Respect for all things key to Native American faith
Publication date: 2001-03-17
Arrival time: 2001-03-21
DAILY MAIL STAFF
Love others as you love yourself.
Respect all living things and the interconnectedness of the web of life.
These are elements of Native American spirituality.
"Native Americans believe there is one God," said Pastor Art Tequaecshe. "The Christian God and the Native American God is the same one. The Creator taught us to look beyond the faults of our brothers and sisters and see their hearts. We try to be gentle, loving and kind." Tequaecshe, an ordained minister and medicine man, will be among speakers for an upcoming session on Native American spirituality, the sixth in an ongoing monthly series sponsored by the Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council. Sessions so far have included Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Baha'i, and Buddhism. The free series is entitled "Interfaith Growing - Growing in Unity by Understanding Diversity."
The Native American session is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at John XXIII Pastoral Center, 100 Hodges Road in Charleston. The center is located off Corridor G, just past Ashton Place Shopping Center.
Tequaecshe was raised on a Pueblo reservation in New Mexico by his grandmother, Elistia Montoya, who died in 1986 at age 106.
"A medicine man is a spiritual leader who has learned the old ways and customs," he said. "I learned from my grandmother. Prayer is the basic way we all learn to access the Creator. We are to respect other people and cultures and honor the Creator. You are to live your life as an example so that other people see the Creator in you. Living a life of humility is hard."
Tequaecshe, of Duck in Braxton County, is founder of the Medicine Heart Lodge that teaches Native American culture and tradition. He also founded the Native American Intertribal Worship Center of West Virginia.
Also on hand at the upcoming interfaith session will be husband and wife team, Basil and Maggie Crawford of Red House in Putnam County.
"We will do a performance of the original story, The Heartbeat, that I wrote," Maggie said. "My husband plays guitar. We do a lot of work with libraries, schools and senior centers."
"The Heartbeat" focuses on the earth mother and respect for the web of life, she said.
Basil Crawford has Cherokee in his background Maggie Crawford has Nanticoke.
"Most Native American people from here are mixed blood," she said.
"A lot of influence is Cherokee and Shawnee. It's a community overlooked for many years because West Virginia has no reservation, no Bureau of Indian Affairs and no recognition of tribes."
The Native American History Council of West Virginia is working to get the word out about culture and traditions, she said.
Another speaker for the interfaith session will be Wayne Appleton, a senior chemist for DuPont, who has Cherokee and Mohawk in his background and is a council member of the Appalachian American Indians.
"There are 558 federally recognized tribes," he said. "That changes, and there are many different cultures. You have the Native American Church and any number of specific traditions. I know sun dancers from different tribes. It's a tradition, almost a religious ceremony of sacrifice where an individual will fast and dance for four days. Some have visions and powerful experiences."
Appleton will talk about the many traditions of the Native Americans at the interfaith session.
"We have traditions and ceremonies that are thousands of years old handed down through our respected elders," he said. "Respect for the elderly is much more pronounced in our culture."
He estimates that 85 percent to 90 percent of Native Americans are Christians.
"There is an individual nature of spirituality," he said. "No one tells you how to believe. Everyone comes to the Creator in their own way. Most all of our people believe in life after death and believe our ancestors are still with us. It is not all that different than believing in angels. Some believe the spark rejoins the Creator. Many believe in reincarnation.
"The folks I know are very religious with a strong belief in the Creator," he said. "There is a spark of the Creator in everything and everyone."
Religious leaders who are interested in sponsoring an evening may send a written request on letterhead to Dr. Linda Geronilla, 92 Cook Drive, Charleston, WV 25314.
Writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith can be reached at 348-1246 or by e- mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©Copyright 2001, Charleston Daily Mail