Nature's Way: Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth

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Overview

Now in paperback! US bestselling author of Mother Earth Spirituality returns with a call for a spiritual awakening to create a new global culture.

Beginning with the ways of the Lakota Sioux and branching outward, Sioux tribal leader Ed McGaa, known as Eagle Man, shows the error of using animals and the natural world as a whole for economic and political gain. He then offers everyday lessons and values gleaned from Nature that endure for all ...

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Overview

Now in paperback! US bestselling author of Mother Earth Spirituality returns with a call for a spiritual awakening to create a new global culture.

Beginning with the ways of the Lakota Sioux and branching outward, Sioux tribal leader Ed McGaa, known as Eagle Man, shows the error of using animals and the natural world as a whole for economic and political gain. He then offers everyday lessons and values gleaned from Nature that endure for all times and people.

In this call for spiritual awakening, McGaa explains how we can create a new global culture based not on dominance over nature for economic and political gain, but on values that endure for all times and all people. Nature's Way explores Native American belief systems, oppression of Native Americans by the dominant society, the desacralisation of Nature, and the complicity of institutional religion.

Taking on religion, politics, and culture, McGaa provides a template for readers – a path designed by Nature that anyone can follow. Using the lessons of eagle, bear, lion, wolf, orca, owl, tiger, buffalo, rat, deer – even the cottonwood tree, Nature's Way teaches all of us how we can overcome religious intolerance, treat women and men equally, preserve our environment, and live in peace.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“Refreshingly honest, McGaa¹s impassioned plea for environmental awareness is impossible to ignore.”
Jack Weatherford
"[McGaa] takes us to a new level of perception of the world around us and within us."
—Jack Weatherford
“[McGaa] takes us to a new level of perception of the world around us and within us.”
--Jack Weatherford
“[McGaa] takes us to a new level of perception of the world around us and within us.”
Booklist
“Refreshingly honest, McGaa¹s impassioned plea for environmental awareness is impossible to ignore.”
Publishers Weekly
In this visionary book, based on the author's experiences as an Oglala Sioux and the inspiration he has received from Sioux holy men, McGaa, or Eagle Man (Mother Earth Spirituality), asserts that in order to save the planet from ecological disaster, mankind must abandon the beliefs and practices of the largest governments and religions and follow the spiritual path advocated by Native Americans and other societies that respect nature. In the first seven chapters, he discusses lessons humans can learn from animals-such as the eagle's keen powers of observation; the lioness's aptitude for balancing male and female energy; the bear's knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants; the wolf's talent for working together with the rest of the pack; and the owl's ability to see into the hidden parts of nature. These observations are then used as springboards for his thoughts on where humanity has gone wrong, emphasizing especially the destructive powers of organized religion. In the final chapters, he shows how the desacralization of nature threatens all life on earth. McGaa admits that a return to the spiritual values of nature's way isn't likely, but he believes this is necessary to save the planet from the "four horses of the Apocalypse"-global warming, the thinning of the ozone layer, mass extinctions and overpopulation. While the book adds little new to the current spate of warnings of impending ecological doom, McGaa's idealism is refreshing. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Native American spirituality is attractive for many because of its reputation for being ecologically sound and friendly to the earth. McGaa, an enrolled tribal member of the Oglala Lakota and the author of numerous books (e.g., Mother Earth Spirituality), describes his culture's teachings on the importance and value of nature. The book falls into two parts. The first seven chapters each focus on a different animal, using it as a touchstone for a discussion of a specific aspect of Native beliefs and attitudes toward nature. McGaa tells stories from his own life, describing his experience with ceremonies that are crucial to understanding certain forms of Native American spiritual teachings. Though he doesn't go into great depth, the stories are interesting and the hook of using the characteristics of specific animals to anchor each discussion works. The last four chapters have a jarringly different tone. McGaa uses the four horses from Black Elk's vision to frame a depiction of environmental crises, including global warming, overpopulation, ozone depletion, and the loss of biodiversity. These chapters are filled with statistics and read like pamphlets from environmental groups. The result is an uneven work, marginally recommended for public libraries.-Stephen Joseph, Butler Cty. Community Coll. Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060750480
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/29/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 232,383
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Ed McGaa, J.D., was born on the Oglala Sioux reservation in South Dakota and is a registered tribal member. He served in Korea as a Marine Corporal before earning an undergraduate degree at St. John's University in Minnesota. He then rejoined the Marine Corps to become a Phantom F4 fighter pilot in Vietnam, where he flew in more than a hundred combat missions. Upon his return McGaa danced in six annual Sioux Sun Dances. The Sun Dance led him to the seven Mother Earth ceremonies under the tutelage of Chief Eagle Feather and Chief Fools Crow, two Sioux holy men. Eagle Man holds a law degree from the University of South Dakota and is the author of Red Cloud: Biography of an Indian Chief; Mother Earth Spirituality: Healing Ourselves and Our World; Rainbow Tribe: Ordinary People Journeying on the Red Road; Native Wisdom: Perceptions of the Natural Way; and the novel Eagle Vision: Return of the Hoop.

