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Teaching SpiritsUnderstanding Native American Religious Traditions$
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Joseph Epes Brown

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138757

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195138757.001.0001

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Relationship and Reciprocity

Relationship and Reciprocity

A Metaphysics of Nature

(p.83) 6 Relationship and Reciprocity
Teaching Spirits

Joseph Epes Brown

Emily Cousins

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on Native Americans' belief about nature. It shows that Native Americans do not dichotomize human and animal, natural and supernatural. Typical Western distinctions between animism and animatism are not necessarily present in the Native American experience, since all forms and aspects of creation are experienced as living and animate. Even “inanimate”rocks are thought to be mysteriously possessed with life. But this experience of the sacred does not exclude a unitary, all-inclusive concept that refers to both a Supreme Being and to all gods, spirits, or powers of creation. The roots of relatedness, Lakota metaphysics, animal beings as teachers, and the cyclical relationships that Native American traditions sustain with nature are discussed.

Keywords:   Native American culture, religious experience, religion, human and animal, natural and supernatural

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