Native American Rites of Passage:
Implications for Latter-day Saints
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
paper was originally given at the third annual Spheres of Influence conference
at Brigham Young University in 1985 and was published in Spheres of Influence: Perspectives on Change 1 (1986): 79-92.
In traditional Native American
cultures, the way to achieve maximum human potential is directed by the gods.
Growth from childhood to adulthood, from ignorance to wisdom, from
irresponsibility to responsibility, from arrogance to humility, from
fragmentation to wholeness requires the aid of supernaturals. For most tribes,
the creator established, in the beginning, certain rituals or rites of passage
that would aid man in comprehending the underlying harmony of the universe and
in finally assuming his place in it. By means of these ceremonies, frequently
representative of the struggles and discoveries of members of the divine
family, holy men who understand the divine will instruct the initiate, often by
having him assume the identity of one of the characters in the stories of
creation. As the initiate reenacts the sacred drama, he is endowed with the
knowledge and power possessed by the gods. The initiate becomes one who knows.
Initiation, according to Mircea Eliade,
is “equivalent to a spiritual maturing.”1 For religious man, the
rites of passage that mark the stages of this maturing” play a
considerable part in . . . life.”2 For such a person, rites
of passage are performed at birth, when an infant takes upon him a name and an
identity as a living person; at puberty, when a child moves from adolescence to
adulthood; at marriage, when a male and female create a new family unit; and,
finally, at death. Each state of growth implies a crisis because it requires
the death of a former mode of being and the birth of a new behavior and
identity. Because the initiate is continually overcoming ignorance by gaining
new, more advanced, sacred knowledge, he often takes upon himself a new name.
These are true names, sacred names, names which imply that the initiate has
become transformed and is therefore more fully human.3
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints are not unfamiliar with sacred rituals. Priesthood
blessings at the birth of a child, baptism and confirmation, the endowment,
celestial marriage, and grave dedications are our rites of passage. The symbolism
is rich in these rites; and if the initiate is purified and made ready to
receive the knowledge endowed upon him during such an experience, not only does
his life become more meaningful, but also his ability to overcome crises
becomes greater, so that his journey towards godhood is facilitated by his
correct mental map of how to travel. The initiate recognizes the influence of
the divine and desires to become like God — to become a member of the
community of those who have gained an identity as Christ’s children. But the
importance of this process is as poorly understood by Latterday Saints as it is
by most other members of Western cultures, and the possibilities for aid and
instruction inherent in the rituals we do have are inadequately explored. Even
Latter-day Saints, then, could learn something important from the rites of
traditional American Indian cultures.
Modern Western man is in crisis —
a crisis of spirit — a crisis of identity. Sociologists, ethnographers,
artists, and religious leaders are making very disquieting observations. The
prevalence in society of violence, sexual promiscuity and perversions, suicide,
and of the dissolution of family life alarms us all. And these problems are not
confined to “others out there” in the world. That these same problems
exist in the Church is increasingly obvious. New questions asked during temple
recommend interviews reflect ecclesiastical concern for such offenses as child
and spouse abuse, incest, and failure of one parent to discharge financial and
emotional obligations to children left with the other parent through or
Many causes for this crisis have been
assigned by critics of modern society. Industrialization, technology,
television, and the decline in moral values are only some of the causes cited.
I would like to suggest another cause. It is my assertion that we have become
an asymbolic society, and, as a result, we do not understand the power of our
own rites of passage. I also contend that we might have lost one of the most powerful
rites of passage from our own canon of rituals. According to cultural
psychologist Rollo May, the preoccupation with self that is so characteristic
of our time comes because human beings have cut themselves adrift from the
basic, underlying sacred myths that give definition to what it means to be
human. May claims that the reason for the popularity of psychology today is
that it is all that remains for coping with the problems facing modern man.
From “the myth of an afterlife to the more modern beliefs in the virtues
of family and state, the myths and symbols that once drained off anxiety,
assuaged guilt feelings, comforted people, and gave them strength to face the
problems of life have lost their vitality.”4
The students I have taught over the
past eighteen years at four major universities have seldom been familiar with
the symbolic process or with the sacred texts and metaphors that have
formulated their own worldview. Few have read the Old or New Testaments —
documents closely connected with Western values and thought. Most are unaware
of why and how values are transmitted from one generation to the next.
