Native American Dream Beliefs

The Headings Are:

Dreams as guidance in life

Sacred Fasting

Dream and visions

Healing Experiences

A Failed Initiation

Dream doorway to wider awareness

Tribal Elders

See also The Iroquoin Dream Cult

In considering the beliefs of the Native American peoples, there is not a single belief system. Each tribe developed their own relationship with their inner life as it connected with and contributed to their external environment and needs. In looking at the fairly pure statements of traditional Amerindians in such books as Black Elk Speaks, and Ishi, it is fairly obvious however that dreams were generally considered as a form of reality or information to be highly regarded. Black Elk became a revered medicine man of his tribe through the initiatory process of his dreams and their revelation. His dreams revealed rituals to be performed by the tribe which aided in healing social tensions. But these deeply perceptive social or psychological insights into his own people which arose in his dreams, are only one of many facets the Native American peoples found in their dream life. And of course Black Elk is only one of the men and women of the Native American people who were visionaries.

Dreams as guidance in life

Ishi explains how his dream of what turned out to be the coming of the railroad and the train, was central to his whole life and its tragedy. Nevertheless his dreams warned him of the presaging deadly events for his tribe, and helped him find strength to meet what came about.

As already pointed out, personal initiation was one of the most fundamental of the facets. Individuals, through prayer, fasting and lonely vigils, sought from their dreams, a vision of their destiny as an individual, and an image to aid a personal link with the Spirit pervading all life. With such a dream the young man or woman could feel themselves to be a real part of their group and their environment. But even this cannot be taken as a generalisation. R.F. Benedict reported in The Vision In Plains Culture (American Anthropologist Vol. 24 1922) that among the Arapahoe, the Gros Ventre and in all the Western Plains peoples north and south, puberty fasting for a vision did not occur.

Nevertheless, although details varied as to when and how such dreams were sought, the visionary dream was held as sacred. Sometimes the ways of seeking these visions were very quiet, as when retiring to ones lodge, and sometimes very drastic, when braves suspended themselves from poles on hooks.

Sacred fasting

Fasting has been used as a spiritual discipline by many past cultures, but it has not been really understood. For fasting is not primarily a form of personal cleansing or a self punishment for ones ‘sins’  but a way of learning to become a real human being who is no longer the slave of their animal appetites. For otherwise we are all addicts – addicts to eating too much or too little; addicts to wanting to be important; addicts to sex; addicts to power, money and ego, even to killing or maiming others – and many other things.

“When I fasted for 14 days without any food, just water, I slowly discovered what real quietness was. My energy for turbid emotions, for sexual activity, for thinking and trying to think things out, just faded away. They were all aspects not of my central self or spirit – which I discovered was a quiet awreness – but of my bodys animals desires.” See Ox Herding – Victim – Avoiding Being My Own 

When I fasted I was about ten years old, that being the age at which grandparents generally desire their grandchildren to fast. My parents never bothered me at all about fasting, and I don’t suppose I should have fasted at all if I hadn’t a grandparent at that time.

About the middle of the little bear month, that is, February, my grandmother came to my house to fetch me. I did not know what she wanted of me. After two days she told me why she had come. So the next morning I received very little to eat and drink. At noon I didn’t get anything to eat at all, and at night I only got a bit of bread and water.

There were about seven of us fasting at the same time. All day we would play together, watching each other lest anyone eat during the day. We were to keep this up for ten days. However, at the end of the fifth day I became so hungry that, after my grandmother had gone to sleep, I got up and had a good meal. In the morning, she found out that I had eaten during the night and I had to start all over again. This time I was very careful to keep the fast, for I didn’t want to begin on another ten days.

After a while, they built me a little wigwam. It was standing on four poles and about three to four feet from the ground. This was my sleeping-place. My little wigwam was built quite a distance from the house, under an oak tree. I don’t know whether it was the custom to have the young boy fast under a particular tree or not. I believe the wigwam was built in the most convenient place for the old folks to watch it during the day.

The first morning my grandmother told me not to accept the first one that came, for there are many spirits who will try to deceive you, and if one accepts their blessings he will surely be led on to destruction.

The first four nights I slept very soundly and did not dream of anything. On the fifth night, however, I dreamt that a large bird came to me. It was very beautiful and promised me many things. However, I made up my mind not to accept the gift of the first one who appeared. So I refused, and when it disappeared from view, I saw that it was only a chickadee.

The next morning, when my grandmother came to visit me I told her that a chickadee had appeared in my dream and that it had offered me many things. She assured me that the chickadee had deceived many people who had been led to accept this offering.

