March 16, 2013

Native spirituality on Facebook

Facebook sweat lodge, the online resurgence of native spirituality

By Waubgeshig RiceSmudging, sweat lodges, drum songs. ... [T]his is what most people think of when they contemplate "native spirituality."

But that is a much too general term to describe the very different and vibrant beliefs and ceremonies that span this great landscape, and which are now starting to surface again, spurred on by a young, more assertive generation and the investigative tools of social media.

It's common now to see Facebook groups dedicated to the organization of the once-banned sun dances in Western Canada, and even traditional seasonal Anishinaabe ceremonies in the east.

In fact, you might say there is even a sort of spiritual resurgence online, with young indigenous people no longer ashamed of their past, and using social media both to plan ceremonies and events, and mine internet resources to breathe new life into the old ways.
Comment:  This column doesn't say much beyond these words about the title subject: "Facebook sweat lodge." A more accurate title would be "Native Spirituality Still Practiced...on Facebook Too."

But it's can see a lot of Native spiritual postings on Facebook.

In some cases, these postings may hurt the cause of preserving Native traditions. How? By giving people a cheap substitute for real spirituality. That is, a way to "act spiritual" without having to spend the time and energy to actually practice one's beliefs. And by encouraging New Agers and other wannabes to feel they're "Native" too.

But I imagine they help more than they hurt. How? As Rice says, by helping people get over any shame they feel. By giving them a safe way to share their beliefs--to encourage others and to be encouraged in turn. By connecting them to like-minded people, which presumably leads to face-to-face encounters. Such as the many Idle No More protests with their spiritual component.

For more on Native religion, see White Buffalo at Fuel City and Native New Mexican Christmas Traditions.

Below:  One of the many Facebook postings invoking Native spirituality that I come across every day.

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