The use of the word “myth,”
as May uses it, should not unsettle Latter-day Saints as it often does. In this
context, “myth” refers to sacred stories that explain the
interventions of the divine into human affairs — the interventions that
reveal covenant laws, temple rites, and the purpose of human existence. May
suggests that it is time for a rebirth of such “cultural myths and
symbols.”5 Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame, makes a similar
assertion. When Hesburgh became chairman of the board of the Rockefeller
Foundation, he persuaded his fellow trustees to set up a commission on the
humanities. It cost the foundation one million dollars to come to the
conclusion that the future of man “is dictated by the most profound need
of our age”: the need to “rediscover man and the meaning of human
life,” the need to bring man to a consciousness of “his ultimate
destiny, his vision beyond time, his idealism that transcends power, money, or
pleasure.” Hesburgh concludes that the burden of the humanities lies in bringing
men to the “awareness of what men and women can be” with the
“determination to re-create the world in that vision.”6
For Latter-day Saints, the vision of
what it means to be human ought to be obvious. Most of us get tears in our eyes
when we sing, “I Am a Child of God.” Seldom, however, do we pose the
question, “Which child of God am I?” Nor do we struggle to understand
the meaning of our own rituals or what ritual behavior implies.
In rituals such as those performed in
ancient Near Eastern temples, the initiate identifies himself with the first
man or first woman. The participant is washed, anointed, and made ready to
understand the mysteries of godliness. He is endowed with information to aid
him in his quest to understand what it means to be human, what man’s
relationship to his fellowman ought to be, what the bounds of his own sexuality
are, what the purpose of this life is, why the earth was created, and, more
particularly, what true moral behavior requires. As sacred history is recited,
the initiate learns how to journey to the tree of life, how to arrive at the
center of the universe. This central place has generally been holy ground
— the mountain of the Lord’s house — the temple. It is there that
man can meet God, the true Father, and, as a result, learn to transform himself
into the image of God.
Implied, then, is the possibility of
change — of movement away from the tragedies, calamities, crises, and
confusions of profane human existence toward true identity.7 One of Rollo May’s
patients once made this statement during a struggle to discover self: “The
grace of God is the capacity to change.”8 This, I believe, is a
simple yet profound definition of repentance.
But even when all of these ritual
realities are accessible, many people fail to lay fast hold of the tree of life
because they are not able to comprehend or internalize the messages contained
in ritual symbols. These rituals, it must be noted, are intended for mature,
righteous adults. What rituals precede the temple ritual? What, if any, rituals
aid the adolescent in his journey to the adult world? Modern Western cultures
do not have them. Mormons do not have them. I believe there is a need for a
rite of passage between the ages of eleven and fifteen and again between the
ages of sixteen and twenty. Traditional Native American cultures, those that have
overcome the pressures to assimilate, have such rites. These rites allow the
members of the tribe to attain peace and harmony in a world of chaos and greed.
Such rites are worthy of examination.
Adolescence, in modern Western
cultures, is an ambiguous period. According to Neil Postman, what we have
experienced in modern society is the collapse of successive levels of existence
— the loss of childhood as well as adulthood. Through early exposure to
“adult entertainment,” children lose their innocence and the
opportunity for natural growth and development. Adult life, for the most part,
is characterized by being old enough to break normal taboos — old enough
to drink, to have multiple sex partners, to choose an individual brand of moral
behavior independent of what traditional religion or education recommends, and
old enough to cause violent and perverse misery in the name of liberty. What we
have, claims Postman, is the “rise of the ‘childified’ adult.”9 What we have become,
especially in the United States, is a nation of adolescents. As the emphasis of
most advertising shows, fashions and tastes are largely youth-oriented. We have
become a nation that worships youth. And, tragically, youth today is
characterized by turmoil, confusion, anxiety, and moral experimentation.
