Thursday, January 22, 2009
Debunking the Myth of Christianity
Debunking the myth of Christianity
Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji) 7/24/2006
© 2006 Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.
A letter from an angry reader from Oklahoma chastised me
for attempting to explain why the Iraqi people hate America.
She wrote, "Tim Giago should realize that America is a Christian
nation. Jesus Christ appeared to Black Elk, not to the Muslims."
I wonder how many Indian nations consider themselves to be
"Christian nations." The two most potent weapons brought to
the Western Hemisphere by the European invaders were disease
and the Church. While the diseases unknown to the indigenous
population destroyed millions of lives, the Church destroyed
cultures, religions, traditions, languages and customs.
The early demise of the Indian people can be equally attributed
The letter writer, an Indian woman, continued, "We as Americans
are crusaders. We bring democracy to a dark and ignorant country."
Is that what the "crusaders" brought to the Indian people?
Native Americans did not become included in America's form of
"democracy" until 1924, nearly 150 years after America's settlers
signed the Declaration of Independence. The "independence" and
"democracy" was for white Americans only. It was not until 1946
when Arizona and New Mexico finally ratified the Constitutional
Amendment that made Native Americans United States citizens.
For the first 30 years of his life, my father, born and raised
on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a fluent Lakota
speaker, was not a citizen of the United States.
The settlers who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom
outlawed most religious rites of the Indian people. The Sacred
Sun Dance of the Great Plains Indians was banned and its
practitioners subject to arrest and incarceration.
The Church created the myth that Jesus appeared to Black Elk
in order to convince other Lakota that Black Elk had seen the
light and had become a Christian in the end. His own family
members dispute this outlandish claim. As a matter of fact,
Black Elk faced prosecution for practicing the traditional
spirituality of his ancestors. He had to perform some of
the sacred rites of the Lakota in secret.
The revival of the traditional religious practices of the
American Indians has grown stronger over the years and came out
in the open after passage of the American Indian Freedom of
Religion Act was passed in 1978. Can you imagine that "Freedom
of Religion" was finally granted to the Indian people 202 years
after the Declaration of Independence?
There are those Native Americans who have attempted to integrate
their Christian roots and beliefs with Native spirituality.
Can this happen? Would the practitioners of the ancient Indian
religions allow this? I think not. First off, Christianity is
foreign to the Native people of this Hemisphere. It was brought
from across the sea by the invaders. For the most part
Christianity is based on the teachings of a Jewish rabbi
Whereas, the traditional spirituality of the Native people
has existed long before the settlers landed on these shores.
One Wicasa Wakan (Holy Man) named Rick Two Dog, an Oglala Lakota,
can trace his spiritual family and advisers back more than 500
years. That even pre-dates the coming of the Pilgrims with their
overly righteous views of Christianity.
Let's face it. The early settlers found the religious practices
of the Native people difficult to understand and distasteful
and they dismissed them, with a wave of the hand and a prayer,
as heretical. Since the Native people did not, according to the
settlers, have a religion, they were therefore pagans that had
to be converted.
For an Indian man or woman to say that Jesus Christ is their
Savior and Lord is to deny thousands of years of the inherent
spirituality and religious customs of their own people.
And to believe that they can incorporate this foreign religious
concept into their traditional beliefs is now being discarded
by many Indians that have returned to their own traditional
customs and beliefs. They see with eyes wide open
what Christianity has done to their ancestors and to themselves
and they reject it.
I would like to hear from the Indian nations and have them
tell me how many of them consider themselves to be
I have no bone to pick with Christians or their beliefs
as long as they practice those beliefs without interfering
with my own beliefs and with the beliefs of those who are not
Christians. I attended an Indian mission boarding school where
Christianity was crammed down my throat from the minute I awoke
to the minute I went to sleep. It's not that this was bad enough,
but to debunk and criticize the traditional beliefs of my
ancestors in order to implant this new religion into my young
mind was outrageous. If the Church cannot apologize for the
atrocities committed against the Native people how can I be
expected to forgive them and least of all participate in their
The Founding Fathers of the Indian nations will not be found
carved on Mount Rushmore. Instead their bones will be found
in the dust of the land walked upon by they and their ancestors
for thousands of years, long before the settlers came.
And in the space of a short 500 years the newcomers have brought
this continent to the brink of self-destruction.
America may well consider itself a Christian nation, but please
do not willfully discard those of us who are not. We are also
Americans and we are also citizens of our own nations.
(Tim Giago is the founder and first president of the Native American
Journalists Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by writing him at 2050 W. Main St., Suite 6, Rapid City, SD., 57702.
He was also the founder and former editor and publisher of the Lakota
Times and Indian Country Today newspapers)