The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 13, 2001 Issue
Local News

You can only renew your spiritual fire with others

Indian culture has much to say for Christian souls

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Next Allouez Forum

What: Claude Allouez Forum, sponsored by the Green Bay Diocese and the St. Norbert College Theological Institute; it is open to the public.

When: 7:15 a.m. May 11.

Where: Bemis International Center, St. Norbert College, De Pere.

Who: John Bergstrom of Bergstrom Enterprises.

Topic: Glancing Ahead: Glimmers of Hope as a Business Leader.

Cost: $8, includes breakfast.

Reservations: (920)437-7531 or (toll-free) 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8173.

DE PERE - An Oneida Nation leader speaking at the April Claude Allouez Forum invited Christians to renew their spiritual fires during the week of their holiest feasts.

"We each have a spiritual fire as a person, which some call the soul, and we must renew it," Artley Skenandore said at St. Norbert College in a monthly series sponsored by the Green Bay Diocese and the college's Theological Institute.

If we don't care for our spiritual fire, we will lose it, as surely as we'll lose any untended fire, Skenandore warned. And we must not only care for our own fire, we must share our fire and help others care for their fire, he said.

We care for our fire by renewing our relationships through prayer and song, Skenandore said, noting that Indians believe that when we pray and sing, we are joined with everyone else in the world who is praying and singing.

Spiritual renewal gives us the guidance, beliefs and attitudes we need to act in the proper way, he said.

"Use your eyes," Skenandore said. "Look around the world and celebrate in thanksgiving what you see. See how many stories you can share."

"Listen," he said. "Use your voice. Speak clearly to your family, friends and business associates on how your spirit is touched."

The Internet has brought many changes to our lives, he said, but we can satisfy our need for relationships and the passing on of family stories and traditions only by sitting down together and sharing them.

As for his own people, Skenandore said, Indians will "continue to be who they are as people" interacting with others as nations, because that is their "responsibility to the world family."

Oneida Indians have a specific world view, he said:

Earth is a mother who provides comfort and love typified by the grass, the earth's blanket;

-- Wild strawberries are the head fruit, the elder;

-- Deer, the head of the animal world, share their life with people, which allows humans to renew their strength;

-- Thunder, the grandfather, wakes up and shakes up the earth in spring to restart the growth cycle;

-- Moon, the grandmother who provides a nurturing role and who affects the tides and human blood pressure;

-- Sun, the older brother who gives us light to see others, provides guidance and helps us negotiate and build the bridges of commonality so we can treat others respectfully even when we differ.

For gifts such as fruit, maple syrup and deer, the Oneida give thanks, including an offering of tobacco, Skenandore said. When we are not thankful, when we mistrust and when our lives become unbalanced, the Oneida believe such dis-ease leads to disease in animals, the food supply and our relationships, he said.

Sugar maples illustrate what such unbalance causes, he said. The Oneida believe the trees' syrup once came pure and undiluted until the Creator changed it when humans quit sharing it freely with each other, he said.

We overcome and prevent such selfishness by keeping our spiritual lives in order, and by being courageous, open and willing to share our stories and lives with each other, Skenandore said.

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