Native Gift Giving
By Turtle Woman
In modern society people are usually charged for their services. Bo
is always telling people, if you go to a Native Ceremony and there is
a charge… Run the other way, it’s not the “Native
Way.” When the credit card machine comes out for a sweat, it’s
not a traditional sweat; probably a scam, you’d better high-tail
it off to a better place quickly.
You cannot charge for spirituality, and our spirituality is not a “social
event.” Everyone is welcome to participate with a good and respectful
heart. It is our custom that everyone in the circle pitches in before
and after our ceremonies. A person will come early and help get things
ready, and a person will stay late to help and clean-up, and everyone
contributes the items for the ceremony so it does not fall on one family.
The term, “call me if you need anything,” is from white
society. Natives will not usually call just anyone and say, “I
need you to do this favor for me. Pay attention to needs and offer accordingly.
We are taught as Traditional children that we have abundance. The Creator
has given us everything: the water, the air we breathe, the earth as
our flesh, and our energy force: our heart, spirit guides/helpers. We
are thankful every day. Every word from our mouth is a prayer so we
are careful what we speak.
Native Traditionalists do not take without first asking: an example,
the plant for permission to take some cuttings. An offer of tobacco
is made to the plant in gratitude. We do not pull the herb out by its
roots, but cut the plant even with the surface of the earth, so that
another generation will be born its place. We also never take all the
plants but only every fourth one.
It is really important that these ways never be lost. And to this day
we feed the elders, we explain to the little children that to receive
a gift is to enjoy it, and when the enjoyment is gone, they pass it
on to the another child, so that they, too, can enjoy it. If a child
gets a doll, that doll may exchange hands about eight times, from one
child to another.
Daily living is centered in the spirit of giving and walking the Red
Road. Walking the “Red Road” means making everything you
do a spiritual act. If your neighbor, needs a potato masher; and you
have one that you are not using, or no longer need, you offer him yours
in the spirit of giving.
Many of you are always asking me, “What can I give when I’ve
used up your time and energy?” The key is to listen to your spirit
and give from your heart. Any gift is acceptable when given from the
heart. We appreciate usable gifts even such gifts to be used in the
household on a daily basis: food items, cleaning items etc. You can
give money or gift cards if that is what you hear to give. The gift
should usually be appropriate for the value of what is taken. Here is
an example: Many hours of prayer and labor went into the making of my
pipe. The pipe becomes part of a person and is most valuable because
of the spiritual value place on it. I would not think of insulting the
pipe maker by offering him/her a trinket, baked goods, or something
of that nature for trade, for something so precious in my life. Be respectful
by being reasonable in your trade.
We also like to give and receive gifts we have made with our own hands.
If you decide to give a gift to a married individual it is always wise
to check with that person’s spouse for appropriateness. Native
women are like other cultural groups of women in that, other women do
not need to give our husbands personal gifts.
Keep in mind different Native groups do have different traditions, we
are not all exactly the same; we do all like what comes from a good
Think of your elders and remember they are here for you; in modern society
they have bills to pay too. They should not always be expected to supply
you with items. When you are in need of charcoal, sage, copal, or herbs,
you should be prepared to trade/barter or offer something in return
at the same time as receiving your product. It is not reasonable for
you to expect things to always be given freely, say “Thank you,”
and move on forgetting.
I am not God and therefore cannot "save" anyone. The path
one walks is between the individual and the creator; not to be judged
Being accountable is not allowing guilt and condemnation, it's understanding
you made the choice, and not blaming others for your bad choices.