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Read an Excerpt

Nature's Way

Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth
By McGaa, Ed

HarperSanFrancisco

ISBN: 0060514566

Introduction

The term "Native American," the most recent gloss for North American aborigines, is now in disfavor with many tribal groups and individuals. The National Congress of American Indians, a powerful self-interest group, has passed a resolution opposing its use at their most recent convention. Throughout the historic Indian-white interface, such names as "North American Indians," "Amerindian," "Indian-American," and "First-Americans" have been in vogue at various times. In this essay, I use "Native American" and "American Indian" interchangeably. As for the focus of the essay, the Lakota, who are often labeled "Sioux," "Teton Sioux," "Western Lakota," and "Dakota" in the anthropological literature, I use the term "Lakota," for I am referring to the Western Sioux who speak the Lakota dialect of the Siouian language. I also use designations such as "Rosebud Sioux" to indicate the reservation as a social system to which one assigns oneself. This is accepted procedure by most Lakota Sioux.

I concur with my close friend and aunt in the Sioux way, Dr. Bea Medicine. I also will use phonetic pronunciation of the Sioux language. The English language uses the more practical phonic system. Why Siouian language has been reduced to the nonphonic method is indeed frustrating and extremely misleading for ordinary laymen.

I am an enrolled tribal member of the Oglala Sioux, also known as the Oglala Lakota. My tribe's history goes back to when our tribal grounds were in the Carolinas. After centuries, we finally ended up on a reservation in South Dakota, one of the last Indian tribes to be sequestered, five years after a battle you may have heard about involving a Colonel George Custer in 1876. I believe that it is because of my tribe's willingness to relocate and adapt to new environments that it has maintained its freedom to practice its rituals and traditions without too much dilution by an entity I will refer to as Dominant Society. In simple terms, Dominant Society is reflected in the beliefs and practices of the largest governments and religions. While indigenous people such as the Sioux tend to honor Nature, Dominant Society tends to view the natural world as an endless resource to be exploited.

I do not expect you to trade your set of beliefs for mine. I do not have all the answers. But in my tradition, we ask more questions and we share our honest observations. Hopefully, once you have completed reading this book, you will know what I know, and I am fairly sure you will see that a spiritual path that honors Nature is the only way out of the serious crises facing our planet. I call that path Nature's Way.

In this book, I attempt to portray how Sioux and other Nature-respecting societies have believed and practiced. Through their examples, I hope to show how Dominant Society can avoid disastrous consequences, overcome religious intolerance, treat women and men equally, preserve our environment, and live in peace. We can then progress onward to solving humankind's most serious problems.

It has been the tradition of our tribe to honor Nature in all its forms. Unlike Dominant Society, we regard more than the adult males of our tribe as valuable. Along with the Iroquois, we developed a form of democratic governance that truly honors the wisdom of all, including women, children, animals, plants, stones, and unseen spirits. As one holy man always used to tell me, in every being and in every event "there is a teaching." I believe Nature's Way is democratic. Democracy that respects secularism and views Nature as sacred is the strongest approach toward saving the planet.

I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destructive to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then, that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth. Honest observation, which is what this book (and Native American spirituality generally) is grounded on, cannot be myth.

I write from real happenings, experiences I have witnessed, as well as from the wisdom I have learned from Sioux holy men I have been fortunate to meet personally. Many of those lessons were learned during the time of the brave Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His catalyzing efforts for truth inspired renewed tribal-based efforts for social and religious freedom. We Sioux sought the return of our own spirituality after a century of deprivation. The U.S. government unlawfully, unconstitutionally banned our belief system in the late nineteenth century, through the coercion and lobbying of the Christian missionaries. Not until 1978 was the ban on our religious practices officially reversed by the United States Congress.

The rise of Dominant Society, the desacralization of Nature, and the complicity of institutional religion speak clearly to the most urgent needs of our time. If we hope to address those needs successfully, we need to sound a call for spiritual awakening, to create a new global culture based not on dominance over Nature for economic and political gain, but on values that endure for all times and all people.

One of the Sioux holy men I had the good fortune to know was Chief Fools Crow, also Oglala Lakota. He had some profound advice on what a person should do in order to be a force of positive change in the world. That advice? Become a "hollow bone."

To become a clean hollow bone, you must first live as I have, or if you have not done this already, you must begin to do it. You must love everyone, put others first, be moral, keep your life in order, not do anything criminal, and have a good character. If you do not do these things, you will be easily tricked, and will become a bone for the powers of evil.

Nature's Way is divided into two sections. In the first section, I will lead you through some lessons represented by animals and even a tree, to help make your "bone" clean and hollow ...

Continues...

