Pastoral Care and Native Americans

A Tentative Outline for a Manual

I. Preparation of the pastor for Native American ministry

A. Barriers to effective ministry.

1. Paternalism (refusal to acknowlege any substance to Native American values, attitudes, and experiences).

a. indifference due to lack of information.
b. reception of new information.
c. denial of any validity to new information; affirmation of indifference.
learning process stops. Or, one goes from denial of validity of information to fear.
d. fear.
i. fear of venturing outside of one's "emotional safety zone."
ii. fear of Natives due to decades of conditioning by the mass media.
e. guilt and anger.
i. feeling personally responsible for past injustices.
f. denial.
i. denial of one's own emotions. leads to rejection of new information. learning process stops. individual returns to indifference.

2. Romanticism.
a. indifference due to lack of information.
b. reception of new information.
c. fear.
i. fear of venturing outside of one's "emotional safety zone;" which can lead to the next step. creation of an artifical Indian culture, with substitute authorities, rituals, and identity. the learning process stops, and actually retrogresses.
e. guilt.
i. people who choose to build artificial Indian cultures seek approval or "absolution of their sins" from Indians.
ii. painful guilt and information overload causes sympathy but inaction. learning process stops, or sparks anger, which leads to next step.
f. anger (at past injustices).
i. cynicism and despair that any creative response is possible. learning process stops, or proceeds to next step.
g. dialogue.
i. acceptance of, and sympathy and understanding for, Native problems.
ii. refusal to deify or to demonize Native Americans.
iii. beginning of dialogue toward partnership with Native Americans for seeking solutions to problems.

B. Issues of which to be aware.
1. power and lack of power in cross-cultural relationships.
i. political obstructions to self-determination.
A. Seven Major Crimes Act. removal of felony jurisdiction from Indian communities.
B. Allotment (Dawes) Act. Drastic reduction of Indian land base in the late 1800's.
C. Indian Reorganization (Howard-Wheeler) Act. instituted constitutionally-based tribal governments. Results: presence of two tribal governments, traditional and progressive. potential for installing figureheads in tribal governments who will enforce policies without regard to well-being of Native communities.
D. Termination Act. shifting of Native population to urban areas. Results: difficulty of access to ritual specialists, materials, and privacy necessary for ceremonies. creation of reservation and urban power bases. division of families.
ii. legal regulation of Native American religions.
A. legal regulation of ritual practices, ceremonies, and sacred sites. may include restriction to, or annexation of, sacred sites.
B. legal regulation of endangered species which are an integral part of Native religions (panther, eagle feathers).
C. lack of adequate guarantee of protection or privacy for sacred sites (double-standard in legal regulation, allowing outsiders access to sacred sites and restricting Native access.
This allows for periodic disruption by tourists and non-Indian shamans of Natives on religious retreat at sacred sites). D. refusal to prisoners of access to Native ritual objects, ritual practitioners, and ceremonies, while allowing the same privileges for Christian religions.
iii. religious paternalism.
A. refusal to ordain Native clergy. maintenance of an administrative "glass ceiling" for Native clergy. insistence upon Western standards of qualifications, without regard to Native values.
B. permanent status of Indian communities as mission fields.
C. "fulfillment theology" which sees Native religions as "foreshadowing" or being "fulfilled" in Christianity.
D. denial of cultural expression and experience of Christianity.
iv. cultural exploitation.
A. erosion of traditional religious authority by substitution of cultural outsiders as "authorities" (Western scholars; New Age shamans; non-Indian religious leaders).
B. pressure from outsiders who insist on attending ceremonies, or on practicing Indian religions, based on their "freedom of religion."
C. disturbing human remains and burial grounds. possession of same by museums or by individuals.
D. the appropriation, misuse, and redefinition of Indian words and cultural symbols (Indian sports mascots; use of Indian names and images to sell products, etc.).