Then a few nights passed and I did not dream of anything. On the eighth night, another big bird appeared to me and I determined to accept its gift, for I was tired of waiting and of being confined in my little fasting wigwam. In my dream of this bird, he took me far to the north where everything was covered with ice. There I saw many of the same kind of birds. Some were very old. They offered me long life and immunity from disease. It was quite a different blessing from that which the chickadee had offered, so I accepted. Then the bird who had come after me, brought me to my fasting wigwam again. When he left me, he told me to watch him before he was out of sight. I did so and saw that he was a white loon.

In the morning when my grandmother came to me, I told her of my experience with the white loons and she was very happy about it, for the white loons are supposed to bless very few people. Since then, I have been called White Loon.

Not only did White Loon gain his name from his dream, and therefore his adult identity, and whatever respect gained by it from his family and tribe, but he also gained the image of himself as living into old age and having freedom from disease. These are very precious gifts no matter what period of history we consider, or what ‘tribe’. In a modern city, thousands live without any satisfying sense of connection with, or feeling they are respected by, their ‘tribe’. Many live under constant fear of serious illness or early death, and businesses are built catering to such fears.

The Pueblo Indians

Jung, writing about a meeting with some Pueblo Indians in the USA, explains that their religion rests upon the belief that through their frequent ritual, they help the sun to rise each day. Without their tribal attention to the sun, they are sure the sun will no longer rise. “This idea,” Jung explains, “absurd to us, that a ritual act can magically affect the sun is, upon closer examination, no less irrational but far more familiar to us than might at first be assumed. Our Christian religion – like every other incidentally – is permeated by the idea that special acts or a special kind of action can influence God – for example through certain rites or by prayer, or by a morality pleasing to the divinity.

The point Jung makes overall however is that through their beliefs the Pueblo Indians as a group of people, have an intense peace and satisfaction with their life. This deep peace and inner happiness is seldom shared by more ‘rational’ modern communities. I am not trying to argue for irrationality, but the comparison does, I believe, highlight something that arose from the Amerindian beliefs and use of dreams for guidance and spiritual sustenance. Namely how a belief system, no matter if it is irrational, acts as a psychic immune system against the ‘germs’ of despair, inferiority and meaninglessness.

This pride and sense of belonging that was often a marked feature of such tribal peoples prior to the coming of the white races, illustrates one of the main functions of the dreaming process – the psychological compensation or self-regulatory process – and how it acts on the personality if it is deeply accepted. Because the native peoples of America had such trust in the products of their unconscious in dreams and visions, the compensatory images presented were of great benefit, and fulfilled their task of keeping the balance in the individualised identity. Unfortunately the rational attitudes of the invading nationalities, questioning the power of the dream and vision as they did, offered nothing to take the place of the dream. At least, nothing that produced such an obvious sense of pride and tribal and personal identity.

Something that becomes apparent in looking at dreams such as White Loon’s is that the cultural attitudes and beliefs White Loon was educated in dominate the content of his dreams. The coming of the chickadee in early dreams was an accepted part of the vision fast, and can be found in many other such dreams of people in his culture while fasting. When an Indian became a Christian, through exposure to a different set of cultural ideas, his or her dream content changed radically. Nevertheless, many dreams were of a personal psychological nature also, showing the individual relationships with the culture and their own inner life. Even though White Loon’s dream of the birds is very deeply cultural, it is interesting that birds often have the same sort of significance in modern dreams. It was out of this sort of observation that Jung developed his theory of the archetypes and the collective unconscious.

Dream and visions

Something else that is apparent in comparing the visions experienced by native Americans with those of present day individuals – perhaps those using LSD or experiencing visions due to stress such as illness – is that the native Americans entered their visions with some understanding of what to expect and how to deal with the experience. Our own cultural attitudes frequently put us at odds with our own unconscious processes and visionary upsurge. Many people who are confronted by the opening of the unconscious and the events that follow, believe they are going mad, or that they will be overpowered by forces that are antagonistic to them, and will sweep them to their doom. Neither do many people, trained in modern Western ideals of behaviour, know how to exist in the land of vision. Just as few desert people know how to swim, and would feel fear if dropped into deep water, so the person who falls into an altered state of consciousness from the world of modern materialistic thinking, may feel great fear instead of pleasure and the ability to ‘swim’ in it. Even the many people who ‘interpret’ their dreams, have seldom moved beyond the level of thinking, and know nothing through experience of the deep waters of the unconscious. See: abreaction; active imagination.

