Is Native American Spirituality Biblical – as Evidenced by the Vision Quest?

This is a grad research paper that will be published in an academic journal shortly, complete with footnotes and Bibliography. I had completed research on not only the vision quest, but also the pipe ceremony and good morning prayer, but this made the length of paper too long for the research assignment. For those of you looking for something deeper out of me, here it is:

Is Native American Spirituality Biblical as evidenced by the Vision Quest?

 

 

Introduction

Since 1995, the author has been attending various native events, and developing relationship with tribal elders and native spiritual leaders to discover a totally different culture, traditions, languages, and worship than he had currently understood in mainline evangelical Christianity. It is also the firm conviction of the author that the Bible[1] is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, through which all spiritually must be judged. It has been his experience that the Creator has speaking to natives directly through Creation and conscience for hundreds of years before the gospel and the Bible has been introduced to North America. Over the centuries, distinct and often beautiful ways have developed in the tribal cultures and methods of worship practiced, and this paper will look at three of these, seeking to analyze them in light of the Scriptures.

For many historic reasons, many native traditions, worship and ceremony are sacred, secret rituals that are not always open to the public. Coupled with this is the difficulty in obtaining native academic resources – in certain cases it is only in this century that certain tribes received a written language, so many of these practices and their meanings have been transferred through oral tradition with little or no written documentation available for research. To add to this, are the general misunderstandings between many denominational missionaries and theologians, that view natives a ‘pagans and savages’ fit only to be destroyed. The doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’[2] was taught in the churches, and the general thinking of the US federal government is summed up in the words of general Sheridan, a well known Indian fighter: ‘The only good Indian is a dead Indian’. [3] During the period of 1860-1900, every treaty ever signed between the US government and an Indian tribe was systematically broken, and Indians were either killed in battle, or hunted for scalps, or rounded up and herded like cattle unto barren unwanted lands called reservations. Yet, were the theologians of the day right? Were natives barbarians and savages as a whole, or were their ways simply different than Western thought, their worship practices unique and beautiful expressions of God’s grace, every bit as authentic and accepted by God as our white man’s ways? While there are myriad cultural worship practices involving the drum, the dance, regalia, and ceremony, it is the purpose of this paper to investigate one of these, and compare it to the Word of God, which is the final rule of faith and conduct for all mankind.

 
The Vision Quest

 

Dr. Salamone states that: “The vision quest is a ritual usually performed by young Native American men and women to search for a guardian spirit.  Adults in search of power, guidance, or direction in life often repeat the ritual.  The person on a vision quest seeks communication with the spirit world in a series of solitary purifications, offerings, prayers, and fasting during several days and nights at a sacred place. “[4]

As research has been performed, it is discovered that a vision quest is a common practice among many tribes. While the search for a governing vision or spirit guide can be done through not only vision quest, but also in combination with the sun-dance, sweat lodge, pipe ceremony.

It appears that this solemn observance is best analyzed by investigating its two main categories:

  1. The vision quest is performed to deliberately solicit the spirit realm for a spirit guide that will guide the seeker for the rest of their life.
  2. The vision quest is performed to seek the Creator, the Great Spirit for a ‘governing vision’ that will reveal direction and purpose to the seeker for the rest of their life.

In either case, this practice is a serious event, in some cases, the greatest event of a person’s life:“Said the Winnebago father to his boy at the age of puberty: My son, you should try to be of some benefit to your fellow men.  There is only one way in which this can be done and that is to fast.  If you thirst yourself to death, the spirits who are in control of wars will bless you…..If you do not obtain a spirit to strengthen you, you will amount to nothing in the estimation of your fellow men.Again, this thought of the solemnity and seriousness of a vision quest is amplified:

 

“Such help was to be had only through strenuous effort, which might mean fasting, thirsting, purification or even self-mutilation and torture.  The result would be a trance or a vivid dream in which the visionary made contact with his future guardian spirit and perhaps even received some visible token to prove the fact….The Algonkians began this process in childhood.  Around the Great Lakes each family sent its son out alone, “hounded them” says Dr. Benedict, to get spirit help as a modern family might urge a good report card.”[5]

