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Category:Native American Spiritual Figures

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"Black Elk Sioux", a portrait of Black Elk painted by Louis Shipshee (1896-1975)
"Black Elk Sioux", a portrait of Black Elk painted by Louis Shipshee (1896-1975)

Within the various Native American traditions, living prophets and spiritual leaders have made a strong impression on tribal beliefs and customs. Native American Spiritual Figures are those who were renowned for their gifts of prophecy and spiritual vision during their lifetimes. Some of these people have gone on, after their deaths, to be revered by spiritual followers for their wisdom, insight, and the spiritual guidance and protection they can provide. They are venerated among their own people and by people of other cultures. Through spirit mediumship and the veneration of ancestors, these Native American spiritual figures have assumed great importance outside their original cultures.

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Spiritual Figures as Spirit Guides

A statue of Black Hawk looks out over the Rock River Valley at Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island, Illinois, formerly the Native American town of Saukenuk
A statue of Black Hawk looks out over the Rock River Valley at Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island, Illinois, formerly the Native American town of Saukenuk
Indian Spirit Guides at On-I-Set Spiritualist Camp, Onset Massachusetts
Indian Spirit Guides at On-I-Set Spiritualist Camp, Onset Massachusetts
A portrait of Tenskwatawa; colour print by McKenney and Hall
A portrait of Tenskwatawa; colour print by McKenney and Hall

Lesser-known and historically undocumented Native American spirits have long held a place within Spiritualist and Spiritist religious traditions, where they are generally referred to as "Indian Spirit Guides." Within these mediumistic denominations, Native American entities may be called on as personal spirit guides or they may be venerated by name as historical prophets and spiritual visionaries whose assistance is sought by the congregation at large. There is some controversy within contemporary Native tribes as to whether such mediumistic spirit contacts within in Spiritualist churches, when engaged by people who have little or no Native DNA, are valid evidence of a sincere religious experience.

Petitioning Native American Spiritual Figures

Generally speaking, insofar as Native American cultural advocates and religious thinkers believe that their religious are or should be considered as world religions, their acceptance of non-Native devotees will be welcomed, as long as proper attempts at respect are paid, using traditional offerings, such as tobacco.

However, among Native Americans who maintain a strictly ethnic and tribal adherence to their forms of religious practice, charges of unwanted cultural appropriation may be made against non-Native devotees. In particular, it has been the unhappy lot of many Americans of mixed African, Native, and European ancestry to be shunned by the Native American tribes from which they descend and among which their ancestors lived as tribal members.

Despite these reproaches, family and church traditions of celebrating and petitioning Native American spiritual figures like Black Hawk persist in the Spiritualist religious traditions of Black America. In addition, Native American spiritual leaders whose words have come down to the present day through books hold a special place in American culture; for example, the visionary orations of Black Elk have informed and enlightened generations of non-Native ecologists and environmentalists.

Ultimately, theological questions concerning the acceptability of veneration of Native American prophets by those who were not born into their specific tribal affiliations is of lesser importance than the fact that among their own tribal descendants they are regarded as important and blessed souls whose names are invoked with reverence and honour.

Popular Native American Spiritual Figures

Black Elk

Nicholas Black Elk was a Native American Oglala Lakota visionary prophet and, later, a Catholic lay preacher who lived from 1863 to 1950. (Read More...)

Black Hawk

Black Hawk was a Native American Sauk and Fox tribe leader who, in the Spiritualist Churches, is a spirit guide who grants strong protection; he is also venerated by people of Native American heritage who wish to honour their lost and missing tribal ancestors. (Read More...)

Handsome Lake

Handsome Lake was a Native American Seneca leader and visionary prophet who lived from 1735 - 1815. (Read More...)

Neolin

Neolin (“The Enlightened” in Algonquian), known as "the Delaware Prophet," was a Native American visionary prophet of the Lenni Lenape people; his visions inspired a traditionalist movement that extended all along the Mississippi Valley and invigorated the rebellion led by himself and Chief Pontiac. (Read More...)

Tenskwatawa

Tenskwatawa known as the “Shawnee Prophet,” lived from January 1775 to November 1836; he was the younger brother of Tecumseh, the famous military leader of the Shawnee Native American people, and during Tecumseh's attempt to create a unified resistance to American genocide and land-appropriation, he served as a visionary prophet and seer of the Shawnee people.(Read More...)

Wovoka

Wovoka, or Quoitze Ow, was a Native American visionary prophet of the Paiute people, born sometime between 1856-63 in Smith Valley, Nevada. (Read More...)

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