Adolescence in modern Western societies has become synonymous with
According to Ira Progoff, “Depth
psychology was brought into being in nineteenth-century Europe essentially
because the quality of behavior and the quality of consciousness of modern man
had become disturbed and needed to be healed — or as was later
discovered, the consciousness of modern man needed to be transformed.” The
metaphor most used to describe the condition of modern man has been a medical
one. Modern man has a malady, a disease, a cancer, needing not only a diagnosis
but a cure. However, says Progoff, “during the past generation experience
has shown that man does not require healing; what he requires is a new metaphor
for human development — a metaphor that would transform the quality of
modern man’s consciousness.”10
What Progoff and other depth
psychologists discovered through their research concerning human growth,
creativity, and spiritual development was that certain patterns began to
emerge. In particular, they discovered that “the development of
personality through [adolescent stages] of life moves in the direction of an experience
of initiation, both a primary experience of initiation to life and successive
initiations to larger dimensions of awareness.” These experiences
“are the key to the emergence of form and meaning in individual
existence.”11 Identity, at this time, opens in two directions: inward and outward. Of
necessity, there is a strong need for individual identity, a clear sense of
independence and distinctness in relationship to others. However, with this
strong sense of personal existence also comes “the realization of the
individuality of others, and of an existence in others that is both separate
from us and intimately connected to us.” This awareness is essential
during adolescence “when the transition into adult life is made.”12
Traditional American Indian cultures
assume that while biological transitions are being made during adolescence, so
are cultural and existential transitions. Because this is a time of crises, of
confusion and lack of identity, traditional cultures accomplish or aid this
transition by means of a rite of passage. These cultures take youth through
life activities, ritual dramas, to bring about emotional changes that
correspond to outward biological growth. Our culture provides nothing
comparable. Boy Scouting for boys (incorrectly modeled after Native American
beliefs) and “personal progress” for girls are not rites of passage.
Priesthood ordinations could serve this function, but they are not inclusive
enough. These ordinations bless young boys with spiritual power and
ecclesiastical duties but not with knowledge of sexuality or interpersonal
development and individual identity. Patriarchal blessings provide some
important knowledge typical to traditional rites of passage, but the ritual
framework is absent. Missionary experiences come very close to acting as a rite
of passage for many young men and some young women in the Church. This
experience, however, comes too late in life to serve the purposes I am
describing. S. N. Eisenstadt, in “Archetypal Patterns of Youth,”
identifies tasks that must be accomplished during adolescence: a youth must
discover the seed of his own independent identity apart from the collective; he
must come to terms with his relationship to family and community and assume his
relationship to the creator; and, finally, he must come to terms with his own
sexuality.13 None of
these discoveries should come as the result of exploitive or damaging forms of
experimental behavior so typical of the current Western adolescent culture.
“Sowing wild oats” can damage rather than enhance personal discovery.
Properly channeled, however, the energies of the young at this point in their
lives can even successfully challenge existing societal norms and thus
The Winnebago Indians expose exploitive
adolescent behavior through a body of sacred literature that incorporates the
adventures of a character, the Trickster, who existed at the time of the sacred
beginnings — the premortal existence. The Trickster, throughout most of
the Trickster myth cycle, is a sacred fool whose exploits draw attention to the
consequences of being a human primarily concerned with satisfying his appetites
for food, sex, and pleasure. He has no notion, for most of the myth cycle, of
any responsibility toward himself, his family, his community, or nature. As a
result, he brings pain and suffering not only on himself but on others. The
purpose of such tales is to bring about psychotherapeutic change in the
individuals who hear the tales. As the Trickster transforms from being an
amoral, instinctual, amorphous, desocialized, subhuman being to a character who
has the right to govern an earth of his own, the students of the tale are
expected to see their own behavior in the Trickster and desire such a
transformation in themselves. All this is accomplished with great humor;
laughter, among the Winnebago, brings about healing. The Trickster’s activities
explain the origins of human anatomy and also show why man must respect the
laws of culture and of nature. The Trickster’s sexual exploits demystify
romantic passion while illustrating what silliness and pain accompany personal
preoccupation with sex.