Like other primitive cultures, dreams were seen by the Amerindians as having certain marked features that could be gained from them. There could be an initiatory dream such as we have already considered. There could also be dreams telling where to hunt; dreams showing a new ritual giving some sort of power such as warding off illness, or finding a new relationship with everyday life, or attracting a lover; dreams could show the use of a herb for medicine; dreams might be caused by some sort of evil within ones body, or an external evil such as someone wishing you harm or an evil spirit; there could be a shared dream with another person; the dream might be a revelation from someone who was dead and now in the spirit world; or a dream, as in the third example below, could be a map supporting and guiding the dreamer throughout their whole life. Dreams were often considered to be bad or good. If a dream were considered bad something had to be done about it, such as a cleansing or healing ritual.

As an example of an Indians attitudes to dreams, this statement of White Hair, a medicine man, is interesting. “Every dream that takes place is certain to happen. Whenever the evil spirits influence it, it is certain to happen. Whenever we dream a bad dream we get a medicine man to perform sing and say prayers which will banish the spirit.”

The following description by a medicine man explains how he had a dream showing him a new medicine. He says, “I saw a dog that had been shot through the neck and kidneys. I felt sorry for the dog and carried him home and took care of him. I slept with the dog beside me. While there I had a bad dream. The dream changed and the dog became a man. It spoke to me and said, ‘Now I will give you some roots for medicine and show you how to use them. Whenever you see someone who is ill and feel sorry for him, use this medicine and he will be well.’ One of these medicines is good for sore throat.”

The following is a fasting dream/vision recorded by Father Lalemont, a Jesuit priest working among the Indians.

At the age of about sixteen a youth went alone to a place where he fasted for sixteen days. At the end of this time he suddenly heard a voice in the sky saying, “Take care of this man and let him end his fast.” Then he saw an old man of great beauty come down from the sky. The old man came to him, and looking at him kindly said, “Have courage, I will take care of your life. It is a fortunate thing for you to have taken me for your master. None of the demons who haunt these countries will have any power to harm you. One day you will see your own hair as white as mine. You will have four children, the first two and last will be males, and the third will be a girl. After that your wife will hold the relation of a sister to you.” As he finished speaking the old man offered him a raw piece of human flesh to eat. When the boy turned his head away in horror, the old man then offered him a piece of bear’s fat, saying, “Eat this then.” After eating it, the old man disappeared, but came again at crucial periods in the person’s life. At manhood he did have four children as described. After his fourth, “a certain infirmity compelled him to continence” He also lived to old age, thus having white hair, and as the eating of the bear fat symbolised, became a gifted hunter with second sight for finding game. The man himself felt that had he eaten the human flesh in the vision, he would have been a warrior instead of a hunter.

Such dreams as the above, about the use of a herbal root for medicine, show how many herbal treatments, not only among the Amerindians, but from tribal people throughout the world, came about. In fact many tribes attributed the origins of many of their cultural artefacts, their religion, the use of fire, to a specific dream experienced by a past tribal member.

Because of the great many Amerindian tribes, and their different dream beliefs, it is impossible to summarise the views of life, death and human origins arising from their dreams and visions. The following description of the beliefs of the Naskapi Indians is so pure and simple however, that it probably holds in it many of the beliefs of other tribes. It is taken from Man And His Symbols by Carl Jung, published by Aldus Books, 1964. It is from the section on The Process Of Individuation by Marie L. Von Franz.

Healing Experiences

Frank Takes Gun, national president of the Native American Church, says: At fourteen, I first used Father Peyote. This was on the Crow Reservation in Montana, and I was proud to know that my people had a medicine that was God-powerful. Listen to me, peyote does have many amazing powers. I have seen a blind boy regain his sight from taking it. Indians with ailments that hospital doctors couldn’t cure have become healthy again after a peyote prayer meeting. Once a Crow boy was to have his infected leg cut off by reservation doctors. After a peyote ceremony, it grew well again.

This may be considered only exuberant witch-doctor talk, but reliable observers have confirmed that these economically deprived peoples are in better-than average health and that when they do become sick and turn to peyote, the drug seems to help them. Louise Spindler, an anthropologist who worked among the Menomonee tribe, said that the women “peyotists” often kept a can of ground peyote for brewing into tea. They used it in “an informal fashion for such things as childbirth, ear-aches, or for inspiration for beadwork patterns.”

Dr. Peck also made such an observation and, in fact, first became interested in LSD as a result of having seen the effects of peyote: When I went into general practice as a country doctor in Texas, I was very impressed that some of our Latin American patients, despite their poverty and living conditions, were extremely healthy. One day, I asked one of my patients how he stayed so healthy, and he told me that he chewed peyote buttons then, I became interested in these drugs that could promise physical as well as mental health.

A Failed Initiation

It is great to find a personal account of Native American initiation in the modern world. But here it is as reported.