2. intergenerational trauma.
a. deterioration of cultures.
i. breakdown or weakening of extended family unit.
A. shifting of Native population to urban areas.
B. periodic legal assaults upon Indian Child Welfare Act.
C. expectation that Indians will shift from extended family to nuclear family unit.
D. the introduction and persistence of alcohol in Indian Country. the appearance of new forms of substance abuse.
b. living with collective memory.
A. internalized negative emotions and attitudes (such as shame due to being Native American).
B. the experience of conscious and unconscious racism.
C. the ambiguity of Native identity (can be positive or negative). sharp distinction between "insiders" and "outsiders." lack of an adequate way to distinguish between Indians and non-Indians.
D. removal of Indian children from their homes.

II. Engaging in pastoral care to Native Americans
A. Some examples of unexpected conflict.
1. pastor talks too much or interrupts (Native value of respect demands that one person is heard before the other person begins talking).
2. pastoral charge asks for money, then gives it to someone else (sharing of resources in traditional cultures).
3. pastor shows up for appointment; is irritated when pastoral charge isn't there (different cultural experiences of time).
4. pastoral charge says how much he like's pastor's shirt or hat, then stalks off when pastor says "thank you" (appropriate cultural response is to make a gift of the hat or shirt).
5. pastor arrives at dinner at local Indian center. he/she is hungry and bounces up to get in line when dinner is announced (deference to elders; elders eat before anyone else; food is always blessed before eating).
6. pastor is asked to make Lakota funeral arrangements; calls in a Pawnee medicine man (intertribal animosities can cut across generational lines).

B. Direct social service: referrals.
1. the local Indian community.
a. first stop: the local Indian Center (if available).
i. JTPA (job training).
ii. Indian Child Welfare.
b. local tribal or Indian community office.
i. tribal enrollment and tribal services.
c. Indian spiritual centers (local and national).
d. Indian community agencies.
2. federal government.
a. Indian Health Service (under U.S. Public Health Service).
b. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
3. general community agencies
a. culturally-sensitive religious agencies or churches.

C. Pastoral care and ceremonial protocol.
1. the sponsor assumes total responsibility (including financial) for a ceremony.
2. who is responsible for sponsoring a ceremony?
3. mixed-gender and single-gender ceremonies.
4. elements which work against the effectiveness of a ceremony.
a. the presence of drugs, alcohol, or intoxicated individuals.
b. the presence of menstruating females at ceremonies.
i. Indian sacred power is accumulated. A woman "in her moon" has tremendous sacred power, and can neutralize the power of a pipe or of a ritual specialist.
ii. for the same reason, it is a violation of ritual protocol to smudge women without knowledge of whether they are in their moon time.
This has been handled in ways including (1) asking women not to come if they are in their moon. A traditional woman will already know not to do this, and (2) requesting prior to the ceremony that women in their moon time remove themselves from the sacred space.
c. the presence of non-Indians at bereavement ceremonies.

D. Death and bereavement.
1. immediate pastoral care.
a. bring food to bereaved.
b. call community members to inform them.
2. available ritual responses to grief.
a. the pipe ceremony.
b. the sweat lodge.
c. the informal prayer circle.
d . the honoring powwow.
e. the soul-keeping ceremony: an institutionalized grieving process.
f . Christian ceremonies--to adapt or not?
1. funeral arrangements.
a. securing a ritual specialist.
b. securing a "drum" (singers) for an honoring powwow.
c. locating a space for the ceremony.
d. funding or "sponsoring" for a bereavement ceremony.
e. cooking for the ceremony.
2. long-term pastoral care
a. food offerings for the departed.
b. what to do if the deceased's spirit contacts the living.
c. periodic ceremonies to comfort the bereaved.

E. Build relationships with local Native communities.
1. Offer help to local Native communities; they are your primary source for referrals. Work with them, not for them.
2. Maintain consistent presence at public Native events to demonstrate your sincerity and support.
3. Seek continuing education for work in Native communities.

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