wisdom is to cherish knowledge. • Love is to know peace. • Respect is to honour all of the Creation. • Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. • Honest is to be sincere when facing a situation. • Humility is to know oneself as a sacred part of the Creation. • Truth is to know all of these things and live them. • Compare each of these with the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew). • TO BE HANDED IN!! Resources • Quinlan, Don et al. 2001. Exploring World Religions: The Canadian Perspective. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. • Van den Hengel, Dr. J. et al. 2011. World Religions: A Canadian Catholic Perspective. Toronto, ON: Nelson Education.