Where and how the spiritual center?
Plenty more people are likely to die, including American Indians, if war is the response to the massacre of September 11. Perhaps a police-type military action, properly directed against actual perpetrators -- intellectual, financial and physical -- is highly justifiable, even desirable. And certainly that is reason enough to begin to summon American Indian spiritual perspectives at this time.
The spiritual approach is foundation and goal. This is known well enough by the vast majority of people, though it is not as readily practiced. Some transfer the inner meanings of life to the psyche, the mind. But in any case, who a people are, how they approach life and death, is basic to both spirit and/or psyche. Call it the psycho-spiritual of a people, because it is both, whether one's culture separates the two approaches or not.
The cultural basis of psycho-spiritual for the history of the American states, as before with England, with Spain, with Europe generally, is Christianity. The basis of psycho-spiritual for the Arab countries is Islam, the teachings of the prophet, Mohammed. Islam and Christianity ("the West") have had many wars. These go back to the Crusades of the Middle Ages, when the Christians invaded Arabia, which went well for the Christians at first, then very badly. Islam, in its counter campaign, conquered and forced the creation of Spain. It was 800 years before the Catholic Kingdoms of Ferdinand and Isabella expelled them, along with the Jews and other non-believers, back to North Africa. But Christian Spain kept going, this time in the other direction, across the waters to the Americas, and the war they had honed on the Arabs began to wreak incredibly effective havoc on this hemisphere's indigenous peoples.
Always this conflict between Islam and Christianity engendered emotions that caused horrible suffering, death with impunity, brutal hatred and vengeance. This is not fantasy. Too much of the world turns on this conflictive wheel, which obviously spun itself onto our present reality, manifesting in the horrible massacre of innocent and unsuspecting human beings on September 11.
Thus the importance, in this moment of crisis, of the American Indian spiritual center, which elders have spoken about for generations. We submit, in sincere humility, that the shared perceptions of the spiritual traditions of Native peoples have something truly useful to teach. They support life. While fearlessly accepting death, working often with ancestor and nature spirits, yet they are all about sustaining life, appreciating life, appreciating all the beings and elements that make human life possible -- perceptions that fuel the very essence of ceremony.
We remember how in the heyday of the movement of the 1970s, always at the moments of greatest potential violence, the teachings of the spiritual elders always cautioned against hurting people, and most particularly, innocent people. Of course, that beautiful thought did not start then; it had survived to that time -- miraculously -- to be passed on.
The medicine people sometimes defended violence, and the actions of warriors, but only on the need for defence. There were no hateful mullahs, no rabid preachers among the Native spiritual elders -- the holy people, medicine men and women, the midwives, the herbalists -- who counseled the Native activists of the 1970s. Perhaps someone will come up with an exception, it is possible, but with complete confidence we can assert that such was never even a current, and it certainly never caught hold with any group, even though plenty of cause for hate and will for mayhem existed.
This is why we are certain that lead suspect Osama bin Laden, his cohorts and facilitators ?- the approach and justification they endorse and symbolize -- are wrong. Their horrible crime not only snuffed out the lives of more than 5,000 innocents, it severely wounded the hope of humankind to find a way to temper the hateful heart of violence, the evil that is increasingly loose in the world.
Many assert that cause can be found aplenty for the hatred. It is also true that this terrorist deed of gigantic proportions was the act of those who have been at war for more than a decade, those who have been surrounded by death and mayhem and carnage and destruction for a very long time. But the most horrendous identity of this crime is that it was fueled by the hateful preaching of men who proclaimed it to be God's will on Earth.
There is certainly a better path. We know that the teaching of defensive struggle and peaceful resolution is not only possible within Islam; it is actually exalted. And who can honestly proclaim that the teachings of the Heart of Jesus recommend anything but love and compassion for all human beings? Governments will take their actions; politicians will do or not do the will of their peoples, but just the same, we believe it is incumbent upon every teacher of a spiritual faith -- from Islam, Christianity, Jewish, Buddhist, and American Indian traditions, all faiths -- to teach their peoples to reach out to life, love and compassion, always the very core meaning of every spiritual faith.
While it is true that humans of every race and faith have committed atrocities, thankfully, to our knowledge in modern times, American Indian spirituality has not attempted to justify the killing of innocents on behalf of the Great Spirit or the Mother Earth. We offer that much, that each spiritual tradition search for its teachings in the best heart of its knowledge. It is there to be found; it is the only sensible focus; and it will be our best and only gift to our common generations.