 

Since the first book ever translated into a native language here in the United States, was the Bible, translated by a missionary named John Elliot[6], the question addressed: “Is the vision quest Biblical?” is directly relevant in the practice of the vision quest by the Algonquin people. Biblically, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus performed 40 day fasts[7], very similar to the concept of a Native American vision quest. There is perhaps one key difference in their preparation, as compared to that of a typical Native American: all three of these Biblical characters were Jewish, Israelites who had been raised or given directly the word of God. In the case of the Algonquin people, this may well have been the case also, as we research the life and ministry of missionary John Eliot, and his translation of the Bible in 1663. Perhaps Algonquin’s read of the 40 day fast of Jesus, and immediately identified this with their practice of the vision quest and sought God through extended times of prayer and fasting.

In these accounts though, we see a mixture of authentic visions from God, mixed with pagan self mutilation, and the seeking of ‘a guardian spirit’ or a ‘spirit guide’. Clearly God has given some spectacular authentic visions that will by documented later in this paper, but what invokes question is the solicitation of a spirit guide or guardian spirit. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit give us the ability to accurately discern whether a supernatural spirit is human, angelic, demonic or divine.

Clearly, God gives believers angelic help, and guardian angels are Scripturally described beings that we comfort our children with as we tuck them into bed at night.[8], the question that remains then, is could a native on a vision quest receive an angel or guardian angel as a spirit guide? Clearly angels are dispatched to comfort, protect, fight for us, protect us, and occasionally bring us messages from the throne of God, but they are never to be worshipped, or in the author’s mind, sought for guidance. Colossians 2:18 says the following: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.”

The concept of spirit guides opens the door to demonic deception, and is expressly forbidden by God. These ‘spirit guides’ are demons, called familiar spirits in the Scripture, and expressly forbidden by God’s word: Leviticus 20:6 And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people. God is a jealous God and will have no other gods before him.[9] The problem with humanities relationship with God and each other throughout history has been the deceptive power of devils. From the garden of Eden until today Satan has been blinding the minds of humanity, and no matter how well intentioned, the list of false prophets and the countless bloodshed their supernatural revelations have caused historically is atrocious. Whether Mohamed’s supposed revelation that produced the Quran, and Islam with all its horrors, or the supposed Christians that wrote the damnable doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’ that resulted in so much slaughter of natives, we see behind it all, an evil mastermind: 2 Corinthians 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. He is the master of deception: 2 Corinthians 4:4 in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Jesus described him: John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:

Over the centuries he has done the same thing repeatedly, deceive people to oppress them, and ultimately steal their freedom, life, and every good thing God would give them. So then, I see great caution needed in the practice of a vision quest, simply because God is not the only spirit at work in the earth.

We are called to test the spirits[10]  So for those who know both the Spirit and Word of God, as we wade into the native world filled with visions, dreams, and prophetic words resulting from supernatural voices, I believe we need to discern each particular revelation primarily in light of the Scriptures, but also in light of the fruit they produce[11]. So, in order to determine if a particular vision, dream or word is of God, one must look at each one scripturally, prayerfully, and in light of the fruit it produces in the lives of those it addresses. Having expressed this word of caution, let us look at a couple of famous visions or native prophecies, and then look at them through the eyes of Scripture.

The Law of Peace –
In the year 1050, a medicine man known as Dekanawida, or ‘the Great Peacemaker’ went on a vision quest, and was given ‘The Great Law of Peace’, of what was to become the Iroquois Confederacy. Five tribes had formed the Iroquois confederacy, in the year 1050, and governed this land we call America, according to ‘The Great Law of Peace’, until almost 1800. This ‘Great Law of peace” was passed down through the generations recorded on Wampum belts, carefully given to each generation, as the governing documents or constitution of the confederacy. This constitution was recited, and explained to the framers of the US Constitution. “During the Albany congress of July 1754, Benjamin Franklin said of the Iroquois confederacy: “It would be a strange thing.. if six nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming such a union, and yet it has subsisted for ages and appears indissolvable, and yet like a union should be impractical for 10 or a dozen English colonies.”[12]:

