“Be respectful of the small insects,
birds and animal people who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans
have brought down upon them.”
There’s a poet I admire, Joy Harjo who is the first Native American Poet Laureate in the history of the position. Her poetry as well as her memoir, Crazy Brave are written with such simplicity and beauty that I find myself thirsty for more of her writings, especially since I’ve devoured all of her books.
Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951 and is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. She is not only a talented poet, but also an author, musician and playwright. She incorporates into her writing storytelling and histories of her Nation and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values.
One of the subject matters she has touched on is the subject of Spirit Animal, Animal Guide and Spirit Helper. These terms are used among different cultures to describe spirits of benevolent nature, usually helping someone during a hard time. These spirits can bring strength, insight, and even a sense or feeling to someone who needs it.
Native American culture believes these Spirit Helpers are not a novelty. It isn’t something you choose or identify with but rather something that comes to you in your time of need. Perhaps the animal represents something that holds a certain value, such as strength in a bull or agility in a dragonfly. In the Native American Lakota culture, these spirits tend to associate values with certain animals. However, that’s not all they bring. They hold a special place and represent a larger spiritual culture within a tribe.
In many indigenous cultures, spirituality is about a relationship to everything around you – the plants and animals that provide food, the land that provides a home, and the weather that makes living possible. These elements are highly respected because they enable us to live.
I tend to believe our spirituality is strongly tied to the value and respect we hold for the earth and all living things.