The inward journey does not always turn out this way. The following account (published in Psychiatry, February 1949) of the phantasy of a Chippewa Indian woman of 34 living in Northern Wisconsin, furnishes an interesting comparison. It presents the con­trast of a widely different background, both of personality and environment. It brings in the same characteristic symbolism. And it shows how such an experience can remain unrealised.

‘The third time I went through the Midewiwin (the Chippewa Medicine Dance), I went through because I had a vision that I should do that. We were living out in the woods at that time. Everything was still and quiet there. I was lying on a bed. I got to thinking of things I’d done way back in my younger days. I thought about my relatives and my friends, my parents who were dead and gone. I had no one to call upon except for my old man.

I lay still, and my mind was working all the time. Then I said out loud, so that I could be heard: “What is there that I didn’t do right? Everything that I can remember I thought I did right. What is wrong with me that I have so many visions of different things and different people?” All that summer I had had visions of people and things. I said aloud again, “Maybe the Almighty has mercy on people who see all these visions.

Here, most authentically, is the first stage: the feeling that ‘there is something wrong about us as we naturally stand’. The way of develop­ment now lies open. As William James puts it: ‘The individual, so far as he suffers from his wrongness and criticises it, is to that extent consciously beyond it, and in at least possible touch with something higher, if anything higher exist.’

‘Then I had a vision that I was walking along a narrow trail through the brush-no tall trees. It was a beautiful day. No wind. Plenty of sunshine. I walked along this trail for about an hour until I heard the sound of tinkling bells in the distance. As I came nearer to the sound, I saw four men sitting around something that was round. Above their heads was something across the sky like a rain­bow. One of these men called me his grandchild. He said, “You are supposed to tell the people once in a while when you are in trouble about something you know, something that’s in you. Let them know what’s in you. Don’t pay any attention if people laugh at you. If they do, they’re not throwing jokes at you; they’re throwing jokes at themselves.” One real old white-haired man sat at the far end of that round thing. He pointed to his snow-white hair. He told me that my hair would be just like his some day, if I did what I was told. “We are the ones that asked you to come here, because you are in trouble and don’t know which way to turn. There are four things that I want you to remember-North, East, South and West. On all of these four there sits a man who waits and wants to receive your tobacco. You have a name that you bear, which means a great deal to me. Your name means a whole lot. As you go along, you’ll realise this. Your thinking power is working real hard. It will get you somewhere, if you listen to it.”

Here is the mandala symbolism, as in the vision of the sword and the cross-the four old men sitting around something that is round. The woman is told there is something she knows, something in her, that she should tell people. She is, at the same time, given her orient­ation-four things to remember, North, East, South and West. And she is reminded of her name.

‘Then another real old man     spoke. “It’s been a long time since you thought of your grandfather. I like to receive your tobacco once in a while too. I’m the one that suggested to this man the name that you are called by. Don’t be afraid of me because I’m big. I will tell you what you are supposed to do once in a while. You are supposed to put out food, like meat and corn, and put some tobacco into the fire or on the ground when I go by. You do your own speaking (i.e. to the spirits). Nobody else needs to do it. I am the one who will listen.”

Then I said, “Oh, I’m the one who made a mistake. I never thought that I would ever make such a big mistake. Sometimes when I think of the things I’ve done, I thought I’d done them right; but I didn’t.”‘

As later transpires, the mistake was that the woman gave no tobacco to the people she was named after, i.e. did not adequately realise the name, and consequently did not find her true being-again as in the sword and cross vision.

‘Me said, “Sometimes we see you in this certain kind of dance. You are holding the precious flag (the feather flag held by the person who addresses the spirits). That flag belongs to us. Before you speak or do anything, offer some tobacco. If you have no tobacco, you have to give the price for your tobacco.” That’s just what I do now. If I can’t speak, I have somebody speak for me.

Then I went on from this place along the trail a little ways. I bear and see some more. This man has his finger up in the air. He’s talking. He’s from the South. This is a different man. There’s a thing about four feet high-just a stick sticking in the ground. The man takes the stick and hands it to me. “If you lean on this stick,” he said, “you’ll use two of them later on, as you go along the road, if you do just what I tell you. (To ‘walk with two sticks’ is synonymous with long life). Go to your great adviser (the old priest to whom she is married) and tell him what you have seen.”‘

Mere is good counsel. The chief difficulty in all experience the other side of consciousness is adequate realisation. If the woman tells her ‘great adviser’, there is a better chance of holding the experience and bringing it into life.