As research was performed investigating the overall similarities between the Great Law of Peace and the Constitution, and whether these documents are Biblical, one might consider the phrase: ‘consent of the governed’ coined by one of the framers of the US Constitution, John Locke. In looking at the ‘by their fruits’ test, we see both documents produced peace and freedom to their adherents when implemented. This alone might suffice as sufficient proof of the divine origins of both documents, but there is another interesting similarity. In the Old Testament, we are given the example of Israel being governed by both the law of God, and by the leaders they chose: Deuteronomy 1: 13 Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. So we see a nation governed by both the Word of God, and leaders that they chose, and then presented before God for His approval. Clearly, in the Great Law of Peace, the people consented to be ruled by its precepts, and chose leaders from among themselves, and sought God’s blessing upon those leaders. Clearly then, the Great Law of Peace is Biblical.

.

 

The Crazy Horse – Seven Generation Prophecy.[13] Crazy Horse had a vision he shared with Sitting Bull during a pipe ceremony just days before he was murdered. He said:

 

“Upon suffering beyond suffering, the red nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for the sick world. A world filed with broken promises, selfishness and separations: A world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations, when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will become one circle again. In that day, those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things, and the young white ones will come, to those of my people to ask for wisdom. I salute the light within their eyes where the whole universe dwells, for when you are at the center within you and I am at that place within me, we are as one.” [14]

Many Christian native leaders believe this prophecy was indeed given by God, the phrase ‘I salute the light within their eyes where the whole universe dwells’ referring to ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory.’[15] “I see a time of seven generations,[16] when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will become one circle again.” “He died in 1877. If we use 18 years as the number to represent one generation, we can conclude that Crazy Horse named the year 2003 as the year that people would gather. We all know what happened that year. With the help of Crazy Horse’s prophecy, maybe more people will realize that is the year the “last war” began.”[17]
This prophecy is widely believed among natives, and is believed to being fulfilled on national news. The last free native chief was Sitting Bull.  He was killed by tribal police on Dec 15th, 1890 by what appears to be an assassin, on Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Presently, there is a protest there attended by over 150 native tribes, against the unlawful crossing of the Dakota pipeline across their treaty lands. They believe that this is the fulfillment of the seven generation prophecy, where red men will again arise, and together with us, will heal the land. May it be so: 2 Chronicles 7:14 14 if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

It has been discovered that many natives have great understanding of Romans 8: 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,21 because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  They intuitively, by the Holy Spirit, feel the groaning of the creation, and in most cases, have wisdom from God as to how to practically heal the land itself.

In Jay Swallow’s book, he tells of how a prophet of the Cheyenne people named Sweet Medicine went on a vision quest and received God’s governmental design for the Cheyenne tribe.[18] Since the Kingdom of God is ‘righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost[19]’clearly this vision was of God, for it brought peace and order to the tribe that exists to this day. Note if you will, the similarities between the reception by natives of ‘the Great Law of Peace’ and the Cheyenne vision given to their medicine man. In both cases, the revelation brought order and peace from conflict and amplifies the thoughts of Rom 13: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. It appears that God brought His kingdom rule here, in peace, by implementing His governmental order among the people.

This author performed a fast very similar to a vision quest that resulted in the book: “Welcome to the Grand Illusion – a Prophetic Prayer Strategy to Take America Back.’ In it, clear revelation is given on how God would use the church to reach Native Americans, and to bring a great move of the Holy Spirit to the US.[20]

Conclusion

While God speaks through general revelation through conscience and creation, Jesus Christ is Lord of Heaven and Earth. What is needed for eternal life is special revelation, the revelation that leads to salvation and eternal life. Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Clearly God speaks through native ceremony. What He has spoken has great consequence both in understanding His workings throughout history, but also critically in what must happen in this day of US history.  It is also clear that what has come forth supernaturally is not all from the Holy Spirit, but has the imaginations, interpretations, and applications of people attached, and in some cases, clearly demonic deception has occurred. Yet, many, many natives are coming to Jesus, in their regalia, in dance, in ceremony, with their language and culture. We the church, must dig deep into the word of God and prayer, to accurately discern and understand, how best to receive them and walk with them in the kingdom, in love, honor, respect, as full equals to all the graces and blessings of this life, as leaders and ministers of the gospel, we must somehow disciple and equip them in their gifts and particular callings. This takes much study of both their culture, but more importantly, the depths of the Word that can be written on the fleshly tablets of their heart, for truly the culture of the kingdom of God, supersedes any culture here on the earth. It is the conclusion of this paper that there are many keys of knowledge hidden within native tribes by God Himself, keys that can release untapped heavenly resources to actually, practically heal this land we call the United States of America.

