One would be hard pressed to overstate the influence of visionary experience on Native peoples in the Americas. The same might be said for the impact of Jesus, and to a lesser extent, Christianity. Maybe these strong influence arises from the nearness of the Other World. I imagine this is similar to the ancient relationship between Celtic peoples and Christianity. While I contain both heritages, for this post I will be focusing on the Americas.
Diane Glancy, the mixed blood writer, in her book, The Cold-and-Hungry Dance, tells the story of Jesus coming to the Ute. In her account, Jesus appeared to a lonely young man, telling him of the imminent coming of the Europeans, and giving him a choice to follow either the Peyote ceremony or the Sun Dance. The youth admits to having no idea about these things, then chooses the Sun Dance.
Jesus also tells the youth that the Christians will appear as many denominations, with competing, and conflicting, versions of the truth. He adds that when the people no longer worship properly, the waters will rise.
A similar story comes from Brazil. My Amazonian teachers say Jesus appeared to the people of the Amazon hundreds of years before the European invasion. He traveled throughout the region, showing his wounds, healing people, teaching peace, and, in some accounts, warning of the hardships and genocide to come.
There are other stories from the Americas, stories in which a teacher comes, sometimes returning from the dead, and teaches peace and caring. My father’s father’s people, the Lakota, speak of White Buffalo Calf Woman, who brought the Pipe, and much of Lakota spiritual practice . The Six Nations have Handsome Lake. These teachers, like Jesus, taught reverence for all creation, and right relationships to all beings and the Creator. There are also stories, especially from the Beaver, of reincarnation.
Glace has noted similarities between the visionary experiences of Native people, and those of Biblical personalities. John J. Pilch recently wrote about visionary experience in Biblical context in some detail in Flights of the Soul: Visions, Heavenly Journeys, and Peak experiences in the Biblical World. It is clear from his writing that both the Old and New Testaments (including Torah) arose from, and pay homage to, visionary experience.
For Native peoples, revelation, like creation, is ongoing. Vision is at hand. Things are not always as they seem. The world and the Creator still speak. There are forces afoot that cannot be seen, and Spirit Beings are actively engaged in our lives and the life of the world. We are reminded creation is ongoing, and visionary experience opens us to the creative unseen, and sometimes, the holy. We are encouraged to care for one another, and for all creation, of which we are but a tiny part.
Vision and prophesy remind us time is cyclical, or spiral, and light and darkness wax and wane. Vision and prophesy aid us to appreciate the good times, and to navigate the bad. They remind us each has roots in the other, encourage us to act in a sacred manner, and teach there are many paths to the sacred. Prophesy also reminds us that when we lose our collective way the waters rise.
The waters are rising.