“As I was corning back along this trail, I saw a great big snake about this big around (six inches). He raised his head about this high (four feet) from the ground. “Don’t be afraid of me,” he said. “Just go back and tell your adviser what you have seen. If you don’t you won’t be able to walk.” Then he pointed and said, “Look over there.” I looked and saw myself lying flat on my back. Then the snake said, “But if you do what I tell you and tell all that you know, everything will be all right. I want to come into that place (her home). I like that place. It makes no difference how it looks. I’m coming there just the same. I’ll go along now.” Then I walked back home along the trail. That was all. Then I made preparations for going through the Midewiwin.’

This is the encounter with the snake, the embodiment of the unconscious; and again the good counsel for realisation-’ tell your adviser.

‘One afternoon, after I’d made all of my preparations for join­ing the Midewiwin again, I was all alone at home. The door was open about four inches. I looked at the door and saw this person coming in. I felt kind of scared. He was an unexpected visitor. He came in a few feet and said, “I have come at last.” He looked around, turned over on his side and ,made himself at home. Then he spoke to me: “If you take care of me like you should, I will do a lot of things for you, because I am the one that suggested all this to you. When you start, have the prettiest dress you’ve got. I know that I am welcome here. Don’t be afraid of me, because I have come a long ways to see you.” That’s all he said. Then he became a snake and went out.’

This is the ‘bringing home’ of the embodiment of the unconscious, as a separate, uncanny but helpful presence. As the ensuing passage shows, it is the snake that leads to the way.

‘That’s just the way that thing (the hide) looked. I got a snake hide that third time I joined. He (the snake) is the one that put these things into my mind and set me to thinking. I’d wondered what was wrong, because I’d never kept thinking and seeing things like that before. He’s the one that suggested I join the Midewiwin. He also asked me if I wanted a drink. I said, No, not when I entered his house (the Mide lodge).

One of the old men spoke to me when I was in the lodge, the third time I joined. Me said, “When you come tomorrow, dress as nice as you can. That’s how this person wanted you to enter this house.” That’s just what I did. He said, “When you go along this road, do the best you can. Pay attention to what is before you, not what is behind you. When you speak, watch your tongue. After you get through here and know what to do, watch your step for the next two or three years. If you do, he’ll take you along this road just as he suggested. This road never comes to an end. ,pay no attention to the side roads. Pay attention to the road that s in front of you. This is his (the snake’s) road, and this is his home. 1f you take care of yourself, he will do the rest. Your thought be­longs to no one but you. Don’t listen to any kind of wind that’s blowing about you. Just turn the other way and do the best you can. He will know, because you’re the person he intended to enter his house. He has picked a person from our midst who happens to be you. He thought that you were the most wonderful thing that God has created. That’s why he picked your home to be his home; he liked that place. And this little thing that I’ve got in my hand (a tiny blue and white shell) belongs to him.”‘

Here is the deep centre (the equivalent of the jasper stone in the sword and cross vision), the something from the depths which ‘be-longs’ to the snake. The old man continues:

“Whatever you say and do-he knows all about it. Don t think that he doesn’t hear whatever you say, because he does. He has become one of the wonderful members of your household.” Then this old man pointed to my head. “See how your hair is today. As you go along this road, your hair will change to a different colour. This thing (the blue and white shell) will take you along the road that we are going to teach you about.” Then he touched the tip of my ear. “These things you own yourself. They belong to nobody but you. The thing that has happened to you is the most wonderful thing I have ever heard of. I have heard of that happening in olden times. Back in my days I heard that people had such a vision like that. It is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a person on this earth. Don’t be afraid to give what you’ve got; because later on, in years to come, you will get paid for it. As you go along this road, you will be using one stick. Maybe by that time you will have grand-children, and you will be able to tell them about this wonderful thing that has happened to you. As you go along to the end of this road, you will be using two sticks. You will still be walking toward this wonderful house that you have seen. This (the shell) is the one that owns it.” ‘

In the Midewiwin third initiation a shell is supposed to be magic­ally ‘shot’ into the candidate from a snake hide, which is referred to during the ceremony as a ‘gun’. Here is the authentic symbolism of the deep centre: that which takes her along the road; that which owns the wonderful house towards which she is travelling; that which enters into and transforms the personality. The old man concludes:

‘”In maybe five or six years from now, you will be entitled to join again. I hope that I may still be here to see it and know what it’s all about. I’m telling you this again, to impress it on your mind. Don’t regret the things that you did in your younger days. You have made only one mistake. Don’t let it happen again.”

(The interviewer asks: What mistake was that?)

“I didn’t give no tobacco to the people I was named after . . .”

When you join the Midewiwin the third time, they tell you that the snake is wrapped all around the earth. He may scare you, but he doesn’t mean to. When I joined that time, they told me that if I had anything nice that grew from the earth-like black­berries-I should give a feast. But I didn’t do it, because the berries were all gone by then; and three months later I gave my hide away; so there was no use in giving a feast to the snake.’

