Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Faith Groups

Philanthropy and The Native American Perspective
By Nikki Brueger

From a religious panel discussion, part of the “Philosophy of Philanthropy” course of the Ferris State University Master's in Education with a Concentration in Philanthropic Studies.

My heart ― the essence of my existence, values, beliefs, the way in which I perceive the world is a reflection of my spirituality ― which is a Native philosophy of life.

Our ancestors lived in physical and spiritual communion with Mother Earth. Respect for the land, love of every form of life - human and non-human, harmony between humans and nature. We as well as all other creatures were given birth by the Creator and grew and were sustained by our common Mother, Earth. We are therefore kin to all living things and we give all creatures equal rights. Everything on Earth is loved and revered. The Native American way of life has kept its people close to their living roots. We are natural conservationists and this is philanthropy from a Native American perspective.

There are only circles in nature, which is life. That means there is no beginning, no end, everything is interrelated and interconnected. There is only a center and the center is everywhere. If you are the center, you have the power of the Creator when you do good for the people. Each person has that same power, and when all the people use that strength together they can help restore Mother Earth and everything will benefit. Everything you do comes back to you, do good and it comes back good. Do bad and it comes back, too.

In our teachings we have learned how to take care of Mother Earth. In our care for her we have learned to apply these gifts to families, communities, ourselves, and to all things.

These gifts of knowledge are:

Wisdom Nbwaakaawin ― Use the wisdom for the people.

Love Zaagidwin ― Love your brother and sister and share with them.

Respect Mnaadendmowin ― Respect everyone, all humans and all things created. Regard each with esteem and consideration.

Courage Aakdehewin ― Do things even in the most difficult times. Be ready to defend what you believe and what is right.

Honesty Gwekwaadziwin ― Be honest in every action and provide good feelings in the heart. Do not be deceitful or use self-deception.

Humility Dbaadendizin ― Know that you are equal to everyone else. Take pride in what you do, but the pride you take is in the sharing of the accomplishment with others.

Truth Debwewin ― Be true in everything that you do. Be true to yourself and true to your fellow man. Always speak the truth.

A spiritual person embodies these teachings of knowledge. Each of these teachings must be used with the rest, to leave one out is to embrace the opposite of what that teaching is, and you will not be in balance. A spiritual person inspires and teaches these values by example. He or she has a good mind and walks the spiritual path, which acknowledges the creator in every aspect of daily living. It is a privilege to walk on the Earth and we should protect the Earth for generations to come.

By contrast, the philosophy and religious dogma of the dominant culture is one of domination. (By bestowing upon themselves the position and title of a superior creature, others in the scheme are, in the natural order of things, of inferior position and title. This attitude reflects their action toward all living things. The worth and right to live is theirs, thus they heartlessly destroy.

Under the banner of progress, the legions of modern day pirates - the multi-national corporations, mine Uranium, Petroleum, Nickel, Manganese and Tungsten because they believe they have a God-given right to exploit the land and it's resources.

"You shall have dominion over the fish of the sea, dominion over the birds of the Heavens, over all the Earth, over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the Earth. Go forth children, multiply, fill the Earth and subdue it." The book of Genesis, The Bible.

This system of beliefs is not philanthropic because it is lethal to the world and it's inhabitants. It putrefies the water, annihilates the land, since it sees it only as raw material and a source of income, and poisons the air and the soil. This is in violent contradiction with those that hold the Earth to be sacred, now and for the generations that follow.

"In the first one half of the 20th century, people consumed more non-renewable resources than in all of humankind's previous time on Earth." Narration from the video; Earth and The American Dream .

All across North America, there are monuments left by our ancestors, these serpent mounds, rock paintings, medicine wheels, petroglyphs, inukshuks, and totem poles fuse us with our ancestral past.

At the core of each of these works is a statement that expresses the relationship that human beings have with each other, with the land, and with their Creator. It is clear from these sacred places of the past, that our ancestors treated the land, each other, and the Creator with reverence and respect.

What will the monuments we leave for our descendants say about the way we treat each other? What will they say about the way we treat the land? And what will they say about our relationship with the Creator? Much of what we leave will last a thousand years, but there is little of which we can be proud.

There is much to be done, if we are ever to create monuments for future generations which recapture the awe and wonder of the works of our ancestors. We need to see the land for what it is ― sacred in all it's parts, and acknowledge the gifts of creation that have been bestowed upon us.