[1] All Bible references from  King James Version and God, King James Bible (Kjv) (publication place: Latus ePublishing, 2014),

[2] Anders Stephanson, ”Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right”, New York: Hill and Wang, (1995)

[3] Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: an Indian History of the American West, 4th ed. (New York: Picador, 2010), 1

 

[4]           Frank A Salamone, “ Encyclopedia Of Religious Rites, Rituals, And Festivals”, (n.p.: New York : Routledge, 2004)

 

[5]           Ruth Underhill, 1965. “Red man’s religion; beliefs and practices of the Indians north of Mexico”,( n.p.: Chicago, University of Chicago Press [1965], 1965), 97.

[6] http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3518689

[7] Examples of 40 Day Fasts: Ex 34:28,Deut 9:9,18,1Kings 19:8,Matt 4:1-2

[8] Angels: Matt 18:10,Ps 91:11,Ps 103:20,Heb 1:14,Ps 34:7

[9] Ex 20:5, 34:14,Deut 4:14

[10] 1John 4:1-4 For a more complete teaching on how to do this please read the authors blog: https://chrisaomministries.com/2014/11/10/test-the-spirits-love-truth/

[11] Matt 7:20

[12] It is not the purpose of this paper to academically research the full contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy to the formation of the US Constitution, rather to research if ‘The Great Law of Peace’ is Biblical. For further research the researcher may consider:

Bruce E. Johansen, “Forgotten Founders, Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois and the Rationale for the American Revolution”, Harvard Common Press (November 15, 1982)
Donald A. Grinde Jr, “Exemplar of Liberty, Native America and the Evolution of Democracy”, (American Indian Studies Center, UCLA , January 1, 1991)

For a comparison between the Constitution and the Great Law of Peace:

Gregory Schaaf, “The Birth of Frontier Democracy from an Eagle’s Eye View: The Great Law of Peace to The Constitution of the United States of America.” Hearing statement given before the Select Committee on Indian Affairs United States Senate (One Hundredth Congress, First Session on S. Con Res. 76). (Washington, DC. 2 December 1987)

The contribution of this was formally recognized by Congress in 1988: http://www.senate.gov/reference/resource/pdf/hconres331.pdf

[13]             Vinson Brown, Voices of Earth and Sky; 1974, Harrisburg, PA
http://www.rexresearch.com/usa/usaproph.htm#us10
[14] – James Medicine Tree,http://www.heyokamagazine.com/HEYOKA.6.PIPE.JimMedicineTree.htm
[15] Col 1:27

[16] Deut 4:20

[17] http://ancientprophecyrevealed.blogspot.com/2007/12/crazy-horse-not-so-crazy.html

[18]             Jay Swallow, “Roaming Buffalo A Life of Ministry to the Nations”, Tulsa, OK, Perfect Circle Publishing, 2014. 184

[19] Rom 14:17,Rom 13:1-5

[20]          Walsh, Mr. Christopher Bernard. 2015. Welcome to the Grand illusion: A Prophetic Prayer Strategy to Take America Back! Lrg ed. Charleston, NC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 

Author: chrisaomministries

Chris Walsh is a missionary, the President of AOMMinistries. This blog now reaches over 100,000 people each day! Chris is the author of three books: Parable of the Sower, Worship - Not Just a Song, and now 'Welcome to the Grand Illusion, a prophetic prayer strategy to take America back!' The Walsh family has completed over 20 missions trips since April 2014, and is committed to bringing the Word of God to the nations, by every available media.

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