In my blog on February 24th this year I wrote how Christian beliefs are time-based and Native American beliefs are based on space, specifically location or place. This accounts for differences between the two groups on the issue of creation. Note: I’m focusing on these differences in order to provide information about Native Americans, not to generate controversy.

While both groups believe in a Creator, they differ on creation. Christianity believes creation happened at a specific point and moves through time until the end of the world and a final judgement. Most tribal religions focus instead on the interrelationship of all things and see our Creator as a kind of tribal grandparent. They do not see a need to establish a personal relationship with the Great Spirit.

In the New Testament, Genesis states that man is given dominion over the rest of creation. We know that this command included the responsibility for the proper care of nature. However it has been misinterpreted all too often as being given free reign over the earth and everything on it and as an excuse to ‘subdue’ it to our human will. This is not what was intended, but is the result of egotistical calculations to gain power and money.

For Native Americans, their relationship with each other and the various manifestations of Nature is like an extended family. It is a recognition of their dependence  on these relationships for their very existence. In his book (page 87) God Is Red, Vine Deloria Jr. writes, “The task of the tribal religion, if such a religion can be said to have a task, is to determine the proper relationship that the people of the tribe must have with other living things and to develop the self-discipline within the tribal community so that man acts harmoniously with other creatures.” He continues on page 88, “Other living things are not regarded as insensitive species. Rather they are “people” in the same manner as the various human beings are people.”

To elaborate on this theme, Deloria later quotes James Jeans in his book Physics and Philosophy, “Space and time are inhabited by distinct individuals, but when we pass beyond space and time, from the world of phenomena towards reality, individuality is replaced by community. When we pass beyond space and time, they [separate individuals] may perhaps form ingredients of a single continuous stream of life.”