The end is failure. ‘Three months later I gave my hide away.’ The experience has passed her by. The woman to whom these images came saw them as she might a film. She was aware of the archetypal processes with the natural awareness of the quasi-primitive, but she had not the means of incorporating their value into consciousness. The revelation itself was admirably complete: the mandala; the name; the snake; the deep centre. The way she is shown is, in effect, the reso­lution of the fundamental opposites of consciousness and the uncon­scious. ‘This road never comes to an end. Pay no attention to the side roads. Pay attention to the road that’s in front of you.’ But she could not hold the experience. All the transforming symbols were there but not the necessary realisation. Quoted from Experiment in Depth by P. W. Martin

Dream doorway to wider awareness

The inner centre, the Self, or the guiding spirit of a person “is realised in an exceptionally pure, unspoilt form by the Naskapi Indians, who still exist in the forests of the Labrador peninsula. These simple people are hunters who live in isolated family groups, so far from one another that they have not been able to evolve tribal customs or collective religious beliefs and ceremonies. In his lifelong solitude the Naskapi hunter has to rely on his own inner voices and unconscious revelations; he has no religious teachers who tell him what he should believe, no rituals, festivals or customs to help him along. In his basic view of life the soul of man is simply an ‘Inner companion’ whom, he calls ‘My Friend’ or ‘Mista peo’, meaning ‘Great Man’. Mista peo dwells I the heart and is immortal. In the moment of death, or just before, he leaves the individual, and later reincarnates himself in another being.

Those Naskapi who pay attention to their dreams and who try to find their meaning and test their truth can enter into a greater connection with the Great Man. He favours such people and sends them more and better dreams. Thus the major obligation of an individual Naskapi is to follow the instructions given by his dreams, and then to give permanent form to their contents in art. Lies and dishonesty drive the Great Man away from one’s inner realm, whereas generosity and love of his neighbours and of animals attract him and give him life. Dreams give the Naskapi complete ability to find his way in life, not only in the inner world but also in the outer world of nature. They help him to foretell the weather and give him invaluable guidance in his hunting, upon which his life depends…… Just as the Naskapi have noticed that a person who is receptive to the Great Man gets better and more helpful dreams, we could add that the inborn Great Man becomes more real within the receptive person than in those who neglect him. Such a person also becomes a more complete human being.”

Tribal Elders

Becoming a tribal elder is a natural accompaniment of soul growth: As the individual grows in stature and in grace, bringing the personal will ever more into alignment with the Creators will and developing the talents it had earned in its long journey of earth sojourns, the personal evidence would mount for the promise of being and expression of the Creator.

These elders perceived as a matter  of fact and direct consciousness the redeeming presence  (within each unit-member of the group) of the larger life  to which she or he belonged. This larger life was a reality–  “a Presence to be felt and known”; and whether he or she called it by the name of a Totem-animal, or by the name of a Nature-divinity, or by the name of some gracious human-limbed God or what-not–or even by the great name of  Humanity  itself, it was still in any case the living  incarnate Being by the realization of whose presence the little mortal could be lifted out of exile and error and death and  suffering into splendor and life eternal.

FemaleTribalElder TribalElderMale



In American Indian education, within each tribe elders, “are repositories of cultural and philosophical knowledge and are the transmitters of such information,” including, “basic beliefs and teachings, encouraging…faith in the Great Spirit, the Creator”. “The fact acknowledged in most Indian societies: Certain individuals, by virtue of qualifications and knowledge, are recognized by the Indian communities as the ultimately qualified reservoirs of aboriginal skills.” The role of elder is featured within and without classrooms, conferences, ceremonies, and homes.

The following definition is from a study of the role in a specific tribe:

A point of reference: those people who have earned the respect of their own community and who are looked upon as elders in their own society…We have misused the role of elder through our ignorance and failure to see that not all elders are spiritualleaders and not all old people are elders

— Roderick Mark (1985)

Here is a persons experience in becoming an elder: “What arose was the sense that I need to move into being an elder in my tribe. I need to become more of a father figure, letting go of personal possession. There was a real sense of loss, of saying goodbye to something that I longed for. But gradually it came, and I felt I could let go of wanting to possess my woman, and being willing to act as a father or a loving friend. This felt like a huge development. It felt like an initiation that I was passing through, and if I could not have let go I would not have passed the initiation. As it happened, I did let go. I did pass the initiation. I did become an elder of my tribe.  So, to tell you what I feel Life spoke to me, I need to stand in the right space, a place you have not met me in yet. In this place I am the elder of my tribe. This is my lodge and I welcome you in. Welcoming is not a courtesy. It is offered to you because of who you are. My name in this place is both Pathfinder and Recorder. They are names given me by the spirit years ago. I listen now as an elder, as a man, and as the spirit of things.”

