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Religious Experiences in the Book Lame Deer: Seeker of Vision Essay

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Updated: Dec 11th, 2020

Among the Native Americans known to the American public, Lame Deer is one of the most prominent. Born in the Rosebud Indian Reservation, Lame Deer spent his life traveling around the United States and supporting his indigenous culture and movements of his tribe. At later stages, the Lakota holy man decided to become a teacher and a healer. Richard Erdoes interviewed the man and documented many facts about Lame Deer, his experiences, and his vision toward the world and nature. The book Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions contains biographical elements pertaining to the Native American and also descriptions of the rich history of Indian tribes, their religion, customs, and beliefs. Through the story and experiences of Lame Deer, readers learn more about the culture of Native American people and how their experiences can be compared to the experiences of other religious groups. The United States has a diverse population both in terms of culture and religion, and while religions call for harmony between people and nature, financial endeavors create conflict in religious experiences.

The book is primarily the life story of Lame Deer. It describes the youth of the individual and provides details about how he grew up and the challenges he faced during his period in boarding school. After speaking of his life, Lame Deer tells about traditional ceremonies and medicines that comprise the cultural identity of his people. It is astonishing how spiritual these people are – they consider nature as a living being and that each animal and plant has a purpose in this world. They also believe that the Great Spirit lives in every item. This bond that exists between the Indian and the spiritual world suggests that colonists had the opportunity to learn from the Native tribes how to interact with nature decently. People from other religious groups, such as Christians and Muslims, do not practice their beliefs the same way as Lame Deer’s folk does. Their experiences are often intervened by the demands of contemporary society and life.

Besides Lame Deer’s personal experiences, the book gives an accurate historical account of how Americans of European descent have treated the native tribes. There are many historical texts that explore the same topic, but Erdoes’ work is unique because it describes the events from the perspective of victims. It is interesting to see Lame Deer remain calm as he speaks of these unjust cases. It seems that the person wants to show by example how people should behave. The message Lame Deer wants to send is that people should not spend their lives seeking financial fortune because the time is limited, and one cannot take with them the riches accumulated in this life. Instead, people need to focus on their relationship with the Earth and nature because they are assuredly connected. Perhaps, Lame Deer can maintain peace and calmness because he knows that he spent his life pursuing spiritual wealth instead of material properties.

Native Americans promote the notion of unity between humans and nature. For them, all items that exist on this planet are sacred, and living beings are holy (Deer and Erdoes 188). Animals are like relatives, which is supported by how Lame Deer refers to buffalos (Deer and Erdoes 270). Such an attitude was formed because of a myth of a buffalo woman that arrived and left instructions to Native American tribes. Her message contained directions about how to care for the environment and how to live a spiritually fulfilled life. Most modern religions have a similar foundation – a Prophet came to people to guide them and educate them. Despite such similarities, there is a difference between how Native Americans were treated and how other religions were handled. Also, there is a difference between how Native Americans co-operate with nature and how a white man exploits natural resources for personal gain.

Throughout the book, Lame Deer emphasizes the role of their people’s culture in the assimilation process. He claims that beliefs and customs significantly affected how they attended schools and their ability to learn the new culture and the language. The United States is home to people from all over the world, which makes it relevant to discuss Lame Deer’s words. If religious backgrounds and experiences can affect how a person interacts with society, then it is imperative to understand such implications. For instance, religion may affect school attendance and how a person perceives the legal system. If these unique perceptions are to pose a hindrance to an organized and uniform society, then the government must find ways of implementing an adequate communication channel.

For instance, Lame Deer’s expectations were fundamentally different from how the white society was treating them and others. He believed that Americans’ attitudes toward nature were in harmony with their religions. While the native tribes spend the majority of their time outdoors cherishing the environment, Lame Deer believed white men spend their time showing their clothes and pursuing money. In reality, both Christianity and Islam do not prioritize financial success over spiritual development. However, most people are motivated by their vision of owning more material belongings. This sharp difference between the attitudes of Native American tribes and other religious groups is reiterated throughout the book.

Another theme in the book is the difference between the experiences of Native Americans and other religious groups. Today, the United States is a country with a diverse population with individuals who practice Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, and other religions. The government has been attempting to make these religious groups co-exist with each other. This fact is supported by the separation between the church and the legal system. However, Native Americans did not receive the same privileges as those enjoyed by Jews, for instance. For being different than the majority, Native Americans, including Lame Deer, had to pay the price by attending boarding schools that wanted them to assimilate into the American culture (Deer and Erdoes 22). Instead of preserving their heritage, Americans attempted to destroy it.

Lame Deer is one of the most famous Native Americans in the United States. His prominence increased with the publication of Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions, which was written by Richard Erdous with the assistance of Lame Deer and his interviews. The book describes Native American culture and the vision these people have about nature and its relationship with human beings. It also provides a contrast between how Americans treated Indian tribes and their attitude toward other religious groups. Native American culture calls for unity between humans and the environment, but contemporary society focuses primarily on material gains and individual excellence at the expense of others.

Work Cited

Deer, Lame, and Richard Erdoes. Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions. Simon and Schuster, 1994

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Religious Experiences in the Book Lame Deer: Seeker of Vision." December 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/religious-experiences-in-the-book-lame-deer-seeker-of-vision/.

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