The Importance of Spirituality
About a week and a half ago, I attended a Native American Church ceremony for my paternal uncle. It had been a year since I attended a ceremony, and this was one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Growing up, both of my families praised and practiced in the Native American Church. These practices have built a bond that can never be broken or forgotten.
Spirituality is what keeps me directed on my red path of life. Through the ceremonies I attend sparingly, I keep what has been taught to me dear. My grandfather, Leo G. Harvey, a well-known silversmith, was also a well-known server of the Native American Church.
From what I can remember and what has been taught to me, peyote is used as a medicine in the Native American Church, which was founded by the Comanche tribe. A traditional oral account said that this plant was used to heal a village suffering from sickness. A grandmother and daughter were able to obtain this plant through a vision they had about healing their people. They finalized the healing process through ceremony, instruments, songs, and prayers. The sickness was gone and from there the Native American Church originated.
Through many forms of spirituality Native Americans hold and preserve, it’s a keepsake of identity.
Sitting next to the fireplace for the first time in a year, I felt timid. I knew the ups and downs I had to face with my absence from church and from taking the medicine to reconcile the feelings I have ignored. It was the challenge. Throughout the night and into the morning, I meditated along with the songs, inhaled the tobacco sharply, and prayed for my uncle.
My grandfather always said there’s no right or wrong way to pray, and so that night I continued to meditate. As dawn approached I felt comfort and positive next to the fireplace, believing that my uncle would heal from his illness.
Since that ceremony, I was reminded how much spirituality has been such an important part of my life. As the saying goes, “A family that prays together, stays together,” and I find that true.
Another important factor about spirituality is to recognize the history and how Native Americans sought to keep their religion free. In his article, “Peyote’s Role in Religious Freedom,” TCJ columnist Ryan Winn states, “It is my belief that we TCU educators need to use our knowledge of history to empower our students to see that Native people have always contributed to our country’s religious evolution,” and the use of peyote in the Native American Church was vital in the contribution.
I dedicate this blog post to my late uncle, who brought me back to the sacred fireplace among the medicine and instruments, to pray with my family once again and to recognize the history and founding of the Native American Church.
Shaina Nez is a graduate of Diné College and the author of the TCJ blog, Red Storyteller.
Winn, R. (2015, May 31). Peyote’s Role in Religious Freedom. Tribal College Journal. Retrieved at: http://www.tribalcollegejournal.org/archives/29709.