the myth of Christianity
Notes from Indian Country
Debunking the myth of Christianity
Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji) 7/24/2006
© 2006 Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.
A letter from an angry reader from Oklahoma chastised me for
attempting to explain why the Iraqi people hate America. She wrote,
"Tim Giago should realize that America is a Christian nation. Jesus
Christ appeared to Black Elk, not to the Muslims."
I wonder how many Indian nations consider themselves to be "Christian
nations." The two most potent weapons brought to the Western Hemisphere
by the European invaders were disease and the Church. While the diseases
unknown to the indigenous population destroyed millions of lives, the
Church destroyed cultures, religions, traditions, languages and customs.
The early demise of the Indian people can be equally attributed to both.
The letter writer, an Indian woman, continued, "We as Americans
crusaders. We bring democracy to a dark and ignorant country."
that what the "crusaders" brought to the Indian people? Native
Americans did not become included in America's form of "democracy"
until 1924, nearly 150 years after America's settlers signed the Declaration
of Independence. The "independence" and "democracy"
was for white Americans only. It was not until 1946 when Arizona and
New Mexico finally ratified the Constitutional Amendment that made Native
Americans United States citizens. For the first 30 years of his life,
my father, born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South
Dakota, a fluent Lakota speaker, was not a citizen of the United
The settlers who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom
outlawed most religious rites of the Indian people. The Sacred Sun
Dance of the Great Plains Indians was banned and its practitioners
subject to arrest and incarceration.
The Church created the myth that Jesus appeared to Black Elk in order
to convince other Lakota that Black Elk had seen the light and had
become a Christian in the end. His own family members dispute this
outlandish claim. As a matter of fact, Black Elk faced prosecution
for practicing the traditional spirituality of his ancestors. He had
perform some of the sacred rites of the Lakota in secret.
The revival of the traditional religious practices of the American
Indians has grown stronger over the years and came out in the open
after passage of the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act was
passed in 1978. Can you imagine that "Freedom of Religion"
finally granted to the Indian people 202 years after the Declaration
There are those Native Americans who have attempted to integrate
their Christian roots and beliefs with Native spirituality. Can this
happen? Would the practitioners of the ancient Indian religions allow
this? I think not. First off, Christianity is foreign to the Native
this Hemisphere. It was brought from across the sea by the invaders.
For the most part Christianity is based on the teachings of a Jewish
man named Jesus.
Whereas, the traditional spirituality of the Native people has
existed long before the settlers landed on these shores. One Wicasa
Wakan (Holy Man) named Rick Two Dog, an Oglala Lakota, can trace his
spiritual family and advisers back more than 500 years. That even
pre-dates the coming of the Pilgrims with their overly righteous
views of Christianity.
Let's face it. The early settlers found the religious practices of
the Native people difficult to understand and distasteful and they
dismissed them, with a wave of the hand and a prayer, as heretical.
Since the Native people did not, according to the settlers, have a
religion, they were therefore pagans that had to be converted.
For an Indian man or woman to say that Jesus Christ is their Savior
and Lord is to deny thousands of years of the inherent spirituality
and religious customs of their own people. And to believe that they
can incorporate this foreign religious concept into their traditional
beliefs is now being discarded by many Indians that have returned to
their own traditional customs and beliefs. They see with eyes wide
open what Christianity has done to their ancestors and to themselves
and they reject it.
I would like to hear from the Indian nations and have them tell me
how many of them consider themselves to be "Christian nations."
I have no bone to pick with Christians or their beliefs as long as
they practice those beliefs without interfering with my own beliefs
and with the beliefs of those who are not Christians. I attended an
Indian mission boarding school where Christianity was crammed down my
throat from the minute I awoke to the minute I went to sleep. It's
not that this was bad enough, but to debunk and criticize the traditional
beliefs of my ancestors in order to implant this new religion into my
young mind was outrageous. If the Church cannot apologize for the atrocities
committed against the Native people, how can I be expected to forgive
them and least of all participate in their religious
The Founding Fathers of the Indian nations will not be found carved
on Mount Rushmore. Instead their bones will be found in the dust of
the land walked upon by they and their ancestors for thousands of years,
long before the settlers came. And in the space of a short 500 years
the newcomers have brought this continent to the brink of self-destruction.
America may well consider itself a Christian nation, but please do
not willfully discard those of us who are not. We are also Americans
and we are also citizens of our own nations.
(Tim Giago is the founder and first president of the Native American
Journalists Association. He can be reached at
or by writing him at 2050 W. Main St.,
Suite 6, Rapid City, SD., 57702. He was also the founder and former
editor and publisher of the Lakota Times and Indian Country Today
newspapers. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the class of 1990 1991.
Clear Light Books of Santa Fe, NM email@example.com
published his latest book, Children Left Behind