Native Lifeway: The Circle Way

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Author: Tamarack Song
72 pages, offered in both a paper and electronic form (PDF). Photo is not an actual representation of the booklet.

Introduction: The Old Way and How We Lost It
Chapter 1 The Native “Commandments”: Life in the Web
The First Awareness: The Great Mother Provides
The Second Awareness: Giving is Receiving
Chapter 2 Honor and Respect
Chapter 3 The Cradleboard: First Step in Awareness
Chapter 4 Circle Direction and Self Direction
Chapter 5 Circle Attunement in Communication
Chapter 6 Daily Living
Community in Balance
Dwelling in the Circle: The Native Lodge
Property is Theft
The Aboriginal Play Ethic
Chapter 7 A Snapshot of the Old Way

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Introduction: The Old Way and How We Lost It

The rituals and relationships we are about to immerse ourselves in, spring from a way of living with Earth Mother and Sky Father that is quite different from that of the Civilized Lifeway. Perhaps it would be easier see the difference if we were to think of Civilized Lifeway as a lens through which we have been taught to view The Mother and The Father. Many of us are not aware that the lens exists. If we cannot recognize it, we cannot look around it. It then keeps us blind to the intense beauty and profound teachings of our Intrinsic Lifeway.

In this section we will peek over the lens, so that we may come to know some of the basic precepts of Native Lifeway. Perhaps the most alienating distortion that the lens causes is the view that material and spiritual existence can be separated from each other. This allows us to think that Native spirituality can be practiced, like a Civilized religion, outside the context of Native Lifeway.

As you will see, the spiritual basis of Native Lifeway manifests itself in everyday life as much as it does in ceremony and ritual. In actuality there is no distinction between spiritual and secular life. To the Native, all is related — life is ceremony and ceremony is life. This is the Circular way of things; it is the essence of the Old Way. Any approach to the Old Way needs to begin with an awareness of the Circular view of life, which is shared by all Native People. You’ll see it emerging continually throughout this book, boldly in places like the Sweat Lodge Ceremony and Passing Over, and subtly just about everywhere else.

The following is only a brief introduction to a way of life that would take not only a lifetime, but access to many lifetimes of memory, to know. Yet I trust that these words can provide a clear view around the lens, if not actually shattering it. Then you will be able to much more easily connect with the adventure of discovery that awaits you…

I refer to the way of living which is common to the Indigenous Peoples of The Earth as the Old Way. It is old only in the sense that the vast majority of Humans no longer live it. Yet it is alive and well, as it is also the way of all things natural — every brother and sister, whether they be furred or feathered or scaled, whether they be of Stone or Fire or Air or Water. In fact, it is the way of the Cosmos. Only those few but unfortunate plants and animals the Civilized People have domesticated, no longer live the Old Way.

The Old Way is the Circle Way — the way of interdependence. Honoring comes easy in the Circle, because everybody faces everybody, and everybody touches, and is touched, by everybody. Our Ancestors who lived the Old Way of hunting, fishing and foraging, left us a verdant legacy pleasing to the eye and to the soul. The Streams ran clear, the Rain fell clean, and the seed grew of itself and died and grew again.

And then a few of our Ancestors chose to sow the seed themselves, and agriculture — the basis of Civilization — was born. They sought to control and regiment The Mother’s benevolence. They traded Earth sufficiency for self sufficiency, and in doing so found themselves moving from a life of interdependence to one of dependence.

With agriculture came the necessary support structures of ownership and hierarchy. The Earth became ‘property’– a secularized, inanimate commodity. A resource. A food factory. An investment. An inheritance. From this basis grew the society we have today, complete with concentration of wealth and power, predatory trade and warfare, and the enslavement of Humans (nobody works voluntarily) and animals (Chickens have no choice), and plants (nor do House or Garden plants), and Water (nor do dammed Rivers or pumped Groundwater), and minerals.

The Old Way economy, which is based on the flow of foraging, cannot support the above-mentioned Civilized traits. Instead, its small interactive groups, which share in spirit, strife, and pleasure, encourage a more personally involved, less structured lifeway.

Structure is not needed when there is Balance. When Keewaydinoquay, my beloved Elder, still Walked amongst us, she was fond of saying:

Blessings and Balance
Balance and Blessings
for out of Balance
flows all Blessings

She repeated it often, I believe so that we could reflect upon the wisdom therein…

The term ‘Balance’ at first glance appears to be linear, as in balancing the two sides of a scale, or balancing work and family time.

A Native Person knows Balance in a different way, as a characteristic of flow rather than as a comparative measurement. For her, Balance is Life’s rhythm and spiral. For example, she will watch the plants grow, die, and grow again… in a continual spiral, in rhythm with the Seasons. The Civilized Person will plant seeds, then harvest the plants. Period. If he does not plant again, there are no more plants.

The major difference between the two Balances is that Civilized Balance is controlled by the individual, and Native Balance dwells outside the self. More specifically, it resides in the Greater Circle. The Native can feel this Balance, she is the Balance, in the same way that the Flower is the Meadow and the Meadow is the Flower. In this place of Balance, she breathes and is breathed in, she has two hands and two thousand hands, she has talons and fins and a brow of clouds. Like the Flower, she has no bounds. She is the Circle, and the Circle is her.