According to Paul Radin, the symbol of
the Trickster “contains within itself the promise of differentiation, the
promise of god in man.”15 The Trickster moves
through the ambiguities of existence: good/evil, denial/affirmation,
destruction/creation, fool/hero. As a contrary figure, the Trickster exposes
the chaos of life without an ideal to work from. The Winnebago teach the
highest type of conduct: “the right of every man to happiness and to
freedom of expression in consonance with individual capacities; the recognition
of limits imposed upon individual freedom by human relationships; and the
responsibility of an individual for his own actions.”16 Trickster tales are
told against this ideal, allowing for a kind of moral sorting out.
Progoff suggests, as does the talmudic
creation text, that “when God was creating man, he did not complete his
task. He refrained from making man perfect, but left that as a task remaining
to be done. He left it for man himself to do, specifically for man to achieve
in his existence as an individual. The human being is therefore neither perfect
nor complete according to his nature, as other more limited species are. His
life is open-ended in its possibilities, and this is precisely why man is the
species that holds the possibility of carrying the evolution of life to further
destiny is to become something greater than the Tricksterlike qualities
inherent in the early phases of human development. This evolutionary process,
claims Progoff, requires initiatory events. In modern Western culture, however,
the crucial passage from adolescence to adulthood has become no longer
Progoff explains that “the
requirements of life in a technological culture have so extended the necessary
period of preparation for life, both in terms of formal education and in terms
of daily interpersonal experiences, that the age of early adolescence is no
longer an appropriate time for initiating the young . . . into the adult world.”18 While in earlier
cultures adolescence “was a time for launching out in life, in modern
culture it can be no more than a time of waiting.”19 The resultant
“damming-up of life energies . . . creates a restlessness of personality.
It is a time of treading water in life, a time when there are large amounts of
energy available to be expended, but the doors are closed on them.” During
the ages of eleven to nineteen, modern youth exist in a “psychological
youth fill this vacuum with irrational behavior, foolish fads, sexual
experimentation, and profound restlessness. Their behavior, in other words, is
very Tricksterlike. Being set apart in “community” with other
adolescents further intensifies the vacuum. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is an extreme metaphor
for what can happen to youth when left without a true community of all age
If initiation does not take place
during these years, it generally does not take place until much later. Often
heads of families find themselves in midlife still selfish and in search of
self-identity. Many leave families in search of their more authentic selves;
the costs of such a search are great. The family unit fragments, crippling
male/female relationships as well as parent/child relationships. Children
require the security of loving parents to mature. Without such stability,
children feel orphaned. The entire complexion of human existence in modern
Western society is being altered because of these realities.
Dramatic, prototypical initiation,
then, becomes impossible for an entire culture. The rites of passage that should
take place at this time establish the pattern for all other initiatory events
and are, therefore, crucial. If the initiation to life “does not take
place at this time, the individual continues to live in an in-between world. .
. . Many people in modern society . . .
live into the later years of their lives without undergoing the initiatory
experience that makes the transition for them into adult awareness.” The
result of this is an “era of inadequate men” and “confusion
among women. An essential ingredient for life, a certain quality of awareness,
a perspective, a stability, and an inward power, are lacking until this
initiation takes place.”21
The Sioux Indians have two significant
rites of passage for their youth, rites they say were revealed through their
prophets. Initiates essentially reenact the process of growth established by
sacred characters who learned how to become whole. The holy man Black Elk
explained these rites to Joseph Epes Brown, who later recorded them in a book, The Sacred Pipe. Slow Buffalo had a
vision given to him through which he came to understand that “he had been
given rites which should be used for the benefit of the young women of his
nation.”22 Shortly after Slow Buffalo received his vision, Feather-on-Head brought his
fourteen-year-old daughter to Slow Buffalo. The daughter, White Buffalo Cow
Woman Appears, had experienced her first menstrual period. Slow Buffalo wanted
her purified for womanhood.