See: Iroquoian dream cultSpirit-Child: The Aboriginal Experience of Pre-Birth Communication.


-Monica 2018-04-06 22:22:10

I was wondering if ypu could help me interpret my dream. I had a dream I was at a place with a family of Indians. The man said it was good to see me and said he was happy i had returned. He warned me to be careful and began to sing to me in english. Thwn I woke up. Just curious if you knew what it meant. I was on the roof of their home that was made of straw and wood and i felt like i was happy to be there

-crystal 2018-04-01 15:42:33

A American Indian from my past is coming to. My dreams and it’s every night,I want to know if two people can share dreams? I can hear him say in my ear saying he loves me. Can I hear him can you. Give me some answer…. It’s like he’s here

    -Tony Crisp 2018-04-03 11:49:28

    Hi – It is important that you read
    Nothing can replace your own ability to understand your dream. With a little effort you can do this by practicing what is described in – or


    Crystal – Indian from your past mean he is your memories. The reason is that dreams about ex’s are very tricky for several reasons. To start with most people are often totally unaware of the experience they take in and how it interacts with them when we love or interact with someone. In other words because we memorise the feelings and responses we felt; and because we learn through our experiences, we are changed by them. The memories and the learning are part of you and is symbolised in dreams as a person or event. You have taken in millions of bit of memory, lessons learnt, life experiences, along with all the feelings or problems met by loving and living with someone and they are what makes you the person you are. Your dreams tend to put all that in the image of the past person when you are dealing with the influences left in you from the relationship.

    It is very unlikely that he is with you for if he loved you he would be with you and seeking and caring for you. It is more likely he is your inner male who actually IS with and loves you. See

-crystal 2018-04-01 14:22:43

I hope you van help a American Indian from my past come to my dreams every night,and I want to know if someone can share same. Dream ,,,, I heard his voice in my. Ear saying he love me like he was there…

-starbaby 2018-01-09 1:49:57

Tony answer a dream for me it charge can help with this I dream. I went to him. And I seen my friends and we talk and he was down the road so they told boy to go get him he seen me and he ran to me and we take a walk and talk to a field and we sat and talk .but it like I could smell everything around me and I could feel him touch me. I think in was a native American Indian. Land. Help

-crystal 2018-01-07 21:20:45

I want to know if two people have feelings for one other can a native American Indian come to other in dream and can smell every thing around me and feel him. Touch me

-starbaby 2017-10-15 21:58:25

I had a dream of me and a native American man I knew I see everything we did that day like I say my goodbye and was hard to do be cause he was moving away I told him I said you win my heart and he ask me to come with him and he handed me a hank feather and said tie it in my hair I don’t even know what that means.and then he left….. I have this dream every night after he left I hope someone can help me understand. Why I keep having.

-Alice 2017-05-26 21:27:03

I was watching the waltons I closed my eyes because I was sleepy and tired I must of been asleep for just a little while. I felt someone walking to me. I open my eyes and seen older man with long white string hair with a red band around his head, a white long sleve shirt, brown baggy brown pants with a red long band as a belt. He disappeared. What does it mean?

-Sissy Fuller 2017-05-21 0:09:25

Have a Indian man in blue jeans , boots, shine bleat buckle no shirt , long dark shiny hair and say’s ( Shea shee mea woa )

-june 2017-01-27 11:45:57

My ancestry is German, Irish, and Cherokee. I dream a lot and at times very vividly. Have some visions (a little off topic, but I can’t understand it). I see things, just know things at times and sense things as my kids do too. I need help.I think I died while during surgery years ago, although no one told me. I was in a dark tunnel and was grabbed by something evil and dragged thru the tunnel on my back by my hair. I then heard my voice and soon was thanking God I came out and when I opened my eyes I saw people lined all the way around my bed standing hip to hip. I still say they were angels. Since then I’ve been thrown into another vision in that tunnel again but I saw myself sitting on a bench that was sitting in the middle of the tunnel right in the middle btwn the light and the dark but the bench was facing the dark tunnel. I joined myself. 2 women walked out of the light and into the dark. A man and 3 women came out of the light and were wallking towards me but something about him made me feel really uneasy and I freaked out a little too soon tyring to close the vision which felt like forever. It always closeds like an old picture tube. Any idea what this means? I keep shutting myself down but my health/pain gets worst everytime but when I open myself up, my house gets overly occupied. I know people who don’t know me would say I’m losing my mind, but whatever. What matters to me is that I know that I’m not. I’ve had people leave 3 different homes of mine in tears due to fear. Also…one more thing…I had another one with a girl (she looked indian which seemed odd to me) coming after me with a stick in a awake dream but I feared that stick touching me. I knew something bad would come of it. So many but this is another that disturbs me among many others. I am looking and searching for answers, trying to understand what is happening to me and my family. On top I’m sick of pain. To make things stranger, I’ve even had some people who have walked up to me in stores before telling me they could see I had a gift. I don’t look at myself that way. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

