DAY 11: spirituality & community structure

{DISCLAIMER: These reflections are solely my reflections from my journey as a Potawatomi woman. They do not reflect the journey or stories of every indigenous person, and it should not be assumed that every indigenous person has the same experiences. Thank you for joining me here. May we grow toward unity together.}


Spirituality is embedded into the structural life of Potawatomi people and much of indigenous culture. Ties to the land, to one another in community, leads to the way we practice our culture, the way we view the Creator, Spirit, God.

I’ve already described this communal kind of living in an earlier post, but structures of social society are important.

Young children learn from their elders in our culture. They hold them in high esteem. This wisdom is valued— something that we could gain in a lot of western society in which the elderly are pushed to the side or silenced. I’ve read that children and the elderly are both closest to God on either ends of life, so we should value their words. I think that idea changes everything about the way we treat them.

Historically, Potawatomi families belonged to clans, which gave identification and social roles to people based on which clan they belonged to. I’ve yet to learn my family’s clan; but certainly learn more about myself every day that I reframe my living and thinking to see that everything is spiritual.

It’s not unlike the beliefs of the desert mothers and fathers, or franciscan theology. We both belong to one another and to the world that we’re called to take care of. Therefore, spirit is embedded in everything, and our communities are a part of that.

Though it’s been a part of me, I never realized that the related world is truly alive and well, ready to speak o me, to teach me. It’s taken me into adulthood to learn this lesson, and I’ve only just begun. What if we truly saw that our communities are meant to be healed in a holistic, spiritual way? What if we realized that so much of what ails us from day to day is connected to our spirits, and not just the spiritual warfare argument, but that we are also just battling for our own health and well-being and for the well-being of others?

If we took the time to understand that, there would be more understanding toward indigenous communities who struggle, even today. I heard someone describe on a TED talk recently that at first there was a physical removal and destruction of indigenous peoples in America, and that it then switched to spiritual removal and destruction through boarding schools, “killing the Indian to save the man.”

So if we begin to see the world as a world full of spirit, maybe we will see the way so much spirit has been damaged, told to become something else, been stripped of its original identity.

And maybe if we began reframing and re-cultivating that identity, we’d see a healthier version of indigenous identity. Watch this video about Lyla June, a Dine (Navajo) woman who is coming back to her traditional culture as a way of healing her culture.

If we are to heal in our community structures, we need to be able to return to them, to return to our traditional ways, even in modern America. It’s what I’m doing slowly, from our house in the middle of the city. It’s the way I go outside and I honor the pine trees in my back yard, the hawks who fly over us. It’s the way we tend to a garden and hike by the rivers outside the city. That in itself is a return to some sort of way that is fully immersed in spirit. It’s sacred. It’s healing.

And once we understand that everything is truly spiritual, we’ll understand that to heal is to find that sacredness as it mirrors us, an idea that Richard Rohr often writes and talks about. Mirroring will help us see our own sacredness in the sacredness of shared community, of structures based upon care for this world we inhabit.

Truly, it is a way of working toward Kingdom. Truly, it is the beautiful work of God, of Creator, or of the Spirit, whatever name you give it.

It’s divine.

It’s holy.

It’s indigenous.


Leave a Reply