Tag Archives: native

Native American Books: Reading List

Books about indigenous culture, religion and history. These are definitely worth checking out, for natives and non-natives. This will be an ongoing list, because I am always sniffing out new books and I read a lot.

If You Only Read a Few, Read These

  • Do All Indians Live in Tipis? Questions and Answers from the National Museum of the American Indian by the Smithsonian
  • An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn
  • Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria Jr.

 

Generally Awesome-Religion, Culture and History of Indigenous Peoples

(Not specific to any one tribe)

  • 100 Native Americans Who Shaped History by Bonnie Juettner
  • God is Red: A Native View on Religion by Vine Deloria Jr.
  • The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey Through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
  • The World We Used to Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men by Vine Deloria Jr.
  • Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future by Melissa K. Nelson
  • 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World by K.B. Schaller
  • The Circle is Sacred: A Medicine Book for Women by Scout Cloud Lee
  • The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions by Paula Gunn Allen
  • Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook by Paula Gunn Allen
  • Two Spirit People: American Indian Lesbian Women and Gay Men by Lester Brown
  • American Indians in WWI: At Home and at War by Thomas Britton
  • Uneven Ground: American Indian Sovereignty and Federal Law by David Wilkins
  • National Geographic on Indians of the Americas by Matthew Stirling
  • First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History by Colin Calloway
  • Indian Herbology of North America by Alma Hutchens
  • Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism by Stephen Harrod Buhner
  • How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts by Frances Densmore
  • Myths and Tales of the Southeastern Indians by John Swanton
  • Native American Stories by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac

Specifically Awesome

(Focuses on a Particular Tribe)

  • A Sacred Path: The Way of the Muscogee Creeks by Jean and Joyotpaul Chaudhuri (Mvskoke)
  • Creation Myths and Legends of the Creek Indians by Bill Grantham (Mvskoke)
  • Creek Religion and Medicine by John Swanton (Mvskoke)
  • Creek Indian Medicine Ways: The Enduring Power of Mvskoke Religion by David Lewis Jr. (Mvskoke)
  • The Wind is My Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman by Bear Heart (Mvskoke)
  • Native Plants Native Healing: Traditional Muskogee Way by Tis Mal Crow (Mvskoke)
  • Totkv Mocvse/New Fire: Creek Folktales by Earnest Gouge (Mvskoke)
  • The Creeks by Michael Green (Mvskoke)
  • The Cherokee Herbal: Native Plant Medicine from the Four Directions by J. T. Garrett (Tsalagi)
  • The Scalpel and the Silver Bear: The First Navajo Woman Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and Traditional Healing by Lori Arviso Alvord (Dine)
  • Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth Fenn (Nueta)
  • Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems and the Sun Dance Opera by Zitkala-Sa (Yankton Sioux)
  • Uprising: The Pueblo Indians and the First American War for Religious Freedom by Jake Pace (Pueblo)
  • Black Elk Speaks: The Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (Oglala Sioux)

The Mvskoke and the Boarding Schools

As recounted by Mvskoke author, Bear Heart,

“Even after we were settled, that was not the end of our problems. Our children were taken from their parents and forced to go to boarding school, where they were not allowed to speak their native tongues–they had to speak English. They boarding school was a government school, so they had to march to and from class, make up their beds, do everything as if it were a military camp. This was forced upon our young children. Back then Native people took pride in their long hair, but the children had to have their hair cut short. Sometimes the administrators would just put a bowl over a child’s head and cut around it, then they would laugh at the child.

Those are the things that we endued. And yet today in our ceremonies, many of our people still pray for all mankind, whether they be black, yellow, red, or white. How is it possible, with a background like that among our people, to put out such love

On Totems/Spirit Animals//

What are Totems and Spirit Animals?

The terms ‘Totem’ and ‘Spirit Animal’ refer specifically to those beliefs and traditional practices held by various Indigenous, Native and First Nation cultures. Some people are born into their totem, some are chosen, some go through a rigorous time of cleansing, facing obstacles, fasting, and vision seeking to earn their ‘spirit animal’. The animal chooses the native in this instance. These totems are seen as not the spirit of an individual animal, but instead the collective or ‘head’ spirit of that species. It is not an ‘animal’ representation of the person’s own personality, like some new age white girl hippie zodiac shit might say it is. A native’s totem or spirit animal is a collective soul of a species of animal that has chosen that native person specifically in order to teach them lessons and offer their guidance for the rest of the person’s life.

Do you have one?

I do. I am Mvskoke Creek and Western Cherokee. I earned my spirit animal after a period of 5 years, starting when I was about 17. The obstacles and trials I faced nearly killed me, on multiple occasions. It was not until I was about 19 that I realized what was going on and when I was 20, my animal appeared to me and chose me. I have been learning diligently from them and their people ever since. I am constantly grateful and appreciative that they chose me.

Okay, so, how can I get a Spirit Animal?

You can’t. Unless you are a member of an Indigenous tribe that practices a tradition of Totems or Spirit Animals, you cannot have one. The process of receiving or being chosen by one varies from tribe to tribe, and native to native, and it is a very personal and private matter.

But, other cultures have Spirit Animals???

Actually, no. No other cultures have totems/spirit animals in the exact same sense as Indigenous peoples do. However, many other cultures do have traditions that refer to ‘clan animals’ and ‘animal guides’ (such as the Nordic Fylgja, which is a guardian spirit that takes the form of an animal that best represents their human’s personality.) but these are more closely related to the idea of a witch’s familiar.  A person can relate to an animal, connect with a specific spirit of an individual animal and learn from that animal. An animal can represent a family’s lineage and their characteristics throughout the bloodline’s history. That does not make it your totem or spirit animal. These phrases, ‘spirit animal’ and ‘totem’, are tied directly to the colonizer’s ideas of  those practices in Indigenous religions. Because of centuries of having our cultures ripped from us and beaten out of us, we have lost our original terms for many rituals and important spiritual aspects of our cultures. So we are reclaiming the English words used for them, much like the terms ‘two spirit’ and ‘smudging’.

So, why exactly is it so bad if someone says they have a Spirit Animal?

It’s usage in modern new age culture is a mockery and insult of its original form. It’s just another piece of our culture that was violently taken from us. We weren’t allowed to speak our own languages, or practice our own religions, under penalty of torture, for hundreds of years (Yes. Hundreds. Colonization began nearly 500 years ago and we are STILL being persecuted. See the NODAPL and Standing Rock situation going on right now for example). While white children jokingly say, ‘omg Johnny depp is totally my spirit animal!’, we are still struggling to reclaim the pieces of our culture that were stolen and held from us at gunpoint. Totems and spirit animals are an important part of many tribe’s religious beliefs, and are seen as a right of passage for many. I, for one, never considered myself an adult until after my animal chose me. I had to EARN their guidance. It’s not something you can just take an online quiz for, or joke about. Bottom line is, if you aren’t native, you cannot have a spirit or totem animal. You can have individual spirits of animals that you befriend and learn from, sure. But not spirit animals or totems. They are part of native cultures and native religions. Not native? Then it’s not something you can have.

Please do not send me any hate over this post. I am neurodivergent and very prone to panic attacks. I will not hesitate to block and delete anything that may threaten my mental health. Thank you so much for reading. Mvto!