The Teaching of The Red Road
The Red Road, the generic term for the religions of the North American First Nations people, is one of the worlds great religions by virtue of the incredible endurance of its rituals, over 10 000 years, and the completeness and simplicity of its message and spiritual practice.
it is still entirely an oral tradition, depending for its transmission on no holy book, but only on the teachings of its practitioners. Any adult whose life is judged to have been lived in humility and honesty, and who has made a contribution to the good of the community, can become a leader on the Red Road, an Elder, who will be asked to carry a sacred Pipe and to conduct the Sweat Lodge Ceremony.
The teachings are based on the fundamental principles that earth itself is our Great Mother, having given birth to us and all other living and nonliving beings, that our Father Sky is the constant holder of the laws of the Universe, that give surety and continuity to our days, that the sun will rise, the moon set, and the stars remain in their places forever.
Mother Earth is supreme in needing nothing else but Father Sky for her survival. Next are the plants,the trees, all of green life, for they need only Mother Earth to survive. Next in the hierarchy are the animals, who need the plants and Mother Earth. The least and most dependent are the humans. We are the youngest children of Mother Earth. We are the weakest since we need all the others for our survival.
The Red Road does not see mankind as dominant, but as weak, and needing to b respectful and mindful of our lesser place in Creation. To compensate for our weakness, we have been give many blessings and rituals by the Creator,Gitche Manitou (In Anishnabe), the Great Spirit. Those treading the Red Road are not so arrogant as to think we know what God looks like, so we call the Creator, Manitou, meaning Mystery.
All religions seem to have important words that define something of their essence. The word for Christianity might be love, The word for Islam and Judaism might be obedience. The word for Buddhism might be non-attachment. The word for the Red Road seems to be respect. Respect for all living and nonliving beings, for Mother Earth and everything she holds, including ourselves.
As well as the attitude of respect for all alive, for Mother Earth and all her children, the Red Road is defined by its rituals. The most important of these are The Smudge with sacred herbs, Drumming and singing with the hand drum or the big pow wow drum, The Naming Ceremony, The Pipe Ceremony, The Sweat Lodge and the Pow Wow for a more social than spiritual occasion.
The sacred herbs are sage, sweet grass, cedar, tobacco. The sacred symbols are The Pipe, The Drum, The Eagle Feather. An individuals sacred symbol and guide is their totem, usually an animal or bird, usually part of their own Spirit Name they receive in the Naming Ceremony.
Here, in southern Ontario, when we enter the Sweat lodge we are carrying on a religious ceremony that is at least 10 000 years old in this part of the world. It seems an awesome blessing, to be gifted with this way of spirituality.
The Lodge, and all the ceremonies of the Red Road, are conducted to enable us to take time out of our daily survival activities to re-connect with the source of our creation, with the creator who made us. In these ceremonies we focus our minds and actions on remembering and honouring Mother Earth and the many blessings she has bestowed. We ask for healing, emotional and physical. We celebrate our brief time of existence. We honour the life we see around us, with whom we live, and on whom we depend.
As we exit the Lodge, after the ceremony, we cry out All my relations announcing that we are entering the world, to be with all other living and nonliving beings, who are indeed all our relations. There is no stronger bond on the Red Road, than that between relatives.