This is when the first rite of passage
into womanhood took place among the Sioux. From this a complex ritual filled
with profound symbolism was developed. To explain it only briefly, the entire
community, especially the older men and women, are involved in a sacred ritual
acknowledging a young girl’s womanhood. The young woman is placed at the center
of the nation’s hoop while the powers of the universe are called upon; the
North, South, West, and East, with their attendant meanings, are ritually
recreated with the young woman at the center. Only the young woman’s closest
relatives are permitted to enter the lodge (tipi).
These rites are too sacred to be witnessed by all. During this rite, a young
woman’s relationship to her own body, to all living creatures, and to her
nation is established.
When the initiate, representing White
Buffalo Cow Woman Appears, is given her sacramental meal, she is told that she,
having prayed to Wankan Tanka, will now go forth among her people in a sacred
manner. She is instructed to “cherish those things which are most sacred
in the universe” and that she “will be as Mother Earth — humble
and fruitful.” Her task as a woman is outlined. She should be like Wankan
Tanka, “merciful to others, especially to those children who are without
parents.” Generosity is the key to womanhood. The young woman is required
to give her last mouthful of food to a needy child. In essence, she must provide
for the wants of others, for her children. As the prayer of instruction
continues, the young girl is told to “follow the sacred path with Light,
not with the darkness of ignorance.”23
As the young woman emerges from the tipi, the entire community rejoices
because a “great thing has been accomplished.” Because of this rite,
there is much holiness in her, therefore the entire community rushes up to the
woman so that they can put their hands on her. Following the ritual and
celebration, a feast and give-away are held. The poor in the community are
taken care of, and the entire community is renewed. The young woman is a symbol
for the continuation of all life, of the nation’s hoop, and of man’s continued
favor with deity. This ceremony makes pale the teas that are held for our
daughters during fifth grade. Cookies are served; a short film about
reproduction is shown; and a brief talk about love, how bodies change, and
about the use of deodorant is given. Mothers are often not even informed when
their daughters begin their periods. This has become an event associated with
secrecy, shame, and, often, uncleanliness. For the Sioux, red (the color of
blood) is a symbol of goodness, life, and abundance and is the color of the
East — the goal of life’s journey. In the West, the color red (or
scarlet) has confused connotations.
The Sioux also have vision quests for
their young men. Vision quests are not limited to this phase of life, but the
primary, prototypical vision quest is established during this time. The young
initiate goes to a holy man when he is ready to go on his vision quest. He is
instructed in how to prepare a sweat lodge in which to purify himself before
going on his quest. Here the symbolism is similar to that of the rite for the
young woman. The cosmic circle is recreated, and the initiate must journey to
the center of that circle. The initiate, when this ordeal is completed, will
receive his man name. A sacred relationship with the waters of life, the trees,
the grasses, the birds, and all animal life is asked for by the young man so
that the coming generations might “live in a holy manner.” Once the
youth is purified, he is taken to a sacred spot — a mountain, the center
of the universe — and left for up to four days. During this period of
time the youth does not eat. He cries to the Six Grandfathers for a revelation
of his purpose as an individual. When the holy man returns to receive the
initiate, he interprets the experiences, dreams, and signs given to the youth.
It is the desire of Wankan Tanka that his people not live in ignorance, either
personal or communal.
