Returning to the Bare Essentials of Nature - A Native American Essay

Returning to the Bare Essentials of Nature - A Native American Essay

As the first settlers of North America, Native Americans lived with the surrounding nature for thousands of years. Because of this, nature had a tremendous impact on their culture and lives. One aspect of Native American culture emphasizing the influence of nature is their religion. In Native American literature, several examples can be found in which religion is deeply ingrained in nature. Native Americans viewed nature as the very essence of their religion , using it to explain creation, in their worship, and as the center of human life.

One way the Native Americans incorporated nature into their religion was by using it to explain creation. As shown in “The World on Turtle’s Back,” nature plays a key role in the creation of the world. In this story, animals were created because the twins “had creative powers. They took clay and modeled it into animals, and they gave these animals life (29).” This line from the story shows how clay, a natural substance, was shaped and resulted in the creation of animals. Another line in the story shows an animal’s role in the Earth’s creation: “Thus it was the muskrat, the Earth-Diver, who brought from the bottom of the ocean soil from which the earth was to grow (26).” This describes how a particular animal used soil to help create the earth, showing how things found in nature were used for creation.

In addition to explaining creation, the Native Americans also had a nature-based religion by focusing their worship on aspects of nature. In “Song of the Sky Loom,” this is shown as Native Americans turn to nature as a higher power for prayer. An example is in the first and second lines: “Oh our Mother the Earth, oh our Father the Sky/Your children are we… (34)” This shows how Native Americans viewed nature as a higher power by calling the Earth their “mother” and the sky their “father.” They also view themselves as “children” under the power of nature. Another quote from the song shows how Native Americans used nature in prayer: “Then weave for us a garment of brightness/May the warp be the white light of morning,/May the weft be the red light of evening (34)” In this line, the speaker shows the desire to receive good weather from the gods.

Native Americans not only used nature in worship and stories of creation, but also connected the cycle of life and death with the cycle of nature. In “The Man to Send Rain Clouds,” a Native American grandson uses several nature-related rituals when burying his grandfather. As Leon looks into the surrounding mountains after the burial, he “felt good because it was finished, and he was happy about the sprinkling of the holy water; now the old man could send them big thunderclouds for sure (Silko, 52).” Leon, the grandson, believes that his grandfather can now send them rain clouds, showing how the afterlife is connected to nature in Native American religion. Another example is from a ritual performed for Leon’s grandfather: “He paused and watched Ken throw pinches of corn meal and pollen into the wind that fluttered the small gray feather (Silko, 49).” This ritual shows connection with nature through the use of natural substances, corn meal and pollen.

Native Americans put nature at the heart of their religion. They believed nature played an essential role in the creation of the world. Additionally, Native Americans viewed nature as a higher power and prayed to nature-related gods. Finally, they also connected the human soul and the afterlife with aspects of nature. In a time when the world is growing more polluted and damaged, one should learn from the Native Americans and returning to the bare essentials of nature.