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Why We Need to Learn About Native American Prophets

Radiance Talley | Feb 5, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Radiance Talley | Feb 5, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

In 1993 in Chicago, during the centenary of the Parliament of the World's Religions — a gathering to build unity among the world’s religious and spiritual communities — something unprecedented happened. For the first time, the Parliament accommodated Indigenous delegates. 

Patricia Locke

Delegates Patricia Locke and Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, two Native American Baha’is from the Lakota and Chippewa tribes, addressed the gathering with a prepared statement

“One hundred years ago, during the 1893 Parliament of World Religions, the profoundly religious Original Peoples of the Western Hemisphere were not invited,” they said.

“We are still here and still struggling to be heard for the sake of our Mother Earth and our children. Our spiritual and physical survival continues to be threatened all over the hemisphere, we feel compelled to ask you to join us in restoring the balances of humanity and Mother Earth.”

The 1893 Parliament of World Religions

From climate change to extremes of wealth and poverty, when we look at the challenges facing our society, we can easily see the need for balance between humanity and Mother Earth. That means the implications of the call raised by Patricia and Jacqueline at the Parliament of the World’s Religions are ones we should all consider. 

To that end, learning how we can restore the balance they spoke of is one of the goals of “The Great Spirit Speaks: Voices of the Wise Ones,” a nine-week course about the founders of many Indigenous spiritual traditions and religions. The course, which begins on February 11, is offered by the Wilmette Institute, “an educational institution that draws upon the principles of the Bahá’í Faith to inspire sustained social change for the common good.”

One of the instructors, Kevin Locke, a Lakota and Anishnabe Baha'i — and the son of Patricia Locke, who passed away in 2001 — says that we are only aware of a very recent period of our nation’s history. The appearance of these Native American prophets is the history and spiritual “heritage of this land.” 

RELATED: Standard-Bearers: The Spirituality of Native Americans

Indeed, says his co-instructor, Christopher Buck, in their 1993 statement at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Patricia and Jacqueline shared six ways that everyone can help restore this balance. One of them was the “Acknowledgement of the myriad of messengers of the Creator, the Great Mystery, to the peoples of the Western Hemisphere.”

Christopher, who is also a Baha'i scholar, author, and avid researcher of Native American prophets and spirituality says, “That which is forgotten can always be remembered.” And he’s devoted his spare time to ensuring that remembrance. Since 2014, Christopher has written over 70 articles about Indigenous messengers of God for Baha’i Teachings. He co-authored 40 of these articles with Kevin.

He and Kevin, who is also a world-renowned hoop dancer, were inspired to name their course “The Great Spirit Speaks: Voices of the Wise Ones” after reading a letter from the Universal House of Justice, the global governing body of the Baha'i Faith, to the 1972 Baha’i Unity Conference on the Navajo Nation. In the letter, the Universal House of Justice wrote:

The All-Wise Creator of earth and heaven has from the beginning which has no beginning sent to His peoples Divine Messengers to guide them to the Straight Path. These Wise Ones have come to establish the unity of the Kingdom in human hearts. This great evolutionary process of building the organic unity of the human race has entered a new stage with this mighty message of Baha’u’llah. His voice is the voice of the Great Spirit. His love for humankind is the force of the New Age.

These Indigenous Divine Messengers that were the founders and prophets of many Indigenous religions that Kevin and Christopher will discuss in their course include: Deganawida, the Peacemaker, who is the founder of the Haudenosaunee and Iroquois tribes; White Buffalo Calf Woman, the Lakota prophet; Sweet Medicine, the prophet of the Cheyenne tribe; Lone Man, a key figure in the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes; Breathmaker, the holy figure in the Seminole and Miccosukee traditions; Quetzalcoatl, a historical figure and ruler of the Toltecs; Viracocha, the Inca and Quechua prophet; Gluskap, the Wabanaki holy figure; Talking God, the holy figure of the Navajo and Diné tribes; and the sacred figure Bunjil of the Australian Aboriginal Tradition.

RELATED: How Chief Sitting Bull’s Great-Great-Granddaughter Became the First Lakota Baha’i

The course also features several guests from Indigenous backgrounds: Cherokee speaker, Lee Brown; internationally acclaimed Apache, Pueblo, and Yaqui dancer, singer, actor, and craftsman, Roman Orona; the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw President and Chair of the Board of Directors at Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest, Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr.; Tsimshian, Makah, and Greek naturopathic doctor Littlebrave Beaston; Diné speaker, Wayne Wilson; Annishinaabe and Ho Chunk holistic healthcare practitioner, scientist, and musician, Medicine Eagle; and the administrator of the "Indigenous Baha'is of the Americas" Facebook group, Kamao Cappo.

RELATED: How an Indigenous Artist Views the Baha’i Teachings

“It’s a huge portal or doorway of information that will be fulfilling for many people,” Kevin says. He also feels fulfilled to continue the research in which his late mother was actively involved.

“We dedicate this course to her memory,” Christopher says.

To learn more about this course or to register, click here. Registration closes on February 18 — or earlier if the enrollment limit is reached. Kevin and Chris say this course is almost full, so if you’re interested, please register as soon as you can. The course is filling up fast, but there is a waitlist.

And if you miss the chance to take their course, don't let that stop you from reading up on Indigenous prophets on your own. The knowledge and expanded understanding you'll gain can surely help bring about the balance Patricia Locke and Jacqueline Left Hand Bull called for so many years ago.

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