When Lame Deer embarked on his initial
vision quest, it was the first time in his life he had ever gone anywhere
without his parents. He was sixteen at the time. His grandmother made a
beautiful quilt for him to take with him, a quilt which he treasured until the
end of his life. More than anything, he wanted to become a holy man like his
father and grandfather. He was afraid he would be asked to become a sacred
clown, a Heyoka. The Medicine man gave him the sacred pipe to take with him
— a wonderful gift. During the four days that Lame Deer was seeking his
vision, he had numerous spiritual experiences. The most important one, however,
was when he was raised in the spirit above the world, and a voice came to him,
saying: “You are sacrificing yourself here to be a medicine man. In time
you will be one. You will teach other medicine men. . . . You will learn about
herbs and roots and you will heal people. You will ask for nothing in return. A
man’s life is short. Make yours a worthy one.”24 While Lame Deer was
sleeping, “yet fully awake,” he explains, his great-grandfather Lame
Deer, an old chief of the Minneconjou, came to him wishing Lame Deer to take
upon him his name. Through this experience, Lame Deer gained his own personal
identity, a man’s name, and came to understand what his relationship to his
people was to be. He learned through this experience what his life’s work was
to be. This rite was one of the most dramatic experiences in Lame Deer’s life
— a truly prototypical event. He would no longer be the same boy who came
up on the mountain to sit in the Vision Pit where his father, grandfather, and
great-grandfather had sat before him.25
One other example, this from the Taos
Pueblo tribe, will establish the wide variety of experiences available for Indian
youth. When a young Taos boy arrives at the age of twelve, he is taken away
from his family (his “mother”) into the Kiva, the womb of mother
earth. The Kiva (an underground temple) is a structure which also re-creates
the cosmic circle. On the walls the scenes from creation stories and emergence
myths, as well as scenes from the history of the tribe, are painted. The young
initiate will be schooled there for eighteen months, twice as long as he was in
his mother’s womb.
Frank Waters, in his fine novel The Man Who Killed the Deer, takes a
young boy, Napaita, through this event. Napaita is not, however, the major
character in the novel. Martiniano, a young man who has been away at a white
man’s school, is the main character. It is Waters’s contention in the novel
that because Martiniano did not receive his rite of passage, he was unable to
find his true identity. Because of this, he causes his wife,
tribe, and local government to suffer. He continually acts out of selfishness
and pride, failing to see what life requires of a mature tribe member. Napaita
does receive his rite. In the Kiva, Napaita learns the proper relationship
between the body, mind, and spirit. Napaita’s father, Palemon, explains to him,
“Now you belong to your greater mother. And you return to her womb to
emerge once again, as a man with no mother’s hold upon him, as a man who knows
himself not as an individual but as a unit of his tribe and part of all life
which ever surrounds him.”26 In the Kiva, Napaita
learns about the primal life of his tribe, their history, how the world was
created, a new dimension of time, and his place in the cosmos. Says Palemon to
his son, “We will meet again. But as brothers. As men together. As equal
parts of one great life. No longer separated. But in that consciousness of our
oneness which gives us our only freedom.”27 In the end of the
novel, Martiniano also discovers this unity. He and Napaita save one another
through an act of quiet heroism. When Napaita becomes lost and hurt during his
final test of manhood, it is Martiniano who is led by the powers of the spirit
to find Napaita unconscious and bleeding. Martiniano, without pride and with
real compassion, simply picks Napaita up from the snow during a winter night
and delivers him, without anyone knowing, to the door of the Kiva. Martiniano
returns home, determined that his baby son will have a similar rite of passage.
The goal of life for most Native
Americans is to reach old age with wisdom and understanding, understanding of
the connections possible between male and female, man and his fellowman, man
and nature, and, finally, man and the cosmos — a cosmos with a divine
center. Change toward these ends can only be made when there is a constant
— traditional values and paradigms of being. In Christian theology, the
constant is Jesus Christ — the Self-existent One, the Great I Am.
Ideally, the end of all our changing is to come to a stage in development where
we can say, “I have created something divine out of the experiences of my
life. I Am.”
These rites, these values and goals,
have aided many traditional Native Americans in their struggle to re-create the
world in an image of wholeness, of relatedness. Despite constant legislation by
the United States government against tribal religions and governments,
traditional ways of believing have persisted among most North American tribes.
While the number of traditional believers remains small, they are a source of
constancy, resisting assimilation into a dominant culture that offers
individualism, competition, luxury, and economic mobility at the expense of
family and tribal life. Stress, violence against self and others, irresponsibility,
and chaotic lives seem to be the result of mainstreaming. However, in an effort
to offer “individual liberty” to all, the United States government
has continually legislated against Native American religions and governments.
