Settlers came here for religious freedom… that Native America already established by Jennifer QuintoTweet
People have asked me how I feel about Natives that have accepted Christianity, and Natives that promote Christianity…
Here’s what I have to say now, that I’ve done some research.
Old, turn of the century publications said things like “Natives appropriated specific aspects of colonized cultures” …
First, they incorrectly used the term appropriate, since there was no choice for us, except to assimilate. Second- the reality was that Tlingit culture IS A RELIGION. Tlingits took on aspects of colonized culture to improve theirs. They believed that under the new societal changes, that their best chance at survival, and prosperity for their people was to embrace the “new” world.
For 5,000 years our ancestors developed a religious culture that taught every aspect of survival and unity in the environment of the time. When colonization started, they thought their best bet would be to leave the old culture that was now a hindrance to success, and accept the new culture to uphold the survival and future of our people since resistance at the time was met with aggression.
Natives gave up their religion to preserve their future. They thought it was their only option.
I don’t see this as offensive.
I think it’s predatory of a colonizing culture, to see people that are merely unfamiliar, and deem them inferior because they lack written word, books, they don’t go to church, they don’t have “advanced things”- so, even though they’ve successfully lived like this, for 5,000 years in what seemed (to settlers), like uninhabitable land, that all of this lack of transportation, buildings, lights, etc. All of that was apparently evidence that we were dumb, godless, unnecessary, and in desperate need of “saving”… from what, I don’t know, since the only thing we currently need to be saved from is the garbage left from colonization. Literally. Figuratively. Metaphorically.
The Tlingit culture was a religion, and that is a fact, and exactly why it was easy for our ancestors to make the logical choice of accepting the new religion. They thought they were doing the right thing.
Reading again what I just wrote… it’s right there in what I said.
The whole culture was about upholding the best interests, to protect and uphold háa shagoon, and háa shuka.
Their choices were always about upholding the dignity and respect of our ancestors; our ancestors before, and after us. Protecting the shuka, preserving shagoon, and that’s what honoring past while looking to the future refers to. They honored their past, their culture of what their ancestors taught…
That because the old lesson to uphold unity, and avoid wars, was to accept the best of what newcomers and outliers offered- which was a good plan when those outsiders were just other Natives with the same basic culture.
Which then became a dangerous practice when two, diametrically opposed cultures met, and one has a level of superiority built in.
Their choice was based on preservation and honor of their people before them, in hopes of protecting their future generations.
They fulfilled their religious cultural beliefs, to full fruition, just to continue life for their people, which is the ultimate sacrifice that could ever be made as a collective effort.
The Tlingit culture believes that words connect the people communicating.
That the words join the speaker with those listening, no matter the distance. That once connected by words- you are one.
Tlingit culture held communication, words, and speaking in high esteem.
If spoken words are your clan’s only way of preserving and teaching 5,000 years of history, lessons, survival, and deeply spiritual meaning, why would one ever speak loosely, or without truth?
If they knew disrespectful words could cause wars and could endanger our existence, then why would we ever speak without careful consideration?
Speaking words of disrespect or falsehoods were self inflicted wounds; because words connected those communicating; because they all became one; because speaking and listening created one, shared experience.
It is an echo of their thinking and culture.
To never see things unilaterally.
To be respectful of all, because disrespecting one in a circle, disrespects all.
That all things have a balance, and all are considered as they move through life.
It is why their legends have been scientifically proven true.
Ancient shipwrecks unearthed, exactly as legends stated.
Ancient cities discovered in places we never believed existed.
Weapons, technologies, sciences, everything.
These people read the mountains and waterways like people of today read clocks.
They knew the seasons and movement of animals and the land.
They didn’t need books because their words were truth, and carefully communicated.
They didn’t need clocks because the sun, moon, and stars told them when to rise, and when to rest.
They didn’t need calendars because the birds, whales, plants, fish and surroundings told them when it was time.
They didn’t need government because Mother Earth dominates with final control and approval, so all values had to respect her. Disrespect of the land, meant the end of our existence.
We didn’t need churches, because our long houses were our churches, and we lived in them.
How else would one live their religious traditions each and every day?
Our religion was our way of life, and we lived it with every moment of our days, before contact.
Christianity and Indigenous culture were easily transitioned because both were religions.
The unfortunate devastation is that Christianity had a focus in the wrong places to be truly fulfilling, and attractive to indigenous.
Every where that colonization touched, and devastated #BIPoC, those communities all suffered the same hallmarks:
Loss of identity
Loss of self respect
Loss of status
Loss of hope
Loss of coping capabilities
Which lead to:
And inappropriate behaviors
Loss of health
Loss of income, etc.
Why? Because colonization ripped away the practices that taught those people how to avoid those things, and how to care for themselves. The new religion didn’t feel the same.
Now that the outcomes of capitalism and colonization are starting to negatively impact all of society today, they’re starting to realize their demise is self inflicted.
Their disrespect of the people, disrespected the land, and now they’re paying the consequences of colonization themselves:
Now they’re looking at studies, and results, and how to fix it…
And guess what?
The answer is in Indigenous culture.
Respect the land, and she’ll respect you.
Respect the people and the people will respect you.
Disrespect of one, is disrespect of all.
Learn the history of the land you’re on.
Learn the history of the people that cared for the land for 5,000 years.
Learn what was important to us.
Parallels that made it easy to let go of the old ways, for the new?
Christianity and Tlingit religion is like two satellites pointed toward the respective creator.
Christianity points toward the heavens for absolution at the end of life.
That the individual relationship with (Creator- the guy in the sky) God was what grants us and fulfills our purpose.
Whereas Indigenous culture is all pointed at respecting the earth, and environment to ensure our survival.
Tlingit were so careful of respect of others that they did not speak disrespectfully of anything. Not the land, or inanimate objects. They knew the power of their words, and sacredness of the land.
Why so? Because our ancestors were buried in the land.
As Tlingit culture believes, they became one.
Speaking disrespectfully of a place, or land was like speaking disrespectfully of your own ancestors, or worse yet, speaking disrespectfully of someone else’s clan- which clans had to pay heavy fines for such disrespect.
Christianity has all of the same type of basic lessons that Indigenous culture does- rules and traditions. Except that Christianity attached it to an ambiguous being, with intangible factors. Unearthly aspects- things we’ll never attain, physically in this life, but should strive for, to allow our soul to be free…
to attain atonement.
Whereas Indigenous culture shares all of the same aspects and rules, except all applied to actual, physical, social, and environmental aspects of every day life. Fulfilling our purpose meant respecting the earth, to preserve our people, our way of life.
If you took all basic Christian and religious texts, and applied them to respecting the earth, and the people of that land, you’d literally have a replica of indigenous culture.
Two satellites, pointed in opposite directions.
Same purpose. Same intent.
Christianity will never fix what is wrong with the world, because it isn’t directed at respecting what is in this world, on this earth, of this earth. The rules are all there, and respectable, but disconnects us from our true purpose- to respect that we are a part of the whole circle.
We’re not separate from animals.
We are Raven.
We are Eagle.
Coho died and gave his life for me to exist.
I give my life for coho to exist.
And this is the love affair we lived for 5,000 years to keep our waters beautiful, our streams pristine, our land untouched, our culture going… until that satellite shifted and we lost our way.
Inspired by family history, and attempting to pave a path for future generations lined with courage, pride and compassion.