It is such a personal thing, yet others feel compelled to question and criticize. I joined "The Smokehouse" in 1977.
I graduated from college in September 1977. I didn't want to be like those Indians who thought they were better than other Indians just because they had a white man's education. I was initiated the following December of the same year.
I wanted my life to be spiritual. I didn't know what I was asking. I was told before I left the Smokehouse after my first year, "You are the one that has changed. Everyone else is the same. You will have to fit yourself back into that world you left."
I don't think I ever did completely succeed. I have always been a little out of sync. The rest of the world seems to be dancing to a manic drummer and I still haven't learned any of the steps.
My Dad died about ten years ago. After a year of mourning I joined the Shaker Church. Our teachings say that when you lose a parent your life changes drastically.
I wanted a positive change. I wanted to forgive my Dad for the hell he'd put me through with his drinking and violence. He was responsible and only drank on weekends.
We have a flood story here that says that we tied our canoes to the mountaintops so we wouldn't get lost. There is a cedar rope wrapped around one of the mountain tops. Dad would take us to search for it every spring.
He would take us to drink from a mineral spring and bathe in a pool beneath a waterfall. If you did that you would live a long healthy life. The mineral water was foul and I was the only one that would drink from it. I have always understood ceremony and ritual.
I have recently been questioned on an internet discussion list for being "Christian." Although I am a Shaker, "Christian" still means white.
The United States government banned all our ceremonies and outlawed our religions. The Creator gave us the Shaker Church to help our people. We pull sickness from people.
White people and some Indians think that life on a reservation is coninual sweat lodges and ceremonies. That would be so nice. But it wasn't like that even in the old days. We still had to survive.
That's what we do best. Our people are very spiritual. Once our religions were outlawed most started going to church.
The leaders in the Smokehouse were also Shaker plus a white church. They saw nothing wrong with it. Our people didn't have any problems with the early missionaries.
Whites and newborn Indians have a very narrow view of Indian spirituality. Not everyone is ready to be a Shaker or Smokehouse Dancer. God will meet you whereever you are.