-Ruth Ann Scribner 2017-01-25 3:11:44

Yes, I have a question..I had a dream this last saturday night.It was very short, but felt very very real. I was surrounded by all my femal family, the older ones, like mother, grandmothers, aunts, an my 3rd great aunt. They all were very happy, and telling me they will be with me when I pass. Like they are now. For me not to be affraid, there will be no pain. It will be like they all had to go through. (Which I took it as death, and leaving this world). I have “know idea, why this dream..I asked them if it was getting ready to happen. My aunt said, “Honey, know one knows the answer to that, only our father”. But then I woke up. Feeling like it was as real as me waking up. And it still does. Later, sunday evening. I told my sister, she told me this was a indain thing. Cause I seen my fathers face. But he left, I knew my younger sister was with them, but this was for my older female relitives that has passed. And I knew it was meant just for them..what do you think?? I don’t know who to go to, that’s why I’m asking you..I was so comforted, and amazed to be surrounded by them..yes, I’m a native american..but never imagined having a dream like this. But my sister has me wondering about it since she says this is a indain sign..

    -Tony Crisp 2017-01-25 11:37:10

    Hi – I am going to halt from answering your posts – the reason is that in so many of your post I give the same information to. This is because most people do not understand the difference between dreaming and waking life.

    So, most of what I put in answers is my attempt at explain what dreams are really about. It would help you to understand your dreams, if you would read –


    Well. your Native Indian background gives you a readier access to the inner life where we contact and are advised by the living dead, but in fact it is something that I come across in all nations.

    The female link is important, and is more valued in your culture, because women underwent initiations or training about womanhood, starting with the first menstruation. But what is important is that you have linked in your dream with this wonderful traditional wisdom that women carry within them, but often have no awareness of. Please try enlarging your awareness of this gift by using

-Trini 2016-12-26 17:41:54

I dreamt of a baby elephant, two polar bears, and I believe it was a wolf. They were in my back yard just hanging out. We were trying to get ahold of the zoo but we couldn’t find the number. We weren’t rushing to get rid of them because they weren’t fighting .

-Barbara Hicks 2016-12-03 23:28:34

I am in need of a Spiritual Elder. Dreams, gut feelings, hands hot as fire. Please help. I am the Greatgrand daughter of George W & Amy Roberts, Cherokee NC….THANK YOU

-Aaron smith 2016-12-03 15:52:38

I was informed by my girlfriend she woke up to someone standing over me while I was sleeping describing to me what she had witnessed had a breast plate of white ivory or bones full headress on that went to his feet, she claims he stood over me looking down at me while I was on my back asleep she was not afraid of him she was at peace this person looked at her raised his arms in the air and disappeared now I have native American blood in me from my great grandpa its unknown what he was but now im very curious as to what this means and I want to embrace my heritage

    -144 2016-12-05 23:48:14

    This article lost me when it spoke out about irrationality of indians belief systems as If logic and rationality has anything to do with life ?
    Imagination is more important than knowledge . Theres nothing rational about life particularly Western one and our governments and sciences.

    Articles like this are like my uni Degree trying to hard to appear objective but only appearing narrow minded .

    News flash : all of life is a dream ..

      -Tony Crisp 2016-12-06 9:15:43

      Well you have lost me too. The whole feature was about the wonderful way of life of the Native Americans.

      Also the irrational within us refers to the unconscious, the Life process that keeps us alive, as compared with the rational mind that often lack unity with the natural. See


-Suzanne Fernandez 2016-11-06 23:25:56

I am so happy for the interesting information on this site. I’m having unusually strange dreams and was looking for their interpretations. Thanks for all your work in this field. I dreamt I found a cute fluffy small dog. I got on a bus and set the dog on the seat next to me and it starts talking. I asked if it was talking and the dog said yes and kept talking. I tried to separate from the dog but it kept following me! I was happy to wake up.

-Suzanne Fernandez 2016-11-06 23:25:55

I am so happy for the interesting information on this site. I’m having unusually strange dreams and was looking for their interpretations. Thanks for all your work in this field. I dreamt I found a cute fluffy small dog. I got on a bus and set the dog on the seat next to me and it starts talking. I asked if it was talking and the dog said yes and kept talking. I tried to separate from the dog but it kept following me! I was happy to wake up.

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