Termination, relocation, the Dawes Severalty Act, the Indian Removal Act, the
Mexican American War, and simply the failure to keep any of the 389 treaties
made with Native American governments, demonstrate reasons that Native American
rites have remained largely unknown in the dominant culture.28
C. G. Jung claimed that as long as the
Pueblos continued their sacred rituals, they would have “pride and the
power to resist the dominant whites.” These rituals, said Jung, gave the
people “cohesion and unity.” Jung felt certain that “the Pueblos
as an individual community will continue to exist as long as their mysteries
are not desecrated.”29 Religious beliefs and rites are sacred. Most cultures, including the Latter-day
Saints, will not reveal their sacred rites to uninitiated observers. Moreover,
even though their implications are universal, the forms of sacred rituals are
culturally specific. Western drive and individualism have created a people able
physically to subdue the Native American cultures. But our culture, as I have
shown, has paid a great price for its successes. It seems clear to many
observers that the future of our culture depends upon our ability to rediscover
our own rites of passage and to come to understand the rich ritual implications
of our own sacred symbols.
For Latter-day Saints, wards are ideal
social units for the movements necessary toward mature, joyous life. In its
parameters, a ward is tribal. Called a “family,” a ward is based on a
clan metaphor, suggesting mutual responsibility for deep human relationships.
In this context, the old, who have experienced life, could aid the adolescents
in their journey toward adult life. In the Native American tribe, the elders
impart their wisdom to the young to ensure the continuance of the culture.
Whether related to the initiate by blood, the elders feel a loving
responsibility to enlarge the vision of the young.
Instead of following such a rich model,
however, our wards too often imitate the models of our surrounding culture, a
culture of separation. We continue to segregate men from women, teenagers from
adults and from the opposite sex, children from those not their age, and the
aged and single adults from the rest of the community.
The gospel itself is built upon the
metaphor of reunion — godly parents with their children. The desire of
these parents is that we move through successive stages of development to
become like them. For this purpose the gospel structure was revealed. Are we
willing to refine our understanding of this structure, perhaps looking for
models in places we have previously overlooked? I suggest that we have a great
deal to learn about this from the cultures of the Native Americans.
1. Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of
Religion (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1959), 185.
2. Ibid., 184.
3. Ibid., 184-85.
4. Rollo May,
“Psychology Has Moved into Matters That Used to Be Left to Poetry,” Psychology Today (May 1982): 57.
6. Theodore M.
Hesburgh, “The Future of Liberal Education,” Change (April 1981): 40.
7. See Truman G.
Madsen, ed., The Temple in Antiquity (Provo: Bookcraft, 1984), especially Hugh W. Nibley, “What Is a
Temple,” 19-37, and “Looking Backward, 39-51; and John M. Lundquist,
“The Common Temple Ideology of the Ancient Near East,” 53-76.
8. Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself (New York:
Dell, 1953), 214.
9. Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood (New
York: Delacorte, 1982), 126.
10. Ira Progoff,
“Form, Time, and Opus: The Dialectic of the Creative Psyche,” in
Adolf Portmann, ed., Forms als Aufgabe
des Geistes Eranos-Jahrbuch 1965 (Zürich: Rhein, 1966), 270.
11. Ibid., 274.
12. Ibid., 277.
13. S. N. Eisenstadt,
“Archetypal Patterns of Youth,” in Dorothy Rogers, ed., Issues in Adolescent Psychology (New
York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1969), 565-75.
14. Ibid., 574.
15. Paul Radin, The Trickster (New York: Schocken,
16. Paul Radin, Primitive Man as Philosopher (New York:
Dover, 1957), 96.
“Form, Time and Opus,” 265.
18. Ibid., 278.
20. Ibid., 279.
21. Ibid., 281.
22. Joseph E. Brown, The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the
Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux (New York: Penguin Books, 1983), 117.
23. Ibid., 126.
24. Lame Deer (John
Fire) and Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer:
Seeker of Visions (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 15-16.
26. Frank Waters, The Man Who Killed the Deer (New York:
Pocket, 1974), 80.
27. Ibid., 82.
28. Harold E. Fey and
D’Arcy McNickle, Indians and Other
Americans (New York: Harper and Row, 1970); Harold E. Driver, Indians of North America (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1972), 479-505.
29. Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed.
Aniela Jaffe (New York: Vintage, 1965), 342.