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Christianity and the American Indian - Research Paper Example

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I. INTRODUCTION A number of historical factors have contributed to the re-shaping of the lives of Native Americans. Europeans involved Native warriors in fighting wars among the colonizers1. Settlers brought diseases which Native immune systems were not developed to defend against…
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Christianity and the American Indian
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"Christianity and the American Indian"

Download file to see previous pages Specifically, these worldviews were deeply rooted in religion and experiences of the sacred. It is the thesis of this paper that the influence of Christianity on Native American culture played a significant role in reshaping the lives of the Amerindians through suppression of spiritual ceremonies and a flagrant disregard for an existence considered to be based on superstition and ignorance. II. BODY Most of the European settlers who came to America were of a Christian religious orientation.3 A basic experience of the sacred in Christianity is that God is The Father. George Washington, and those who took up management of the “Indians” under his leadership and after his time, perceived the Europeans to be more civilized, of superior intelligence and leadership capability, and entrusted by God to represent His will in I II converting the “savages” to Christian values, beliefs, over-all perspective, and guidelines for living.4 It is every Christian’s duty to evangelize the “truth”. Government authority in White America, being Christian, must represent God to the Natives. The government presented itself as “Father”, or “The Great White Father”5 Identifying themselves as “Father” was a symbol of God-like self-perception, a belief in their own inviolable sacred authority. “Father”, from a patriarchal European mindset, indicated a belief in their own omnipotence and omniscience, an assumption that they know best. A father is responsible, loving, kind, truthful, supportive, caring, guiding his children in a right way. The White Father, on the other hand, was irresponsible, violent, continuously telling lies and betraying “his children”, enforcing policies that depleted Native resources and ruined the land, humiliated, insulted and starved the Indians. The path he led them on was intolerable and destructive. While the government and settlers forced conversion to Christianity, speaking of a Jesus who loved them, at the same time they were continuously punitive toward the Native Americans. Native children were eventually forced into mission-sponsored boarding schools where they were forced to join and attend Christian churches and demonstrate Christian ideals. Native language and religious traditions were strictly prohibited, and the slightest infractions were severely and violently punished6. III Their parents fared similarly. They suffered terrible challenges and limited resources on reservations. They were molded into helplessness, their traditional ways stripped from them. Practicing their religious traditions was legally forbidden.7 The law allowed Native spiritual leaders to be imprisoned up to 30 years.8. This was the law until 1978, when a new law was finally passed, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, recognizing the rights of the Native American sovereign nations to practice their own cultural and religious traditions9. This was followed, in 1993, by the Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act, which allowed religious use of peyote, s traditional practice critical to the spiritual practices of Peyote Indians.10 Of course, by then most of these traditions had been lost.. “Within four hundred years of their first contact, the white man had succeeded in stripping Native American civilizations of virtually all of their land and had nearly wiped their cultures from the face of the earth.11 The Christian concept of there being only one truth, Christian truth, was not congruent with ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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