Spiritual Freedom Of Expression: Absolute Or Not?

Ancient digging-sticks and sweat-stones may break your little bones, but Hungry Valley words will never intentionally hurt you: Prior to the passage of the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act (P.L. 95-341), it was illegal for Indians to conduct rituals (that were not of Christian value), pray at sacred sites (outside of reservation lands), or at times utilize traditional languages (basically, they didn’t want the Indians, doing Indian things because they knew we would muster our composer and then start kicking that-ass!).

Obviously, this tactic created a gap in our spiritual-Wi-Fi services and our collective lifeways.  So here we are today, struggling and grasping for the reclamation of our own indigenous identity and spirituality (ironically, caused by the limitation of freedom of expression).  Some did better at preservation than others, it happens.  Evidently, cultural-loss is most common missing-piece of communal tribal wellness and unity.  We all recognize this tangible variable, but for some reason only speak of these subjective-evils amongst ourselves.

Truth be told, some of us may never find those centers of community and prayer or identity.  Some of us, will not accept each other, via lateral oppression.  Someone of us, believe we are more Indian than other Indians’.  Someone of us, treat our own people like shit.  Some of us, need to get our ass kicked, for real.  We’ve been conditioned to be this way; think about these things my people?  Even in our own unique ways of finding our spiritual chewy-centers, we bring baggage into our varying renditions of culture, ritual, and custom.

Calling all Indians!  Belief systems can change: deal with it.  Our communities can change: deal with it.  Nothing we know now has to be this way for future generations: deal with it.  As a people we must try to make your faith constant—if you have a fragile spiritual constitution and are easily shaken, take ownership and re-assess your own existence.  Think about it.  Freedom of expression is a liberty that tribal people are just recently entertaining as a cultural dynamic: that’s why sarcasm is intuitively my first-language (humor me) and Paiute is merely my slang.

Tribal people, as we re-create ourselves, be open-minded…lessons are everywhere.  (1) Entertain all obstacles as lessons; especially the verbal and written kind, (2) Express yourself all the time, and (3) Don’t be so sensitive about shit. We’ve endured some horrendous obstacles (genocide, racism, oppression, marginalization, etc.) and by the looks of it more is coming.  If you have a belief and heart for something; share it with people who give a shit and want to learn.

Attempting to convince people who obviously don’t give a damn, energetically, is a risky thing to do anytime. If you feel that’s what has to be done, be safe always.  When moments get sticky, regroup and be intelligent about the mission.  Opposing forces will always work to dismantle the focus and intent but we must maintain your love and consideration for humanity. And if we can make clear and concise decisions from clarity, not emotion, even better. If we’ve learned anything about ourselves as the underdogs, it’s that we’re fighters–but knowing how, when, and where to fight, is a skill that we (collectively) have yet to master–in a game, that they’re always changing for themselves.


Brian “BB” Melendez, is a Northern / Southern Paiute – Western Shoshone: Community Leader; American Indian Spirituality Scholar; and Practitioner of Great Basin Indigenous Custom(s) and Culture(s); CEO / Problem Solver of Lucentree, LLC; Creator of Mahkwuhoo (Guided-Meditation); and Host of the Coffee with an Indian, Tribal Podcast. 

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