The Dogma of the Land
The Native American tradition of spirituality differs significantly from that of the European tradition. The reason for this disparity can be in part attributed to the origin of each group's particular belief system. The focal point of the Native American's culture and spirituality revolves around the centrality of the land, where dogma often tends to lie at the heart of European and Western religions.
Native American religious traditions tend to be more nature-oriented stressing the importance of the land, which aides in the feeding and sheltering of their people, or in other words supports the existence of an entire culture. European religious traditions, or more specifically Judeo-Christian traditions however, tend to be focused more on theological rhetoric.
In N. Scott Momaday's, and most Native American authors' writings, it is easy to find textual examples that illustrate the importance of nature to their people. There is often a fine line between nature and religion in Native American culture as Momaday validates here in The Way to Rainy Mountain:
They [the Kiowas] began a long migration from the headwaters of the Yellowstone River eastward to the Black Hills and south to the Wichita Mountains. Along the way they acquired horses, the religion of the Plains, a love and possession of the open land" (Heath 2709).
This example shows how the Native American faith is inextricably bound to the use of land. The site-specific nature of Native American religious practice derives from their perception that "the land itself is a sacred and living being." The Native Americans modest and sensible idea of the world around them kept them in a state of harmony with nature, where they held their surrounding environment in the highest regard, consciously avoiding exploitation of the land and its resources as Momaday demonstrates here in the Epilogue to The Way to Rainy Mountain:
Early one morning they [other Kiowa tribal members] came to wake us up. They had brought a great buffalo in from the plain. Everyone went out to see and to pray (Heath 2716).
As you can see here from this brief example, the Native Americans believed that the food they ate, in this case buffalo, was a blessing to them and they rejoiced and made the feast a sort of celebration.
The fact that Native American culture tends to be more nature-oriented also affects the way in which they perceive time. This may sound odd and somewhat hard to comprehend, as it did to me when this concept was first brought to my attention. But it never really occurred to me that there could be any alternative to the Western linear model of time. Native Americans, however, believe that time is more cyclical in its nature, rather than linear. Of course one of the reasons for this perception of measurement in time is rooted in nature and coincides with the "cyclical passage of the seasons, the ripening of fruits and the movement of animals and birds" to name just a...