Excerpted from Nature's Way by McGaa, Ed Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction xi
1 Wisdom Through Observation: Lesson of Eagle 1
2 Find and Preserve the Medicine: Lesson of Bear 20
3 Balance in All Things: Lesson of Lion 50
4 One Among Many: Lesson of Wolf 71
5 Develop Intuition: Lesson of Orca 105
6 Seek Truth: Lesson of Owl 129
7 Strive for Freedom: Lesson of Tiger 155
8 Heat: Lesson of Cottonwood Tree 182
9 Thin: Lesson of Deer 206
10 Gone: Lesson of Buffalo 226
11 Too Many: Lesson of Rat 254
Notes 275
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First Chapter

Nature's Way
Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth

Introduction

The term "Native American," the most recent gloss for North American aborigines, is now in disfavor with many tribal groups and individuals. The National Congress of American Indians, a powerful self-interest group, has passed a resolution opposing its use at their most recent convention. Throughout the historic Indian-white interface, such names as "North American Indians," "Amerindian," "Indian-American," and "First-Americans" have been in vogue at various times. In this essay, I use "Native American" and "American Indian" interchangeably. As for the focus of the essay, the Lakota, who are often labeled "Sioux," "Teton Sioux," "Western Lakota," and "Dakota" in the anthropological literature, I use the term "Lakota," for I am referring to the Western Sioux who speak the Lakota dialect of the Siouian language. I also use designations such as "Rosebud Sioux" to indicate the reservation as a social system to which one assigns oneself. This is accepted procedure by most Lakota Sioux.

I concur with my close friend and aunt in the Sioux way, Dr. Bea Medicine. I also will use phonetic pronunciation of the Sioux language. The English language uses the more practical phonic system. Why Siouian language has been reduced to the nonphonic method is indeed frustrating and extremely misleading for ordinary laymen.

I am an enrolled tribal member of the Oglala Sioux, also known as the Oglala Lakota. My tribe's history goes back to when our tribal grounds were in the Carolinas. After centuries, we finally ended up on a reservation in South Dakota, one of the last Indian tribes to be sequestered, five years after a battle you may have heard about involving a Colonel George Custer in 1876. I believe that it is because of my tribe's willingness to relocate and adapt to new environments that it has maintained its freedom to practice its rituals and traditions without too much dilution by an entity I will refer to as Dominant Society. In simple terms, Dominant Society is reflected in the beliefs and practices of the largest governments and religions. While indigenous people such as the Sioux tend to honor Nature, Dominant Society tends to view the natural world as an endless resource to be exploited.

I do not expect you to trade your set of beliefs for mine. I do not have all the answers. But in my tradition, we ask more questions and we share our honest observations. Hopefully, once you have completed reading this book, you will know what I know, and I am fairly sure you will see that a spiritual path that honors Nature is the only way out of the serious crises facing our planet. I call that path Nature's Way.

In this book, I attempt to portray how Sioux and other Nature-respecting societies have believed and practiced. Through their examples, I hope to show how Dominant Society can avoid disastrous consequences, overcome religious intolerance, treat women and men equally, preserve our environment, and live in peace. We can then progress onward to solving humankind's most serious problems.

It has been the tradition of our tribe to honor Nature in all its forms. Unlike Dominant Society, we regard more than the adult males of our tribe as valuable. Along with the Iroquois, we developed a form of democratic governance that truly honors the wisdom of all, including women, children, animals, plants, stones, and unseen spirits. As one holy man always used to tell me, in every being and in every event "there is a teaching." I believe Nature's Way is democratic. Democracy that respects secularism and views Nature as sacred is the strongest approach toward saving the planet.

I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destructive to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then, that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth. Honest observation, which is what this book (and Native American spirituality generally) is grounded on, cannot be myth.

I write from real happenings, experiences I have witnessed, as well as from the wisdom I have learned from Sioux holy men I have been fortunate to meet personally. Many of those lessons were learned during the time of the brave Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His catalyzing efforts for truth inspired renewed tribal-based efforts for social and religious freedom. We Sioux sought the return of our own spirituality after a century of deprivation. The U.S. government unlawfully, unconstitutionally banned our belief system in the late nineteenth century, through the coercion and lobbying of the Christian missionaries. Not until 1978 was the ban on our religious practices officially reversed by the United States Congress.

The rise of Dominant Society, the desacralization of Nature, and the complicity of institutional religion speak clearly to the most urgent needs of our time. If we hope to address those needs successfully, we need to sound a call for spiritual awakening, to create a new global culture based not on dominance over Nature for economic and political gain, but on values that endure for all times and all people.

One of the Sioux holy men I had the good fortune to know was Chief Fools Crow, also Oglala Lakota. He had some profound advice on what a person should do in order to be a force of positive change in the world. That advice? Become a "hollow bone."

To become a clean hollow bone, you must first live as I have, or if you have not done this already, you must begin to do it. You must love everyone, put others first, be moral, keep your life in order, not do anything criminal, and have a good character. If you do not do these things, you will be easily tricked, and will become a bone for the powers of evil.

Nature's Way is divided into two sections. In the first section, I will lead you through some lessons represented by animals and even a tree, to help make your "bone" clean and hollow ...

Nature's Way
Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth
. Copyright © by Ed McGaa. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2010

    Thought provoking

    I have read other books by this author and this one does not disappoint. Very enlightening and spiritual. Would recommend. I read the first couple chapters in a copy from the library, and knew I had to buy a copy to keep.

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